When Newsnibbles asked me if I would review Something Wonderful by Catherine Sykes, my first question was, “Is it a concept album?” The response, “No, it’s jazz,” gave me pause for thought. I don’t know anything about jazz. That said; I don’t actually know anything about metal and no-one seems to have noticed so far: so I thought, why not?
The album consists of eleven tracks, including one original song written for Catherine by Nicky Campbell of Wheel of Fortune and Watchdog fame. Personally I’ve been holding out for years for Anne Robinson to write me a Rap. Together I think that Anne and I could go platinum with the Robinson Rap: Goodbye. Well, not actually goodbye, that’s what we’d call the rap and subsequent album. Anyway, enough about me – to Something Wonderful.
As you know, if you are a regular reader of my reviews, I like to spend a bit of time talking to the artist and getting a feel for their intensions for the album. However, when I phoned Catherine and said that I was writing a piece for Newsnibbles the line went dead. I have been thinking about changing network for a while now.
Something Wonderful is the second album from a truly original vocalist. Whilst Signing In (2006) introduced the world to the uniquely haunting vocal styling of Catherine Sykes, this latest album seems to be infinitely more confident. It combines musical arrangements by Paul Buck, with a wide variety of instrumental support, which creates a different atmosphere for each song, allowing them to stand alone as well coming together into a beautifully compiled album.
The first thing that struck me about this album was its diversity. It showcases a variety of tempo from the soulful “Every Time We Say Goodbye” to the catchy, upbeat “Taking a Chance on Love.” With the help of some extremely talented musicians, Catherine transports us to different places with each new number. “Caravan” immediately carried me away from my slightly mouldy cupboard to the Arabian Desert with images of Valentino’s Sheik.
The album carries a universal appeal and can be enjoyed on many different levels. “I’ve Got a Crush on You” offers us the mellow, somewhat pensive vocals, with minimal accompaniment from piano, drums and bass. The next track, “Lean Baby” is a much more up tempo number and sees Catherine really getting into her stride. It has a number of excellent instrumental solos which are an integral part of jazz and can’t help but cheer you up. The order of the tracks is very cleverly arranged to ensure each haunting mellow number is followed by an upbeat one guaranteed to get your feet tapping even if you don’t have my nervous twitch.
Of course I can’t talk about the album without talking about Nicky Campbell’s input. It is what everyone has been waiting hear about anyway. According to Nicky in his preface to the CD he “was completely blown away” the first time he heard Catherine sing “and immediately offered to write a song for her.” You’ll be pleased to learn that, in my view, it is jolly catchy. I can’t help but wonder whether in places he just put a word in because it rhymed, or to showcase his multi-linguistic writing skills, without actually concerning himself too much as to whether in makes sense. That said it is addictively memorable and, combined with solid instrumentals and vocals he appears to have a hit on his hands. I can’t get it out of my head, but once I have submitted this review I will try by hitting it repeatedly against a concrete wall. Thanks Nicky.
Something Wonderful seems to be a group of very talented musicians really enjoying themselves and as such it can’t help but make you smile. I thoroughly enjoyed listening and I have the distinct impression that the artists really enjoyed making it. Well worth a listen, check it out for yourselves.
You can hear samples of Something Wonderful and get yourself a copy here: http://catherinesykes.com/
And here if you are in the right place apparently: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/catherinesykes2
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