Most successful compilations are the comfort food of the music world. They say "I know what you like and I can give you more of it with the minimum of nasty surprises". If you happen to discover a new artist then so much the better, but education is never the intention. Late Night Moods 2 should be a particularly extreme example, since it's intended to act as pleasant, relaxing background music and not to grab your attention.
But grab your attention it does, leaping schizophrenically from syrupy ballads to big band lounge numbers to gravely blues to down tempo electronica. Individual tracks may be soothing, but it's hard to believe most people will find the overall effect relaxing. Joss Stone fans may have a lot in common with lovers of St Germain, but a CD named Late Night Moods 2 is not the place to point this out to them.
Not that there aren't some great tracks in the collection. The wonderful "It's Been Done", with its quirky off key rhythms that perfectly compliment the vocals, is one the best tracks from Angela McCluskey's last album. Nat King Cole's "Let There Be Love" reminds us what old-fashioned style is all out about. It's not even three minutes long and it makes most of the other tracks sound downright crass. Sinead O'connor's big band version of "Secret Love" is more surprising than effective, but is interesting nonetheless.
Then of course there are the obligatory appearances by Joss Stone, Norah Jones and Katie Melua. It's incredible that these three could have gone from exciting new discoveries to ubiquitous to the point of irritation in about 18 months flat. It's not that the tracks are bad - they aren't - it's that we've all heard them on radio, TV and in 50 other compilations already. The same goes for St Germain's "Sure Thing". It's five years old already people, give it a rest already!
The rest of the selection ranges from inoffensively pleasant to downright awful. Two of the biggest names on the disc, George Michael and Brian Ferry, give the worst performances. Michael's rendition of "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" is nauseatingly syrupy, while Ferry's "Falling in Love Again" sounds like a bad imitation of Elvis doing a cover of the Marlene Dietrich original.
As compilations go you could do far better than Late Night Moods 2. It's unfocussed mix of insipid and interesting material will have you skipping more tracks than you listen to. If you're interested in just chilling out then anything from Putamayo's groove range would be a far better buy.
- Alistair Fairweather
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