Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
on 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".