Madeleine Peyroux - Half The Perfect World
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on 2007-03-20 paperslut Said:
Pop-jazz as we know it is highly underestimated in its effect of changing the time of day. Perhaps the moodiest genre of music, it's not as much gripping as it is requesting you to listen and not just hear. And the biggest mistake you could make, is to keep it in the background. Now, it's a task, I know. But if Careless Love didn't convince you enough, Half The Perfect World will.
It's always Sunday afternoon when you're listening to Ms Peyroux. Her music is an eternal love affair with old black and white, romantic movies and Ella Fitzgerald. And as if it was 1952 again, she cruises merrily between sorrowful description and languid charm with abandon. The motion is effortless and the execution reflects it perfectly.
Once again with producer Larry Klien, she seems to find her feet easily and though at times the footing isn't strong, she saves herself from any indecisiveness with confidence and a flair that one wishes mainstream artists like Norah Jones had. The album starts with the surprisingly upbeat I'm Alright, and though the subject may suggest otherwise, it's the beautiful picture of a cheery melody with a soulful theme. Teasingly she throws us an organ here and a bluesy guitar piece there that does wonders to complement a voice that could convince Billie Holiday that she had a doppelganger. But where contemporary pop-jazz has simply become an excuse to copy, Peyroux shines on her own. Her cover of Joni Mitchell's River (with k.d. lang) sees her take a road oft traveled, but she steers clear of "just paying tribute" with a strong, confident vocal that needs no falsetto or frills to take the song to a wholly different place. And thankfully, makes up for the 'Jingle Bells' intro.
Taking pleasantly from artists like Leonard Cohen and Fred Neil, she flits gracefully from one song to another, creating a summer Sunday experience that's irreplaceable and at the same time, not too heavy. The instrumentation does well to support her adroit delivery. Light piano and clever play with bass and drums adds to the ambiance rather than just play walking stick. Tastefully thrown in are ukulele and Wurlitzer rhythms, completing what is now one of the best pieces of contemporary adult jazz that you'll find on CD racks.
She does go a little overboard with the infinitely done Everybody's Talking but that's easily forgiven, given that even here, she manages to remain reasonably fresh. The heartfelt Once In A While is possibly the best song on the Peyroux catalog, with its string-laden, Breakfast at Tiffany's admission of love gone wrong and hope in strength. Arguably her crowning achievement, her subtle allure paints an intricate picture that's hard to throw away, assuming that is that for some strange reason, you want to.
Eventually, you have to decide whether you're just looking for some 'evening entertainment' or something that has more meaning than the genre hastens to advertise. I'd recommend you curl up with a hot coffee and some time and enjoy what was, easily, one of the best records on 2006.