On buying Blue Light Till Dawn, I was immediately bewitched by Cassandra Wilson.
And so it continued through New Moon Daughter, Travellin' Miles and Belly Of The Sun. Her singing was the best thing on Wynton Marsalis's Blood On The Fields, and she was a fantastic addition to the personnel wherever she appeared on a Steve Coleman project: Beyond All We Know (from Black Science) reaches the sublime, and even on subsequent versions without her (on Resistance Is Futile and Lucidarium), I can't help but hear her voice in my head. That exemplifies the way in which Wilson is able to make a song her own, as witness her version of Joni Mitchell's Black Crow, or inject an otherwise banal ditty with some raison d'être, as with Last Train To Clarkesville (formerly a singalong chanson for the Monkees). Hers is also the voice that opens Anatomy Of A Groove, the M-Base Collective's 1992 album, also featuring, and led by, Steve Coleman, and other exemplary appearances include on Greg Osby's Season Of Renewal (her voice on the title track having the same effect as on Beyond All We Know) and Steve Williamson's Rhyme Time.
So when Glamoured was released I bought it automatically, and that was where I began to have my doubts.
And with Thunderbird, I really feel there needs to be a rethink.
The opening track, Go To Mexico, sounds like it was badly edited, so I think it's best to pass over that.
Closer To You is pleasant enough, but apart from some nice, funky bass, has nothing to place it amongst the best of her material. I Want To Be Loved has some great slide, but again Wilson fails to raise it to the level I've come to expect from her, although I could see it being great performed live in a roadhouse.
It Would Be So Easy resembles Simply Red's Something Got Me Started from Stars. Though I liked Mick Hucknall's crowd a little, the resemblance doesn't help.
Easy Rider is the first of two atmospheric "traditional" songs, this one down and bluesy, Red River Valley more folky and sung almost a capella, apart from the excellent slide interspersed between verses. These are the two best tracks on the album, and showcase Wilson's voice perfectly.
The rest of the tracks, while having their moments (some good sound effects on Strike A Match, for example, and nice harmonica on Tarot), don't really excite as previous material has.
Though not such a good songwriter, in some ways Wilson was a consolation for the ending of Joni Mitchell's musical career. But whilst some of Mitchell's lower points (Wild Things Run Fast) could be passed off as experiments that didn't work, two below par albums in a row might make Thunderbird look part of a trend.
However, don't get me wrong. This album is as worth having as most vocal collections released in recent months - not as good as Lucinda's West, sure, but it stands strong among most of the rest. It's just that, when you find the sorceress has turned human, you can't help but be a little crestfallen.
on 13 February 2012
Cassandra Wilson has provided her followers with some beautiful original Jazz compositions and covers for over a decade which has allowed her to gain respect as a talented and original sounding artist. But "Thunderbird" brings a new dimension to this already very accomplished songstress as she has fused modern Jazz with a more commercial Soul and Funk style, making a sumptuous and intriguing record.
The opener "Go To Mexico" blends Funk and Pop with Jazz, creating an upbeat and satisfying song. The highlight of the album comes with the atmospheric "Closer To You" with a deep soulful bass, sensual vocals and a creative and mesmerising melody. This different styles used on this album compliment each other so well - "Easy Rider" and "Red River Valley" are sophisticated slices of traditional Blues which Cassandra interprets in a gentle but haunting way whilst "It Would Be So Easy" and "Poet" have infectious modern funky rhythms accompanied by suave and melancholic melodies. "I Want To Be Loved" is a familiar Blues track with a simple yet addictive melody and "Lost" is a soft gentle acoustic number. "Strike A Match" has a soft Rock quality to it with some beautiful guitar and string arrangements and the final track "Tarot" is yet another sublime modern Jazz creation fused with soulful beats and melodies.
This is the first time that Cassandra Wilson has dared to experiment with modern beats and rhythms, but in doing so, has managed to create her most accomplished work to date. The subtlety in the arrangements blended with her deep and powerful vocals provide the listener with new sounds and tones that enable Cassandra to deliver an original approach to modern Jazz and urban music.
on 15 November 2007
I think the other reviewers have been excessively harsh and, in my view, both unjust and inaccurate in their review of Thunderbird. In fact while echoing their views on past triumphs, I think that Thunderbird is an many ways more accessible to new audiences of Cassandra's work. I would also say the tracks on this release do not exhibit any of the traits Cassandra has had in some of her earlier work to be on ocassion rather self-indulgent in the treatment of certain pieces. So Cassandra, just like Mr Dylan had to do when he went electric, do what you think is right and you will carry many of your less vocal fans like me along with you.