Anyone who has been around ‘pop’ music for a while will know the songs of Albert Hammond – they may not know all of these as his songs but he has been incredibly prolific and created a package of music that is staggering in its depth and quality.
In the case of this album the symphonic treatment adds to the songs and takes them into a whole new sphere.
Opening with It Never Rains In Southern California you get strings and woodwind but there isn’t a massive difference from his original – that same strong voice and a deft touch with harmonies but then you move into I’m A Train with a full orchestral treatment and the song you probably taught your kids to sleep by becomes uplifting and joyous.
When I Need You was always a beautiful love ballad but this is much, much better than the mawkish Leo Sayer version, a gentle hand on the conductors baton leaving room for Hammond’s slightly reedy vocal.
By this time you may have guessed that it is an album of real familiarity, taken slightly differently but retaining the essential qualities the songs had when he wrote them.
It goes on through classic after classic song.
A heart-aching To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before – not heart-bleeding but looking back on a life with a sense of pleasure.
One of my favorites has been, for many years, A Free Electric Band and this is strident and pounding, a call to arms and somehow two fingers up to Trump and his billionaire crew. The orchestration just makes it more of everything it should be.
One very odd – and really warming number – is Estrellita; a 1912 Mexican light classical tune. “My uncle recorded me singing this aged 8, when I was a choir boy,” Hammond says, “We made a 78 record that we sold in Gibraltar. I kept it for I don’t know what reason… now we’re recording it, so I’m singing with myself!”
The final track on the album is a real shocker – The Air That I Breathe with all the Hollies over-emphases stripped away and a beautiful and gentle song emerging in its stead.
Albert Hammond is one of those artists that you forget about until you hear a collection like this and you realise how many great songs he wrote in hs time. I can’t wait to see him with full orchestra at the Cadogan Hall – likely to be one of the greatest shows of the year.