- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 20, 2001

DIANA KRALL
The Look of Love
(Verve)
The sixth album by this Canadian jazz singer and pianist is another winner. If it doesn't quite match her "When I Look in Your Eyes" of 1998, that's only because this one is top-heavy with lamentations about lost love, and I rather prefer Miss Krall swinging with her fingers and voice.
Although she doesn't have a powerful voice by any means, Miss Krall gets the most out of her equipment with a delivery that's sultry enough to make strong men weep. She positively exudes sex appeal, and the photos included with the liner notes don't hurt either.
On Miss Krall's earlier albums, she was portrayed as a rather plainly dressed brunette whose appeal was minimal. Lately, however, she has emerged as a sleek blonde with a variety of come-hither looks. As my friend and music adviser Rob Carey likes to say, "hubba-hubba."
The problem with this, of course, is that Miss Krall may be regarded by some as more of a bombshell than an artist, which would be terribly wrong. She is a marvelous and innovative pianist as well as singer. One thing I regret about "Look" is that it doesn't include one or more instrumentals by her quartet, as the earlier CDs did.
Probably the best number is "Cry Me a River," which has pretty much been submerged since the late Julie London rode it to fame in the mid-1950s. Miss Krall wrings every bit of defiant pathos out of this one, and it also benefits nicely from a dandy riff by drummer Peter Erskine at the end.
I must offer a personal disclaimer here. No fewer than four of the nine other songs ("The Night We Called It a Day," "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "Maybe You'll Be There" and "Love Letters") were recorded in the 1950s by Frank Sinatra on Capitol. Since I consider Sinatra the all-time master of what he called "suicide songs," Miss Krall falls somewhat short by comparison, although all her renderings are eminently respectable.
If you like this kind of music and it's nice to see anyone under the age of 40 performing it you won't go wrong here. Miss Krall has become a treat for both ears and eyes.
Dick Heller

CHARLOTTE CHURCH
Enchantment
(Columbia)
The most notable track on "Enchantment," the fourth by 15-year-old Charlotte Church, is a version of "Habanera" from Georges Bizet's "Carmen." It may be the funniest version ever recorded.
Instead of a seductive look into Carmen's mind, it sounds like something a band would play beside a Caribbean swimming pool as background for cocktails on greet-the-manager night.
Miss Church, whose three previous releases have sold some 8 million units, has a sweet soprano voice but nearly no technique as she butchers a wide variety of material. The record label does a disservice to her by issuing such crude output before she can sing it with distinction.
Her French diction swallows vowels and she puts equal weight on each phrase. She tackles yes, that's the correct word "Dome epais le jasmin," the flower duet from Leo Delibes' "Lakme." The song, familiar to millions for its use in British Airways commercials, is brutish here. Through studio technology, Miss Church sings both the soprano part of Lakme and the mezzo-soprano part of Mallika and the result is a thud.
Adele's "Mein Herr Marquis" from Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus" appears here in English, dubbed "The Laughing Song." Instead of a jovial tune by a chambermaid sneaking into Prince Orlofsky's ball, it is sung as if it were from "My Fair Lady," paced by leaden conducting. Miss Church gives similar treatment to "Tonight" and "Somewhere" from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story."
If Miss Church wants to have a serious career, she should stop singing in public and rush off to a conservatory for years of lessons. AP

ELTON JOHN
Songs From the West Coast
(Rocket/Universal)
The artist formerly known as Reginald Kenneth Dwight recently admitted he's been in a bit of a slump for the past, oh, 25 years.
Elton John touts "Songs From the West Coast" as a return to form reminiscent of his early 1970s artistic peak on albums such as "Tumbleweed Connection" and "Madman Across the Water." He recruited several members of his supporting cast from those glory days, including lyricist Bernie Taupin, strings arranger Paul Buckmaster and drummer Nigel Olsson. He also enlisted help from Stevie Wonder and Rufus Wainwright.
Alas, the old magic eludes Captain Fantastic. Most of this 12-song set is agreeable enough, and the best tunes "Birds," "This Train Don't Stop Here Anymore," "Ballad of the Boy in the Red Shoes" could pass for one of his 1970s B-sides.
But not one song here rivals Sir Elton's best work. What we have instead is a lot of syrupy, midtempo, overproduced FM fodder that sounds like his next movie soundtrack. The piano is prominent but hardly "Honky Cat"-like, the strings are mostly mushy and the lyrics are often too clunky.
"Songs From the West Coast" finds Elton John still mired in his slump and guilty of false advertising. AP

VICTORY AT SEA
Carousel
(Kimchee Records)
Just because a band gets labeled as "emo" (shorthand for emotional in the indie-rock world) does not mean it's incapable of rocking. While emo may be a controversial term that gets thrown around all too often, Victory at Sea should be proud of the label. It plays in the tradition of some of the best emo bands, such as Sunny Day Real Estate and Modest Mouse, by combining complex guitar work with deeply wrought lyrics.
The trio's secret of success is using distortion, lengthy guitar solos and plenty of drum rolls to balance the tortured melancholy of lead singer-guitarist Mona Elliott's vocals. The result is indie rock that rivals the guitar theatrics of Built to Spill, while holding onto the emotional depth of its lyrics.
In the mini-epic "The Blizzard of '78," Miss Elliott sings about how "the sun it reflected/from my eyes to the window it was the last time I remember us together," painting a picture of heartbreak amid a snowstorm. These descriptive scenes come more alive through alternate guitar tunings, moody bass lines from Mel Lederman and driving percussion from drummer Fin Moore (it's rare to hear such an explosive drum sound on such a mellow record).
"Carousel" is a moody, depressing album, but in the hands of Victory at Sea, the music still rocks, proving that emotional sincerity doesn't mean boring music.
Derek Simmonsen

REMY ZERO
The Golden Hum
(Elektra Records)
It's amazing what a label change can do for a band. The relatively unknown group Remy Zero made the switch from Geffen to Elektra for its third album, and the results are striking.
The band's first two records gained some critical notice, but had no hits. "The Golden Hum" is packed with singles from the Alabama rockers. What's better is that the band's fall tour with Travis makes it seem like a new British group rather than an older American band, an illusion that Elektra should keep up.
That's because Remy Zero is making some of the best Brit-pop in years, though the group is from the American South. As evidence, sample the second track "Out/In," which rolls with a Travis-like hook, fuzzy guitars that shimmer beneath the vocals and earnest, pleading vocals from lead singer Cinjun Tate.
On "Memory," one of the album's standout tracks, Mr. Tate sings "I'll remember you/and the things that we used to do/and the things that we used to say/I'll remember you/that way." These are not typical Southern rock sentiments.
The biggest danger probably will come from the band getting typecast as a Travis or Coldplay knockoff. While Remy Zero isn't quite in the same league with these giants of Brit-pop, "The Golden Hum" is a promising turnaround for a band that was floundering only a few years ago.
D.S.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide