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Orchestre Ruffanti - Allegro Vanden Plas (Wavelength Records)

Star rating: 
4

The Allegro Vanden Plas is not just a well-known brand name in top-notch luxury wheels, but also the title of the long-awaited debut album by the 14-piece Doncaster-based band Orchestre Ruffanti. Not only does the band celebrate the iconic car by naming their album after it, but they also splash it all over the cover and accompanying booklet with a predominantly light blue and pink colour scheme; it takes a moment before you realise you're holding an album sleeve and not a wedding brochure. The two ladies casually draped over the limo on the front cover are none other than Jayne Cooper and Charlotte Black, two of the three main vocalists who democratically dish out the lead voices throughout the album, with one or two excursions into the Burlesque, courtesy of the male lead Richard Masters, whose contribution at times comes over a little like Pink Martini meets Benny Hill.

Being the brainchild of percussionist and producer Keith Angel, the concept of Orchestre Ruffanti appears to be the re-imagining of a handful of well-known numbers, including Ian Dury's Wake Up and Make Love With Me, which is much more sensual than the original, Ed Cobb's Northern Soul Classic Tainted Love re-invented as a lounge jazz crooner and even a moment or two of Jake Thackray with the playful Lah-di-Dah, each song treated to a completely re-vitalised arrangement. It's not all covers though as the band introduce a handful of self-penned songs such as the Spanish influenced Song of the Birds and Dance at Every Wedding
 
Track listed in the manner of the late lamented vinyl LP, side two begins with an almost unrecognisable arrangement of the old T Rex hit Get It On, which for all intents and purposes could have been the B Side of Dave Brubeck's Take Five, Sarah Potts' Paul Desmond-like sax solo perfectly keeping with the retro cool jazz remit, the arrangement also introducing something more along the lines of The Blockheads fare, courtesy of Dave Lane's Moog synthesiser. Another notable song is Charlotte Black's pretty faithful interpretation of Edith Piaf's La Vie En Rose, sung in French of course, a suitable end to the party as the last of the sparkling wine is sipped and the remaining cheese and pickled onion is sucked off the final cocktail stick.
 
The band's hometown of Doncaster is name-checked on Latin Quarter, stretching the imagination slightly of anyone who has actually walked down Silver Street on a Saturday night. The impressive and handsomely packaged sleeve is beautifully photographed within the grounds of Cusworth Hall, one of the town's landmarks, a setting that seems to mirror the music on the record. There appears to be no other detectable objective to ALLEGRO VANDEN PLAS than to entertain all who wish to listen, which is emphasised in the standard of playing by those involved, all of whom give it their best shot. So, put on your best clobber, pour yourself a glass of sparkling wine and be prepared to dance.   

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky

Radio Play: Je Danse (Show 339/04.08.14)
Release Date: Unknown
More Info: www.ruffanti.com