WORKS: Terror and Magnificence; Mistress Mine; The Three Ravens; Hunting the Hare; Rosie-Blood
PERFORMER: John Harle (saxophones, keyboards), Elvis Costello (vocals), Sarah Leonard (soprano), William Purefoy (countertenor), Andy Sheppard (saxophones); John Harle Band, Balanescu Quartet, London Voices
CATALOGUE NO: 452 605-2
How I wish I could like this disc. John Harle is a remarkable saxophone player, his intensity of sound and the extraordinary stratospheric pitches he can reach with true intonation are phenomenal. But this disc with Elvis Costello, Sarah Leonard, Andy Sheppard, the John Harle Band (a Nyman Band lookalike), Balanescu Quartet, London Voices, plus keyboards, ethnic percussion, backing vocals and ‘synthesizer programming’, is a soup. The genesis of the disc is significant: 1995 saw the South Bank invite Elvis Costello to programme their ‘genre-busting’ Meltdown Festival. Costello met Harle, mutual admiration set in and critical judgement went out. Harle wrote for Costello.
‘I obviously don’t have a more beautiful voice than classical singers, but I may have a more affecting one for certain kinds of music.’ Well, that kind of sums it up. Costello is a popular singer suggesting that he can bring a certain something different to… what? John Harle, author of all the music (with occasional help from Pérotin), sounds terribly uneasy here. The music is desperately middle of the road, and it is a road made particularly wide in order to accommodate everyone. Every recording-studio gismo seems to have been used. Only Sarah Leonard is a star. Annette Morreau