Album reviews: The Metallica Blacklist and Common – A Beautiful Revolution Pt 2

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Cyrus covered Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ during her 2019 Glastonbury set (Getty)
Cyrus covered Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ during her 2019 Glastonbury set (Getty)

Various Artists – The Metallica Blacklist

★★★★☆

After The Metallica Blacklist, I’ll never complain about 20-track albums again. At 53 songs, this celebration of the metal monolith’s storied Black Album, which turns 30 this year, is glorified Metallica karaoke. Take their sprawling power ballad “Nothing Else Matters”, for instance. There are an eye-watering 12 versions here, with interpretations from Phoebe Bridgers, Dave Gahan, Miley Cyrus, Elton John, Dermot Kennedy, Darius Rocker and Chris Stapleton. Meanwhile, Sam Fender, Mac DeMarco, Alessia Cara and Weezer have all taken stabs at the thunderous “Enter Sandman”.

That’s not to say this album is a slog. It’s surprisingly attention-grabbing, and most artists have made admirable attempts at making these already-famous songs their own. On “Nothing Else Matters”, Bridgers opens with a startlingly beautiful piano motif reminiscent of Chilly Gonzales’s delicate work. Where many have attempted to capture the imposing volume Metallica brought to The Black Album, Bridgers takes the stripped-down route, with magnificent results.

Many of the full-throttle attempts are just as stirring. Rina Sawayama is an industrial queen in a maelstrom of crunchy riffs and chugging bass. But Alessia Cara triumphs in the “Enter Sandman” Hunger Games, abandoning her R&B roots in place of a snarling, agile vocal performance, with a delicious pinch of pop-punk on the verses providing additional spice. French producer SebastiAn brings some Prince and George-Michael-indebted funk to “Don’t Tread On Me”, ahead of jazz virtuoso Kamasi Washington’s transcendent take on “My Friend of Misery”. Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor’s gut-wrenching roars on “Holier Than Thou” are just as impressive as James Hetfield’s.

The Metallica Blacklist serves as concrete proof, if any was really needed, of just how influential Metallica have been outside of metal. We’d already seen Miley Cyrus spark calls for her to abandon pop altogether in favour of a new era as a fully fledged rock star, thanks to her Glastonbury performance of “Nothing Else Matters”. Her recorded version is just as impressive, if a tad overwrought. You still wonder if it was absolutely, 100 per cent necessary to include quite so many covers. But there’s no doubting the passion that has gone into such an ambitious project. Headbangers at the ready. ROC

Common – A Beautiful Revolution Pt 2

★★★★☆

Common (Armin Ramzy)
Common (Armin Ramzy)

Veteran rapper Common breathes a sigh of relief after one of the darkest periods in America’s history. With a new president and galvanised communities post-Black Lives Matter protests, the artist-activist sounds buoyed, looking to the future with optimism.

On several tracks, he raps about the power of community affecting change over upbeat funk, snatches of jazz and Afro-futurist themes. A soulful chorus from LA singer-songwriter PJ on “A Beautiful Chicago Kid” is an inspirational message of triumph, while Seun Kuti’s dizzying guitar playing and a brassy jazz crescendo brings dynamism to Common’s message on “When We Move”.

The rapper frequently puts women front and centre too, on the Nineties R&B/pop-inspired “Set It Free” and the funkier “Get It Right”. The elation in Common’s voice as he celebrates history-making US vice president Kamala Harris is a joyous, air-punch moment.

Elsewhere, the political “Poetry” is a New Orleans-inspired bluegrass ode to diverse voices in culture, while dreamy R&B track “Imagine” sketches a future where social justice reigns. Common’s lyrical imagery is as evocative as ever on both.

“The revolution is built from wreckage... the good part is what comes next,” poet Morgan Parker aptly sums up at the close. This is Common’s most hopeful album in years. EA

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