Album reviews

Melody Gardot – ‘Sunset in the Blue (Deluxe Edition)’

Melody Gardot – Sunset in the Blue (Deluxe Edition)

(Decca. Album Review by John Bungey)

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So, deluxe editions … an energetic attempt to extract cash from super-fans or a valuable new perspective on an admired body of work? The answer is probably both, though in these tough old times you can’t begrudge any artist a second chomp at the cherry. The singer Melody Gardot has form here: her last album, Currency of Man, returned in an “artist’s cut” with extended tracks and interludes that upped the sultry atmosphere and made a strong album stronger.

Of course Sunset in the Blue is a very different beast – where Currency of Man was all funk rhythm and social consciousness, Sunset is all swoonsome escapism. It turns out that this was what the lockdown world wanted and Sunset was a pop-chart hit around Europe last autumn. If The Look of Love is your favourite Diana Krall album, then Gardot, assisted by producer Larry Klein and arranger Vince Mendoza, is travelling down the same sun-dappled street here. The strings of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra feather-bed nine of the ballads and torch songs.

But should you swap your copy for the de luxe version? (Whatever you do, don’t flog it to Music Magpie, who were offering just 65p when I checked. Yes, 65p … damn those algorithms.) The mildly annoying news is that the five extra tracks are worth having – at least if you felt the lushly upholstered sound on the 13 original tracks needed more contrast or variety. What’s added here are low-key performances with Gardot’s voice – that mix of seduction and vulnerability – accompanied by acoustic bass, brushed snare and discreet electric guitar.

The song From Paris With Love minus its orchestral cocoon now sounds as if it could have come from the Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions or some other album of unpolished Americana. On Elton John’s Love Song, the trumpet of Ibrahim Maalouf replace the strings and fits the mood of quiet yearning. There are decent covers of the standards What is this Thing Called Love and Trav’lin’ Light that hark back to her early days in the jazz clubs of Philadelphia. Both are new to the album. Finally, there’s a studio run-through of C’est Magnifique, her duet with the Portuguese singer António Zambujo, which no longer has the fiddles commenting on every vocal phrase. Gardot calls these versions “vulnerable and fragile, unapologetic and unvarnished”; I’d say they were just about right.

Melody Gardot’s Sunset in the Blue (Deluxe Edition) is released on 16 April 2021

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