Niall Horan goes folk-rock while Singapore Chinese Orchestra tackles Gershwin

FOLK-POP

FLICKER (DELUXE)

Niall Horan

Capitol

3 stars

One Direction are anything but where their solo careers are concerned. Harry Styles took the classic rock route; Louis Tomlinson went EDM-pop; Zayn Malik tended towards hip-hop and soul; Liam Payne headed for sexy R&B; and now Niall Horan went down the decidedly folk-rock-with-a-pop-feel route.

The easy-listening path was hinted at on his first single, the lovely acoustic guitar-driven This Town. And it's no wonder - he has said his music is inspired by the likes of Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles. Since We're Alone, certainly, borrows the rhythm section of Fleetwood Mac's Dreams.

But Horan does not transcend his influences - there is little that is unique or visionary about his work. The 13 songs fit his range and vibe, but the folky guitar tunes soon blend into one another - a mass of slow, stripped-down numbers that are pleasant but not exciting or fresh.

The album could have done with more left-field, funky numbers like his second single, Slow Hands: He sounds like a fully formed artist and not like someone still finding his feet after taking a break from one of the biggest boybands in the world.

Anjali Raguraman


CROSSOVER CLASSICS

MOSTLY GERSHWIN

Singapore Chinese Orchestra/ Yeh Tsung

SCO DVD 2017

3.5 stars

This live recording of a July 2013 concert held at the Esplanade Concert Hall is part of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra and its music director Yeh Tsung's vision of crossing over to reach a wider audience, by performing non-Chinese music on traditional Chinese instruments.

The choices of George Gershwin, early American jazz and Afro-American spirituals worked surprisingly well, contributing to a highly enjoyable event.

The casting of African-American soloists was also inspired. Veteran pianist Leon Bates gave a no-holds-barred account of Rhapsody In Blue and Fascinatin' Rhythm (solo, as an encore) and shone in I Got Rhythm Variations.

Stealing the show was soprano Kimberly Eileen Jones in a medley of American spirituals. She was joined by tenor Lawrence Mitchell-Matthews and choir in a suite of vocal highlights from Porgy And Bess which rocked the house.

It was thus unfortunate the visual recording was not up to high-definition standards, exacerbated by the flitting from one viewpoint to another without much thought. This should have been released as an audio CD recording instead.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe