thu 07/07/2022

Album: Neneh Cherry - The Versions | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Neneh Cherry - The Versions

Album: Neneh Cherry - The Versions

Esoteric set of multi-artist cover versions from the singer's back catalogue

Snapshots of a musical life

Initially, the weird thing about this is it’s being released as a Neneh Cherry album rather than a compilation of artists doing Neneh Cherry covers, which is what it is. That said, awareness slowly grows of a kindred sensibility to recent Neneh Cherry output, the esoteric jazzual spirit that’s imbued her last couple of albums.

The Versions is a crafted, mellow, late night affair containing material different enough from the originals to be interesting, even if it cannot top their cheeky hip hop-pop potency.

Take the version of 1989 cut “Heart” by Los Angeles violinist-singer Sudan Archives, one of the best tracks on the album. The ballsy upbeat rap strut of the original becomes a pared back skitter of claps, percussion, violin and what sounds like thumb piano (or similar African instrument). It successfully reinvents. Not everything is so ear-fascinating. The album also has tendency towards futurist-but-smooth jazz-R&B of the kind favoured by labels such as Tru Thoughts and Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood. This comes to the fore on Cherry’s daughter Tyson’s take on “Sassy” and Swedish singer Seinabo Sey’s pan pipe-touched “Kisses on the Wind”.

More upbeat are Robyn’s “Buffalo Stance” featuring rapping from Mapei, Cherry’s longterm pal Sia’s chunky, likeable take on “Manchild”, and the Massive Attack-ish version of the same by Los Angeles cellist-singer Kelsey Lu. This side of things culminates in Honey Dijon’s closing house remix of “Buddy X”, which does actually feature Cherry’s original vocal.

The Versions is passionately and purposefully girl-powered, as is made lyrically explicit on Anohni’s heartfelt rendering of “Woman”. Other artists on board, not mentioned so far, are Greentea Peng amd Jamila Woods, both of whom acquit themselves well with glitched, spacey alt-R&B jams.

It’s not clear from the information I have who produced this album but, by the end of a few listens, there’s a clear Neneh Cherry “feel” to the whole enterprise, rather than just songs handed out to random names. As such it’s an interesting addition, until she returns with something more substantially hers.

Below: Watch the video for Robyn's version of Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance", featuring Mapei

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