MUSIC / Albums: But you can call her Janet: Andy Gill gets on first name terms with Janet Jackson

JANET JACKSON - janet. (Virgin CDV 2720)

THE one-word title, with its very specific full stop, is revealing: in the wake of the umpteen-million-dollar contract with which Richard Branson fattened up Virgin before selling it off, this marks the label's attempt to establish Janet as a celebrity mononym, like brother Michael, or Arnold, or Prince, or Madonna. Especially the latter - for janet. is JJ's erotic album, her challenge to Madonna's sex-queen crown.

Thus we get Janet's five-second whispered entreaties between the real tracks and an album programmed to take listeners from pick-up to post-coital cigarette, and beyond - the penultimate cut is called 'Are You Still Up?', and you don't need to be Finbarr Saunders to know what she's getting at. And for the greater part of the album, it works just fine - co-producers Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis aren't about to let their money act come up short, and the result is the most concentrated and effective computer-soul shot they've come up with in years, ranging from the sophisticated smooch of the opener 'That's the Way Love Goes' to the Prince-funk and sex-moan samples of 'Throb', the chorus of which bears an uncanny sibling resemblance to Madonna's 'Deeper and Deeper'.

The only untoward disturbance is caused by Chuck D, whose guest rap on 'New Agenda' - the album's one social conscience song - sits uncomfortably among the smooth funk and layered harmonies, but perhaps that's only to be expected from a professional irritant like Chuck.

WILLIE NELSON - Across the Borderline (Columbia 472942)

IN THE WAKE of Garth Brooks' success, the most authentic of country-music veterans gets the big-budget treatment, as Columbia pulls out all the stops to try and hoist Nelson into the mega-celeb bracket. Midas producer Don Was is drafted in to helm proceedings, AOR mix king Bob Clearmountain is at the desk, and top session-men fall over themselves to play on material provided by writers both classic (Dylan, Simon) and classy (Hiatt, Lovett). The roster of carefully picked star guests (Dylan, Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Mose Allison, Sinead), meanwhile, makes Across the Borderline the country equivalent of a John Lee Hooker album, all star turns and shoulder-rubbing polishing up a legendary reputation.

It works, too, for the most part: Simon's 'American Tune' is a natural for Nelson's hickory-smoked vocals, and 'Graceland' adapts well to fiddle and harmonica. The quiet declamation of Dylan's 'What Was It You Wanted' fits Nelson like a glove; their duet, 'Heartland' - co-authored by fax, apparently - is a repo-decade plaint ('My American dream / fell apart at the seams') which seems more direct than usual for Dylan, who's dressed in a big hat and Nudie suit for the occasion.

The only cuts which dip below the album's generally high standard are a version of Peter Gabriel's 'Don't Give Up' on which Sinead, playing the angelic Kate Bush part, rather overdoes things - she sounds as though she's ordering rather than comforting - and Nelson's own 'Valentine', which is a case of a pro songwriter looking after his own catalogue by writing a blatant schmaltz standard aimed squarely at a Vegas audience. Far better is his lilting 'Still Is Still Moving to Me', a perfect conclusion to an excellent album.

MORRISSEY - 'Beethoven Was Deaf'(HMV CDCSD 3791)

THE SLEEVE picture shows that protuberant tongue again, fast becoming Mozzer's most significant feature. It's highly appropriate here, since 'Beethoven Was Deaf' is little more than a live run-through of the splendid Your Arsenal with a few other favourites thrown in for good measure, a memento of sorts for those who couldn't make it to last summer's Finsbury Park gig - like Morrissey himself, really.

Apart from a few extra shards of guitar from Alain Whyte and Boz Boorer, including a veritable guitar freak-out at the end of 'The National Front Disco', there's little to distinguish these versions from the originals. They're just topped and tailed with ecstatic applause from the French crowd. But it's the contrast between Morrisey's pointedly measured phrasings and the band's more demented-rockbeast leanings that gives the show its kick.

BLUR - Modern Life Is Rubbish (Food CD 9)

BLUR have made a great leap from the indie-pop drones of their debut Leisure to this more considered sound, though it's impossible to tell how much of this is due to Stephen Street's production. Certainly, the songs themselves have a more focused approach than the group displayed in their appalling contribution to the 'Rollercoaster' tour. Modern Life Is Rubbish is effectively a concept album, the concept being that modern life is, indeed, rubbish, or at least deficient by comparison with the memories of the past, as represented by the painting of The Mallard steaming majestically across the sleeve.

They've deliberately exaggerated their Englishness, from Damon Albarn's excessively Suede-esque cock-er-nee phrasing (fast replacing that lippy Mancunian snarl as the preferred yoof-culture dialect) to lyrics which self-consciously ape that long line of London songwriters which stretches from Ray Davies and Syd Barrett to Madness and Difford & Tilbrook. These songs are replete with references to the underground, the weather, Portobello Road, check-out girls, Mother's Pride and the suburbs, but they lack the essential wit and compactness of their influences - there's less here, ultimately, than meets the eye, just as the booklet picture of them as louche boot-boys sprawled in a tube train is a little too calculated.

(Photographs omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific