Torch is the first new album from the Liverpool singer-songwriter Thomas Lang since Versions in 1996. Like Versions, the majority of the new album consists of cover versions. But where Versions was in some ways a homage to soul music, this pays tribute to late night, smokey jazz. For an artist so well known for his electrifying live performances, this is surprisingly only Lang’s second live release.
Torch opens with a cover of the Paul McCartney classic Maybe I’m Amazed. Recorded live in the studio, with just piano and no overdubs, stripped of the full band of the Macca original, it’s a powerful performance of one of the finest McCartney solo songs.
The rest of the album was recorded live during an intimate show at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in April 2011. As someone who attended the live concert, Torch is a great reminder of the evening, though sadly Lang’s between song quips are not part of the live album, which would have necessitated a double or triple album release to accommodate the often lengthy Lang tales!
The performances on Torch are subtle and restrained – listen to the end of the Torch version of Me & Mrs Jones below. The raw emotion in the performance seeps through, making this my favourite version of the song (surpassing the studio version from the debut Thomas Lang album, Scallywag Jaz…).
Masquerade (previously recorded by Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye to name but two) is a highlight of the album. The arrangement with just piano, sax and Lang’s powerful, rich vocals feels so right – see what I did there, Lang fans?
Torch has a real feel of the late 50s and early 1960s, especially on Billie Holiday’s tale of addiction, Good Morning Heartache. Some wonderful sax and guitar interplay from Paul Thomas and John Wheatcroft on this song.
My Prayer, a huge hit for The Platters in 1956, has a bossa-nova feel that takes you back to a long-lost era of our parents and their music collections that were filled with Elvis, Neil Sedaka and Connie Francis records. Younger listeners will recognise My Prayer from the David Fincher film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
God Bless the Child was previously included as a studio cut on the Versions album, but this live recording is closer to the Billie Holiday arrangement. The band get a wonderful laidback groove going on this song. Another great take of God Bless the Child is a wonderful 1980s version by Billy MacKenzie and The Associates from a Radio 1 session. But I digress…
The album ends with Shoelaces, from Scallywag Jaz… continuing the Mrs Jones story and the only Lang original song on the album.
Hopefully the release of Torch will see Thomas taking the band on tour, so we can hear more Lang originals given jazz re-workings, maybe with some other long-lost classic songs re-worked (I’ve always thought a Thomas Lang version of Rickie Lee Jones On Saturday Afternoons In 1963 or Steely Dan’s Dirty Work would be worth hearing).
But for now, dim the lights, pour a glass of your favourite tipple and enjoy Torch. It’s good to have you back Tom.
Maybe I’m Amazed
In The Wee Small Hours
He Needs Me
Me and Mrs Jones
Good Morning Heartache
God Bless The Child
Other Thomas Lang releases
August Day / Scared mp3 single on Amazon
The Lost Letter Z mp3 album on Amazon
Live in Tokyo mp3 album on Amazon
Versions mp3 album on Amazon
Feels so Right mp3 EP on Amazon
Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood mp3 EP on Amazon