March 5, 2010
Jamie Cullum returns with "The Pursuit".
Cullum’s fifth studio album continues the journey in which he combines the elements of various styles of music, most notably pop, electronica and jazz, and this album feels like he is closest to tracks that achieve his vision. After a year’s layoff Cullum returns sounding rejuvenated and alive, from his normal laid-back vocals, and creative arrangements to some blazing piano solos. There are 8 original tracks and 4 cover tunes on this album, although on iTunes and at your local Target you can get a copy that, including bonus tracks, has 20 tracks on it.
It begins with a Cole Porter classic “Just One of Those Things” complete with backing horn section which helps to set a nice groove for the remainder of the album.
A highlight of the album is his cover of Rihanna’s Top 40 hit from 2007 “Don’t Stop the Music”. Cullum slows it down, infuses jazz, adds more complexity to the chord structure, and creates an epic cover that most critics agree blows Rihanna’s original out of the water. An ultimate compliment is that you can listen to it without even thinking of the original. This isn’t new territory for Jamie, he has done similar things to cover tunes in the past, but his take on other people’s material still remains fresh and innovative.
There’s a beautiful cover version of “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd, which at first listen you would not even place as a song from a musical.
But having said all this, the strength of the album is still in Jamie’s original tracks. From the infectious groove of “I’m All Over It”, with its romping, stomping piano part; to the appropriately titled “Wheels”, featuring a repetitive piano riff and drum part that literally sounds like a wheel constantly revolving. It’s a challenge not to sing along with “You and Me Are Gone”. Below is a video of a live performance of "I'm All Over It".
“Music is Through” is a masterpiece in its own right. Starting with shades of Impressionistic composers like Debussy, then an early 80’s Michael Jackson groove fades in, before combining together and busting out into something that combines a house track with disco, pop, jazz, impressionism, and that unmistakable Cullum shading. It is nearly impossible not to bop your head along with the groove.
As you listen to each track it becomes harder to name your favorite, it’s more like your favorite at the moment. An amazing live performer, Cullum has just added more great repertoire to his shows.