Big Moon Records [Release date 01.09.17]
To the casual observer, it may seem a long time since Judie Tzuke’s last studio release – the excellent One Tree Less, some six years ago.
But those who’ve followed her more closely will have been privy to two first-rate work in progress sets – originally available as monthly downloads , but brought together as year-end collections – Song Club, and Song Club Too – both of which are well worth seeking out.
In the interim Judie has stumbled, sometimes literally, through a series of personal issues and dramas she’d probably prefer to not recount.
But while she’s encountered choppy waters, the worst is hopefully behind her and Peace Has Broken Out – an album originally scheduled for release over 12 months ago under the title Woman Overboard - is now with us.
But while she might have encountered hell and waters high, there’s something to be said about great works emerging from troubled times. When interviewing Marillion’s Steve Hogarth, David Randall made the point that Steve’s most creative periods seemed to coincide with periods of turbulence in his personal life. And it’s a fact – a comfortable existence doesn’t always lend itself to creativity.
Not that Judie Tzuke needs a personal drama to fuel her songwriting – her Tweets will tell you that she often feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. It’s a theme she visits on the foreboding ‘Full Moon Blackout’ -a dark number featuring some tantalising lead guitar lines and sympathetic backing vocals by daughters Bailey and Tallula.
In contrast, ‘Angels and Pipedreams’ is the musical embodiment of the other end of her telescope, and, taken in the round these sensitivities perhaps explain why her songwriting continues to flourish, coincidentally at a time when her vocals are imbued with a warmth and depth that only the years can bring and which add a profoundly heartfelt quality to her storytelling.
The album opens, though, with what was to be the title track – ‘Woman Overboard’ – a broody, introspective string laden song that echoes the sombre mood she must have felt at times during the album’s gestation. The feel of drowning is palpable. It’s a disposition echoed in ‘Love Is Not Enough’ – another self-doubt ridden piece underpinned by some exquisite Spanish style guitar, and returned to later in the album with ‘Lifeline’.
‘So’ ups the tempo a little with mild shades of The Edge in the guitar work, and ‘Enjoy The Ride’ does the seemingly impossible – transcending the version on Morcheeba’s 2008 Deep Dive album. In truth, it’s not significantly updated, with just the vocals brought a little more to the fore, and song allowed a little more space to breathe, but it’s the perfect example of how a great song stands the test of time.
‘Gold’ is an all too brief bluesy toe tapper – a number with a chorus that would undoubtedly resurrect Fleetwood Mac’s globe dominating 1970′s heydays. And in a similar vein, Sade would surely die for the warmly seductive ‘Blue Chair’ (which also featured, in a far more trip-hoppy form, on Morcheeba’s Deep Dive) and the simply gorgeous ‘Hurt In Your Heart’ – an unashamedly sentimental and soulful love song that is certain to be a live favourite.
But while the content may border on the maudlin at times the title track is yet another absorbing break up tale – her vocals bleeding with fragility over an introspective Kate Bush/Army Dreamers-style musical construction.
Peace Has Broken Out is a very beautiful album that comes from the heart. And you can’t ask for more than that. *****
Review by Pete Whalley
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