His most experimental album to date, with excellent results.
Adrian Edwards 2009-10-30
The Pursuit is Jamie Cullum’s most experimental album to date. The end results are something akin to a sophisticated teenager experiencing the excitement of controlling a mixing desk in the recording studio for the first time, testing out all the possibilities as he experiments with abrupt cuts, up-front drums and percussion, techno riffs and, at one point, the voice of the producer calling: “Okay, are we ready?”
On the opening number, Just One of Those Things, Cullum diverts our attention by singing a verse of his own making within Cole Porter’s original arrangement, before breaking away from the tune and indulging in some fancy keyboard fingering, backed to the hilt by his excellent band. He deconstructs the Ornadel/Bricusse song If I Ruled the World, erasing any vestige of the original by Harry Secombe or Tony Bennett’s affecting version. The aspiration of the words and the sturdy tune carry him through.
In similar, expectations-eschewing fashion, he takes a distinctly unsentimental view of Not While I’m Around, that reassuring ballad from Sweeney Todd, avoiding the comfort zone for a rough intense delivery. I Think I Love You, for voice and piano, with its decidedly unromantic lines about throwing up in a taxi, begins with a sniff and a grunt – a gesture designed to warn us of what’s to come?
Other songs come off unscathed. I’m All Over It has an easy going gait to it, something that Gilbert O’Sullivan might have tossed off a generation ago, Wheels is an infectious ditty and Cullum’s take on Rihanna’s Don’t Stop the Music is best of all, where the novel production techniques and his broken voiced pleading to his girl on the dance floor would blend well in any night club with strobe lighting and the clink of glasses at the bar.
All told, The Pursuit is a refreshingly ambitious album that balances the past with a pop present with a pleasing disregard for playing things safe.