Sunday, 23 February 2014

Review: Chris Botti - Midnight Without You

Chris Bottis first album under his own name ‘First Wish’ had proved to be a surprise hit for the Verve record label, which wasn’t entirely surprising given both his mastery and the pure silken sound he could get from the trumpet. Coupled with his boyishly good looks and highly photogenic nature, as well as strong live reviews, Botti’s album sold itself with little marketing needed.

In between tours, Botti was asked to compose and perform the score for sultry American indie film ‘Caught’, which garnered itself excellent reviews (more so than the film) and quickly became a hard to find collectors item. Shortly afterwards Botti’s girlfriend left him.

Recorded and released in 1997, ‘Midnight Without You’ offers a ‘more of the same’ approach to the second album, but with a few surprising differences. The electric guitar for one is a welcome guest, occasionally taking a lead role, but more often adding another layer to the rhythm of the music. It is perhaps this that makes ‘Midnight Without You’ less ‘chill’ than the first album. More compelling and grabbing perhaps than the first album, it does though posess less of a cohesive flow than ‘First Wish’.

It begins in a similar manner to the first album - good then but essentially more of the same. The title track that follows though is a weak number with vocals by Paul Buchanan, who struggles to add interest to the general blandness. Easily the weakest track on the album, its inclusion so early on in the album is unfortunate.

Dumping, for the most part, the drums that made up the first album, Botti chooses to extensively use African drums, and their presence certainly raises the music here. ‘Regroovable’ for example is a big highlight that follows on immediately from the disappointment of the title cut, featuring some good funk that helps get the album back onto track perfectly. Along with the very catchy and memorable ‘Way Home’, these two tracks are easily two of the three radio friendliest hits destined to attract new admirers.

The most obvious song here though to be a break out is ‘Forgiven’. The only vocal number from the ‘Caught’ soundtrack is here given a welcome second outing, and greater exposure, as the penultimate track. Featuring superb singing from Jonatha Brooke, whose voice complements Botti’s trumpet throughout, it is a genuine wonder why this wasn’t released as a single with the film. And it makes one wish for the rest of the soundtrack to be more easily available.

The last track, ‘Alone In The City’, written after a relationship breakdown, is a strong ‘late-hours’ comedown number. Ending perhaps on a melancholic note, it is is a strong finish to an equally strong sophomore album.


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