(Bright Star Records)
When speaking to this rising star about her new album, she was really excited about the contributions of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – understandable, as we have enjoyed seeing them several times at The Cadogan Hall. But this really is the icing on already rich musical cake. Because for some time the singer and her arrangers, players and co-writers – including the sublime Judie Tzuke – have been putting together an impressive set of songs that she and her band have been playing live at various venues. I was quite stunned the first time I saw this crew perform. Whilst it’s at the opposite end of the sound spectrum from the freewheeling and improvised music I am most drawn to, her voice is so precise but still warm and the songs so neatly constructed and flowing that resistance would be futile. Everything that this performer seems to aim at in presenting her songs seems to be realised. The accent is on melody and feeling and whilst it could be called MOR and categorised as such by radio stations that’s only labelling for convenience. The numbers have heart and soul and the players hone their contributions to make them work. If you ever enjoyed albums by Carly Simon or Carole King, you really will get a kick out of this collection.
Everyone talking about Harriet mentions Karen Carpenter and there, I’ve done it BUT though the timbre of the voice is uncannily similar she is not aping Karen’s phrasing. Nobody knocked George Benson for having heard of T Bone Walker.
I already have some favourite songs on this set – the lead single ‘Broken For You’ is stunning. Chorus, verse, bridge, vocal, arrangement all spot on. People like producer Steve Anderson do know what they’re doing and are hopefully proud of what’s been captured here. ‘First And Last’ is also a single and does have a Carpenters tinge.
‘Afterglow’ is not the Small Faces number..but hey, that’s an idea.The piano reminds me of Procol Harum. ‘Empty Shoes’ has a backstory and can bring a lump to the throat of the most stone-hearted person. I know.
‘Can I Keep You’ and ‘What’s Mine Is Yours’ are the distillation of emotional pop lyricry; ‘Permission To Kiss’ is fascinating as a tale of a curious romance – or is it romance ? – and stays in the memory, with its Gilbert O’Sullivan tempo. ‘Unlove You’ starts out timidly but Harriet soon sells the story, with one of the best vocals on the disc. The stealthy guitar intro brings us ‘Love Will Burn’, the record’s folkiest moment with its soft strings and steady snare. It’s a fine song and Bond-esque. Just needs staccato horns! ‘Fly’ is set to a snappier tempo and again benefits from the expert string backdrop. ‘Whoever You Are’ is a little too obvious a Fleetwood Mac nod but pleasant.
Timeless quality pop music by someone who already lives and breathes it, that’s what we have here, listeners. Part of me would love to roll Harriet in the musical dirt and see what more she is capable of, in a mire of distortion… but I can only salute a team doing this fresh pop so very well. Invigoration awaits all purchasers.
Harriet’s self-titled debut album is released on Friday 7th October 2016 on Bright Star Records. Her new single ‘First and Last’ is also released on the same day.
For more information on the artist and live dates etc, point the Jimmy Choos at www.harrietsmusic.com
For my review of her Pheasantry show, the link is here: http://bit.ly/2aG7Ai3
(Many thanks to Harriet and Sam for providing the photos and for helping with this review)