Let Them Talk - Hugh Laurie

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Let Them Talk - Hugh Laurie

1 CD(s) - Blues - Label: Warner Bros. - Distributor: Arvato Services, Arvato Services; Proper - Released: 09/05/2011 - 825646734092, 825646740789

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80% positive

6 reviews from the community

Review of "Let Them Talk - Hugh Laurie"

published 03/07/2011 | Soho_Black
Member since : 30/08/2002
Reviews : 693
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About me :
Brighton Marathon done in 4:32:01, London Marathon in 4:38:47. A little over £1200 (including Gift Aid) raised for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Pro Surprisingly well performed and enjoyable album
Cons Tom Jones' voice doesn't work for the blues
very helpful
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
Value for Money

"Hugh and Cry"

Front Cover of the CD slipcase

Front Cover of the CD slipcase

I’ve been a Hugh Laurie fan for quite a long time now. His comedy show with Stephen Fry, as well as appearances in “Blackadder” and “Jeeves and Wooster” were part of my early television watching and his more current role in “House” has made that one of the very few TV shows I refuse to miss. As soon as I heard he would be releasing a blues album, I had to have a copy and my resolve was only strengthened by an excellent documentary behind the scenes of the album.

As an accomplished pianist, Laurie makes a fine start to the album with “St James Infirmary”, which has a long, almost classical sounding piano intro before the double bass and vocals come in. At this point, it turns into a jazz-blues track, which flows past very nicely. Initially, I was a little worried about Laurie’s vocals, but he has a gritty voice that is perfectly suited to singing the blues. This is a long opening track and nearly 6 ½ minutes, but thanks to the two distinct parts, it almost feels that you get two songs for the price of one and it’s an impressive start to the album, all the more so considering that it’s performed by an actor, not a musician.

The next track “You Don’t Know My Mind” is a little more what I was expecting, being a slower paced traditional blues song, with a backing vocal that adds a slightly gospel feel to proceedings. It’s a track that drifts past most pleasantly, although there are a couple of moments where Laurie’s vocals seem to be straining a little around the edges, but not nearly as much as I thought they would.

“Six Cold Feet” opens with a very Southern feel and it sounds like the kind of thing you’d play at a blues player’s funeral. It’s got a slow beat guided along by the double bass and seems to plod along, much like a funeral march, even when the saxophone takes over for a spell. It’s a dirge like song and the pace and feel actually seems to suit Laurie’s vocals a little better. It’s a decent track, but the slow pace does seem to make it feel longer than the 5 minute run time.

Next up is “Buddy Bolden’s Blues”, which has a slightly more upbeat feel to it, although it’s still a slow Southern blues song, with the clarinet solo late on adding a slightly jazz hint to the song. There are a couple of parts where Laurie is speaking more than singing, which takes some of the edge off, as this is the kind of slow Southern blues that his voice seems to suit perfectly and it’s an enjoyable track.

Given that I’ve seen at least two episodes of “House” where Laurie’s character derides God and religion, it seems strange to hear him playing a song called “Battle of Jericho”, even allowing for the gospel influence on Southern music. That said, this is one of my favourite tracks, with Irma Thomas adding a soulful, gospel feel to the track with her backing vocals. Strangely, this is the one track where Laurie’s American accent on his singing voice seems a little more forced than on the other tracks or in his role as Gregory House. It’s a decent track, regardless, with the blues and gospel combination working well.

“After You’ve Gone” opens with a slightly mournful clarinet – an instrument perfectly suited to playing the blues with. Vocally, this song is performed by Dr. John with Hugh Laurie playing the piano. This is a beautifully put together blues song, with the mournful tempo and Dr. John’s voice combining perfectly. The piano is understated and sits nicely in the background and this is a song that drifts pleasantly past and is certainly one of my favourites on the album. Although Dr. John’s vocals do highlight some of the slight deficiencies in Laurie’s own singing, the accent and gritty tone suggest that Laurie has hit the right feel for the music in his vocals.

Laurie takes on a real classic with “Swanee River”, but does a great job of it. The slow intro hides a great upbeat, up tempo song with some wonderful boogie-woogie piano and it sounds like Laurie really enjoyed cutting loose. It’s just a shame it’s such a short song, as it’s an awful lot of fun for the listener, as well as for Laurie himself.

As with “Battle of Jericho”, the Biblical basis of “The Whale Has Swallowed Me” is slightly surprising, but it’s a real chance for Laurie’s guitar playing to take centre stage, with some decent slide guitar coming through at points and some of the lyrical content provides a wry smile as well. Once again, the slow blues nature of the music works well with Laurie’s vocals and this feels like his best vocal performance thus far.

“John Henry” is a duet with Irma Thomas and it’s a lovely laid back little blues track. Irma Thomas takes the lead on vocals and her clear voice acts as a lovely counterpoint to Laurie’s grittier sounding vocal. There is a lovely bass ended piano riff running through and a gorgeous flow to the whole song that makes it drift past most pleasantly and it’s one of my favourites from the album. It’s certainly one of the most complete songs here, in terms of the vocals and music working together perfectly.

I love the almost cheery guitar intro to Police Dog Blues”, which contrasts nicely with the downbeat vocals. This is the simplest song on the album with just an acoustic guitar, a quiet double bass in the background and Laurie’s vocals. This simplicity works very well, showing how good Laurie’s vocals actually are and whilst he’s not likely to be winning “X-Factor” any time soon with a performance like this, it proves he’s more than just an actor trying to sing here.

There’s a lovely smooth jazz influenced piano intro to “Tipitina”, which speeds up when the rest of the instruments come in and this is a lovely jazz-blues song. Although the piano isn’t quite as upbeat and let loose as on “Swanee River”, it’s a chance for Laurie to get his fingers working and this was the song that most appealed to me when I first saw the TV adverts for the album. Having heard the rest, there’s nothing here that has lowered it in my opinion and I love the jazz feel of the song and the brass section really adds something to the song.

“Whinin’ Boy Blues” takes us back to a slightly more traditional blues sound and it’s another simple song in the style of “Police Dog Blues”. It’s again a lovely slow paced track which also has a slightly jazzy feel rather than being straight up blues. It’s another song that drifts past quite pleasantly and shows once again that letting Hugh Laurie sing wasn’t a bad idea at all.

Following this, there’s a chance for a little fun, with “They’re Red Hot” being a silly little upbeat and up-tempo song which Southern blues has always done well for a change of pace and I’m delighted that Laurie has thought to include something like this here. It’s only a short little ditty, at around 75 seconds long, but it’s a lot of fun and Laurie once again seems to have revelled in the chance to cut loose and enjoy himself.

It’s a good thing there was something like that where it was on the track listing, as the next song is a surprising disappointment. “Baby, Please Make a Change” has Tom Jones taking the main vocal alongside Irma Thomas and it just doesn’t work for me. Tom Jones has a powerful clear voice, which works wonderfully in certain aspects, but it’s not a voice made for singing the blues. The musical background has a country blues feel to it thanks to the violin and musically it’s a great song, but the vocals overpower it far too much. I do feel that if this had been performed by a more traditional blues singer, this could have been one of my favourite tracks on the album, but as it is, it’s just a little overbearing. The one thing I never expected was to decide I prefer Hugh Laurie’s singing voice over Tom Jones’, but it’s a perfect example of picking the right voice for the right song. Unfortunately, at nearly 5 minutes, this is a long track and just seems to go on for far too long.

Fortunately the album doesn’t end there, with the wonderful simplicity of “Let Them Talk” closing the album instead. It starts off as a simple blues song, with just vocals and piano, before expanding into something wider when the rest of the instruments come to the fore. But it’s a beautiful song, again quite simply done and shows off Lurie’s vocals at their best in closing. It’s another song that’s perfect at the end of a long day and one you could listen to repeatedly.

Over the years, there has been plenty of evidence to suggest that actors shouldn’t be allowed to sing, with Lindsay Lohan and David Hasselhoff springing immediately to mind. However, “Let Them Talk” shows that with the right person and the right music, actors can actually put in a decent shift at the microphone stand. Laurie’s voice, whilst not perfect, sits comfortably within the blues structure of the album and whilst he’s not going to win any awards for his singing, he performs more than adequately here.

If you’re not already a fan of the blues, this album isn’t about to convert you, as it’s mostly just old blues songs and doesn’t offer anything new to the genre, or to the music world generally. What it does is cast Hugh Laurie in a slightly different and unexpected light and adds yet another string to a bow which now covers acting, writing, instrumentation and singing, all of which he does well.

For those who are blues fans, this isn’t going to be the best blues album you’ve ever heard, but there’s not an awful lot wrong with it. Laurie may be an interloper in the land of the blues, but he’s likely to be a welcome visitor, on this evidence. At 15 tracks and 58 minutes long, you get decent value for your money and with that money starting from as little as £2.24 on eBay or £5.99 on Amazon for either download or a physical copy, there’s not a lot to lose. At the start of this album, I was a fan of the blues and a fan of Hugh Laurie and an hour later, nothing has happened here to diminish my appreciation of either.

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Comments on this review

  • 80smusicreviewer published 08/07/2012
    Fantastic review, I don't think I'd buy this album although I wouldn't mind hearing some of it.
  • LadyValkyrie published 23/10/2011
    I'm not a blues fan so wouldn't buy this, but would be intrigued to listen - is there no end to Laurie's talents?
  • SallsMumof2 published 23/07/2011
    Fabulous review! Interesting concept of Hugh Laurie singing the blues . . . . one I might have to You Tube and take it from there - thanks x
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Product Information : Let Them Talk - Hugh Laurie

Manufacturer's product description

1 CD(s) - Blues - Label: Warner Bros. - Distributor: Arvato Services, Arvato Services; Proper - Released: 09/05/2011 - 825646734092, 825646740789

Product Details

EAN: 825646734092, 825646740789


Listed on Ciao since: 23/12/2010