Album: Mark Eitzel

Music for Courage & Confidence, New West
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Courage and confidence are hardly the qualities that spring to mind when one thinks of former American Music Club singer Mark Eitzel. Quite the opposite, in fact: he excels in the kind of suicidal, enshrouding gloom for which Leonard Cohen was once famed, which makes this compilation of supposed heart-warmers an intriguing prospect. Will Eitzel be able to elucidate the fulsome, positive glow of "Move on Up", the obsessional joy of "I Only Have Eyes for You", the yearning of "Ain't No Sunshine"? Well, no, no and no, in that order, though that's not to say he doesn't deliver strange new slants on some of the odder song choices. "Snowbird", for instance, is given a Cowboy Junkies kind of treatment, spare and funereal but humming with atmosphere, while "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" is virtually unrecognisable in a Stina Nordenstam-style arrangement, with Eitzel's enervated monotone set to a backdrop of deep techno tones.

The deconstructed disco of "More, More, More" is given a sinister licentiousness by Eitzel's weary baritone; but for contrariness, it's tough to beat "I'll Be Seeing You", a warm song of fellowship here lent a chilly air of stalker menace akin to "Every Breath You Take". The most successful piece is the saddest, Phil Ochs' elegiac "Rehearsals for Retirement" being perfectly suited to the melancholy blue shades of Eitzel's voice and electric piano. Not that it brought Ochs too much courage or confidence – but then, perhaps that's the point.