38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
vocal let down,
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This review is from: River: The Joni Letters (Audio CD)
As a Joni fan since I first heard Blue as a 15 year old (35 years ago), I've been enjoing a bit of a Joni-fest recently, what with Shine, the Tribute album, (the very very long-awaited and overdue remastered Court and Spark/ Hissing of Summer Lawns and Hejira trio still to come) and now this.
The playing is superb. Some of Herbie's best piano work, the incomparable Wayne Shorter, Vinnie Colaiuta doing his best supportive playing (and making a return to performing Joni's material) plus the musical bass of Dave Holland combine to create a truly atmospheric, sublime and interesting collection.
There is a bit of a problem though. Some of the vocalists chosen to contribute are, to say the least, a little suprising. Norah Jones does her best "Norah Jones", but adds little to what is one of Joni's best songs. Tina Turner's voice just rattles, and whenever I hear it just I can't get "Steamy Windows" out of my mind. Corrine Bailey Rae's take on River is simply odd - not because of her accent (I'm sure not many American listeners will notice the London style instead of her Leeds accent - and so what, because either accent would not have improved on her performance) but because her voice simply doesn't suit the arrangement. Despite all the fuss (and I did quite like her debut) she gives a weak vocal and seems oddly unable to evoke any real emotion from it.
Luciana Souza's vocal is a bit too pitchy (I know it's "jazz", but it's just not close enough......) and makes me feel uneasy when I listen to it.
I understand why they would want vocalists on the album - basically an all instrumental album wouldn't cop as much of an audience as one with vocals on - and it may be that Joni was going to do it but had to pull out due to her other commitments, but the choice of singers lets the project down. They may have brought with them their "generosity", "deft navigation", "humility" and "grace" but they haven't made this good album a great one.
I'll still give it 4 stars though, for the great combo playing and the subtle and interesting arrangements of some truly great songs.