Taylor Swift: Fearless (Taylor’s Version) (Universal)
Conclusion: Polished revision
When Taylor Swift released her second album, Fearless, in 2008, she used it to articulate the hopes and fears of her female fans with songs about teenage crushes, cheerleaders, and the bad girls at school.
At 18, she also turned into a superstar: Fearless sold 12 million copies and won Album of the Year at the Grammys.
Now, 13 years later, she visits the songs of her youth with a note-for-note re-recording of the entire LP.
The move was caused by the sale of their master tapes – and thus the rights to their early catalog – to the music mogul Scooter Braun against their will.
To regain ownership, she remakes six old albums, with Fearless being the opening recording.
Overhauling an existing studio album is not a new phenomenon.
Paul McCartney remixed The Beatles’ Let It Be to give the LP a harder rock and roll touch.
When Taylor Swift released her second album, Fearless, in 2008, she used it to articulate the hopes and fears of her female fans with songs about teenage crushes, cheerleaders, and the bad girls at school. Now, 13 years later, she visits the songs of her youth with a note-for-note re-recording of the entire LP
And Kate Bush replaced synthetic percussion with softer, more soulful sounds when she reworked the music from two previous albums on Director’s Cut in 2011.
But as musicians have more time to lockdown, it’s a trend that is gaining momentum. Dua Lipa is redesigning her Future Nostalgia album to sound even more like a Friday night disco, and Macca is performing again – again – bringing in his A-list friends for his back-to-basics solo streak To add a touch of pizza to McCartney III.
Taylor isn’t the first time she’s revisited Fearless.
In 2009 she released a platinum edition with five additional songs and a piano interpretation of the title Forever & Always.
Their latest attempt is even more ambitious: the 26 tracks include re-recorded versions of each song from both previous releases, as well as six new numbers – and a melody from the Valentine’s Day movie.
It’s a bold career move, but also a little confusing given that she was so faithful to the original arrangements and similar backgrounds of violin, banjo, mandolin and guitar.
Her move was caused by the sale of her master tapes – and thus the rights to her early catalog – to the music mogul Scooter Braun against her will. Pictured: Taylor in 2008
Her voice is rounder now and the production is a touch brighter and more polished.
But it’s hard to see big differences between old and new. . . and sometimes bizarre to hear a 30 year old woman sing about her teenage worries.
Still, the songs themselves are doing well.
Fearless was anchored in the Nashville storytelling tradition, but it also came of age for Taylor, an artist with the vision and emotional influence to ultimately overcome her roots in the country.
Tracks that are still resonating include Fifteen, a touching song about “Living Before You Know Who You’ll Be,” and Swift’s groundbreaking single Love Story.
The six bonus tracks were taken from a huge stock of their founding years.
She is a prolific writer and the ‘new’ material is of a high standard.
Those songs from the vaults also fit their newer edition better, with The National’s Aaron Dessner and country star Maren Morris appearing on You All Over Me.
Keith Urban helps with That’s When.
Regular contributor Jack Antonoff shows up on Mr. Perfectly Fine, a Whipsmart reply to an unreliable old flame repeating Taylor’s ear for a memorable pop hook.
If she goes ahead with her plan to repeat five more albums, we’ll hear a lot more about it.
LONDON GRAMMAR: Californians Soil (Ministry of Sound)
Conclusion: on the way
London grammar singer Hannah Reid turned to a famous friend for help when she began to question her role in the top band after touring.
Distraught at the suspicion that her male colleagues Dan Rothman and Dot Major were being taken more seriously than she was, she considered quitting – until an encouraging conversation from Chris Martin clarified her.
The Coldplay front man told her that groups are like violins – “they don’t play without tension” – and gave her the confidence to put her shyness aside and be more confident.
She does just that on Californian Soil, an album that highlights the trio’s pop references as well as their skills as moody balladers.
London grammar singer Hannah Reid turned to a famous friend for help when she began to question her role in the top band after touring
At the center of it all is 31-year-old Reid, who founded the band with guitarist Rothman and keyboardist major at Nottingham University. Her singing combines graceful femininity with vaulting power.
There are vibrato ballads that reflect their classical training.
On other numbers, their tone is more reminiscent of Dido when it comes to mastering folk harmonies and the ability to slide along an electronic groove.
The album is accompanied by two songs about the USA. The title track is a pun on California Soul, an R&B hit of the 1960s.
Closing Song America uses the states as a metaphor for Hannah’s insecurities and ambitions.
The rest of the album is a classic two-part. The first half is dominated by dance and pop.
Lord It’s A Feeling takes action against infidelity, and the upbeat How Does It Feel suggests an album with pop banger doesn’t go beyond the trio’s capabilities.
The ballad-heavy second part shows Reid’s impressive range. At first it drifts a little, but the breathtaking choral piece All My Love recovers the initial momentum.
Her doubts seem banished, she has become an impressive band leader.
London Grammar plays All Points East on August 27th and is touring the UK in November (londongrammar.com).
Is it a sin to want to dance?
Fresh from his lead role in It’s A Sin, Olly Alexander returns to the music of the New Years single Starstruck.
Originally inspired by a night of stargazing outside a rural recording studio, the track is an electronic dance number with a 1980s flair that parallels Olly’s appearance on the Channel 4 drama series.
“Since we had to stop, I just wanted to go out and dance,” he says. A new album is due this year.
Van Morrison’s latest release is also a foretaste of an upcoming LP: the ironically titled Latest Record Project: Volume 1.
Van was frustrated with not being able to tour and has been writing on piano, guitar, and woodwinds for the past year. The new single Only A Song is a blues workout with saxophone and rolling groove.
Fresh from his lead role in It’s A Sin, Olly Alexander returns to the music of the New Years single Starstruck
It’s now been five years since Prince died, but the seemingly bottomless vault in Paisley Park continues to produce fresh wealth.
The latest is the title track of an unreleased 2010 album, Welcome 2 America.
Set in a 1970s funk groove, The Purple One addresses the evils of celebrity culture and social media. The album will follow in July.
The white stripes also searched the archives.
Twenty years after the groundbreaking White Blood Cells – the album that sparked a garage rock boom – the Detroit duo released a raw version of the classic Fell In Love With A Girl.