Madeleine Peyroux's fourth album is a bit of a departure from her previous work in that for the first time she really starts to trust her own songwriting ability rather than reinterpreting other people's work. Her three previous albums (Dreamland, Careless Love and Half A Perfect World) were made up mainly of covers, of everything from Johnny Mercer to Leonard Cohen. They were superb and well worth a listen.
So, how does her own material fare in copmparison? Well, manages to stand up by itself. The songs are well written tales of love, loss and heartache with some lovely lyrics and simple yet effective backing. The style and tone is unchanged, a bluesey, jazzy sound with a voice that bears favourable comparison to Billie Holliday. The backing arrangements are spare and unobtrusive, putting the beautiful voice with its tales to tell at the centre of the stage.
It's a beautiful slow album that will burn to your souls. Highly recommended, as are all of Peyroux's earlier albums)
This album features original compositions mainly co-written by the wistful, bluesy, sleepy-time-down-south voiced Madeleine Peyroux. Brim-full of wist, it offers no great stylistic surprises but it's still a fascinating album.
Peyroux can produce wonderful studio tracks but is said to be variable in live performance. I suspect this is because she's a private lady, uncomfortable in the limelight, and she wants to keep things that way. Even the album presentation - full lyrics accompanied by lots of shadowy pics of the diva preserves the effect of viewing Peyroux through a glass darkly, and it's this dark side that gives the album its edge. The melodies may be insinuatingly lovely, but the lyrics are often bleak. "I should have been a pair of ragged claws", "But for your love and treachery there's nothing left to fear" She has a folksy side, but the blues are never far away. Peyroux's musicians are marvellously in tune with her interpretations; the backings are perfection
I have to say that that I was wary of the album before I heard it. Part of me expected an unexceptional ego trip. I couldn't have been more wrong. This is a terrific album, instantly likeable but with depth. I'm gonna take Madeleine's advice and "...turn off the telephone, open up another bottle, send those people home..." and enjoy this album, again and again.
MADELEINE Peyroux has built a career on interpreting the works of other people such as Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. BARE BONES, produced by Larry Klein, is Peyroux's fourth solo album in thirteen years but this time is made up of entirely original tracks, some of which she created with songwriters Julian Coryell (son of American jazz fusion guitarist Larry Cortell), Steely Dan's Walter Becker, Joe Henry, and David Batteau. The album features "I Must Be Saved" the sole Peyroux-penned composition, and its first single so far is "You Can't Do Me", a song with a soul-rock beat, a whole new style for the vocalist.
Song one is 'Instead', which has a distinctly classical 1920s jazz feel to it - nice to hear such a contemporarily recorded and produced song without the scratchiness of a 78rpm record. It's probably my favourite song of the eleven on this album. Peyroux has cited Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith as influences on her music and there are hints of that here, most welcome too. The title track 'Bare Bones' sums up her philosophy on life, inspired by a book she read ' When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Difficult Times', written by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. 'Damn the Circumstances' captures the moment when anyone who has ever been in love wakes up in the middle of the night to be haunted or taunted by what's got them to that particular point in their life. Peyroux had a hand in writing each song on this CD, and anchors them with singing that is precise despite its casual comfort, hitting all the right marks to enrich "River of Tears" as violin and electric guitar provide tasteful accents. This song was written by Peyroux with the album's producer Larry Klein. 'You Can't Do Me' is the ideal playground for a voice that luxuriates in its caress and loosens up to tackle the springy and sharp-edged lyrics, always finding the proper tool for the job in an impressive display of subtle versatility. The icy poise of her manner is a natural match for the simmering reminiscence of 'Love and Treachery' but even at its most delicate, the flow and flutter of her tone infuses the classically styled jazz lilt of 'Instead' with a deceptively vigorous helping of personality. This is probably the best Leonard Cohen song Leonard Cohen never wrote, and like every tune here it has its distinct groove and mood - variations on melancholy resignation laced with humour and wised-up self-empowerment.
Song Seven 'Our Lady of Pigalle' was written by Peyroux with Larry Klein and David Batteau. It's a reference to the Red Light district of Paris, and the song is about one of the local inhabitants who plies her ancient trade there. Song eight 'Homeless Happiness' was written by Peyroux with Julian Coryell, and it celebrates the bohemian, unattached life, perhaps embuing a bit more glamour to the prospect than might be realistic. But it's a nice song for Ms. Peyroux' musical persona. Song nine 'To Love You All Over Again' is something of an upbeat tune with that Billie Holliday flavour but with downbeat lyrics touching on loneliness and regret. It was written by Julian Coryell and the singer herself. Song ten is 'I Must be Saved' and the only one composed solely by Ms. Peyroux. This is a song that addresses loss, and how that can be turned around. As with 'River of Tears' this most likely relates to her late father, who died in 2005. Song eleven 'Somethin' Grand' was written partly by Peyroux at around 4 in the morning, when the trucks on the nearby highway finally stopped buzzing past her Brooklyn apartment.
Perhaps it's fatigue with power-rocking women, or vacuous female pop stars or even sincere folkies, but there seem to be more women going for a sound influenced by icons like Edith Piaf or Billie Holiday, even within the context of a rock band. The trend goes back to k.d. lang in the 1980s, and reached a kind of peak with the popularity of Norah Jones' debut album in 2002. As its title suggests, this is a laid-back, stripped-down affair. The lyrics, too, suggest that we slow down, decide to be happy, and enjoy life. Peyroux's voice - which still sounds eerily like Billie Holiday's - is captured wonderfully, and her instrumentalists put on a master class in how to accompany a singer. Restraint is the modus operandi, with guitarist Dean Parks and organist Larry Goldings paying particularly close attention to where the words go so that their phrases don't end up on top of hers. BARE BONES is a beautifully slow-cooked album that encourages us to look on the bright side. Not a bad message these days.
on 30 March 2009
Aside from the fact that, for the first time, all the songs have been written or co-written by Madeleine herself it's pretty much business as usual here. No surprises or departures in style, just that familiar silky, fragile and delicious jazz voice wrapping itself around eleven new tunes co-written mostly with producer Larry Klein and also the likes of Steely Dan's Walter Becker.
Like a lazy flowing river on a still summer day the album drifts from beginning to end with nary a change of pace - the jaunty Becker/Klein collaboration "You Can't Do Me" as up-tempo as things get, Becker continuing his personal infatuation with the reggae-tinged arrangements that characterised his recent solo album. To his credit he clearly didn't keep his best songs for himself, the track bettering anything to be found on "Circus Money" (the same is true of his other contribution, the album's title track). To be honest, Peyroux never sounds entirely convincing delivering some brilliantly Dan-esque lyrics such as "Blewed like a Mississippi sharecropper, screwed like a high school cheerleader, tattooed like a popeyed sailorman - gone, gone, gone" but it's a small quibble. Where's Donald Fagen when you need him?
Only the plodding "Damn the Circumstances" fails to fully engage the senses, whilst Madeleine's own "I Must Be Saved" reveals a songwriting talent that bodes well for future projects. On top of that, "River of Tears" sounds like the musical lovechild of Klein and his former missus, Joni Mitchell. Praise indeed.
Beautiful though it undoubtedly is, the overall effect across eleven tracks leans dangerously towards the soporific. Still, for those in the know it's likely to be THE essential dinner party soundtrack for the forseeable future.
on 4 May 2009
I saw MP in concert in Liverpool late April, and bought the CD in the foyer at an inflated price just because I enjoyed the concert so much. Interestingly, MP seemed to want more back from the audience, but the songs she sang (mostly her own) and the introspctive tone with lyrics to listen to didn't need footstamping or whistling. The quiet attention and appreciate applause was testament enough to a superb concert. Thank you MP!
I haven't stopped listening to the album since! It's so, so good. Favourite tracks "River of Tears" and "Our Lady of Pigalle". Best album yet, and the move into her own songs augurs well for a brilliant future. One thing that really gets me is the cleverness of the writing - words and music sometimes seem to be out of sync, but the way she slides the end of a line into the next is really distinctive and grabs the attention.
Madeleine Peyroux's fifth album is more of the same really; polished jazz vocals sung in that intimate, langorous, Peyroux style with a tight, piano led ensemble, of guitar, fiddle, bass and drums.
The difference is that all the songs on this album are Peyroux originals of which seven were co-written with her producer Larry Klein, with two contributions from Walter Becker of Steely Dan. There are some songs here that could have been written by Leonard Cohen - Love And Treachery", "Our Lady of Pigalle" and "Homeless Happiness" are all reminiscent of Cohen's work.
Despite the darkness of some of the lyrics, Klein's spare production and Peyroux'x easy voice combine to make this an album to listen to with a long, cool drink on a lazy summer evening. Perfect.
on 18 May 2009
An excellent and varied album, which holds your attention from beginning to end, and with some real jewels like 'My Lady of Pigalle'. It is an album of 'moods' and the listener will be enthralled by how easily one piece leads on to the next.Certainly an album to be played when you are looking for a relaxed and easy going evening, but with some rather poignant messages to reflect upon. Although with a tag of jazz, this music is widely removed from the rather frenetic music that this tag conjures up, full of melody and easy on the ear.
This latest offering from Madeline Peyroux is a joy to play.
Smooth, relaxed jazz with trademark smoky-voiced lyrics. Bare Bones is braver than previous Peyroux offerings in that it presents all-new material instead of blending new tracks with interpretations of standards... and doesn't suffer for this in any respect.
An ideal album for a relaxing summer's evening.
Whilst this album offers something of a departure from Peyroux sounding like a Billie Holiday cone it is fairly one track and fails to stir the senses beyond the feeling laden, "Love and Treachery." Bare Bones is the kind of record that quickly disappears towards the back of your shelf to collect dust.
on 23 September 2010
Another superbly crafted album from Madeleine Peyroux. This shows an immense maturity and subtlety. Almost darker in tone but still with the achingly beautiful vocals that we have grown to love and admire. Billie Holiday reincarnate. A jazz classic.