Music

Jackie Allen: Love Is Blue

Marshall Bowden

Jackie Allen

Love Is Blue

Label: A440
US Release Date: 2004-06-08
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

Jackie Allen casts an amazing spell with her voice. From the opening lines of the opening track, "Lazy Afternoon", you are seduced by the soaring yet intimate nature of her singing -- wide open, yet full of secrets. There is sensual longing, and a sense of peaceful contentedness with the world that reminds one of the perfect quality of certain late spring or early autumn days, days when one's appreciation for the beauty and generosity of the universe is colored by the knowledge that such perfection must come to an inevitable end. Indeed, the title and song selection of Allen's latest recording point toward the melancholy aspect of love. This collection will definitely have listeners contemplating their own lives, even as they marvel at the rare beauty of Allen's voice and her ability to render these songs in particularly flattering ways.

Pianist Laurence Hobgood -- a member of Kurt Elling's group -- is the perfect pianist for Allen, emphasizing the enthusiasm of her interpretations and providing a fresh voicing that attracts the listener's ear. Anyone who remembers Paul Mauriat's cheesy pop rendition of the title track will be amazed by the brightness that Hobgood's piano accompaniment brings to it. Allen underscores the song's downhearted side as well, with her phrasing and the decision to slow the song down. Allen also reclaims "A Taste of Honey" from the soulless snap of the Herb Alpert instrumental pop version. Again slowing the song down, a formula with which she has had great success (on her last CD, The Men in My Life, she did extremely slow covers of "This Guy's in Love With You" and "Fly Me to the Moon"), she generates an intense fervor, turning things over to John Moulder for a burning guitar solo before taking the song out in rock ballad mode.

Throughout the CD, the basic accompaniment of piano, drum and bass is supplemented by other colors that give the listener a pleasant series of surprises: Rob Mathes' Fender Rhodes organ punctuation and Moulder's slinky guitar solo on "The Performer", the marimba work of drummer Dane Richardson on "Lazy Afternoon", and the clarinet solo by Frank Glover on "You Became My Song".

Allen also demonstrates herself a capable songwriter with two excellent songs. "Go", the album's second track, was written by Allen more than a decade ago. She loved the melody but wasn't happy with the lyrics, which eluded her through several rewrites. In collaboration with friend Oryna Schiffman she finally got it right; the song's lyrics depict a woman who advises her male friend on reasons to end the relationship he is currently in. As the song progresses, we realize that the singer is motivated by her own feelings for the man to whom she is speaking. The chorus' yearning, reaching melody fits the song's subject matter perfectly. "Moon of Deception" turns standard poetic conceits about the moon on their ear. "It's about the deception that the moon gives us, and the lies suggested by the typical lyrics in countless songs that have been written about moonlight," explains Allen. "There are things the moonlight might make you believe, but they are rarely true."

Allen's voice is a particularly wonderful vehicle for songs about relationships that don't quite work out as one had hoped, offering a mixture of melancholy self-awareness and world-weary cynicism, yet tinged with a ray of hope that lies buried just beneath the surface. She can also be devastatingly sexy, as on the beat poetry-style raveup "Turn Around". There are plenty of female jazz and pop singers out there these days, many of them with pretty good voices and a nice way with a tune. But there are very, very few who possess both a superb voice and the maturity to interpret emotionally complex material with the same confidence and beauty as Jackie Allen. She is truly one of the best singers currently working, and is now at -- or at least near -- the peak of her career. Don't be the last on the block to find out about this extraordinary talent.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image