JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys – Fidelity! (CD review)

JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys – Fidelity! (Rocket Science Ventures) – CD review –

Chrissie Hynde has never let us get this close.  Sure, she’s had other musical relationships (Ray Davies of the Kinks, Jim Kerr of Simple Minds, etc), but she never recorded an entire album with any of them.  That’s what Fidelity! essentially is: a duets disc, featuring J.P. Jones, a relative unknown, and a man she admits is “half her age” on the opening cut “Perfect Lover.”

Apparently, Hynde and Jones unexpectedly fell in love, but broke it off because of the large age gap.  Instead, they chose to record an album together, and nearly every song seems to be about their ill-fated relationship.  The first thing you notice is the oil and water combination of the two vocalists: Hynde is still in surprisingly good voice, while Jones is, shall we say, not gifted in that department.  A good comparison might be Keith Richards.  And, while you might give Keef certain points for style, you probably would run from an entire album of duets from him. right?

The best tracks on the set allow Hynde to take center stage, as in the breathtaking “Meanwhile,” where Jones comes in at the very end to great effect, or the gentle, building “Never Drink Again,” which also features Jones on the coda.   Other places, their teaming doesn’t work so well, as in “Fairground Luck,” where Jones’ falsetto is painful to bear, or the aforementioned “Perfect Lover,” where he steps all over Chrissie’s vocals, as if he’s interrupting.  Their best true duet is “Australia,” where she exclaims “Wait a minute / I’m not drunk.”  The ethereal “Misty Valleys” is another standout, which does not feature Jones at all.

You certainly can’t blame Hynde for trying something new.  For 30 years, she’s recorded exclusively under the Pretenders’ moniker.  And even though she’s had a revolving door of musicians in the band, her songwriting has been a constant.  That’s what also sets Fidelity! apart from anything else she’s ever done: she’s collaborating for the first time on every song.   It is, however, pretty easy to pick out the ones Jones  came up with, as in “Courage” or “If You Let Me”; they’re rootsy, but for the most part, unremarkable melodies.  The good thing is that they both sound like their having a blast.  Perhaps if they decide to record together again, Jones will step back a little and let Hynde, still in prime form, shine more. –Tony Peters