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Heaps of Praise!,
This review is from: Speak For Yourself (Audio CD)Of the many things for which I have to thank Jeff Beck - including the small mater of a lifetime of inspiring guitar and the Live with Jan Hammer album - an introduction to this lady is amongst the highlights. Featured in his wonderful Ronnie Scott's residence and spotted when it was broadcast on TV, Imogen Heap became right away one of those artists you just have to Google: her voice and lyrics were instantly intriguing. These inquiries led, in the first instance, to her great first album, whose anagrammatic title alone (I, Megaphone) confirmed expectations of wit and originality.
Inevitably, the most attention-getting piece she's produced to date is this album's quietly awesome "Hide and Seek," whose deployment of that much-abused device the Vocoder is about the best marriage of human vocal and that technology since David Sancious actually used it as an instrument rather than a gimmick back in the late 70s. The track is actually voice-driven; and what a voice - an androgynous huskiness that can leap up the register with a beautiful fluency. And lyrics worth listening to, as well! not to mention instrumentations and arrangements that are genuinely original. "Hide and Seek" is also available elsewhere in a meditative, chanting, version that would do justice to Sheila Chandra.
In a genre that nowadays tends to lurch between fey pretence and the-latest-crowd-pleasing-ingénue, Imogen Heap stands out starkly and beautifully for her creative intelligence. She's as conspicuously different and musically gifted as Kate Bush was in her day. Check out, for instance, Headlock's "Mic-Check" for a multi-layered, multi-tracked, joyous scat that sits perfectly in the Swingle / Brian Wilson / Bobby McFerrin tradition whilst delivering something fresh and delightful. Meanwhile, here on "Speak for Yourself" there's the lovely "Just For Now" putting that vocal layering to even plusher use.
All the tracks on this album are treasures, but the arc from the funky "Daylight Robbery" to the lyrical "The Moment I Said It" should tell you all you need to know about this lady's range and talent. And having said all that, her music is right there, right away: catchy, groovy, touching - effortlessly great music that's at once pop and deep. Don't hesitate to acquaint yourself with this seriously entertaining lady.