"California Son" review in The Telegraph (4/5)

Morrissey, California Son, review: has the once proud Mancunian swapped allegiances? (4 of 5 stars) - The Telegraph
By Neil McCormick

It's mainly behind the paywall except:
“Some say I got devil / Some say I’m an angel / But I’m just someone in trouble,” croons Morrissey, as if entering the increasingly heated debate about his polarising personality. The words, though, are not his own.
An atmospherically orchestrated interpretation of Some Say I Got Devil by neglected American singer-songwriter Melanie provides a brooding finale to Morrissey’s sumptuous 12th solo album, California Son, the first in his career entirely comprised of cover versions.
 
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Vulgarian
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Here in full:

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By: Neil McCormick

Morrissey, California Son, review:
has the once proud Mancunian swapped allegiances?


“Some say I got devil / Some say I’m an angel / But I’m just someone in trouble,” croons Morrissey, as if entering the increasingly heated debate about his polarising personality. The words, though, are not his own.

An atmospherically orchestrated interpretation of Some Say I Got Devil by neglected American singer-songwriter Melanie provides a brooding finale to Morrissey’s sumptuous 12th solo album, California Son, the first in his career entirely comprised of cover versions. “And though I’d like to tell you / Exactly how I feel / Somehow the music / Hides it and conceals it,” sings Morrissey, a notoriously obsessive music fan paying homage to childhood favourites whilst repurposing lyrics to express his own complex relationship with his art.

If a great cover version should reveal new dimensions in both song and singer, then this album is filled with them. Morrissey digs into material by some of the most idiosyncratically brilliant folk artists of the Sixties and Seventies, including Phil Ochs, Tim Hardin and Buffy St Marie, as well as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell (with a bold version of Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow).

There is a strand of sophisticated easy-listening featuring gender-twisting interpretations of songs made famous by Laura Nyro, Dionne Warwick and Carly Simon (half of the artists he pays tribute to are women), a couple of melodically lush vintage pop hits from Roy Orbison and Gary Puckett and a glorious tribute to gay glam rocker Jobriath. Morrissey’s voice is smooth, strong and tender on luxuriously baroque arrangements that often completely overhaul the originals.

The question is whether Morrissey’s fans are in any mood to listen, particularly in Britain. The former Smiths frontman has endured an increasingly embattled relationship with fans struggling to reconcile their idol’s sensitive underdog image with his support for right wing causes, including the For Britain party and English Defence League. Threatened anti-racism protests coincided with Morrissey cancelling UK dates last year, with little indication that he is keen to return. Morrissey's punning new album title suggests the once proud Mancunian, now a resident in Los Angeles for 20 years, has swapped allegiances. His American fans, it must be said, seem largely unmoved by Morrissey’s opinions on Brexit.

But when reviewing Morrissey, should we focus on his politics or music? Turning 60 today, he has been putting out consistently strong work for four decades, creating a catalogue that often brilliantly evokes sympathy for marginalised and struggling human beings (arguably mainly himself).

California Son’s carefully curated selection features a wealth of subtly altered lyrics illuminating Morrissey’s values. I suspect much attention will be focussed on his martial version of Dylan’s Only A Pawn in Their Game, in which poor white men are manipulated by politicians exploiting racial divides. A more defensive message might be located when Morrissey interrogates an individual’s choice to “Do what’s right or do what you are told” in Phil Ochs’s Days of Decision.

“Ohhh,” sighs Morrissey, as if weighing heavy matters. “Decisions!”

Regards,
FWD.
 

NealCassidy

FREE SPEECH
They got their advance copy...
 

BookishBoy

Well-Known Member
Yes, a very nicely expressed point about the lyrics in these songs having all kinds of different meanings in this context. The one that really hits me at the moment is:

"I know you want to see me but you're afraid
Of what I might have on my mind..."
 

Ketamine Sun

<><><><><><><>
But when reviewing Morrissey, should we focus on his politics or music?’

What kind of f***ing question is that?
Is this not from the music section of the Telegraph? Are they not reviewing a record?

‘Turning 60 today, he has been putting out consistently strong work for four decades, creating a catalogue that often brilliantly evokes sympathy for marginalised and struggling human beings(arguably mainly himself).’

Guess they answered their own question right there. Yes, review the music.
But in this day an age, reviewing music
isn’t enough to sell advertising, always looking for ‘scandal’ to make a buck, for example the ‘swapping allegiances ’ clickbait for a title, how sad.

:cool:
 
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Similar2Sunday

Active Member
I'm interested in what exactly the "subtly altered lyrics" are. Lyric changes during live shows are, for me, a highlight of seeing Morrissey live, but I wasn't expecting lyric changes on this album since the singles released previously followed the originals quite closely in both lyrics and music. Having listened to both the originals and Morrissey's covers, I haven't recognized any obvious altered lyrics with the exception of...

On "Some Say (I Got Devil)," the original lyrics "I'm just a girl in trouble" are changed to "I'm just someone in trouble." But the original lyrics "From hurting like a woman, and crying like a baby // Something like a woman, crying like a baby" are retained. I'm puzzled as to why the lyrics were changed since Moz usually has no trouble identifying with a woman in a song as in Maladjusted "...working girls like me."

I will try to do a comprehensive comparison of original lyrics and covers, but would be happy to hear from others'..
 

Ketamine Sun

<><><><><><><>
Haven’t myself compared lyrics between original and his. Though it’s already been noted that some lyrics have been changed in Lady Willpower.

I'm interested in what exactly the "subtly altered lyrics" are. Lyric changes during live shows are, for me, a highlight of seeing Morrissey live, but I wasn't expecting lyric changes on this album since the singles released previously followed the originals quite closely in both lyrics and music. Having listened to both the originals and Morrissey's covers, I haven't recognized any obvious altered lyrics with the exception of...

On "Some Say (I Got Devil)," the original lyrics "I'm just a girl in trouble" are changed to "I'm just someone in trouble." But the original lyrics "From hurting like a woman, and crying like a baby // Something like a woman, crying like a baby" are retained. I'm puzzled as to why the lyrics were changed since Moz usually has no trouble identifying with a woman in a song as in Maladjusted "...working girls like me."

I will try to do a comprehensive comparison of original lyrics and covers, but would be happy to hear from others'..
 

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