Later...Mellow Review

Zzzzzz...sorry, where was I? Later...Mellow, you say? Oh yes...of course, it's difficult to see much in Jools Holland's Later... that isn't mellow. A world away from the ear-shredding aural horrors of a My Bloody Valentine gig, Later...'s cosy setting would neuter even the likes of Throbbing Gristle or Einsturzende Neubauten, soothing out their prickly edges until they might resemble little more than a particularly testing evening's listen on Radio 3. I even suspect that were Jools Holland operating an abattoir, the animals would be led to their deaths with a comforted air, humming Norah Jones as they progress towards their eventual slicing and mincing.

Much of this has to do with the cosy setting of the show, wherein the artists assembled for the night are arranged like the points of a compass. Without much of an audience to play to - there is one but they exist as shadows on the edges of the studio - the bands perform to one another and to the audience at home but without the give and take of a live crowd, any rock foolishness tends towards being an embarrassed gesture rather than a heartfelt one. Again, though, part of the blame can be laid at the feet of Jools Holland who, probably through no real fault of his own, is too easygoing a presence to create much musical conflict. Even the boogie-woogie with which he opens each show feels there to make the artists feel at home when, really, the brisk use of a cattle-prod or two might enliven proceedings. Less blood in the music than pipe, slippers and a particularly comfortable cardigan.

So, having agreed - if we have - that mellow is what Later... does best, this is a pretty good collection of tracks from across the years that draws one's attention to the more relaxed and relaxing offerings on the show. Hence, the easygoing sounds of Thank You by Dido, KT Tunstall's Under The Weather and the soporific, and really rather dull, cover of As Time Goes By by Bryan Ferry. Looking unchanged since we swept across the floor in a white tuxedo declaring himself a Slave To Love, Ferry is a man whose creative train has long since departed but he soldiers on here, making a pig's ear of a tune that even Jason Donovan didn't embarrass himself over.

There are, of course, some lovely moments in the list of songs as you might expect. Ritchie Havens and Groove Armada perform the quietly pretty Hands Of Time, Burt Bacharach and Rufus Wainwright add some welcome melodrama with Go Ask Shakespeare while The Blue Nile excuse themselves from their studio to perform Tinseltown In The Rain. David Gray, whom, thanks to his This Year's Love, I have something of a liking for, performs Ain't No Love while Dr John, complete with a skull on his piano, offers Creole Moon, which begins as a smoky jazz piece before lifting itself for a sound more reminiscent of his home town of New Orleans. It's also worth saying that some of the more leftfield entries are the most successful - the electropop of Goldfrapp's Number One is a great way to open the disc, while In The Waiting Line by Zero 7 and The Dark Is Rising by Mercury Rev are both quite stunning. Best track, though, belongs to Massive Attack whose Teardrop featuring Liz Fraser is an outstanding song by whatever means you measure it.

Much of what is left, though, is largely what one would expect of a collection calling itself Later... Mellow. Armed with a knowledge of Radio 2 playlists, one can predict who else would feature on the DVD and so we welcome Norah Jones, James Blunt, Annie Lennox, Corinne Bailey Ray and Sade, whose CDs clog up Bang & Olufson system across the nation. And that's largely the problem with Mellow, it's too easy to sneer at music that, like Bryan Ferry's offering, must have taken him all of a few minutes to cook up. Equally, it's hard to take to this kind of music in the charts when one really wants it moved to a chart of its that old people can look at without fear of inadvertently seeing some masked swearing. Never mind banning this pop filth, try and sneak something subversive into your daughter's pop collection should you ever find her with a taste in music closer to Terry Wogan than to what you'd expect of someone her age. Perhaps a Butthole Surfers album under the cover of a Norah Jones CD and hope that she takes it as a hint to start slamming doors, staying out late and abusing drugs rather than fretting about pastel shades, the whatnots of celebrity life and a career.


Later... Mellow looks pretty much as you would expect. Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1, it's not bad, maybe a touch better than when it was broadcast on television, but there isn't a great deal in it. The soundtrack, though, is much better. With there being only a PCM Stereo track, the surround channels remain silent throughout but this is a cracking audio track, offering plenty of bass, clarity and volume when called upon. Which, as you might expect, it isn't...often.


There is one extra...of a kind. The DVD does allow you to program in six tracks to be played in an order that you decide but, assuming this to be some kind of software exploitation of a hardware gimmick that I've never used, it's hardly an extra per se.


Being of an age where Radio 2 is still something of a dirty word - yes I'm all for Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe but the rebranding of the station looks halfhearted so long as Wogan and Sarah Kennedy remain in the schedules - I continue to associate the likes of Mellow with something that no one under the age of fifty should have an interest in. Of course, that's just me and with more Revolting Cocks in my CD collection than Tindersticks, this collection may not be to my taste but I can imagine it's soothing sounds finding its way into many a home. Ones with thick carpets, a coffee table and some high-end but rarely used hi-fi equipment perhaps but homes nonetheless.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 05:11:30

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