Expect to be enthralled by this genuinely special performance…
John Grant live album

Alternative music’s relationship with strings hasn’t always been entirely smooth. At the turn of the millennium, they had become a clichéd salve for songs lacking emotive depth, smothered across mediocre drivel without a second thought. However, as jaded as we all became, in the right hands they can still deliver something remarkable.

Arranged by Fiona Brice, these 16 orchestra-assisted performances of some of the majestic moments from American singer-songwriter John Grant’s career are as far from the anodyne disappointments of early-’00s indie as you might hope.

Whether it’s the emphatic swell of ‘GMF’ or the delirious rage of ‘Queen Of Denmark’, these are arrangements that feel more like fresh collaborations. Songs hardly crying out for improvement are delivered in sensational and celebratory form, with Grant in quite phenomenal voice throughout.

The particular delight of hearing part of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# Minor open ‘Pale Green Ghosts’, whose own string arrangement is based thereupon, is hard to surpass, although the sombre, emotive take on ‘Drug’, from Grant’s former band The Czars, makes for as beguiling a four minutes as any here. 

This is no between-album stopgap. The obsessed and uninitiated will be equally enthralled by this genuinely special performance.

9/10

Gareth James

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