[9 February 2009]
Billed as falling “somewhere between Sade and Gal Costa”, When Love sees seasoned L.A. vocalist Gaby Hernandez progress from her frequent collaborations with a host of So. Cal bands (Build an Ark, the Life Force Trio, etc.) to the life of a full-fledged solo artist. Hernandez and her musical associates (most notably Andres Renteria and Carlos Nino) take musical strands of all sorts (folk, pop, jazz, ambient, easy listening) and delicately weave them together, creating a record that is gentle, subdued and, in its best moments, quite lovely.
Hernandez’s natural, warm, ethereal vocals are the shining feature of When Love; her talent as a singer is unquestionable. Ultimately, the album triumphs or tumbles on the strength of the arrangements sustaining Hernandez.On standouts like “There Can’t Be More Than This” and “Love Songs”, Hernandez’s voice is framed gracefully; the former track is gorgeous and atmospheric, featuring rhythmically picked guitars and trombone flourishes, the latter is stripped down, breezy and soulful.
For every inspired moment, however, there seem to be just as many tracks which suffer from meandering production: the harp figures on the title track and the flute parts on “Oh, What a Lovely Face” lead those songs too far in the direction of lounge jazz. Additionally, the album’s final two tracks: “The Tropics” and “This Tea Makes Love to Me” sound muddled and overly serious for an artist with such vibrant vocals. For all the album’s sonic diversity, there is little here to truly satisfy those who aren’t fans of lite jazz or easy listening pop. Hernandez’s talent is undeniable; here’s hoping future efforts showcase that talent a bit better.