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Holly Cole

Shade

  • Holly Cole - vocal

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"People still write great songs musically today but few people still write great lyrics. For me, the lyrics are as important as the music. I can’t convincingly sing lyrics I can’t get behind. Also, there are some songs that I think, ‘Wow, that’s a brilliant lyric and a brilliant song but it is not for me.’ There must be something personal there that really compels me to sing it. I often look for a possible subtext which, co-existing with the text, can make a song extremely challenging and intriguing to sing." Holly Cole, 2003 Summer’s gone but here’s a new Holly Cole album that captures the brightness of summer and combines it with a touch of autumnal melancholy — SHADE. It’s an equally playful and deep collection of timeless songs and just as shadows and light require each other in real life, these new interpretations by Canada’s leading songstress delve deep into the emotional twilight worlds of the jazz and pop standard, a musical world where the bright and the dark are closely intertwined. SHADE is another perfectly rounded offering from a singer who never fails to present challenging and moving renditions of the songs she chosses to cover. She never fails to make them her own. SHADE is another mature work by an artist whose musical passions and craft are very unique. Anyone listening to her voice live or on record will be struck time and again by the amount of understanding and respect she brings to her material, no matter if it’s a timeless classic by the likes of Cole Porter, Rodgers/Hammerstein and Loewe/Lerner or a modern day pop standard by Brian Wilson. All of these masters have written songs that are bound to bridge the gap between past, present and future and it’s precisely this sense of greatness and timelessness that seems to inspire Holly Cole. Audiences are being pulled into a special place. It’s a place where the material world no longer seems to matter and it’s pretty much irresistable. Holly Cole’s art is the art of the interpreter. She communicates truth through song and never fails to entertain. Today’s audiences may be more brainwashed than ever by the sonic surfaces of modern day pop, but hearing a great singer sing a great song still seems to be a thing of undeniable merit. SHADE presents a bunch of new renditions of songs, all of which have been fashioned with passion and a lot of heart. Moreover, it’s also an album that features the production skills of Holly Cole for the very first time. Wearing a producer’s hat seems to have been quite a stimulating but also demanding job: "I did not know what a load it is to produce," Cole admits. "Even though I was very active in production before I didn’t have the responsibility of a full record. I’d leave the studio and everything would continue. This time when my job of singing was over I had other jobs to do. Like figuring out what instrumentation to use, and how much it costs. How many hours will we need at the big studio with the strings and horns? It’s different when there’s nobody to ask questions to but yourself, and everybody who is asking questions is asking you." But it’s not like she was on her own totally. Her legendary trio featuring pianist Aaron Davis, and bassist David Piltch reunited for this project and trusted folks like guitar-player Kevin Breit, drummer Mark Kelso and double bassist George Koller were on board as well — a close-knit team of friends whose enthusiasm went far beyond the services of hired studio hands. The music was conjured up in two studios, including Cole’s new home studio. This proved to be central for her in terms of getting her vocal takes down, because even a masterful singer like Cole is not on top form every day: "In a regular studio if your voice doesn’t happen to be good the day you are set to record, you’re screwed. At home, I could wake up in the middle of the night and go down stairs and record. My mood would be just right. It was fantastic." She may have put an emphasis on standards this time around, but this doesn’t mean that Holly Cole can be put in a bag all that easily. There’s more than one category for someone like her. Presuming the art of interpretation is central to the jazz experience, Holly Cole must be considered a jazz singer in spirit. She always designs personal forms of many emotional shades for her material and delves into a lyric to discover new meaning. She also knows about the jazz tradition but is hesitant to call herself a jazz singer: "No genre of music talks more about its own definition than jazz," she says, "but I’m not really interested in labels. I’m heavily influenced by jazz but on my albums I have always mixed jazz with other styles of music. The category thing may be necessary for the music machine — for critics, record companies, record stores and radio — but the people who listen to music don’t care what the music is called. They either like something or they don’t". So steering clear of the trap of putting a label on SHADE, it should still be safe to conclude that Holly Cole gets better and better with each consecutive album release. Her voice is an undisputed delight — seductive and sensual, open and intelligent, charming and intimate - with a sense of humor coming through on more than one occasion. More than just a couple of these traits can also be found in the lady’s charming personality. Both the stage and private personalities of Holly Cole are authentic. But she’s also a notorious hard worker and a perfectionst. Very much true to these character traits of La Cole, the music on SHADE features a rich variety of detail. Sophisticated vocal phrasings, subtle re-harmonising of song changes, structural precision work and finesse — all of which are being held together by a totally unique personality, putting Holly Cole more than just a notch above many of her colleagues. To anyone who’s followed Holly Cole’s artistic journey from her early beginnings in the early Eighties to her first successes in the record business will most likely concede that she easily belongs to today’s leading ladies of song interpretation. She got to this place by using her natural gifts — individuality, humor, warmth and intelligence. She also has a certain preference for musical minimalism, the latter being a tantalizing feature on SHADE. It’s a record that conveys the picture of an ambitious artist whose songs are as classic as the way she chooses to present them, utilizing a small acoustic line-up with additional touches of strings and horns. The thing she still likes to sing about most are affairs of the heart and the traps of love: "I’m a shameless romantic", she confesses. "No doubt about it. I’m pathetic." "God Only Knows" (Brian Wilson), "Something Cool"(William C. Barnes), "Too Darn Hot"(Cole Porter), "We Kiss In A Shadow"(Rodgers/Hammerstein), "It Never Entered My Mind" (Rodgers/Hart), "Moonglow"(de Lange/Mills/Hudson) — these are just some of the gems Holly Cole chooses to present on SHADE. But beware - when the last notes of "Lazy Afternoon" have subsided it’s not over yet. "Mad About the Boy", a Noel Coward tune, is the final hidden gift and another song made for eternity — sung by an extraordinary singer. SHADE by Holly Cole is out now on TRADITION & MODERN

 

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