Noël Coward always represent a different time, even a different world to me. I know his works mostly through his plays because I think they're great. I was introduced to his music due to the Brit-Pop era. Who would have thought that Suede would be a perfect vehicle for a Coward song? The truth is I sort of became fans or at least admired Suede and Robbie Williams due to their work here on this compilation of Noël songs.
This album is very much a snapshot of the British music world of 1998. Suede, Williams, Damon Albarn with Michael Nyman, the Pet Shop Boys -it yells out an era to me, that puts focus on another time in music and cultural history. It's one of the reasons why this is a very good album. First, of all, it is really truthful to the Coward aesthetic in that all the arrangements on this album are true, not to the times, but the feeling that Noël's songs convey to an audience. Coward wrote incredible love songs of great yearning, but also to listeners who were going through hard times due to the war and the economy of the World War II years.
The album is very much of a Neil Tennant (Pet Shop Boys) project. Not all the songs share the same producer or arranger, but everyone here captures the essence of Coward's work. The big surprise for me is Robbie Williams' take on "There are Bad Times Just Around the Corner" is uber-pop, but tinged with a large amount of dread and concern. Yet, like Coward, very uplifting at the same time. There is something very passive/aggressive about Coward's work. There are humor and joy but tinged with sadness. Suede's "Poor Little Rich Girl" actually sounds like a Suede original, in fact, a lot of the songs here are a perfect fit for the artist and song. Another standout is The Divine Comedy's "I've Been to a Marvellous Party," which turns into a techno workout. Yet, fits perfectly with the song. The whole album is very well-thought out, in that it shows the roots of Coward's work in that era's (1998) time.