Melody Gardot – Sunset in the Blue (released 23 October)
(Decca. CD review by John Bungey)
Well this is a surprise. You may have heard the radio-friendly single Little Something that the American singer-songwriter has conjured up with Sting. However, that sunny slice of Latin lite gives zero clues to Gardot’s fifth studio album. Nor, for that matter, does her fourth album, Currency of Man, which was all rootsy funk and socially aware lyrics addressing racism and poverty.
No, in Covid times Gardot has evidently decided that (in the spirit of Bacharach and David) what the world needs now is love. On Sunset in the Blue, Gardot is in torrid torch-song mode with nine of her most swoonsome performances detailing passion and desire cushioned by the strings of the Royal Philharmonic. For one song, From Paris with Love, she uses musicians auditioned during lockdown beaming in their parts from around the world.
This is Gardot reunited with producer Larry Klein and arranger Vince Mendoza returning to the lustrously upholstered ballad style first heard on My One and Only Thrill in 2009. The voice is close-miked, a mix of the sensual and vulnerable, channelling the ghost of Julie London; echoes too of Diana Krall’s The Look of Love – a photogenic jazz maiden making sweet music designed to be heard far beyond the jazz basements.
Gardot, of course, is good at this sort of thing: she sets the tone with the opener – gently tremulous delivery over discreet guitar, double bass and percussion swathed in violins and cellos. C’est Magnifique (video below) is all sun and sultriness on Ipanema Beach; Love Song polishes up a strong tune from Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection; her You Won’t Forget Me takes Carly Simon’s original out of the concert hall into the boudoir.
And so the soft-focus mood continues until the orchestra at last takes a break – and possibly some smelling salts – during the breezy, upbeat Ninguém Ninguém, one of two songs sung in Portuguese. It’s a welcome brief change of pace before the landscape turns languorous again. That old wanderlust warhorse Moon River gets a trot out (aren’t there some well-used standards that now deserve time off for good behaviour? See also Summertime).
Individually, nothing here is less than accomplished – with From Paris with Love played by its virtual global orchestra particularly lovely – and Gardot remains a singular talent who never makes the same album twice. But the uniformity of mood here lessens the impact; it’s as if every ballad is auditioning for the romantic climax of a Richard Curtis film. A little more swing and a little less smooch next time, please.
Postscript: For purposes of comparison, I started listening to Currency of Man (Artist’s Cut) again. Five years ago on its release I thought the album impressive but too derivative of 1970s styles. Listening now, those qualms are gone – it’s a belter.
LINK: Pre-order the album now