After four long months – that’s over nineteen weeks, if you’re counting, or more than a third of a year – I have finally returned home. Just temporarily, for now, you understand: Steve Stevingtons has an important three week “Malcolm in the Middle” conference to attend, so the place is empty. But temporarily or not, here I am. And if I am back at my desk again, you know what that means: it’s time to grit my teeth and endure another dreadful album of unknown provenance. Today, we subject ourselves to Bobby Brown’s 1986 debut album, King of Stage, released when he was just 17.
Are you a fan of Our Cheryl? I have to admit I didn’t know much about her before 3 Words, her debut solo album from 2009, plopped onto my doormat in a padded envelope. Cheryl Cole (previously Cheryl Tweedy, now Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, future changes of surname TBC) started out in Girls Aloud, a band created by the ITV series “Popstars”. She then went solo and is now an X Factor judge.
I cannot explain how Four Word Reviews work. The CDs just arrive, I don’t choose them, and they arrive by their own mysterious schedule. Right now I have a lot of them stacked up. Being in a position where I had a lot to choose from, I took a punt on Jonathan Ansell’s Tenor at the Movies, basically because I’d never heard of him. Here he is, look.
Back in about 2004, when I was at university, I attended a guest lecture by Pete Waterman. The university had given him an honorary doctorate, for reasons that were largely to do with the campus being in Warrington and Pete Waterman being about the only person of any note to come from Warrington who wasn’t Kerry Katona. Perhaps Chris Evans was busy.
He said he was often asked, after the many chart hits of Stock Aitken and Waterman, what was the secret formula for chart success. “There is no formula,” he proudly told us. You have to do what is right for the song and for the artist. Oddly, when discussing what was right for the song and the artist, he chose not to mention an album he’d put together four years previously called Motown Mania.
Sometimes, when a deplorable CD arrives in the post, you’ve never heard of the artist or the album and you’ve no idea what you’re in for. Other times they’re known to you in some way. This one immediately rang a bell: “Kavana”, the 1997 album by Kavana. I remember him. He did a cover of “I Can Make You Feel Good”, the Shalamar song. He was a late 90s pop star. Yes. Him. Great, I thought: maybe this will be an easy one. Maybe this will be like Suggs where I remembered one or two songs and the others were just a bit of a laugh.
It was inevitable, wasn’t it? I should have known. It was only a couple of months ago that I wrote about the arrival of a CD box claiming to be Cher Lloyd and finding that the disc inside was actually Coldplay. Well, whoever it is that sends me these awful CDs to review (Gary Wilmot? Ian? God himself?) evidently reads the Beans, because this week another little parcel arrived in the post. Inside it, a box for a Coldplay album, and the CD “Sticks+Stones” by Cher Lloyd. I now have a complete set. Hooray.
Plan A for this month’s Four Word Review was Cher Lloyd, obviously. But there is no Cher Lloyd on the CD in that box. So, with some reluctance, I have had to change my plan. I couldn’t face Kavana. Not yet. So where else is there to turn? What might soothe my frayed nerves and calm me after this disconcerting change of plan? I turn back to the pile of dreadful CDs, once again growing at an alarming rate. I pass on Pete Waterman’s Motown collection. Ah yes, here we go. This guy. This guy will do nicely.
April is truly the most Christmassy month. There are several reasons for that. The first is that it just is. I mean, Christmas happens in December, obviously, but that really just makes the idea of December being the most Christmassy month a bit bourgeois and low-brow. No, April’s right on the fashions. The second reason is the weather – all that blazing hot sunshine that’s turned up in the last few days can’t help but make you feel festive. And the third reason is that it was in April last year that we listened to Mahalia’s Christmas album. (You did listen to it, didn’t you?)
Needless to say, then, this April we’re spinning another yuletide disc. This one is A Christmas Album, recorded in 1967 by Barbra Streisand.