Judith Owen

redisCOVERed

(Twanky Records)

Owen is one of our favourite artists here at Just Listen To This – on account of her imagination, musical skills, choice of accompanists, beguiling voice, bravery and waspish humour. But this writer’s heart sank when looking at the songs she has selected for this collection. I was probably hoping for Judith’s take on, say First We Take Manhattan, Running Up That Hill, Use Me…instead there are quite a few numbers I am in no hurry to hear once or ever again. There, I said it. But surely Owen is far too canny an artist and performer to err too much and so with a deep breath, we press ‘Play’…

The programme kicks off with Hotline Bling, a Carole King style treatment of the Drake piece which puts the lyric upfront with minimalist musical backing. It sounds here like a pastoral moment in a stage musical. But Drake ain’t Nick Drake so this is no silk purse, sorry. On to Shape Of You, a Latin-ised take on one of already-rich-enough Ed Sheeran’s nursery rhymes. Yes, he is popular..like Nando’s and The Sun are popular. The vocal delivery here is excellent and you would expect nothing less..

The song Black Hole Sun is forever ruined for me by a harsh parody released in America a few years back, called A**hole Son. Owen treats this Cornell song to a skipping edge-of-baroque arrangement. It’s different enough to be listenable and the backing is sympathetic, bordering on gorgeous at times. Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff gets a restrained jazzy approach and works pretty well. I must ask acquaintance Bruce Sudano what he thinks of it. Could have used a muted trumpet, perhaps. The groove here does grow on you.

Next is Cherokee Louise which is a sensitive virtual tone-poem of the chilled Joni Mitchell tune and albeit sombre this version ticks all boxes. Soul need not be shouty.

Can’t Stop The Feeling is the Justin Timberlake tune. Hardly the Wordsworth of music and the nimble bassline can’t save this. Owen is finding a depth in this that eludes this listener. The vocal arrangement is splendid. Back to Joni next, for Ladies’ Man taken at an unsettling jumpy tempo with a splash of Brubeck, verging on reggae. Again the bass runs are magical. A song that has been mauled by many follows – Smoke On The Water. The setting here is quasi-Kate Bush.

Summer Nights is the song from Grease. Funeral pacing dilutes any joy in the words. It threatens to segue into Summertime at any moment. Play That Funky Music was a worldwide hit for US band Wild Cherry. Their only good song, as I found to my cost when I bought a full import album by them, on a whim. The two-guitar arrangement sold the original recording. Here, it sounds like an outtake from Hair, I kid you not! The Beatles’ Blackbird is given a piano-based reverential, almost hymnal reading and no damage done. The programme ends with Dream A Little Dream Of Me is played and sung straight, quite lovely.

One of my favourite singers and her fabulous musicians working in territory I can’t get comfortable with…my loss, most likely. Hot Stuff is the gem, for my money.

Pete Sargeant

 



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(Thanks to Asher and all of the team at Republic Media)

Judith Owen's new studio album 'redisCOVERed' is released on Friday 25th May 2018 on through Twanky Records.

In addition, Judith Owen will perform her only UK date of 2018 on Sunday 9th September 2018 at the legendary Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London, United Kingdom. You can purchase tickets directly from the venue here: http://bit.ly/2klFOt4

To purchase the album and for more information visit her official website here: http://bit.ly/1W1W6Fn

Judith Owen