Monday, August 28, 2017

CD Odyssey Disc 1046: Imelda May

I had a lovely weekend, including buying a couple of albums at the local record store because…that’s how I roll. This time I got the 2017 Sheer Mag album “Need to Feel Your Love” a sort of disco/rock throwback record that – spoiler alert – is going to score very well when I finally get a chance to review it.

I also bought the 2015 Dwight Yoakam album “Second Hand Heart.” I didn’t need to feel Dwight’s love quite so much so I’ve been waiting patiently to find this one…second hand. I finally did.

OK, on to an album that is older than both those records, albeit not by much.

Disc 1046 is…Tribal
Artist: Imelda May

Year of Release: 2014

What’s up with the Cover? Imelda shows off her signature hair style and her rocker’s heart.

How I Came To Know It: I discovered Imelda May from an episode of the Jools Holland show, but “Tribal” was just me buying her latest album when it came out.

How It Stacks Up:  I have four of Imelda May’s five albums. Of those four, “Tribal” is only third best, but I still like it.

Ratings: 3 stars

“Tribal” is Imelda May’s fourth album and at this point she has perfected her sound.

For the most part, this is a good thing. May’s vocals are as strong as ever, throaty and even a little anachronistic in a fun and playful way. It is like some forties crooner was paired with a fifties rocker, stepping out of a time machine in the 2010s and belting out rockabilly standards.

I say standards, even though this album is comprised entirely of original songs. It is just in the hands of May songs feel timeless. She’s an old soul that fully embraces the fundamentals of music, and then dresses them up with a whole lot of glitz, energy and performance.

The songs are all written by May with the exception of two tracks by guitarist (and then husband) Darrell Higham and they’re well thought out and played with vigor. Higham is a gifted player and knows how to hang around right in the pocket and let Imelda be the star of the show.

The fact that May has never achieved massive stardom always surprises me. She is equally capable of being fierce, playful or sultry. For the former, she delivers a guitar driven locomotive of a song with “Wild Woman” where she climbs up on top of Higham’s furious surfer groove, mixing a bit of vibrato in with a lot of growl and making the combination work.

On “It’s Good To Be Alive” she saunters through the song with perfect timing and phrasing. It is playful and upbeat and celebratory. The lyrics aren’t all sweetness and light, but May makes it clear that a few troubles won’t keep her down.

On “Wicked Way” May gets sexy and sultry, aided by a lasciviously played trumpet (or maybe flugelhorn, I can’t tell). Whatever it is, it is a very naughty horn indeed, and May’s vocals dance it slowly around the room, holding it tight. O, to be a flugelhorn.

For all those high points (and there are many), there were moments here and there when the record loses my interest. It isn’t the playing or the singing, both of which are excellent. Rather, there are a few songs that are just forgettable. They’ve got lots of energy but not doing anything new or exciting in my earholes. I’d point out which ones, but that would kind of defeat the point, wouldn’t it?

It was telling for me that after this album, May took a three year break and came back with a different musical style (and haircut) with “Life Love Flesh Blood.” You get the feeling on “Tribal” that while she’s mastered her sound, she’s also stretched it into all the corners it will go. The production is crisp and lush, and you can tell May knows exactly how these songs should sound. If it is all a little too perfect in places, I’d be happy if more records had that problem.

Best tracks: Wild Woman, It’s Good to be Alive, Hellfire Club, Wicked Way, 

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