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Standing on the rooftop, or on a precipice? ***1/2,
This review is from: Standing On The Rooftop (MP3 Download)
Bravely, if cautiously, stepping out of her comfort zone Madeleine Peyroux's latest album is something of a schizophrenic affair. It works best on those tracks where she dares to be different; less so on the more familiar straight jazz-vocal arrangements, where by and large the songs themselves are not sufficiently noteworthy to jostle for position with better examples from her back catalogue.
But where it's good, it's very good. A dark, sinister and avant-garde reading of Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain" is as effective as it is surprising; we're deep in Robin Holcomb territory here. Similarly, the title track - all stuttering, staccato guitars and a vocal hinting at hidden menace - is enthralling. Further unexpected pleasures arrive in the form of "The Kind You Can't Afford", a stylish collaboration with Bill Wyman, whilst an insistent guitar riff and a fine guitar solo lift "The Things I've Seen Today" out of the ordinary.
Elsewhere, though, there's a sense of déjà vu on a number of tracks; all impeccably performed in Madeleine's highly distinctive style but too many lacking that real killer spark. Fifteen tracks long, the album as a whole might have benefited from jettisoning two or three of these.
There are some really top-notch players on board here, including New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint and Tom Waits' guitar lieutenant Marc Ribot, who add their own recognisable gloss to the proceedings.
But it's the experimental stuff that opens the door to some fascinating future possibilities. At the moment, the artist appears at the crossroads (Robert Johnson would have understood!); to the right, the familiar comfortable and well-trodden jazz vocal path; to the left, a musical Twilight Zone. Which way will she go?