[8 April 2007]
Anjani is Leonard Cohen, had he been born a lovely woman with a beautiful singing voice, rather than as a croaky man. But this comparison is not made just because Blue Alert is filled with desperate torch songs. Believe me, it contains enough to light up a metropolis. Mr. Cohen’s name is central, however, because he co-wrote and helped produce the album, so his immediately recognizable fingerprints are all over it. Furthermore, listening to this CD may make you exclaim, “Wow, they sure don’t make albums like that anymore.” Anjani is a modern day jazz singer, not merely a jazzy singer in the mold of Norah Jones. In other words, you can just imagine her voice floating through the air in a piano bar as you’re drowning your sorrows there.
This fine CD opens with the title cut, which spells out this warning: You’re about to get your heart broke, fella. “You know how nights like this begin / The kind of knot your heart gets in / Any way you turn is going to hurt.” Even though it’s a female voice putting out this emotional emergency broadcast, it’s obviously words from Cohen’s pen. Clearly, there’s a woman with knife in hand, standing over a male bleeding heart. “She comes so close / You feel her then / She tells you No and No again,” the song also reiterates. “Half The Perfect World” is another song sung directly from a man to a woman, which is an unusual perspective that starts to sound strange after a while on this female singer/songwriter’s album. Cohen’s mark is also recognized in the way lyrics sometimes mix and match the romantic with the spiritual, as though they were inseparable from each other. During the San Francisco memories expressed via “The Golden Gate”, Anjani sings: “For several seconds our sins are forgiven / Mine against you, yours against me”.
Much of this work is piano lounge quiet, with Anjani deliberately delivering every vocal note. But there is just enough variety to keep it from veering too close to lounge lizard parody territory. “Thanks For the Dance” distinguishes itself as being a lovely waltz; Anjani even counts out its 3/4 time at one point in the song. Elsewhere, “Innermost Door” is bluesy. “Never Got to Love You” also touches on the blues, while mixing in a little gospel. It also features slide guitar. “Nightingale” is quiet and sweet, like a lullaby. Anjani doesn’t need a whole lot of accompaniment, outside of her tasteful piano. “Half the Perfect World” includes a guitar part, whereas “Blue Alert” sports a sax solo. Anjani switches to electric piano for “No One After You”, on which she also scats a bit. But for the most part, this CD is Anjani, her voice, and her trusty piano.
Listening to Anjani’s smoky voice, applied to Cohen’s self-deprecating lyrics, makes me wonder what someone like Sinatra might have done with similar lyrics. Or what about Sarah Vaughn? Anjani has a little of that lower register thing going for her, but Vaughn was a beautiful freak of nature. Vaughn and Cohen might have been something truly special together. Such comparisons are intriguing. But they’re also as fruitless as a sports fan trying to imagine Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson playing together in the same backcourt. Sure, such a combination would be Lakers show time IMAXed. But it could never happen, so why waste the imagination? But this is Anjani’s spotlight, anyhow. She’s shadowed in blue light and singing the sort of piano bar music that, in comparison, makes guys like Billy Joel sound like hacks. Joel may have called himself the piano man, but Anjani’s the complete package.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/anjani-blue-alert/