Tom Newman

Hotel Splendide

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Fans of Tom Newman's earlier progressive pop albums will undoubtedly be surprised by 1997's Hotel Splendide. A live recording of a dozen old blues and jazz standards plus one Newman composition, 1975's "Ma Song," for good measure, Hotel Splendide sounds on paper like it must be a tired effort by an old muso with no inspiration of his own left. That cynicism would normally be justified, but Newman and his cohorts, led by saxophonist Mel Collins, give these familiar old songs interesting new spins. St. Louis Jimmy Oden's classic "Goin' Down Slow" is taken at positively funereal pace in an arrangement dominated by mysterious low-register rumbles and moans. Even the most familiar songs, like Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and Mose Allison's "Parchman Farm," are given new and intriguing settings. The hazy, almost psychedelic readings of "That's Alright Mama" and "Love Is Strange" wouldn't sound out of place on a Robert Wyatt album, or, for that matter, Newman's debut Fine Old Tom. Hotel Splendide isn't a patch on that prog-rock classic, of course, but it's considerably less disposable than one might guess.

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