CD: Chrissie Hynde with the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble - Valve Bone Woe The Pretenders' singer swit


From The Arts Desk

Chrissie Hynde has always loved a cover song. But never before, has she strayed so far from her comfort zone. The 14 covers on Valve Bone Woe are a million miles from new wave. They're a kind of jazz odyssey - a journey from bebop to easy listening via early soul. It couldn't be any less like what usually happens when a rock star 'goes jazz'.

Hynde's approach is both sophisticated and tasteful. Along with her Valve Bone Woe Ensemble, the Pretenders' singer explores songs as diverse as "Wild is the Wind" and Charlie Mingus's "Meditation (for a Pair of Wire Cutters)". The band take the changes of mood in their stride. Cool-Jazz trumpets give way to gently-caressed pianos. On the late-night tracks, Hynde's bittersweet voice has never sounded so bewitching.

Looking back at her career, it's easy to see why the style suits her so well. Pretenders' songs like "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" are full of nocturnal sadness. Now, at 67, Hynde sounds even more weary and wistful. "Once I Loved" (Antônio Jobim) is achingly sad while Sinatra's "I'm a Fool to Want You" is drenched in regret.It's away from the lounge bar, though, that the album really soars. Nancy Wilson's "How Glad I Am" is a glorious mix of Memphis horns and soul vocals. The Beach Boys "Caroline, No" is reinvented as a slow acid-jazz piece. The album's crowning glory is a complete reworking of The Kinks' "No Return", recast in the style of Andy Williams.

There are no real bum notes, just a couple of dips. Hynde hasn't much to offer "Hello, Young Lovers" (King and I) and the dub sounds that appear on a few songs seem superfluous. But these are minor quibbles. Hynde and her producers, Marius De Vries and Eldad Guetta, are a winning combination. If you love Hynde, you're going to love this album. If you love jazz you might do too.

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