Jamie Cullum – Twentysomething
(Decca/Universal Music 5523501. Double LP. Review by Bruce Lindsay)
The traditional twentieth anniversary gift is china – a few plates, maybe a cup and saucer or two. Modernists apparently prefer platinum, which seems like a far more appropriate way to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Jamie Cullum’s Twentysomething, first released in October 2003 and now extended and re-released in double LP format.
Twentysomething was Cullum’s third album. It became one of the most successful jazz albums of all time, selling 2.5 million copies, reaching number 3 in the official UK album chart, making it into the Billboard Hot 100 and going triple-platinum in Britain. All of which makes a review, two decades later, seem rather superfluous. However, one thing the original Twentysomething didn’t achieve was a release as a vinyl LP. Writing recently on Twitter/X, Cullum has called vinyl his “preferred format,” so it seems only right that this omission has been corrected, with the appearance of a beautifully-packaged double album, on see-through, heavyweight, blue vinyl and with five extra tracks.
The bright blue vinyl, coupled with a minimalist label design, provides something of a visual treat: rotate the record on the turntable and watch from above and as the grooves create pleasing patterns the disc appears to slow down and speed up, and eventually label and disc appear to rotate in different directions. It’s a fun feature, but most people, I expect, will be more concerned about the sound.
The 2003 UK release of Twentysomething featured fourteen tracks, a mix of Songbook standards — “Old Devil Moon,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Blame it on My Youth” and a languid, gently swinging “Singin’ In The Rain” for example — a few originals from Jamie or his brother Ben, and a couple of more left-field choices in Jimi Hendrix’ “The Wind Cries Mary” and Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should Have Come Over.” The songs feature Cullum, bassist Geoff Gascoyne, and Sebastiaan de Krom or Michael Strange on drums, augmented on most tracks by a host of musicians drawn from the cream of the British jazz scene: guitarist John Parricelli, saxophonists Alan Barnes and Ben Castle, trombonist Mark Nightingale, are among those featured.
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The original fourteen tracks take up the first three sides of the LP, with the fourth given over to those five extra songs, all recorded in 2003 or 2004. “Everlasting Love” is a laid-back, romantic, version of Love Affair’s 1968 hit, a trio performance from Cullum, Gascoyne and de Krom which made it to number 20 in 2004. “I Get the Sweetest Feeling” is credited solely to Cullum on vocals and piano: strange, because there are definitely drums, bass (or bass pedals), electric keys and backing singers to be heard, as well as some whistling and what seems to be a cup of tea being poured. It’s an upbeat, cheery, take on the Van McCoy composed classic, a hit for Jackie Wilson. Then there’s a funky trio version of “Frontin’,” recorded live at the BBC and sounding like all concerned were having fun. Cullum returns to the American Songbook with “Can’t We Be Friends,” a swinging arrangement that includes horns and guitar and finds Cullum briefly channelling his inner Armstrong and Fitzgerald with a spot of scat, then closes out the album with a lovely version of Radiohead’s “High & Dry.”
Too often, when an album reappears with added tracks the new material can seem like a cynical ploy to persuade fans to shell out the cash for a marginally different version of something they already own. That’s not the case here — the five extra tracks are welcome additions to the original programme. A stylish package, visually and sonically.
LINK: Buy Twentysomething