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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 7 February 2011
Another piece of 'smart pop' from TT following on from 'A Piece Of What You Need'. Like his previous album some people may see 'Bella' as another step in the 'easy listening' direction. Yes, it is an easy accessible album, one listen and you'll be whistling the songs in the bath but, it is much more than that. Teddy Thompson has evidenced great vocal flexibility interspersing his lovely strong rich tone with glimpses of smooth falsetto, just listen to the track 'Home'. Rufus Wainwright influences TT's work on songs such as this. 'Tell Me What You Want' has a duet with friend and fellow singer Jenni Muldaur. Maybe 'Seperate Ways' seems a long way off but times change. We should either go along with TT or, dismiss him as 'sell-out' (wrong option!). Personally, I believe 'Bella' is a stronger album than 'A Piece...' and I recommend a listen.
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on 16 April 2011
Teddy's latest album is fully on the scene and it should garner the popularity and recognition his previous work was more than capable of producing, but hasn't. Perhaps it is the media-savvy promotion as much as the popish tunes that will generate a wider appeal.

It was interesting to follow advance reviews of this album. By and large there was a collective appreciation of Thompson's considerable talent and a feeling that this work would be his most successful. Most mention the parental pedigree and that must matter, but I see this as producing the rich musical environment of his growing up rather than some genetically transferred expertise. Just listen to the brilliant duet Teddy does with dad Richard on 'Persuasion' [not this album] and the distinctiveness of the vocals is crystal clear, and moving.

Over four previous albums Thomson has established a poised heart-on-sleeve and cheeky-chappy approach to songwriting, though the Country focused Upfront and Down Low is less so in this respect. I mention this because his way with words matters. There are couplets upon couplets of clever rhymes one could celebrate, but I think the storytelling bristles with sincerity as much as it does with wit.

Another reason I mention this is because the main tinge of criticism of Bella has been for some of its lyrics, for example of the song 'Looking for a Girl'. The lyric to exemplify this is 'I'm looking for a girl who's good in bed/But knows when it's time to knock it on the head'. I have to assume the criticism is with its dismissive tone, yet the song is more appalling than this as it progresses in the establishment of a manifesto for girlfriend criteria, but that appallingness is surely the bombast of the joke. My reading is supported comically by further lyrics, for example in the song 'The One I Can't Have' which produces more playful Thompson couplets: 'I was born with love disease/It's known as chronic hard-to-please/I want one I can't have/Given choices A and B/I'll probably go with option C'

Plenty of arrogant male swagger here with Samson and Gregory meeting their match [minus the crudities]. Yet the macho banter is tempered by the self-deprecation of knowing he won't get the girl, and the comic acknowledgement that he falls in love with women seen on TV and in a magazine. It's a joke. And back at 'Looking For a Girl': you know that anyone with Thompson's intelligent lyrical self-pummelling is clearly taking the proverbial with a line like 'someone who turns my bread to buttered toast'. This song is definitely onside for me. Not a gray area about this at all.

To the tracks as a whole, finally, though that said, I have to start with the opener 'Looking For a Girl'. This will surely bring the album to that desired wider attention as radio's reactorlight views it through an accommodating lens, especially in America. It is pop music for foot-tapping and smiles. This is followed by 'Delilah' with its sweeping strings to waft along the more genuinely romantic love of the lyrics, and this orchestration becomes a feature of the album as a whole. Indeed, I would say that A Piece Of What You Need and also Separate Ways best reflect the songwriters' craft and brilliance whereas Bella with its arrangements and production reflect additional preoccupations, not just to sell - though that must be a significant consideration - but to provide expanse to Thompson's oeuvre.

The third track 'I Feel' is a rock'n'roller as are others on the album [a genuine homage with Teddy's stated love for 50s music, particularly the Everly Brothers]. The variety of this album is reflected immediately in the next 'Over and Over', which is more traditionally Thompson material with its major to minor tones, but also its Arabian instrumentation adding the surprise. The fifth 'Take Me Back Again' is the Country insurgent with twang guitar, but only at the start before the dancing strings and eventual kettle drums and tubular bells. This also has a classic Thompsonesque song structure with a succession of sung descending lines, starting at his falsetto top, and an echo of Roy Orbison. This is a busy song, full of arrangement.

The sixth is a duet 'Tell Me What You Want' with Jenni Muldaur and again has a rock'n'roll ballad echo. The next 'Home' is simple picked acoustic guitar but with another layer of strings and, dedicated to his mother, recounts the comfort and security in the domesticity of returning home. Little oboe rolls creep in near the end and there is by now a sense of over-production. There is no question for me that the collection of tracks cannot compete with the originality and impact of those from my two favourite albums - it is the production being foregrounded here, but again that is because I prefer the solo songwriter genre above this.

The next one is 'The Next One' and has some fine guitar work in it. The ninth track is interesting for a number of reasons. It's opening strummed chords are clearly based on those of 'So Easy' from Thompson's first album but it is the sustained falsetto singing that is both striking and noted by other reviewers. It is striking because it is faultless but I prefer to hear Thompson moving in and out of this range. If, however, a new Stylistics formed and needed a Russell Thompkins, Jr. vocal clone for lead singer, the job is Teddy's, but I think as fans we'd hate for him to take it!

The penultimate track is the jaunty 'The One I Can't Have' already mentioned. The album closes on 'Gotta Have Someone' with punchy rhythms swathed in those sweeping strings again and there is a danger that Thompson's vocals are overpowered by the arrangements. The lyric has a strong and positive sentiment to conclude.

The close focus of this review has made me sound more negative that I want, both in terms of inclination and how it sums up the whole of this album. I have such a strong attachment to those outstanding songs from earlier albums that this does force itself as a comparison upon this album's more polished, in production terms, overall impact. It is an excellent album that adds breadth in its fifth notch on what I hope continues to be a succession of great Teddy Thompson albums to savour.
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on 17 April 2011
As a long-time fan of Teddy Thompson, I can't help but have a great sense of expectation with every new release.

I've had this CD since the week of its release but have held off posting a comment until now, in case my opinion changed. I'm afraid it hasn't.

While it is a most competent album, the phrase 'I've heard it all before' still springs to mind. The themes of the songs have been used by him previously and I wondered if he was a one-trick-pony or just lazy (or contractually obligated). Given his obvious talent, I'm opting for either of the latter options. While other reviewers have seen it as a change in direction, I see it as thematically stuck in the same groove.

For anyone coming to Teddy for the first time, this album will no doubt be most satisfying and enjoyable. For fans, maybe not so. Buy it and make up your own mind. When I'm in the mood, I'll be turning to earlier releases to play. Let's hope he finds some new inspiration for his next outing.
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on 22 October 2011
This album showcases Teddy Thompson's incredible vocal talents very well and it is a mellifluous and finely crafted piece of work. There is recurrent lyrical theme running through Bella; it would seem that Teddy has relationships (or perhaps the lack of them) on his mind. As has been documented in the music press, some of the lyrics are uncomfortably toe curling. This is in contrast to his previous album in which the lyrics were quirky, intelligent and at times wryly self deprecating. We learn that he is looking for a girl 'who's good in bed but knows when its time to knock it on the head' while informing us that 'I could have her any time' on the albums least interesting track The One I Can't Have. The somewhat juvenile nature of these lyrics detract from the quality of music on offer here and this is a pity.

But then to hear Teddy cruise through the stunning 'Delilah' is to forgive all.

Young Danny, York ,UK.
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on 3 August 2011
First things first: I have loved Teddy Thompson since I first heard that delicious voice of his on his debut album. I've bought everything of his since, love them all, and play them all very regularly. And yet, there's something about this album that doesn't quite sit right with me.

Teddy Thompson has been quite honest, when promoting previous albums, about his shortcomings as a boyfriend, i.e. he cheats. A lot. Perhaps its the knowledge that Bella is named after a specific living, breathing, actual ex-girlfriend that makes these songs just a little bit too personal and uncomfortable to listen to, whereas songs on previous albums have just been about various anonymous conquests that have taken place between one album and the next. And there's also a self-pitying tone throughout the album which seems rather inappropriate, given the context. Additionally, there are lyrics from Take Me Back Again which at best could be described as cajoling, but at worst as bullying: "I know you're hoping to move on / But now I've written you this song / You may resist / But I insist / So let's get back to where we were".

Teddy has stated that, other than being the name of an ex-girlfriend, Bella also means "beautiful" in Italian, and references the lush string arrangements that characterise this album. For me, the strings, combined with the lyrics, vocals and subject matter, simply sum up other B-words: "bleak" and "bitter"; the sound of a 35-year-old single man fast approaching middle age who "makes mistakes and then makes them again", to paraphrase the lyrics to Over and Over. A few years ago, Teddy had taken to wearing a T-shirt bearing the legend "Like Father, Like Son". Given his own romantic history and that of his father, it is hard not to see the irony.

More paraphrasing: "I wanted to love this album, I really did / But now I'm wondering who Teddy's really trying to kid / His longings of the soul / Are leaving me so cold / I wanted to love this album, I really did" (Gotta Have Someone). But instead I find myself wishing: "Oh take me to the next one / Fast forward me to something new / Take me to the next one / It's the best thing you can do" (The Next One)!

ADDENDUM: Another reviewer mentioned that the live version of Tell Me What You Want, which he sings with Jessie Nelson, rather than Jenni Maulder (as on the album), is superior, and is absolutely spot on: Jessie has a far finer, clear-as-a-bell voice, and the album version of the song would have been much improved with her vocals. I heard Jessie sing the song first, and when I first heard the song on the CD the difference between what I was expecting to hear and what I actually heard was a rather unpleasant shock.
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on 14 March 2011
Top-notch songs from Mr Thompson continue to populate the TT catalogue. Less immediate than its predecessor, it bears repeated listening to appreciate the depth of the songs.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 15 February 2011
Teddy Thompson previewed these terrific songs in June last
year as part of his Father Richard's curatorship of The Royal
Festival Hall 'Meltdown' 2010. It was a great gig. Mr Thompson
The Younger has grown in confidence as a performer. Funny,
charming, the perfect host for a perfect musical evening.

It's good to have 'Bella' finally out there in the listening world.
His 2008 release 'A Piece Of What You Need' was a bouncy barrel
of fun. A collection of eleven shiny songs with an equally high-gloss
production. With this new project the sound has a nicely raw edge,
a sense of immediacy and an even greater sense that Mr Thompson's
heart is wholly in it. (Mrs Wolf likes his new whiskery look too!)
Once again there are eleven compositions in the can and I can assure
you with confidence that there's not a bad one in the bunch (arguably
it contains his finest so-far : the totally wonderful 'Over and Over'!)

Joining Mr Thompson are David Kahne on guitar and keyboards (Mr Kahne
also produces); Daniel Mintseris on keyboards; Jeff Hill on bass and
Ethan Eubanks seated behind the drum-kit. They play like a real band!

Among the many delights on offer are the gorgeous 'Take Me Back Again',
with its luminous string arrangement; the delicate and haunting melody
of 'Home', which finds Mr Thompson considering the pros and cons of
family life with unsentimental good humour; 'Delilah' a Wild West
love song if ever there was one, full of whistful longing and regret
and the perfectly splendid laconic vocal performance of 'Take Care Of
Yourself' a lilting country(ish) arrangement which might well have had
the spirit of Roy Orbison smiling at our hero from the wings!

Mr Thompson goes from strength to strength. 'Bella' is his strongest
and most distinctive recording. It's a big bundle of joy in fact!

Highly Recommended.
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on 9 March 2011
I first heard "Looking for a girl" on Radio 2. I loved it. I have never heard such cheeky lyrics discribing the type of girl he wants. The music is SO catchy, anyone might feel like taking up line dancing. It really cheers me up. I enjoyd the rest of the album. "Take me back again" is lovely.
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on 10 March 2011
once again this artist has outshone his mother and father in the music stakes, coming from such a musical family he has obviously inherited the musical talent of them. this cd (Bella) is proving that he is improving at writing the music and words my favourite is "Delilah", yet if you listen to "Take care of yourself" it demonstrates his vocal range. this is the fifth album I have purchased after listening to him on a late night local radio station, I was hooked. You tube gave me an early insight at the content of this cd.close your eyes and put on your headphones and lie back and listen.
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on 14 February 2011
Once again Teddy has risen to the challenge of a new album. First class songwriting, coupled with his great voice and excellent guitar skills make this a real success.
A couple of tracks are very commercial, (even chart material) but that's no problem the man is trying to sell records.
Many people have commented in the past how difficult it would be for Teddy to follow the same career path as his illustrious parents, but he is very much his own man, and any doubts people harboured are long gone, this guy is real and is here to stay.
So buy it, sit back and enjoy.
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