A Charming Festive Compilation

Singer/songwriter Jesse Malin is best seen live, where his songs are imbued with a new passion and his witty asides endear himself to the audience instantly. ‘Mercury Retrograde’ is the latest of the singer’s live albums that recreates this atmosphere in your front room.

The album was recorded at the Mercury Lounge in New York in Christmas 2007 and it’s most definitely a festive album with the singer musing on how great it is to be back in New York for Christmas and a couple of special festive tracks thrown in.

There are tearjerkers like ‘Cigarettes & Violets’ played with a gorgeous, rich piano backing and ‘Aftermath’ , which are always popular at Christmas, with people desperate to huddle up to a loved one. Thankfully there’s also a good mix of rousing tunes like, ‘Hotel Columbia’ and ‘Lucinda’ with cheers arising amongst the US crowd. ‘Subway’ gets a real punk rock vibe from some grungey guitar work and booming bass notes played on piano, which is a live treat.

Live albums are the place for special gems that translate best live, Malin’s cover of ‘Helpless’ has long been a special moment live and it’s a pretty dewy eyed interpretation that appears on this album with sighing strings. There are several b-sides and previously unreleased studio tracks to get the fans a little extra bonus, but it’s the Christmas tracks that are the real icing on the cake, ‘XMas’ is a little bit on the soppy side, but it’s good fun, while, ‘Fairytale of New York’ is the inevitable climax. Jesse’s cover of ‘The Lady of Baltimore’ is really stunning with a soothing echo to his voice that brings out the narrative of the song.

‘Mercury Retrograde’ is both a collection of delights for fans, a varied introduction for newcomers to Malin’s music, and a gorgeous Christmassy album to stick on and sing along to. The live recordings are of high quality and make the listener feel part of the crowd and the studio additions are a lovely bonus to give you extra value for money.