It’s been said that the second album is always a tough one. Following on from an album that you have been creating for all your life with record label deadlines, baying fans and the increase in expectations often leads to a critical mauling and a mass wave of indifference.
Mayhem; the second album by Irish Rockabilly come Jazz singer Imelda May, and follow up to the 2008 cult hit Love Tattoo, had an awful lot to live up to. In the space of 2 short years May has performed with Jeff Beck at the Grammys, supported Elton John and shared a stage with the Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson. Not bad for a girl from Dublin…
Of course it helps when you have a voice as good as May’s. Moving from smoky and sultry to seemingly possessed with passion and covering everything in between, this album is a great showcase for May’s vocal prowess.
Stand out tracks include lead single ‘Psycho’ and ‘Mayhem’ a pair of slice of pure rockabilly insanity that find their way into your head for days afterwards. I found myself humming one or the other for around a week after my first listen. Both include pretty crazy, fun riffs from May’s husband Darrell Higham.
‘Kentish Town Waltz’ and ‘All For You’ are the songs that really let May’s impressive vocals shine. Slower more jazz influenced than some of the others. The sort of songs you find yourself wishing you had another half to listen to as they could become “your song”.
Sure, a couple of tracks do pass you by without grabbing you, but these are less filler and more a side effect of coming so soon after such strong tracks. If you listen to them out of the context of the album – which in these days of iPod shuffle features is more common than should be allowed, they do prove themselves as solid, if nothing more, songs
The album finishes on a high with a cover of ‘Tainted Love’, a live favourite for many years, that May makes her own by rocking it up to 11 and letting the double bass of Al Gare dominate the proceedings.
Overall, this album is not as strong as it’s predecessor, but that’s not to dismiss this album as being poor. If anything it has a stronger group of songs when compared to Love Tattoo. It’s just that these songs do overpower the others and so push the album as a whole down.
Wanda Jackson, Janis Martin,
7.5 / 10
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