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)

Arts and Entertainment

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Metallica are heading for the Main Stage at Reading and Leeds Festivals next summer

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain is making a new documentary about his life

Music

Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp

TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp

Arts and Entertainment
TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
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.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches