Sunday, June 30, 2013

From Borrowed to What Have I Done, Rimes delivers


Seventeen years after exploding on the music scene as a 13 year-old prodigy, LeAnn Rimes finally found her adult sound and style with her kickass new album, Spitfire. Don't let the tabloid bullshit fool you: LeAnn ain't no vapid, celebrity-bimbo, "has been" with nothing left in the tank.

Far from it.

LeAnn's voice is still strong as ever, but now she's become an even better singer. Being a 30 year old woman, she's got the self-awareness and maturity to bring more finessed, soulful, honest and authentic vocals. No gratuitous vocal gymnastics, no over-dramatizations, no over-singing, just perfect control of her instrument as she hits every note, from the bottom of her heart to the top of her range, with perfect pitch.
Of course, what makes Spitfire truly special and meaningful is how she bares her soul. Running the full gamut of conflicting emotions on decisions and actions she's made in her love life, LeAnn gives us a truly adult album rather than the typically cartoonish country formula music so prevalent today. I admittedly don't possess a huge country music catalog, but the album I own that most came to mind when I first heard Spitfire was Patty Loveless' When Fallen Angels Fly, which won CMA album of the year back in 1994.

If there's any justice, Rimes would win one of those in 2013 for Spitfire.

Without question, Borrowed and What Have I Done are the heart and soul songs of the album, and book-end two sides of the single most contentious, conflicting time of her adult life. The desperate, aching, longing for her new, forbidden love to blossom into full commitment (Borrowed), and the tortured regret of destroying her old love with this infidelity (What Have I Done).  I don't know that I've ever seen an artist record two songs so beautiful, yet brutally honest and introspective over the same episode. One gets the impression she will never fully reconcile this self-inflicted trauma.

What's also impressive is that she doesn't try and make herself more sympathetic of a character. She gives her truest emotions and feelings, take it or leave it, no bullshit, leaving the listener free to judge her for the good, the bad and the ugly in her actions. The mature listener will appreciate what she's given to us as a true window into her soul, and in that sense a bird's eye view of the human condition. Whether we approve of her decisions and actions isn't really the point; it's about how deeply she elicits feeling in us for how she feels. She offers up a full confession, leaves herself completely vulnerable, and in the end I found myself wanting to hug her, tell her I understand, and offer her forgiveness and compassion if not approval.

That said, Spitfire is definitely not just a heavy, emotionally draining album that makes you sob. Filled with a variety of flirty, fun, uptempo songs like Spitfire (song), I Do Now, Gasoline and Matches and You Ain't Right, Rimes also shows she has a fun, spunky side with a playful sense of humor.

You've Ruined Me is a grooving number that seems very radio friendly. Where I Stood deals with the reality and frustrations of relationship life after the initial glow wears off, and likely reflects LeAnn's reality today. What will her tomorrow be like? Well, stay tuned for the next album.

Kenny Poo ranks Spitfire a must have album for not just country music fans, but all music fans. Of course, the small minds who live in the tabloid world will no doubt be quick to judge and lash out at LeAnn because of the general subject matter. Radio will also probably shun her, and that's a shame. Bottom line: This album is above them, so they can fuck off if they aren't capable or interested in appreciating the depth, quality, versatility and honesty of this record.

Poo out!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Music Review: Eliane Elias, I Thought About You (Tribute to Chet Baker)

Chet Baker, the late, great, cool jazz legend, could not have picked a more befitting artist to honor his discography with a tribute album than the brilliant Brazilian bossa-nova babe, Eliane Elias. A highly accomplished jazz singer, pianist, songwriter and arranger, Elias summoned her full repertoire of skills and talents to craft her new LP, I Thought About You: A Tribute To Chet Baker.

The result: A sophisticated, heartfelt, cohesive album that will deserve all the accolades and awards it's bound to receive. Truly the work of a seasoned pro who "gets it", Eliane did Chet's music justice and then some on this compilation, and that's no small accomplishment.

It would be impossible not to be impressed with Eliane's sophisticated, swinging Piano accompaniment that runs throughout I Thought About You. With flawless timing, deft instincts, finesse and a some stank-face inducing spice, Elias managed to incorporate bossa nova flavor into Baker's classic songs.

Vocally, she delivers buttery soft authenticity with nary a hint of self-indulgence, affect or bullshit. It's that sense of restraint, the knowing when to kick it up and when to dial it back, that reflects her maturity and respect to the original artist, who detested artificial, gratuitous interpretations. In Chet's world, songs were meant to make you feel. Words mattered. Melodies mattered. Capturing the proper mood mattered.

In fact, if one is to fully understand and appreciate the wonderful work Eliane did on this album, it would really help to know a little bit about Chet Baker himself, and Kenny Poo is kind enough to share a very brief summary with you.

As was commonplace in the jazz era in which he lived, Chet was a gifted but hard-living, heroine-using artist, whose addiction ultimately killed him at the age of 58 in 1988. A brilliant jazz trumpeter and singer with a very distinct, velvety-smooth vocal timbre that emoted a woman's tenderness, Baker would go on to become the most renown and significant of the cool jazz pioneers of the 1950s and 60s,.

Baker's cool jazz sound would subsequently have a major influence on a talented Brazilian jazz artist by the name of Joao Gilberto. Gilberto would add some Latin spice to the cool jazz, and found a sub genre of cool jazz that would become known as bossa nova.

In 1962, Joao, his wife Astrud, and sax great Stan Getz recorded what would go on to become the most well known, widely covered, and commercially successful bossa nova song of all time, "Girl From Ipanema". The success of this song would create a worldwide frenzy for all things bossa nova, and artists everywhere began flocking to Brazil to check out their hot new jazz scene.

One such artist was pianist and composer Horace Silver. An American with Portuguese family roots, Silver traveled to Brazil to partake in the hot new music scene, and fell in love with bossa nova. As a result of this experience, he would write and record the beloved bossa nova classic "Song For My Father" in 1964.

[Note:  "Song For My Father" was recently covered by reluctant jazz vocal prodigy, Haley Reinhart. Those of you who know me are well aware of my affection for her jazz singing, so if you like that performance do the world a favor by tweeting her at @HaleyReinhart, and tell her Kenny Poo sent you. She needs the encouragement!]

So, with the cool jazz/bossa nova styles being so closely intigrated, you can see why it was only natural for a top Brazilian bossa nova artist like Elias to offer up a tribute to Baker. I can tell you she made some truly memorable music here, and I thought About You is definitely the early front runner for the prestigious Kenny Poo Best Jazz Album Of 2013.

You dig? Cool, baby. Below is the full track list with a brief Kenny Poo skinny for each song.

*  *  *  *

I Thought About You - Eliane Elias

1. I Thought About You (4:56) - Title track will get the toes tapping
2. There Will Never Be Another You (4:52) - Dig the bossa nova styling
3. This Can't Be Love (3:53) - Cool, swingin' jazz, baby.
4. Embraceable You (5:04) - Intimate dining jazz
5. That Old Feeling (3:52) - Kicking up the beat
6. Everything Depends On You (3:37) - Bluesy magnificence
7. I've Never Been In Love Before (3:54) - Stank face piano abounds
8. Let's Get Lost (4:18) - Shimmy yo hips to some groovin' bossa nova
9. You Don't Know What Love Is (5:13) - Slowing it down a notch
10. Blue Room (2:11) - Finger snapping beat with cool phrasing
11. Just Friends (3:30) - Horny tune
12. Girl Talk (3:50) - Opening licks resemble Sinatra's That's Life
13. Just In Time (2:37) - Quick tempo jazz
14. I Get Along Without You Very Well (3:05) - Weepy ending

That's all for today. Kenny Poo out.