Jools calls on his rather famous mates for a good old East End, barrel-of-monkeys,...
Chris Jones 2002
Of course round these parts we all love Mr Holland, with his cheeky east-end banter and barrelhouse joanna-thumping style. His non-partisan approach to music has resulted in the geezer who played for Squeeze and stood gurgling good-naturedly next to Paula on The Tube becoming the Beeb's byword for musical eclecticism on TV. Later has allowed Mr Holland's address book to fill up with a plethora of celebrity phone numbers and now, after over 400 shows and 17 (yes, 17!) series, it's payback time. Small World Big Band is a chance for Jools and his Big Band to trot out some something old, something new and, borrowing a different star for each track, something most definitely blue.
The names aren't just minor either. Sting, Knopfler, Morrison (Van, not Jim), Weller, Dr John, Strummer, Gilmour, Clapton and err..that bloke out of the Stereophonics, all gather round Jool's baby grand to deliver the goods - and all would be swell if the sum of this album's parts added up to something which didn't sound like, well Jools and his famous mates mixing it up. It's a fun idea but the disparity between tracks results in a patchy experience at best. The best representation of the undoubted talent on display actually comes in the form of originals co-written by Mr H and less lofty (though not less talented) guests. "It's So Blue" with Paul Carrack is as smoothly effective as you'd expect from the uber-session man while "Town And Country Rhythm And Blues" with old bandmate Chris Difford and "Oranges And Lemons Again" with Suggs at least bubble with authentic London grittiness. The latter, a tribute to Ian Dury, actually approaches a poetry of sorts. Otherwise it's a mixed bag of unwise pub-blues workouts ("Seventh Son" with Sting; "I'm Ready" with Steve Winwood) or dodgy cover versions. Why let Paul Weller near a song as great as Billy Preston's "Will It Go Round In Circles" for goodness sake, and what possessed Marc Almond to attempt "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" in this brassy setting?
So, a somewhat unsatisfactory outing and one that makes you wish that Jools had just stuck to his boogie-woogie guns. However, one or two real gems do reside in this jolly knees-up of an album. John Cale's morose tones are a welcome antidote to the chumminess and, oddly, Jamiroquai's take on "I'm In The Mood For Love" is so damn bouncy as to be irresistible. Who'd've thought it, eh? Finally, we do get a genuinely poignant moment in the form of a new song from George Harrison, "Horse To The Water". Jools certainly knows some amazing people.