Approaching the self-titled album from Runaway Orchestra it would be fair to say eager anticipation was not really in abundance. The thought of a collection of cover songs was not off-putting but certainly did not fire up any real excitement or strong intrigue. The ten track album proceeded to take barely two songs to slap any doubt or lethargy towards it down to the floor and firmly transfixed and mesmerised thoughts from there on in. Certainly not every track found the same strength of passion towards it as did others but the album as a whole was one shapely and magnetic pleasure equipped with a powerful and lingering lure to re-join it often.
The album is the work of Tam Nightingale who enlisted the sultry tones of solo artist Sophie Madeline to explore and bring sirenesque radiance to the re-imagination of classic songs. Also featuring musicians from The Divine Comedy, UNKLE, and Cinematic Orchestra, the result is a delicious warm stroll through the charms of an aural sun and its seductive warmth. Released through Mr Bongo, the album brings the melodic beauty of Madeline and the folk caresses of the music in a summers day worth of luxurious luminance, the release basking and offering a full journey of hazy elegance from its vibrant sunrise to its dreamy sunset. It certainly emerged as a real surprise, a mouth-watering treat easily putting those earlier thoughts in shameful exile.
The release opens up with its potency fully unrefined from the start through the stunning tracks Happy Together and Life’s A Gas. The first, a re-working of The Turtles track, is simply irresistible, the song instantly mesmerises with the bewitching voice of Madeline and the stringed emotive kiss securing an immediate ardour upon impact. Opening up its arms to a full orchestral embrace with compelling textures coaxing further rapture, the song is wonderful and overall steals the show despite the mighty efforts of the other tracks. From its magnetic presence the song passes on to the following T-Rex song and yet another irresistible temptation. The acoustic touch of the guitar and as proves to be a permanent pleasure, the heart thrilling vocals, make an invitation impossible to decline before the track expands into another feast of orchestral light and melodic enterprise with vocal harmonies and the throaty bass shadow adding yet more unbridled enticement. Whereas its predecessor for these simple preferences easily outshone the original, this song does not surpass the richness of the Bolan version, but comes so close it is dazzling.
After such a start there had to come a point where the album loosened its grip but with next up For Lovers the time was not ready, the striking and thrilling cover of the Wolfman and Pete Doherty 2004 hit injecting an energy and vivacity into the tune without losing the originals emotive depths. Within three songs the release shows artists who do even singular covers how to make songs engrained in the heart of the world their own with craft and imagination without losing the seed and core which gave them their stature in the first place.
Tracks like the take on Bob Dylan’s If Not For You and the Lisa Lougheed/ Racoons theme song Run With Us do slip below the immense plateau already reached though both still leave a full pleasure especially with the ukulele craft of Madeline in the second of the two, whilst splitting the pair is a great version of It’s A Beautiful Day, another senses grasping wash of melodic grandeur with a restrained heat but wholly seductive charm from voice and sound.
The next major highlight comes with a storming cover of The Beat Goes On, the band turning the Sonny and Cher song into a hypnotic alchemy of primal beats and angelic glamour, its melodic reserve and celestial harmonies eager conspirators with the pulsating heart of the track to total submission of the passions. It is stripped down mastery elevated into something more powerful and impacting through imagination bred craft soaked in whispers of longing.
The final trio of songs do not quite live up to what came before though again it is just the brilliance of the likes of the just mentioned track which confines their appeal rather than any shortcomings. Nevertheless songs like Daniel Johnston’s True Love Will Find You In The End and the closing Two Of Us with a full dual vocal presence for the first time only ensure the album ends on a satisfying high.
If you have any doubts about Runaway Orchestra project or album allow us to say dismiss them and enjoy one impressive musical attraction.
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