By Various Artists
With his X-Factor links you'd be excused for fearing that this could be a collection of Wannabes singing ear bashing versions of 'Angels' or 'Flying Without Wings'. Thankfully, this compilation is made up of live sessions from Dermot O'Leary's popular Radio 2 show.
It's always good to hear live sessions because it puts artists in unforgiving situations. They're performing live, only without any audience feedback to spur them on or the studio gadgetry to correct any mistakes. The gear is set up correctly and is nicely balanced, so you don't hear the guitar twice as loud as the vocals, but it means each part can be scrutinised. So, all the artist has to do is pick a song, learn it and perform it. If only it's that simple.
Of the forty tracks available over half are covers; varying from those faithful to the original (Will Young's beautiful version of the Beatles' 'Golden Slumbers') to complete opposites (Athlete's stripped down take on La Roux's 'Bulletproof'). These are supported by excellent originals like the Gossips' gutsy 'Heavy Cross'.
Disc one is a more relaxed affair with the likes of The Ting Tings' acoustic version of 'Dub Be Good To Me' that includes a well-executed rap. Scouting For Girls do a lively version of 'Rockin' All Over the World' and Alesha Dixon's 'Son Of A Preacher Man' is sweet and mellow. But it's the haunting version of 'Jolene' by Ellie Goulding and Keane's 80's inspired 'Spiralling' that stand out.
Disc two is a lot more varied in style and could survive as a single disc album. It opens with Elbow performing their modern classic 'Grounds For Divorce'. To keep the tempo high, Supergrass blast out a great version of 'Beat It' (minus the Eddie Van Halen solo) and White Rabbits perform 'Kids On My Shoulders'. There's plenty of space to slow it down. Imogen Thomas does an amazing ballad version of 'Thriller' that adds a real chill to Jacko's classic. Other stand outs are Lissie's take on Metallica's 'Nothing Else Matters' and Ed Hardcourt's cover of '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' originally by Paul Simon.
The production of these live recordings is brilliant and some of the artists have taken real gambles with their selections, but they've paid dividends. It's a well-packaged compilation that has enough variety to appease most moods.