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Chris Bennett

Sail Away: The Tahiti Sessions

(Renegade; US: 21 Sep 2010; UK: Import)

There are many ways to heal a broken heart. For Chris Bennett, the mountaintop vistas of Tahiti were the perfect salve to nurse the wounds suffered from the dissolution of a long term relationship. The natural beauty of the environment, plus access to talented musicians and a nearby recording studio, inspired the LA-based vocalist/pianist to record a new album and quell the pangs of lost love. Bennett arrived in Tahiti with raw emotions and left with an album of exquisite musicality.


Sail Away: The Tahiti Sessions was recorded in Mahina, where Chris Bennett and producer Eric Doney corralled a first-rate ensemble of musicians, including a string section, to render both Bennett’s compositions and well-selected standards. Accompanied by Doney on piano, the singer opens the album with “These Foolish Things”. Her quietly dramatic take on the lyrics is so compelling that it nearly obscures the pain. That is, until the last third of the song, when the strident tones of her voice transmit the ache that was only suggested beneath the surface until that moment. She saves enough emotional capital from “These Foolish Things” to make quintessential torch songs like “I Get Along Without You Very Well”  and “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry” her very own. The former ends on an unresolved note, memorably amplifying the irony of the song title.


Chris Bennett’s four original songs exhibit a songwriting talent on par with her expressive voice. Those who remember the singer as one of Giorgio Moroder’s key musical muses in the ‘70s will find that her voice is just as enchanting now as when it was echoing through the discotheques back in 1979. “Won’t Let Me Go” is a torrid fight with the lingering memories of a love affair while “I Can’t Think About It” reveals the singer reveling in the promise of new romance on what is arguably the album’s highlight. Piano, sax, bass, and percussion lend a well-conceived Latin jazz treatment to Bennett’s feisty lyrics. “I Can’t Think About It” will undoubtedly become a show-stopper of Bennett’s forthcoming club appearances.


Bennett and Doney keep the production clean and cliche-free, especially on “Perfidia” and a notable recasting of Luiz Bonfá‘s “Manha de Carnaval”. By the last note of the self-penned “All For Naught”, the singer emerges triumphant, making Sail Away a rewarding discovery for broken hearts and sophisticated ears alike.

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Christian John Wikane is a NYC-based journalist and music essayist. He's a Contributing Editor for PopMatters, where he's interviewed artists ranging from Paul McCartney to Janelle Monae. For the past three years, he's penned liner notes for more than 100 CD re-issues by legends of R&B, rock, pop, dance, and jazz. Since 2008, he's produced and hosted Three of Hearts: A Benefit for The Family Center at Joe's Pub. He is the author of the five-part oral history Casablanca Records: Play It Again (PopMatters, 2009). Follow him on Twitter @CJWikaneNYC. 


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