Album Reviews

Jimmy Somerville: Live And Acoustic At Stella Polaris (SFE/Cherry Red)

Jimmy Somerville
Live And Acoustic At Stella Polaris
SFE/Cherry Red

Jimmy Somerville possesses the finest falsetto voice in modern music, and has used this power to create some of the finest pop music to date—and intelligent, thought-provokingly powerful pop music to boot. Last year, he released Homage, his first album in eleven years to feature all original work; not only that, it was a record he felt he’d always wanted to make—the “homage” is his tribute to the disco sounds of the 1970s, and he succeeded, resulting in what is easily his finest solo albums to date.

Live And Acoustic At Stella Polaris, recorded last year, finds Somerville in a rare setting—with a bare-bones acoustic backing band. Considering the energy of his music, it might seem to be an unlikely sort of arrangement, but it’s a brilliant move, as one can hear the power in his voice in a way his fully produced music only hints at. Naturally, the setlist focuses on his greatest hits and considering his latest is an homage to disco, it’s not surprising, then, that he bookends his set with two of the disco songs he’s recorded over the years. He opens with his take on Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real),” which was his first major solo single, while he closes with a rousing take of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” which was his band The Communards’ biggest hit.

In between these two classics, he revisits high points from his storied discography. Bronski Beat’s classic “Smalltown Boy” is here, of course, as is the equally compelling follow-up single,“Why?”  The Communards’ moving ballad “For A Friend” is still powerful, losing none of its emotional heft thirty years on, and Somerville’s voice echoes the pain and heartbreak that went into it in the first place. Though there are only two songs from Homage, those numbers fit in nicely with all of these classics, “Back To Me” and “Some Wonder” holding their own with Sommerville’s best work.

Live And Acoustic At Stella Polaris is that rare live album that wonderfully captures its subject in the raw, enhancing and doubling-down on Somerville’s greatest strength—his powerful, amazing voice. This set is jazzy, relaxing, intelligent, and thought-provoking; in other words, it’s just Jimmy Somerville being himself.

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