Albums round up: Minutes and Second Live by Alison Moyet; It’s The Girls! by Bette Midler; Sirens of Song by Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra

Minutes and Seconds Live by Alison Moyet
Minutes and Seconds Live by Alison Moyet
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If Alison Moyet’s 2013 album The Minutes proved that one of Eighties pop’s finest singers was still in fine voice, this record of her ensuing tour shows her return to stripped-down, bluesy electronica works equally well live.

When I Was Your Girl is an impassioned tour de force, Filigree is more delicate and sensuous with a touch of Eurythmics about it, Changeling is built around a figety, funky guitar riff.

There are echoes of her early days with Vince Clarke in Yazoo – the plangent Winter Kills, a wistful Only You, and a particularly fizzy Situation – as well as a smoky new arrangement of Is This Love? and an impressive reprogrammed All Cried Out.

Minutes and Seconds Live is a welcome reminder of a great torch singer.

Bette Midler’s new album could be regarded as an exercise in cosy notsalgia. Twelve familiar songs - 11 of which pre-date 1970 – yet It’s The Girls! is a likeable homage to the days when beehives, castanets and close harmonies ruled the charts.

Arranger Marc Shaiman effectively marshalls a big band to recreate the sound of Gold Star, Hitsville USA and Scepter Studios.

Darlene Love makes a welcome guest appearance in a rendtion of The Crystals’ hit He’s Sure The Boy I Love and Midler excels singing all of the three-part harmonies of the Andrews Sisters’ Bei Mir Bist Du Schon herself.

The only real misfire is a reworking of TLC’s 90s smash Waterfalls which slows a slick R&B number down to a doleful ballad. But the pace thankfully picks up again with a jaunty You Can’t Hurry Love.

It wouldn’t be the festive season without an album by Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. Sirens of Song is an elite gathering of some of the finest female voices in contemporary and classic music.

Ruby Tuner, described by the band leader as the Queen of Boogie Woogie, let’s Rip in Jumpin’ in the Morning and I Still Went Wrong. Two other Holland regulars, Louise Marshall and Mabel Ray, handle their solo spots in A Vow and Sweet Bitter Love with aplomb.

But it’s the starry cast that will probably catch most eyes and ears. Joss Stone tears the roof off with Letting Me Down, the late Amy Winehouse skanks her way through the blue beat classic Monkey Man and Kylie Minogue delivers a coquettish reading of The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go while Holland channels the spirit of Professor Longhair on the piano.

Also worth checking out is Rumer’s sweet buttered rendition of Percy Mayfield’s Fifties gem Lost Mind.

Those in search of a funky take on Christmas songs should dip into Earth, Wind & Fire’s first ever holiday album. Joy To the World, Away in a Manger and Sleigh Ride groove away merrily while December is a crafty reworking of the old EWF smash September.

The horn section is in full effect in Winter Wonderland and there’s some nice clipped disco guitar in Jingle Bell Rock.

Admittedly their schmaltzy version of Oh Come All Ye Faithful is best avoided but the African-influenced Little Drummer Boy offers an endearing and novel approach to a much covered song.