I realise that what most people want from a review of a CD or a play or a film or whatever is an “objective” assessment of the work, the experience, some sober and well-balanced assessment of whether it is worth your attention, and more importantly your hard-earned cash. And much of the time I like to think you will find such clear-headed, unclouded judgment upon this site.
But there are exceptions. There are certain musicians who leave me not sober but swooning, not clear-headed but completely carried away. I make no excuses; I’ll just flag them up from time to time, as I am doing now. If you want some kind of objective crit of the new Bill Frisell album, you’ll need to go elsewhere. This man, his Fender Telecasters and his small array of pedals, his choice of band mates, his choice of musical material, his general philosophy and demeanour have brought me such unalloyed joy over the last four decades that I long ago stopped being anything other than a silly ol’ billy when it comes to all things Frisellian.
Is this one of the most enjoyable albums I have heard in the last year? Of course it is. Is it the best thing since sliced bread? Even my sliced home-baked spelt loaf recently brought, fragrant and golden from the oven, yes!
When You Wish Upon A Star is a collection of tunes from films and TV, opening with two selections from the film To Kill A Mocking Bird, the John Barry Bond theme You Only Live Twice, two bits from Psycho, The Shadow Of Your Smile from The Sandpiper, the Bonanza theme, a suite of tunes from Once Upon A Time In The West, the title song, a theme Frisell wrote for Gary Larson’s Tales From The Far Side, Moon River from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, music from The Godfather, The Bad And The Beautiful theme and, finally, Happy Trails, the Roy Rogers theme.
These are themes not only wide-ranging, but filled with a kind of common memory, ours as much as Bill’s: deeply romantic, deeply American but also, in the emotions they convey, completely universal. And it goes almost without saying, they are impeccably chosen and perfectly sequenced.
The band is a dream – Frisell’s old mates drummer Rudy Royston and violist Eyvind Kang, newer collaborator, vocalist Petra Haden, and new addition to the Frisell bandstand, bassist Thomas Morgan. These are players absolutely in tune with Frisell’s way of thinking, and they produce a masterpiece of group music with each player both crucial and a star, and yet not standing out above the others.
I’m not going to waste your time with some highlight spotting or pointless analysis of particular songs. It is judged to perfection – at least it is as far as I’m concerned. But then, you knew I’d say that, didn’t you?
Here is a taster:
Categories: CD review