(Ground Up Music)
‘Regina’…Latin for ‘queen’. One listen to this collection confirms that indeed Stevens is queen of what she is creating. Her involvement with David Crosby and his recent music attracted my attention. Crosby is free with his praise of her songs and singing. He knows a bit about both. Female voices are much in evidence on TV and radio at present, but not this kind of voice…..
The background for this release seems to be a commission from The Jazz Gallery In New York City in 2014, for a set of new musical compositions. The main thrust was to be based around the life of Queen Elizabeth I, but expanded to include other heroines and historical figures in literature and legend. Yes, with such a worthy source this could have been a horror, a PC-infected po-faced pottage.
Venus includes Laura Mvula and has playful voices coasting over a busy backdrop with martial drumming and gliding West Coast guitar figures. The production is dramatic and the tempo on this cut unsettling, which steers the listener’s attention to the lyric to get a hold on the music as it plays. Is that the ghost of Jefferson Airplane floating by in the sky? Stevens’ voice is clean and nimble and any money says she has absorbed Joni and Kate Bush..which provides good grounding to make this style of music come to life..
Lean On tumbles in on churning acoustic guitars, that lovely voice playing the siren and careful harmonies siding through the string passages. The singing is slightly breathless and conspiratorial, weaving a mood within the piece. Both Still Here continues the celestial chorale sound over mandolins or similar.
45 Bucks is a rush of sound, an accusatory lyric put over in a I’m-past-all-this manner. I think it’s over, don’t you? The drumming emphases puts some backbone to the song; Queen Mab goes for the ethereal airborne vibe, with layered corridor-of-voices styling, rather CSN and then a heavy beat arrives, bass-heavy squelchy bass on a ponderous lope. We Knew Love is a sweet twist of melodies and what sounds like string bass, on a royal court theme.
Mercury has hand-clapping and a full-blooded sound kicks in, with horrible synth prominent in the mix. The vocal arrangement is thrilling and has echoes of the better parts of ‘Hair’. The urgency is captured in the dynamic arrangement, quite a highlight of the collection. The drumming is stunning. Title cut Regina is sung over what sounds like a harp or autoharp, a pretty and airy tune which dances across the speakers with singing blends that float like a hummingbird. Infernally catchy, too.
Harbour Hawk is all guitar twinkles and reverb, a pure vocal tells the tale. Fictional character, I must assume. The tempo changes and reverts. Quite haunting, in a Guinnevere sort of way. Well Loved finds Mvula and Stevens after a mandolin intro and busyish beat intro sending their voices out over a tricky tempo. Ophelia is elegant folk of the type Crosby can weave when in the mood, the chorale here is so very beautiful, it will slow your heartbeat, And then The Muse brings David Crosby to the fore with his deep singing adding 3D to the tune, its wispy and gentle roll quite spellbinding. The chocolate strings only add to the weight and it puts me in mind of his Lighthouse record, reviewed on this site. The programme ends with As and it almost music box arrangement of the Stevie Wonder song.
Though at times this set is a bit too pleased-with-its-accomplishments and can at times turn chilly, singing of this touch and skill is rare and should be welcomed. A lot of care has gone into this.
(Thanks Glenn Sargeant for sourcing this release and Wilful Publicity)
Becca Stevens new studio album ‘Regina’ is out now on Ground Up Music.
For more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/2vCCLoh
In addition, Becca will be performing two London shows in November 2017. The dates are listed below: