Written on: 22/10/2009 by degbert (120 reviews written)
Other reviewers have given this a 5 out of 5 and even though I would not class every track as a belter it's a comfortable 5 and a quite staggeringly good quality recording, showing what a true live music genius she was. And as, of course, there are precious few recordings of her before her untimely death, it warrants a certain respect that is entirely due.
A previous reviewer has done justice to a track by track review of the album, and indeed shared some background behind some of the songs, and indeed how Cassidy herself felt about the recording. A great review.
My perspective here is from a musical content point of view.
Some of the album borrows songs that also found their way on to her classic studio album, Songbird. We'll come to that later.
Where I think this recording earns its stripes is within the first 3 songs, easing as it does, quite effortlessly, from trad(ish) jazz, through deep south blues, crossing into more contemporary folk. Within the first 10 minutes of a gig this is a big ask, but the way in which it was faultlessly and so cohesively achieved is a tribute not only to Cassidy's excellent backing players (about whom I know precious little outside of their names), but also to the sheer power, energy and versatility of her voice.
Cheek to cheek is a Berlin classic and is probably a cover that has been done so many times it pains me to try to describe it. But the laid back, minimalist, jazz quad of drum, bass, guitar and piano do the whole thing justice, as it skips along supporting Cassidy's sometimes breathless melody. A warm and happy intro to any gig!
Second is my personal favourite, though I am a bit of a blues junky so no surprises ... T. Bone Walker's Stormy Monday is a wondeful 12-bar south country blues , given a gentle jazz treatment but retaining an earthy charm. Probably notable for an impressive piece of guitarwork by Keith Grimes (sp?). This song is quite wonderful on so many levels I find myself playing it over and over again.
And third is probably one of those songs where you expect something and then something completely different shows up. The song is great not only for what is played but what itn't. The restraint and finesse on this arrangement is what truly sets it apart from other versions - Paul Simon's lavishly ostentatious version, good as it is, just sounds over-produced and, well, contrived to me now.
I also love the treatment given to Take Me to the River, which is a refreshingly upbeat foil to some of the more melancholy tunes in the set. Speaking of which - even though they are on Songbird - the versions of Fields of Gold and Autumn Leaves are note-perfect, you have to remind yourself that this is live; quite breathtaking. I still can't listen to Autum Leaves without having to fight back the tears, its a beautiful song.
For those reasons and many more its a must...
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