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Could It Work? Fascinating To Think It Could
on 10 January 2011
There's an agenda here, as everywhere. Let's sell classical music to an audience wary or even snoring at the very word 'classical'. Let's make it look like a pop album, use a reasonably photogenic young pianist, let him write his own introduction and give the whole thing a suitably buzzwordy title:
Bullets & Lullabies
(Who else might that suit? Steven Seagal? ACDC? Meatloaf? Pamela Anderson?)
Yet at my record store this album played by James Rhodes is tucked away in the classical section, back corner, under the pianist's surname in the Piano section. If they really wanted to sell it to a young audience, why not put it in with the Pop music, where it might be noticed?
Anyhow, I listened with a pal, rather more analytical than me, who decided almost from the first track that he hated it, that the recording was shoddy and the playing inept. I didn't decide against it until the very end, when an intermezzo by Brahms died of old age before my very ears. BUT, I don't doubt the sincerity of the artist, and although I initially bridled at some of his notes, I couldn't fault his honesty or the scrupulous avoidance of anything academic or top-down in his approach to us.
But, as the BBC review quoted by Amazon makes clear, there's something dubious about the attempt to interest a listener by reciting the details of a tough childhood, drugs, addiction, finding a calling, redemption in music, blah blah blah. The telling statement is the bit about turning down a scholarship and taking music up again after ten years in the city boys' wilderness (if I got that right).
So, I guess I'm saying this album might, ought(?) to succeed inspite of the playing, if it can truly be marketed to a rock and pop hungry audience then willing to discover the actual artistry of the composers on this double album, not just focus on the slightly geeky appeal of this young confident painist with his accessible liner notes and Soho specs. Buy it for your nephew or niece and leave it somewhere round the house for them to accidentally find on the next annual get-together.
Good luck to him.