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Highlights: Final Countdown, Battle Without Honor or Humanity, Led Carmina
Now here's an album that will divide people down the middle. People will either find the concept and execution tacky and pretentious or they'll jam it up on their stereo full blast wondering where it has been all their lives. It's easy to imagine young girls in the East racing out to buy Linzi Stoppard dolls and posing her positions in their mirrors, whilst the audience in the West scratch their heads and put their Bond albums back on.
It is perhaps a little unfair to compare them to Bond, but Linzi Stoppard and Ben Lee, who make up the members of Fuse, are surely well aware of group. They open their album with Andreas Johnson's 'Glorious', a widely different rendition of Bond's adopted signature tune (known as 'Explosive' under Bond). It's a respectful nod to what Bond started, but Stoppard and Lee also pull away from their predecessors stylistically and offer the violin up to a higher mainstream level that Bond never dared to reach. Both Bond and Escala use electric stringed instruments, but they are used for practical reasons, both for image and performance, and both groups mimic the authentic string sounds. Fuse bring the word 'electric' to the fore with their violins that sound more like electric guitars than what Bach had in mind for his concertos. Which is another thing - Fuse adapts not classical pieces, but pop, or more specifically, classic rock songs of the past three decades.
The concept is interesting but it poses problems. It's clearly aiming for a younger audience, but ask a youth about Fleetwood Mac (who Fuse have covered no less than three times on this album), Status Quo, Led Zeppelin or Kiss and they'll stare blankly back at you. There will be flashes of recognition for 'I Love Rock 'N' Roll', but it will be more for Britney Spears than The Arrows. Thankfully, some of the dated covers are famous enough for even a pre-teen to recognise such as Michael Jackson's 'Beat It' and Europe's 'The Final Countdown' whilst Coldplay's 'Fix You' offers up something more modern. Familiarity is a key tool for the older generations but the sound and presentation of Fuse is highly unlikely to appeal. Ultimately, the track list is a bold one that directs itself to a core rock audience that would probably be horrified with the treatment of their beloved classics. The mind boggles as to who this album is directed at.
It either works for the listener or it doesn't. The production and arrangements may be too much for the straight forward listener. The euro-pop rock arrangements are far too rich in places, and the distant background vocals, which are very clearly an error of judgement, give the rather uncomfortable feeling that you're listening to a glorified karaoke album you sing to on drunken nights out.
Although the track list may be confusing from a marketing view point, musically it's a fine selection and makes for a coherent album. They fully understand their identity; they ooze confidence in their sound and image and to their credit, they do not hold back. It's a passionate album paying homage to their rock heroes; it does little to acknowledge any classical roots, but their album finale brings together two standards that have probably screamed to be brought together all this time. Fuse blends Carl Orff's 'O Fortuna' from Carmina Burana and Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir' to make 'Led Carmina'. It could have done with a faster tempo to make it more urgent, but it's a slight issue when two worlds have been combined so successfully that finalises the point that Fuse wanted to make.
The duo are recommended to the diverse listener - open to different interpretations and sounds, but being a Bond or Escala fan is a timid advantage. They offer something new, so they are worth a listen simply out of curiosity. For the one it suits, Fuse will be a valuable asset to any string collection.
2. I Love Rock 'N' Roll
3. Beat It
4. Go Your Own Way
6. The Chain
7. Crazy Crazy Nights
8. Final Countdown
9. Going Home
10. Fix You
11. Down Down
12. Battle Without Honor or Humanity
13. Top Gun Anthem
14. Led Carmina