ROCK / Frank's blind dates

SOMETIMES, two can be a crowd. On Duets (Capitol/EMI, out on Monday), Frank Sinatra's first studio album in more than a decade, the old master's voice gets shoe-horned into some uncomfortable proximities (not to mention the year's most horrible cover). The disc does not start well. Luther Vandross is a great singer, but his professional smoothness and Frank's dry-as-dust phrasing rub each other up the wrong way, and their 'Lady is a Tramp' is all over the place. The next pairing - 'What Now My Love?', with Aretha Franklin - is much more felicitous, and by the time Barbra Streisand glides into earshot for 'I've Got a Crush on You' all concerned seem to be enjoying themselves: 'I have got a crush, my Barbra, on you.' 'Oh, you make me blush, Francis.'

There is no shortage of laughs on this album. Both 'You Make Me Feel So Young', with Charles Aznavour, and 'Summer Wind', with Julio Iglesias, are very funny; the former for the right reasons, the latter for the wrong ones. The knowledge that most of these collaborations were recorded down the phone does nothing to diminish the pleasure of the occasional nicely judged aside - Frank's 'Hey, you little witch', to Anita Baker at the end of a jaunty 'Witchcraft', is my favourite. But it's a shame producer Phil Ramone could not make more of the fact that his star did not have to share a studio with the people he sung with. Sinead O'Connor, Meat Loaf, Nina Simone, William Burroughs, De La Soul, Madonna, Neil Tennant, Al Green, ex-Happy Monday Sean Ryder and Diamanda Galas would be names worth bearing in mind for Duets II.

As it is, there are not enough surprises to keep Frank interested. His singing is more sprightly than anyone has a right to expect; the only time his voice really shows its age, on the concluding 'One More for the Road', the results are actually very touching. Occasionally there is a flash of the old magic, but he never keeps it up for a whole song. Too often one or both singers know too well what is expected of them. Natalie Cole can do this kind of thing in her sleep (she has just recorded an album with her late father) and while Sinatra swapping lines with Tony Bennett is an enticing prospect, the swishing noise running through 'New York, New York' is the sound of Frank looking at his watch.

If you forget about Kenny G, which is always best, the only really surprising duettist is the dreaded Bono. Anyone who remembers what this man and his group did to Cole Porter's 'Night and Day' will be apprehensive about him getting his hands on 'I've Got You Under My Skin'. In fact, though it hurts me to say it, this is one of the most entertaining collaborations here, with Bono taking his life in his hands to address Frank as 'You old fool'.

From a man who is renowned the world over as the epitome of suavity to a band who, well, aren't. In the era of designer grunge it's ironic that The Levellers' non-designer scruffiness should excite so much adverse comment. 'Forget this so-called dirt of mine, it's just the dust and diesel of passing time,' they assure a sympathetic and noticeably spruce crowd at the Brixton Academy. '100 Years of Solitude', the song from which this not quite timeless couplet is extracted, is typical of their spirited if simplistic South Coast power-folk. This band's olde-worlde posturing will only really convince when they get shire horses to pull their tour bus (and a water-wheel to drive their PA system come to that), but beneath the pre-industrial gloss there's a stirring modern pop group struggling to get out.

They said it could never happen, but Teenage Fanclub are angry. Well, maybe angry is too strong a word, but this most even-tempered of Scottish guitar bands certainly seem to have had enough of being told that they are no more than the sum of their record collections. The Fanclub fight back at the Forum with unheard-of ferocity. Their wit is as dry as ever ('This is the Bad Manners medley,' proclaims ultra-laconic frontman Norman Blake. 'See how many you can spot'), their harmonies even sweeter, but there is a new sense of purpose about the songs, and the guitar undertow is almost savage at times. This is a very fine band being as good as they can be. See them now before their mood improves.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn