Review: Jack Foley & Hollie Carnevale
"ALTHOUGH people talk about the 'difficult second album',
I've enjoyed the pressure and the pleasure of getting this album
right for myself initially, rather than specifically worrying
about what other people might think.
"I'm very pleased with the album and I feel that people
who bought Call Off The Search will not be disappointed
and that others will also discover something to like in it."
So says Katie Melua on the eve of the release of her sophomore
effort, Piece By Piece, which finds her attempting to
surpass the success of her debut (which became Britain's biggest
seller in Britain and has so far attracted three million copies
The good news, for Melua fans, is that the artist seems to have
recovered the form that helped turn her into a household name
in certain quarters.
But the album does, as Melua predicts, occasionally reach out
to a potentially wider fanbase thanks to its ability to draw on
a number of influences and remain fascinatingly diverse.
There are some self-penned tracks as well as some covers but,
for the most part, it's an accomplished affair that feels as though
Melua has taken her time over it.
It's also distinctly blues-based, occasionally feeling ponderous
depending on the mood it catches you in at the time.
Highlights include the recent single, Nine Million Bicycles,
which is genuinely sweet. The track was inspired by Melua's own
visit to China and some of the things she heard on the trip, thereby
equating the fact that there are nine million bicycles in Beijing
with the certainty she is in love.
The meandering blasts of flute that weave their way throughout
lend the song a Chinese feel and make it quite enticing.
Further evidence of the album's diverse instrumention is evident
on the upbeat and melodic Thank You, Stars, which provides
more heartfelt lyrics and a really nice blend of strings and mandolin.
While the kooky Halfway Up The Hindu Kush is another
that demonstrates Melua's vocals at their most happy go lucky
- it's no coincidence that all three tracks were written by the
conductor, Mike Batt.
Elsewhere, Melua demonstrates a more melancholy and mature style
on self-penned tracks such as Piece By Piece and I
Cried For You - although such moodswings can sometimes catch
you off-guard if you're not in the right mood for them.
More straightforward blues fare comes in the form of Blues
In The Night and Blue Shoes, both of which find
Melua at her moodiest, while a slightly more rousing cover version
of On The Road Again feels like the sound of an artists
having fun with one of her favourite tunes.
It lacks the edge of the original but should still delight fans,
while bringing the album out of one of its brooding passages.
Another cover version drew a more mixed response from both these
listeners, however. The artist has re-recorded The Cure's seminal
Just Like Heaven for the soundtrack of the forthcoming
movie of the same name.
The hardcore Cure fan among us found it risible and sickly sweet,
while the Melua fan enjoyed the acoustic guitar and female makeover
given to Robert Smith's classic.
That said, given that we represent both a Melua fan and sceptic
it's satisfying to be able to report that Piece By Piece
does achieve what Melua set out to - that is to say, fans will
get what they're seeking, while the album does indeed appeal in
small doses to those who may not have been touched by the artist's
work so far.