Boom Recordings [Release date 15.04.16]
‘Renaissance’ is easily Connie Lush’s best album as she embraces a new sophistication with strong songs, an intuitive production and subtle band support, all of which is illuminated the clarity of John Astley’s mastering.
When you add Steve Wright’s intuitive production and judicious mix with Wayne Proctor, you have all the ingredients for an arresting album.
However, there’s not quite enough light and shade and the album is robbed of its potential spark by a surfeit slow to mid-tempo arrangements. ‘Renaissance’ is still a very good album, but not quite the breakthrough album that Connie talent so richly deserves.
It almost sounds as if everyone is trying too hard to be tasteful, meaning that highlights such as ‘Blame (It All On Me)’ and ‘Crying Won’t Help You’ lose some of their impact among similar mid-paced fare.
The keyboard playing guitarist, producer and engineer Steve Wright plays to her vocal strengths as an interpretive singer on a mix of heartfelt songs, finely honed arrangements and intricate guitar parts, but you can’t help but notice its at the expense of her natural vivacity.
It’s one thing to aim for the middle ground and project yourself as an interpretive balladeer on well crafted material, but its quite another for that material to become bogged own by a one dimensional feel.
The beautifully worked and superbly sung ‘Lonely Boy’ for example, benefits from a nuanced jangling guitar line and sets a high standard, but it becomes lost in similarly structured material
Connie applies her angelic vocals, alongside Wright’s wide array of tones and some brief telling solos that fleetingly evoke Peter Green, except that he’s too restrained. Even the reticent Green knew the value of space, dynamics and the power of a good resolution
Everybody dutifully works towards the same well crafted goal, but this album isn’t so much the renaissance of its title as a subtle adjustment and a refinement of Connie’s style. And occasionally it does pay off, as on the repeated plaintive hook of ‘Blame (It All On Me)’, a radio friendly outing that will almost certainly also provide her with a highpoint of her live show.
And while the following ‘Don’t Cry For Me’, features another fine vocal and a sultry guitar line, it’s actually a missed opportunity. This is the moment when the album should start to build its impetus and spark. Instead, it settles into another mid-tempo groove, which in turn sucks the energy out of the following ‘I Don’t Say Goodbye’.
The cleverly worked little pregnant pauses that draw the listener into the engaging guitar line would normally be framed by accompanying lift in the song sequence, but its that kind of infrastructure that this album lacks.
All that said, ‘Renaissance’ is still a very good album. It’s doubtful Connie has sung better or worked with a better band. The arrangements suit her style, as her rhythm section of drummer Roy Martin and bassist Terry Harris lean into the grooves, as she works her way round a few root notes and colours her songs with her own personality.
She soars on the funky groove of ‘Shine A Light On Me’, emotes on ‘Crying Won’t Help You’ and occasionally repeats a phrase for emphasis. Her effortless range delivers some real moments to treasure, but she can’t shake off the problem of the album’s pacing.
Steve Wright’s jazzy blues styling and Connie’s phrasing push ‘Falling Down Like Rain’ to the brink of excitement, but they pair it with the Bonnie Raitt cover ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ which makes for a low key finish to an enjoyable album, instead of a strong finish to an exceptional one.
‘Renaissance’ is worth its 4 stars for the excellent performances by all concerned. It might garner decent radio plays, but if the album fails to deliver a significant result, they will have to have a rethink. ****
Review Pete Feenstra
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