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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 November 2005
When Joni Mitchell moved from folk towards jazz she had difficulty taking her audience with her but produced some of her most sophisticated work. "Evolve" saw a chameleon change in Ani: the colours are different, but in many ways the entire album is brighter for them.
The key difference here is the horn section, which can also be heard on the excellent live album "So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter". Beautifully recorded and arranged, this is the real star of "Evolve", incorporated perfectly into the songwriting and lovingly supported by other musical elements such as the Hammond organ that swells throughout the opener, "Promised Land".
"Evolve" isn't a "big band" album; stripped down to guitar and vocal, these are still songs in Ani's accustomed style, but the band changes the way that the songs appear. The harmonies on "Icarus" take a song which could have appeared on her earlier albums and give them a brilliant twist. The edgy vocal group on "Slide" gives way to a delicate trumpet figures which really propel the entire song up a level before the entire section kicks in. "Welcome To:", already a great ballad, takes flight in the chorus due to the brass massed behind Ani's voice. "Here For Now" segues from mischievous Latin rhythms into a slick middle eighth underpinned by vibraphone tones.
If all this sounds too sensual - as if the instrumental sound is overwhelming the core songwriting - more ascetic Difranco fans can relish in the album's controversial centrepiece: ten minutes of political defiance accompanied solely by acoustic guitar on "Serpentine". For some listeners, it's the album's toughest and least appealing song, but as one comes to love the album it takes its place as a moment of clarity.
This isn't Difranco's only great album but, at the time of writing, it is her greatest, and as essential as "Little Plastic Castle" or "Not A Pretty Girl".
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on 12 May 2003
Ok, this is Ani DiFrancos newest album as I'm sure you are aware. If you know any of her other work you should know that she is always changing her styles and techniques, so Evolve is no surprise. It has to be her most jazz influenced album and her voice is very focused compared to previous outings like Not A Pretty Girl where it was a bit all over the place. This new approach suits her voice and message, but it all seems a little unexpected... but that's the point isn't it? If it is, then this is another fantastic album from the wonderful Ani.
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on 13 June 2005
I've owned this album for about a year and a half, and its only now that i really love it. The style moves through the usual ani acoustic guitar folk style to produce something jazz influenced and with the occassional flare of cuban brass. And after a while you realise it really works. Its definately a grower; the lyrics are still the same level of the wry wit and bitter kiss off lines that she throws away with aplomb, but it takes that bit longer to really appreciate them, becuase its not backed by the same frenetic pace as before. Its definately one to own for old ani fans looking for a new twist, and newcomers alike. Just give it a few plays and you'll see what I mean.
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on 6 May 2003
Ani is difficult to categorize. She calls herself a folk artist but her music belies a wider range of influences and Evolve has more to do with jazz than anything she has done before. It is an album for hardened DiFranco fans and the ten minute track "Serpentine", denouncing capitalism, record companies and the other evils of the world, probably goes down better live than it does on this studio-recorded album - venomous but tedious after a listen or two. Much better is the classic Ani track "Welcome To" or the more adventurous "Icarus" and "Shrug". If you want to understand Ani DiFranco's music, this is probably not the place to start but for existing fans and perhaps a new jazz-centric audience this could be an excellent choice.
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on 6 May 2003
Ani is difficult to categorize. She calls herself a folk artist but her music belies a wider range of influences and Evolve has more to do with jazz than anything she has done before. It is an album for hardened DiFranco fans and the ten minute track "Serpentine", denouncing capitalism, record companies and the other evils of the world, probably goes down better live than it does on this studio-recorded album - venomous but tedious after a listen or two. Much better is the classic Ani track "Welcome To" or the more adventurous "Icarus" and "Shrug". If you want to understand Ani DiFranco's music, this is probably not the place to start but for existing fans and perhaps a new jazz-centric audience this could be an excellent choice.
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on 15 May 2004
This album is fantastic, personally i think its the best album of hers out of the 5 i own, jazz definatly has a strong influence on this album, which is what i really like about it. More exprimental sounding where she uses a larger variety of instruments different to her usual solo performances- which are still very powerful, but i do like the fact that she has expreimented much more on this album. Ani is a very passionate and expressive woman, her music is very powerful and i would struggle to dislike any work of hers. The album is quite different than some of her other work but this is deffinatly shows fantastic progression!! - Highly reccomened if you like jazz influence!
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on 21 January 2004
To be honest, I love all of ani d's work but her last couple have taken me a few listens to get into. This latest ("evolve") took me no time at all to fall in love with and is even better having seen ani in concert.
Absolutely excellent, although her band are wonderful, it is great to hear ani solo again.
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on 27 April 2003
Ani now has a habit of almost giving the fans what they want then snatching it away. Most of the decent tracks on this album have been ruined by her in one way or another. The beautiful Shrug has that pathetic electronic echo voice, Phase should have been a classic but has her singing in a stupid-little-girl voice, Welcome To: is a dirge compared to the anthemic live version on So Much Shouting. The highlight is Serpentine, while Slide is pretty good. The rest are forgettable.
Overall, one of the most irritating and disappointing albums of her career, though not as bad as R/R.
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