Sunday, November 13, 2022

Kat's Korner: Robbie Williams re-evaluates his own work on XXV

Kat: One of the year's best albums snuck past me until Polly told me about it last week, Robbie Williams' XXV.  



Robbie who?

In the US, that has too often been the question.  For all of his greatness around the world, he just hasn't translated into North America.  It's our loss because he's an incredible singer-songwriter.  And if you have missed him, XXV is a great introduction.

This album was released in September and it is . . .  Well what is it?  

Diana Ross starred in THE WIZ and she sang in the film.  THE WIZ soundtrack came out in 1978.  But MOTOWN also planned to release an album where Diana -- only Diana -- sang the soundtrack.  It was finally released in 2015, DIANA ROSS SINGS SONGS FROM THE WIZ.  This is an album of Diana recording the soundtrack anew.  Even her own solo songs from the film are redone by Diana.  It's a studio album.  But CRAPAPEDIA lists it as a compilation album which is wrong and which they refuse to correct.

Robbie's XXV?  They're also calling that a compilation album and not a studio album.  

Strange but that's CRAPAPEDIA.  In the real world, at Robbie's website, the album is accurately explained:

XXV, the thirteenth studio album from Robbie Williams, is made up of all the classic hits newly orchestrated by Jules Buckley, Guy Chambers and Steve Sidwell, and re-recorded with the acclaimed Metropole Orkest. Also, included on XXV is “Lost” a new original composition & single. The deluxe version of XXV has ten additional bonus tracks, including three all new original compositions.

This CD is 2x discs, in a 40 page hardcover book.


1. Let Me Entertain You

2. Come Undone

3. Love My Life

4. Millennium

5. The Road To Mandalay

6. Tripping

7. Bodies

8. Candy

9. Supreme

10. Strong

11. Eternity

12. No Regrets

13. She's The One

14. Feel

15. Rock DJ

16. Kids

17. Angels

18. Lost

19. Nobody Someday


20. Lazy Days

21. Hot Fudge

22. Sexed Up

23. More Than This

24. Disco Symphony

25. Better Man

26. Home Thoughts From Abroad

27. The World and Her Mother

28. Into The Silence

29. Angels (Beethoven AI)

Robbie recorded the songs for this album where they are set to new arrangements "F**k me, that's 25 tracks I've gotta sing in the next two weeks," he tells NME he realized before starting the album.  Someone inform CRAPAPEDIA that's not a compilation album, it's a studio album.

Let's go back a few years.  It was the end of the 90s when former Take That boy-bander Robbie landed on my radar.  He was popping up in fashion magazines as he started his solo career.  One of the most arresting images of him was Robbie sporting bush and the root in a photo for THE FACE.  Maybe that's why he didn't cross over here?  Robbie stopped being a boy when he was with TAKE THAT.  By contrast, Harry Styles still seems a boy -- at the age of 28, no less.  Even when he flashes a pit, he comes off like a 14-year-old -- in part because the hair's barely there.

In 2003, after many years of success in the UK and around the world, Robbie tried to break through in the US with ESCAPOLOGY.  I can remember getting it at BEST BUY and bumping into an acquaintance Blake who worked at Borders Books.  What was I getting, he wanted to know?  I showed him the compact disc.  He didn't know him and didn't really care.  Just wanted me to know that I was right, "Joni Mitchell is wonderful!"

Yes, she is.  A great singer-songwriter.  And in the years I'd known him (about four by then), I'd repeatedly encouraged him to check out Joni.

Well he finally had!!!! He was so excited.

FOR THE ROSES?  BLUE?  COURT AND SPARK?  What was his entry, I wondered?

He hadn't listened to any of them.  But he'd had a birthday last week (hope he wasn't hinting for a gift, we weren't that close) and his boyfriend had given him . . . BOTH SIDES NOW.

I don't like WILD THINGS RUN FAST.  Love the opening track and the closing track, but it's a Joni album I rarely  listen to.  For some strange reason, upon it's 1982 release, this mediocre album was treated as though it were something amazing.  It's not.  I think people were just glad Joni hadn't done another jazz album.  I think some of the attacks on Joni's next album (1985's DOG EAT DOG) stemmed from a course correction on the part of critics who realized they'd inflated and promoted a so-so album.  

I got the album on vinyl.  And it's the only one I never needed to get on CD when I moved to that format.  

Or it was.  Until 2000.  That's when Joni released BOTH SIDES NOW.  Joni in front of an orchestra.

That's why Blake found amazing.

She sings only two songs she wrote ("Both Sides Now" and "A Case Of You").  Sorry, Blake, it was a crappy album and Joni's voice wasn't enough to justify her covering "At Last."  It seemed like an ego project and not anything remotely resembling art.

I guess if that's all you'd ever heard of Joni, maybe you'd be impressed.  

Maybe that also explains the festival performance Joni recently gave that was treated like the second coming.  I was still ticked at Joni (she, of all people, should never support censorship) so I noted the appearance at my site a time or two but I didn't watch it.  Then it came on YOUTUBE recently because I was watching a Joni mix.

I hope to God this is not what Brandi Carlisle plans to put onstage for a few concerts.

It was embarrassing and shameful.  Joni couldn't sing.  She had no breath control and she was off key and  couldn't phrase.

Well maybe she was tired that day?  

How tired can you be performing while seated onstage in an overstuffed chair?

At one point, Brandi reached across Joni to move the microphone up to Joni's mouth.  

How out of it was Joni that she didn't know to move her own microphone?

She couldn't sing.  She was speaking the lines more than singing them and, again, she was off key.

It was embarrassing to watch and maybe people were too busy wondering why Wynonna Judd was speaking to someone behind Joni the whole time Joni was performing?

It was unprofessional -- Joni's performance -- and it was embarrassing.  Brandi came across as the caregiver to an woman who was out of it and unaware of her surroundings.  If that's what she has to offer now, she shouldn't go onstage and shame on anyone pretending that's she's up to it. 

I love Joni but if that's her live now, she doesn't belong onstage.

It's a hard re-evaluation but it's a honest one.

And that's what XXV can provide, a re-evaluation of Robbie's art.

I think Kylie Minogue and Robbie Williams bring a new level to their hit "Kids" with this new version on the album.  They seem more playful.  "She's The One" is even more amazing with its new arrangement.  And "Angels" makes you wonder all over again how US radio could have ignored this song throughout 2003.  

"Come Undone" is probably always going to be my favorite Robbie song.  I loved the original version but this orchestrated version also impresses me.  

Robbie was an amazing singer.  He's really developed over the years into something ever more amazing and the new arrangements let him shine as a vocalist anew.  


He's got a new song on the standard release (as opposed to the deluxe edition) and it's entitled "Lost."

Joni's BOTH SIDES NOW seemed like an artist with nothing left in them.  XXV finds Robbie reimagining some of his finest songs while he's actually at the height of his vocal powers.