Review By: Melody Charles
Not too long ago, the US East Coast tour of Swing Out Sister became a casualty of an act of nature: a humongous cloud of ash that blanketed Europe and made flight impossible for nearly a month. They had a choice to make: letting the newly-composed arrangements of their best-known hits go to waste or recording them anyway to make the best of the crisis. Luckily for the fans, the UK-based pop, jazz and soul group chose the latter and the result is Private View, a CD and DVD set that re-imagines the highlights of their dozen releases alongside a DVD of a concert performance in Tokyo, Japan.
Sometimes groups switch up the tempos and the melodies of their most immortal hits so much that they can become untenable or unrecognizable, but SOS’s treatments are just as enjoyable as the originals, stripped down to their bare framework and featuring a more subdued take on the vocals by the coolly-captivating songwriter and vocalist, Corrine Drewery. Paced for a leisurely drive, an afternoon brunch or a sophisticated grown-folks gathering, even their most casual listeners will find the interludes inviting (“And The Flowers Will Grow,” “It May Not Be Enough”) and their alternate versions of the snappy singles and B-sides hypnotic : Their take on the 70’s era Delphonics hit, “La La (Means I Love You)” has a lush and distinctively Sade-ish feel, “Am I The Same Girl” trades in its customary doo-wop delivery for a more acoustic vibe, edged with the gentle double bass horns and a background vocal by Gina Foster that is so well-patterned to Drewery’s that at times it feels like a provocative, yet playful duet.
The accompanying DVD, a full-length performance filmed at Tokyo’s Billboard Live, follows the collective (SOS’s keyboardist Andy Connell and Drewery , double bassist Dan Swana, Foster on backing vocals, guitarist Tim Cansfield, percussionist Jody Linscott and Noel Langley on the flugelhorn) making their way through the busy populous, going through the paces backstage and in front of a warm, but respectfully low-key audience. What little lighting there is lends to a supper-club-type intimacy despite the size of the venue. The musicians surround the striking Drewery as she sways and finger-snaps through “Twilight World,” “Everyday Crime,” “Butterfly,” “Tripping On Trains” and “You On My Mind,” offering slices of their playful banter and effortless rapport and musicality.
Private View is for the discriminating music and performance fan; whether you missed the ill-fated show that year and want to see them in action, or want to indulge in what you’ve missed due to the fickle American pop radar (they’ve been woefully overlooked in the US since the late 90s), Swing Out Sister’s latest is a worthy indulgence for the eyes and the ears.