Reviews: New music releases including Bowie’s final album

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We take a look at the new CD releases, including David Bowie’s Blackstar

Prokofiev: Symphonies 4,6 & 7/Piano Concertos 4 &5: Start the Prokofiev 125th anniversary year with this bumper package of piano concertos and symphonies on two well filled discs from the Mariinsky Orchestra and their charismatic conductor, Valery Gergiev. Performances are steeped in a pungency created by their distinctly Russian tonal colours, the hard-hitting often violent and hysterical view if the Sixth Symphony the best on disc. Blemishes relate the ‘live’ concert origin of the Seventh, and those looking for the happy ending Prokofiev added later will be disappointed. The seldom played Fourth concerto, for left hand, has the reliable Alexei Volodin as soloist, with Sergei Babayan revelling in the physicality of the Fifth. Variable sound quality from different locations. (Mariinsky MAR0577). David Denton

David Bowie – Blackstar: Bowie constantly evolved and challenged audiences with mixed results, yet always did what his heart desired and Blackstar, his final album, may be the perfect example of this. The title track is a 10-minute sprawl of escalating tension, beginning with an unsettling off-beat percussion that eventually gives way to an emotive ballad while the melancholic Lazarus is a haze of swirling saxophone, with short bursts of fuzz guitar and the poignant opening lyric: “Look up here, I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars, that can’t be seen”, which has now taken on new meaning as a sort of farewell. The climactic I Can’t Give Everything Away featuring the album’s only real guitar solo, but it ultimately lacks the punch of the first half. An enigmatic and fascinating release. Robert Penney

Mystery Jets – Curve of the Earth: We’re more than a decade on since Mystery Jets burst onto the scene in a whirl of jangly guitars and indie pop songs. After five albums and dipping their toes into a multitude of different genres, they have produced their most mature sound to date. Those expecting love ballads dedicated to the girl who lives two doors down, or ecstatic indie dancefloor fillers, should look elsewhere – this is a whole new musical enterprise. The most noticeable departure from previous musical offerings is in the introduction of orchestral strings, giving the record a cinematic feel. The subject matter has changed too, the band explores human DNA on opener Telomere, yet the Jets still manage to deliver more musings on the complications of love on Taken By The Tide. Clare Hubble

The Temperance Movement – White Bear: They might take their name from a 20th century movement promoting alcohol abstinence, but the blues rock band certainly know how to have a good time. White Bear, is chock full of the sort of tunes best enjoyed over a few drinks. Fronted by Glaswegian Phil Campbell, alongside Paul Sayer, Nick Fyffe and Damon Wilson, this, their second record, is packed with a wild, manic energy. Three Bulleits, Modern Massacre and Battle Lines will make you want to dance, while title track White Bear feels like an instant classic. Having said that, Oh Lorraine certainly puts up a fight for best song of the bunch, being intensely dark, yet lively. If you need an album to break your dry January to, and feel good doing it, this one comes highly recommended. Luke Terry