Monday 18 December 2017

Labour of love and farewell

John Meagher

John Meagher

The separate

Orchestral Variations Vol 1

(Setanta Records)


Since its inception in 1990, the Setanta label has been a byword for quality and it's been home for some of Ireland's finest names in music over the past two decades, including Divine Comedy, Pony Club and Brian. Founder Keith Cullen must be a shoo-in for one of those lifetime achievement awards.

Sadly, Setanta is being wound up -- a sign of these very tough times -- and this covers album with a difference will be its last release. The idea is simple and, Cullen admits, self-indulgent.

He's got a bunch of his favourite musicians to record cover versions of songs he loves, and he's had acclaimed string arranger Fiona Brice add a lavish, orchestral touch.

What emerges is an intriguing project that's very much a labour of love.

It's the only place you'll get to hear Placebo's Brian Molko reinvent the Pet Shop Boys' West End Girls as a disaffected, druggy ballad or find Mark Lanegan offering a singular take on The Cure's Close to Me.

The quality dips badly in places -- Anais's cutesy take on Buggles' Video Killed the Radio Star is completely misjudged. But at its best, Orchestral Variations is a touching swansong. Martha Wainwright offers a beautiful, heartfelt take on U2 song, Stories for Boys, while Charlotte Hatherley -- once of Ash -- lets her vocals soar on Pixies' Gigantic.

KEY TRACKS Stories for Boys; Close to Me

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