CD The Saturday Sessions: The Dermot O'Leary Show (CD 6983529),
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The Saturday Sessions: The Dermot O'Leary Show

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    Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 7780202

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    Following the huge success of the Radio 1 Live Lounge series, fellow BBC station Radio 2 decided to get in on the act themselves with X-Factor host Dermot O'Leary's Saturday afternoon show, which followed the same formula of inviting artists to record both their own material and cover versions at their Western House studios in Central London. Less youth-oriented than Jo Whiley/Fearne Cotton's Radio 1 releases, (the likes of Tinie Tempah and N-Dubz are unlikely ever to make an appearance here), the amiable O'Leary's second compilation, released three years after its 2007 predecessor, features the most contemporary and alternative artists from the station's more traditionally conservative playlist. And while there are a few acts who manage to crossover to both audiences (Mumford & Sons, Ellie Goulding), the majority of Dermot O'Leary Presents the Saturday Sessions includes artists who are either ignored by (Ben's Brother, Ed Harcourt), or who have simply outgrown (Divine Comedy, Turin Brakes) the younger station's 16-24 demographics. Of the original compositions, Paloma Faith's heartfelt rendition of her string-laden ode to love lost "New York," Kasabian's rousing performance of their glam rock-inspired "Empire," and Bat for Lashes' haunting arrangement of her Depeche Mode-meets-Enya breakthrough hit, "Daniel," provide the highlights. But like the Live Lounge, The Saturday Sessions' most intriguing moments occur via its cover versions, and while Alesha Dixon and Scouting for Girls opt for faithful interpretations of Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man" and Status Quo's "Rockin' All Over the World," most acts showcase their more imaginative side, either completely reworking the original track or performing something entirely outside their comfort zone. Biffy Clyro continue their tradition of performing female-fronted pop hits with Cheryl Cole's chart-topper "Fight for This Love," the latest single to get the acoustic rock treatment; indie four-piece Athlete turns La Roux's synth pop anthem "Bulletproof" into a piano-based torch song, while Lisa Hannigan transforms Air's cinematic "Playground Love" into a gorgeous minimal folk-led ballad. Elsewhere, both Imogen Heap and Supergrass tackle Michael Jackson songs ("Thriller" and "Beat It") with aplomb, Lily Allen revisits one of the standouts from her recent live shows, Britney Spears' "Womaniser," while the lesser-known Alex Cornish, the Do, and White Rabbits use the opportunity to reach a wider audience with their respective impressive displays. The acoustic, stripped-down nature of the 40 songs can feel quite repetitive at times, and not all the covers work (Ting Tings drain the life out of Beats International's "Dub Be Good to Me," as does Fyfe Dangerfield, with Girls Aloud's "Call the Shots"). But far from offering a carbon-copy of the original Live Lounge idea, The Saturday Sessions' diverse and often neglected array of artists, and decade-spanning choice of songs, instead provides a welcome and slightly more mature alternative. ~ Jon O'Brien

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