IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

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So I Could Find My Way, Enya
IN BRIEF: A quick overview of some recent international releases

With so many CDs commanding and demanding attention Elsewhere will run this occasional column which scoops up releases by international artists, in much the same way as our SHORT CUTS column picks up New Zealand artists.

Comments will be brief.

Enya: Dark Sky Island (Warners): On a cursory listen through her catalogue, Enya may seem to deliver much the same. But while that ethereal voice has been given appropriately elevating sonic settings courtesy of synth-strings etc, time spent allows the listener to discern other aspects at work. This often exceptional album is her best since maybe Shepherd Moons in '91 (or Amarantine a decade ago, which perhaps isn't saying much, she only released one other in that time). Outside of glorious ballads like So I Could Find My Way there are other pleasures here, not the least being those in the created language of Loxian (by poet and co-writer here Roma Ryan, also around for Amarantine). Enya singing in what is essentially an incomprehensible language (on The Forge of Angels and The Loxian Gates, lyrics in translation in the booklet) actually makes sense as listeners tend to follow the voice more than what is being said. What is going on here however is a song cycle about journeys, departures, longings and returning. All very Celtic, if not archetypal Irish. Some Enya-by-numbers (Echoes in the Rain) and the quivering and restrained I Could Never Say Goodbye an iceberg short of a Titanic ballad, but if you haven't bought an Enya album in two or three decades . . .

Tracy Chapman: Greatest Hits (Elektra): It's Christmas so we expect packages like this, but Chapman hasn't had a collection out since 2001 (since when she has released three albums, four songs from them here plus Stand By Me recorded live on The David Letterman Show this year). So this is a useful 18 song non-chronological collection which picks up all her hits (Baby Can I Hold You, Fast Cars, Give Me One Reason, Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution) as well as fine non-hits like the always-important Subcity, Crossroad, Smoke and Ashes and the passionately simple Save Us All. A good body of work by any measure.

Joe Cocker: The Life of a Man (Sony): The late Joe Cocker had more than his share of hits and compilations so for many this non-chronological, double disc set of 36 songs -- with a live You Are So Beautiful as well as the studio version -- is perhaps redundant. The early years are effectively distilled to the familiar (Feelin' Alright, Darling Be Home Soon, She Came in the Through the Bathroom Window, Can't Find My Way Home, Delta Lady, The Letter live in '70, With A Little Help From My Friends) and then the landmarks (Unchain My Heart, Many Rivers to Cross, Up Where We Belong, Have a Little Faith in Me, You Can Leave Your Hat On). A fair overview, but the conspicuous omission is The Moon's A Harsh Mistress. Unforgivable.

Roger Waters; The Wall soundtrack (Sony): If you were lucky enough to miss the original double album, the film version with Bob Geldof, the CD reissue(s), Pink Floyd's touring version and more recently Roger Waters' touring version then unfortunately there's bad news. The bloody thing is back with this live soundtrack to the latest film of this name (taken from various concerts and now expanded). Elsewhere has always been of the quietly considered opinion that The Wall is the most morose, irredeemably portentous, self-indulgent, dull, infantile and utterly unlistenable concept album in the history of Mankind. And will perhaps hold that title for all time. Trying to get through the first disc here confirms it. The evidence for the prosecution rests . . . just after the opening half dozen lines of Mother (about 20 long minutes in).

And look at these images posted above . . . don't tell me you can't judge a book by its cover. 


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