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Madeleine Peyroux - Half The Perfect World

Madeleine Peyroux, Half The Perfect World

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

SMOKY voiced singer Madeleine Peyroux found world-wide fame with her debut album Careless Love. Its follow-up Half The Perfect World only looks set to build on her reputation.

Reminiscent of both Norah Jones and Britain’s own Katie Melua, Peyroux is another hugely successful artist that has found success from reinterpreting the work of other singers and songwriters she’s admired.

Half The Perfect World is, however, notable for including four songs that she co-wrote.

Most of the album explores romantic relationships from a distinctly female perspective and from a lot of personal experience. Hence, they take on a more intimate quality that’s both earnest and heartfelt in the extreme.

Produced with the help of Larry Klein, the 12 songs in question take in artists such as Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Fred Neil and Joni Mitchell.

Most take on a lazy but no-less enchanting quality that are designed to bring out the best in those smoky vocals. The backing instruments – whether flute, piano or acoustic guitar – providing a low-key presence that never threatens to take the limelight away from the singer.

Highlights include her reworking of Joni Mitchell’s The River, upon which she duets with KD Lang, and the extremely laidback California Rain which sounds like it hails from a different era. It contains a jazz-like shuffle that’s distinctly lazy, as well as a country guitar riff that weaves its way lazily in and out of the keyboards. It’s one of three songs co-written by Peyroux, Larry Klein and Jesse Harris.

Intriguingly, and somewhat disappointingly, it’s very similar in structure to album opener I’m All Right, one of the more upbeat offerings and another that Peyroux contributed to. But just try listening to them one after the other – the underlying melodies are virtually identical and you can’t help but feel a little cheated.

Perhaps this is a sign that Peyroux is better suited to reworking the songs of others, who knows. But it does come as a disappointment.

Of the other notable efforts, however, her emotional reworking of Charlie Chaplin’s Smile brings the album to a supremely satisfying close (complete with nice horns), while her take on Cohen’s Blue Alert and Half The Perfect World imbue the songs with her own sensibilities, while hinting at Leonard’s own distinct vocal style.

Like the aforementioned likes of Jones and Melua, Peyroux has the sort of voice that is capable of widespread appeal and massive sales success. It’s easy to listen to and perfectly suited to a classic piano lounge style of place. Some may dismiss it as perfect dinner party music even. But while certainly not far off the mark, she has something about her that’s enchanting and worth paying attention to – so long as you’re a fan of her particular style.

Half The Perfect World is therefore a worthy follow-up to Careless Love with some genuinely special moments. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t impress quite so well when it comes to some of Peyroux’s own writing.

Track listing:

  1. I’m All Right
  2. The Summer Wind
  3. Blue Alert
  4. Everybody’s Talking
  5. River (with K.D. Lang)
  6. All I Need Is A Little Bit
  7. Once In A While
  8. (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night
  9. Half The Perfect World
  10. La Javanaise
  11. California Rain
  12. Smile