sun 29/11/2020

Album: Katie Melua - Album No 8 | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Katie Melua - Album No 8

Album: Katie Melua - Album No 8

Grown-up at last

Mellifluous Melua

When Katie Melua arrived on the scene in 2003, a graduate of the BRIT School and a protégé of Mike "Wombling" Batt, I was somewhat underwhelmed.

When Katie Melua arrived on the scene in 2003, a graduate of the BRIT School and a protégé of Mike "Wombling" Batt, I was somewhat underwhelmed. Another one in a long list of tepid female singer-songwriters that were pleasant enough, but… Then I pitched up, without too much enthusiasm, to review her Christmas concert at Westminster Central Hall with the Gori Women’s Choir in December 2018 and was both moved and impressed.

Album No 8 is her first outing in four years – In Winter, recorded in Georgia, was her first post-Batt album following a six-album contract. By then, of course, Melua had made her mark (best-selling UK female artist of 2004 and 2005 among other accolades) but despite all the success she felt like “an ingenue” and embarked on a journey of discovery, or perhaps rediscovery: reading, listening, even signing up to one of the over-priced creative writing courses run by the Faber Academy, and tuning in to the classic songs of Lorenz Hart and Cole Porter.

This time out she worked with the classically trained Leo Abrahams, a class act who’s worked with some of the great names of popular music as player, arranger and producer. So, this is music for grown-ups, 10 elegantly arranged songs – 15 on the deluxe edition, with acoustic versions plus a cover of Randy Newman’s “Forever” – with Melua’s voice very much to the fore. The set was effectively finished in February but Abrahams felt Melua had more in her so invited her to his Hoxton studios to run through the vocals once again, “just for back-up”. In the end, most of the vocals are from what he calls “one of the most extraordinary performances I’ve witnessed in the studio”.

“A Love Like That” and “Remind Me to Forget”, respectively the opening and closing tracks, are gorgeous miniatures with string arrangements that recall George Martin’s work for The Beatles. (Indeed, there are a lot of Beatles-y moments – perhaps the album's minimalist title is a nod to The White Album.) So too “An English Manner”, co-written with long-time writing partner and bassist Tim Harries, which is at times positively Pepper-esque. “Leaving the Mountain” is introduced by a flute motif with acoustic guitar, piano and strings joining behind a folk-inspired lyric and vocal line that features an insistent triplet motif. “Your Longing is Gone” and “Airtime” specifically address the amicable break-up of her marriage to James Toseland.

So now Melua is “out there unprotected” and “naked” – but seemingly confident if Album No 8 is anything to go by. It's a nicely paced collection full of light and air and pleasing textures. More meaningful by far than the over-hyped and pretentious Laura Marling. 

Liz Thomson's website

Melua is 'out there unprotected' and 'naked' - but seemingly confident

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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