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London: Songs To Define The City – Various artists & Time Out

London, Songs to Define The City

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE latest in what looks set to be a wealth of London-themed, Olympics cash-ins, London: Songs To Define The City marks a collaboration between Time Out and Universal Music.

It’s designed to offer ‘a musical souvenir’ of a place ‘where memories are made and dreams fulfilled’, thereby taking listeners on a musical journey that incorporates every location from Soho Square to Primrose Hill via Warwick and Electric Avenue.

It features tracks from some of the biggest names in English music past and present, from The Kinks and David Bowie to Duffy and Jamie Cullum.

But while diverse and mostly enjoyable, it also feels a little too gimmicky. A more ambitious collection may have approached artists to record new interpretations of old, London-themed classics, or even all-new material.

Rather, this is essentially a greatest hits compilation that uses London as its backdrop and reason for being.

On the plus side, there are some songs to savour and some, although very few, that won’t have been heard for some time.

Highlights therefore include John and Beverley Martyn’s Primrose Hill, Duffy’s moody Warwick Avenue, Pet Shop Boys’ poppy London and Jamie Cullum’s London Skies, which combines jazz, pop and upbeat tendencies to anthemic effect. There’s a poignancy, too, surrounding Kirsty MacColl’s Soho Square… in which a bench actually does boast a plaque dedicated to her memory and a quote from this song.

But there are also tracks that fail to do justice to the vitality of the capital, such as Saint Etienne’s London Belongs To Me or Pulp’s Bar Italia.
The lack of a Blur track (surely from their Parklife LP) seems like a big miss, even though other obvious standards such as The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset, Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street and Eddy Grant’s Electric Avenue are present and correct.

All in all, this is a curious mix… intriguing more than inspiring, which kind of misses the point.

Download picks: Waterloo Sunset, Warwick Avenue, London, Soho Square, Electric Avenue, Primrose Hill, London Skies

Track listing:

  1. Roxy Music – Do The Strand
  2. Jamie Cullum – London Skies
  3. The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset
  4. Squeeze – Piccadilly
  5. Kirsty MacColl – Soho Square
  6. Pet Shop Boys – London
  7. Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street
  8. Simple Minds – Chelsea Girl
  9. Eddy Grant – Electric Avenue
  10. Pulp – Bar Italia
  11. Duffy – Warwick Avenue
  12. The Jam – Strange Town
  13. Ralph McTell – Streets of London
  14. The Small Faces – Itchycoo Park
  15. Bert Jansch, John Renbourn – Soho
  16. David Bowie – The London Boys
  17. Caetano Veloso – London, London
  18. The Pogues – A Rainy Night in Soho
  19. John and Beverley Martyn – Primrose Hill
  20. Saint Etienne – London Belongs To Me