There are a lot of firsts when it comes to music journalism, and this is the first time I have reviewed Jamie Cullum. My thoughts on him before listening to the album revolved around the fact that he’s an inspiring jazz pianist, but I didn’t quite know what to make of him as an artist. My thoughts afterwards are somewhat the same.
‘The Pursuit’ impresses and puzzles in equal measure. At times there are hints of classic jazz influences, recognisable arrangements, and smooth melodies, at others the experiments kick in, and I’m not quite sure what to make of them. With this CD it’s a case of expect the unexpected. The album begins for example with ‘Just One Of Those Things’, a track that starts off at a slow pace, but continues at a surprisingly fast tempo, with a slightly puzzling arrangement. There’s also the final track ‘Music Is Through’ which has an odd and very sudden ending, ‘If I Ruled The World’ with it’s rather sedate melodies. These tracks didn’t quite work for me, and the sudden bursts of experimentation on some other songs were a little puzzling, though still held my interest.
The lead single from the album ‘I’m All Over It’ has a melody and lyrics that will easily stick in your head, and the lively ‘You And Me Are Gone’ is another track that is easy to get into. The piano playing is fast and effortless on up-tempo numbers like these, but he can do subtle too. ‘I Think, I Love’ goes for a slow chilled out lounge vibe, while he’s also created a delightful after-dark mood with his cover of the Rihanna song ‘Don’t Stop The Music’. There are tracks that are high on sentiment too, such as ‘Ain’t Gonna Let You Down’, and ‘Not While I’m Around’, which would be perfect in a film.
After giving the album a good listen, I found myself with not one, but two favourite tracks. My first pick is ‘Wheels’, as I really enjoyed the piano arrangements, and lyrics in this; it has a structure I could recognise and relate to, it had a nice atmosphere to it as well. My other pick has to be ‘Mix Tape’. This song is I think, a little more commercial and has a wider appeal than some of the others. The music is very catchy, and it has a great lyrical theme/story to it. These are experiments that have definitely paid off, and made the album for me.
The exploding piano on the album artwork indicates that this was never going to be a typical Jazz album, and from that point of view I think Jamie did what he set out to do. Having read his track by track low-down, it’s also interesting to read how all the songs came about, and where they were recorded. Whilst this style of music isn’t something I’d normally buy, it still intrigues me, and though some of the ‘experiments’ weren’t as strong as others, there were some definite strong points. I guess the thing is, we like to know who an artist is, and where they’re going, and with Jamie Cullum, it’s not always easy to grasp these things. Wherever ‘The Pursuit’ leads him though, it’s sure to be an interesting journey, so keep your eyes open for this album, who knows you might just love it?!
‘The Pursuit’ is available from November 9th 2009. For more information on Jamie visit www.jamiecullum.com, and keep your eyes peeled, for a great interview with the man himself!