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Allison tribute hits the right spots

Swift admits ‘weirdness’ of ‘Cats’

This cover image released by Fat Possum shows ‘If You’re Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison’ performed by various artists. (AP)

 ‘If You’re Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison’, Various Artists (Fat Possum)

It may be a tired cliche to say someone was one of a kind, but Mose Allison most definitely was.

A jazz and blues pianist whose songwriting career meshed lyrics with Mad magazine wit, keen philosophical observations and pure melodies that he sang in a cool conversational voice, Allison, who died three years ago at age 89, was an inspiration to everyone from Pete Townshend to Van Morrison.

In an album benefiting the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, a true collection of greats – from Fiona Apple and Bonnie Raitt to Taj Mahal and Iggy Pop – put their own artistry at the service of 15 outstanding Allison tracks from across his extensive career.

It’s their diversity and personalized takes on the songs that makes this album so enjoyable. There’s been many versions of Allison’s songs over the years and several here are absolutely marvelous.

They include Loudon Wainwright’s guitar-and-voice take on “Ever Since the World Ended”, with its upbeat descriptions of post-apocalyptic life, Dave and Phil Alvin’s fierce version of “Wild Man on the Loose”, Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite’s fiery “Nightclub” and Iggy Pop’s late period Miles Davis-like adaption of the title track.

With Apple backed by, among others, Benmont Tench and Fred Tackett, the all-too-brief “Your Molecular Structure” applies scientific terms to explain the whys and hows of physical attraction but ends in most primal fashion – “Your molecular structure baby, ooh wee!”

Other highlights are live versions by Raitt of “Everybody’s Crying Mercy” and Richard Thompson of “Parchman Farm”. Robbie Fulks puts a folky spin with banjo and fiddle on “My Brain” and daughter Amy Allison and Elvis Costello close the album in fine fashion on the sophisticated “Monsters of the Id”.

The album comes with a bonus DVD of a 2005 documentary about Allison by Paul Bernay, “Ever Since I Stole the Blues”, that shows in what high regard far more famous musicians held him.

 “Cats”, Tom Hooper’s upcoming adaptation of the long-running musical, ignited the internet with hot takes after the first trailer introduced audiences to “digital fur technology” and full-figured felines. But Taylor Swift, who stars in the buzzy film alongside Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson and James Corden, is on board with its quirkiness.

“I really had an amazing time with ‘Cats’,” Swift told British Vogue. “I think I loved the weirdness of it. I loved how I felt I’d never get another opportunity to be like this in my life.”

For British Vogue’s cover story, Swift sat down with Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical theater legend behind “Cats”. The duo, who co-wrote a new song “Beautiful Ghosts” for the movie, discussed the importance of songwriting.

“I think is really important – also from the side of ownership over what you do and make,” Swift said. “Even if you aren’t a natural writer, you should try to involve yourself in the messages you’re sending.”

Lloyd Webber added, “Today, very few people have a major career unless they write.”

In the upcoming adaptation, Dench plays a gender-swapped Old Deuteronomy. Lloyd Webber recalled the actress was supposed to appear in his original stage production but had to drop out for medical reasons.

“Judi was in the original version, but she snapped her Achilles tendon and had to withdraw,” he told British Vogue. “Then I had this idea, which I ran past Tom, that we could make Old Deuteronomy a woman. Seeing her perform this time was quite an emotional thing for me, because it was a very, very sad day when she had to leave the original show.”

“Cats” arrives in theaters Dec 20.

Also:

LOS ANGELES: Billie Eilish will be the first recipient of the Apple Music Award for global artist of the year, one of three honors for the pop singer.

Apple announced Monday that Eilish’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” has been named album of the year. Eilish and her brother Finneas will also receive songwriter of the year honors.

Eilish will perform a live-streamed concert from the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California, beginning at 6:30 pm PST on Wednesday.

Lizzo has been named the breakthrough artist of the year.

Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” is the company’s pick for song of the year.

The company says its album and song of the year honors are determined by streams on its Apple Music service. Other awards are determined by Apple Music’s editorial team. (Agencies)

By Pablo Gorondi


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