Album review: BARBARA BLACK – Ad Libitum

BARBARA BLACK - Ad Libitum

[Release date 18.09.17]

Barbara Black (not a very Spanish name) is, by all accounts, one of the best female voices on the Spanish female singer/songwriter, rock/metal scene.

A classically trained singer, as well a pianist, and make-up artist and hairdresser for film and TV, Bach began singing with progressive rock band Abelian in 2003, in 2007 forming an ‘American’ rock band Black Rock with whom she recorded her first album Todo al Negro in 2010, with a follow up Just Kiss My Rocks in 2013.

An acoustic solo EP followed in 2014, including covers of Mr Big’s ‘Voodoo Kiss’, Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Hurt’, before work began in 2016 on a five track EP that feeds three numbers into her debut album Ad Libitum.

But the videos for those three numbers sum up the image quandary that Black clearly faces – in ‘Shiva’ – a piano led power ballad, she goes goth with black dress, nails, lips and eye shadow; in ‘Alabama Rose’, an acoustic led ballad/duet she has the ‘clean cut’ girl next door image; while ‘Southern Soul’ bristles with metal rock chick attitude – blue jeans, black leather worn cowgirl hat and shades.

And that’s when she’s not conducting vocal workshops, theatrical make-up workshops, playing a showgirl, taking part in educational shows for children, singing in a vintage jazz-cabaret quintet, or presenting on rock radio.

Yes, she’s a multi-talented lady, but is Ad Libitum, which sets out to blend country-rock, gospel and southern roots rock, any good?

Sadly, it’s of an over-egged pudding.  Black’s vocal inflections make the lyrics difficult to follow, the material is a bit pedestrian and telegraphed, and lacking in show stopping hooks.  Yes, there’s plenty of big guitars, chunky riffs, and fretboard noodling, and, lyrical delivery aside, Black gives a credible femme fatale vocal performance.  But overall, there’s a general lack of finesse and focus.

Covering bases as diverse as those inhabited by Slash, Jim Steinman, Vixen and Bonnie Tyler, there’s one thing you need – killer songs, and, sadly, Ad Libitum falls short in that respect.  And I have a real issue with the vocal delivery – for the most part, Black may just as well be singing in native tongue.

Probably great entertainment if you’re on the Costas looking for some flirty raunch & roll, but unlikely to translate to an overseas audience.  **1/2

Review by Pete Whalley


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