The Belfast vaudeville performer releases his first collection of b-sides and rarities in the absence of new studio material. It's a pleasant listen, but one for fans only.
After capturing the hearts of many Irish music fans with his rip-roaring ballad 'Freewheel' in 2005, Duke Special has seen a steady escalation in popularity that was augmented by his likeable second studio album 'I Never Thought This Day Would Come' last year. Since then, things have gotten progressively more unusual; it emerged that the Belfast man was to star in and provide the music for a London production of Bertolt Brecht's 'Mother Courage and Her Children'.
With such a hectic workload, it's no wonder that a new studio album has not been forthcoming this year. To keep fans sated, however, 'Little Revolutions' is a collection of b-sides and rarities from the dreadlocked singer's career. B-side collections, by their very definition, are usually about as interesting as Glen Hansard's diary entries. 'Little Revolutions' isn't as bad as that, thankfully, but it's obvious that these are mostly cobbled-together numbers, that don't have the polish or the full attention to detail that Special's studio work usually does.
Nevertheless, there are some enjoyable numbers here. A live version of Nina Simone's 'Ain't Go No' recorded on Ray D'Arcy's radio show is quite charming, as is his take on 18th century love song 'Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes', which features Divine Comedy man Neil Hannon on baritone duties. In fact, Hannon pops up several times on this collection - to not such great success on a flat version of 'Tainted Love', but he redeems himself on bouncy pomp-pop of 'Our Love Goes Deeper'.
The various cover versions are really the only reason to listen to this well-meaning, but inessential album. Chaka Khan's 'I Feel For You' gets a Christmassy Special treatment, the Beach Boys' 'I Know There's An Answer' is equally likeable. However, attempts at stripping down rock songs that electric guitars are essential to - like Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 'Maps', Radiohead's 'Lucky' and Razorlight's 'Stumble and Fall' are slightly dodgy.
'Little Revolutions' is the kind of album you'd tap your foot to if you heard it, but this is one for fans only. With two new album projects on the horizon in 2010, you're best off saving your pennies for those.