Melody Gardot: Live in Europe – The Review

Jazz chanteuse Melody Gardot paints the aural canvas like few others; and Live in Europe, which collects live performances from 2012 through 2016, is a testament to that fact. In the studio, she blends the primary colors of music – the heart and soul – into a wide array of hues, both light and dark, colorful and monotone. On the stage, however, she expands the palate even further, fusing together jazz, R&B and traditional pop into a hypnotic listen.

The album opens with “Our Love Is Easy,” one of many standout tracks from her 2009 album My One and Only Thrill, as performed in 2012 Paris.

Another of that album’s tracks is presented twice – “Baby I’m a Fool.” The first, from Vienna 2013, is spellbinding in its seductiveness; the second, from London 2016, is equally wondrous and luscious. Why she chose to include both, however, is a bit of a mystery. (She curated the set herself, as she explains in the liner notes.) But I have no complaints – it’s a great song.

In the studio, her songs are often marvels of singer-songwriter precision, with the placement of each note serving a purpose larger than itself. Live, however, she and her band often transform the same songs into intricate jams that extend and explore each note as if they’re songs unto themselves. For example, the studio version of “Who Will Comfort Me,” also from My One and Only Thrill, is a fairly compact, finger-snapping plea of a beaten-down soul. The live rendition here, recorded in Amsterdam 2015, features a Paradise Lost-like swirl of torment courtesy of trumpeter Shareef Clayton.

Likewise, in its studio incarnation, Currency of Man’s soulful “Morning Sun” has all the earmarks of a lost singer-songwriter gem from the early or mid-1970s. In Paris 2015, however – much like Philadelphia 2015 – the song mimics a sunrise in more faithful fashion, slowly cascading from the horizon and into the sky until, at last, light overwhelms darkness. It’s soulful and dramatic, stirring and hypnotic, and no longer conjures one era but all eras, past, present and future. It’s magical and mystical, like Live in Europe as a whole.

It’s well worth checking out, in other words.

The set is available as a double-CD, triple-LP or digital download (and is also available to stream on the usual outlets). The track list:

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Today’s Top 5: Pat Benatar

Most folks know the first video played on MTV: “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles. What many people often forget, or never learned, is the second video: Pat Benatar’s rendition of the Rascals’ “You Better Run.”

In the beginning, MTV basically translated the radio experience to TV – and that, believe it or not, was it. (The “reality” programming that now congests the cable channel wouldn’t arrive until 1992 and The Real World.) VJs, aka video jockeys, introduced music videos and sometimes interviewed the artists. As this list of the first 208 tracks played shows, the songs spanned the typical AOR spectrum of styles. There was plenty of new wave, rock and pop, in other words, but no R&B or soul. And there were limited videos available at the start, as that list shows, which meant many clips – including “You Better Run” – were played over and over again.

The impact was immediate.

In her memoir, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Pat Benatar recalls, “In one week, our world changed. After Crimes of Passion, I’d become much more recognizable, but it was nothing like what happened after MTV. To have a hit song on the radio was to have someone know your voice, your sound. To have a hit video was to have someone know your face. The semi-anonymity that we enjoyed was gone. We had officially arrived, and America had seen our faces—a lot. In the week that followed MTV’s launch, I could no longer go to the grocery store or the movies, because I was swamped. People didn’t simply look at me and think I looked familiar. They thought they knew me. It was great and awful, a blessing and a curse. There was no handbook for how to deal with that kind of stardom. Even musicians who’d hit it big on the radio never had to contend with their faces being literally everywhere overnight.”  (The memoir is well worth the read, I should mention.)

Prior, her career was already on an upward arc – her first album, In the Heat of the Night, was released in August 1979 and made it to No. 12 on the charts; and the single “Heartbreaker,” which was a mainstay on AOR radio, made it to No. 23. A year later, Crimes of Passion soared to No. 2 on the charts, while one single, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” cracked the Top 10 at No. 9 and another single, “Treat Me Right,” eked into the Top 20 at No. 18.

But MTV pushed her into the stratosphere. Here’s one of her latter-day videos, from 1985, which I always liked:

Anyway, the scans that spread out across this page are from the Pat Benatar fan club circa the Get Nervous (1983) album. The LP (and cassette) came with a mailer, which I sent in; I received the fold-out pamphlet a month or two later. One side has the pictures; the other, the album’s lyrics. And speaking of Get Nervous, here’s Pat and band on British TV in promotion of it…

Today’s Top 5: New Music Monday

It’s Sunday afternoon as I write, though I plan to post this Monday night. So I’m prognosticating here when I say the Delaware Valley is awash in beer and tears of gratitude. And what better way to celebrate than to dive deep into the digital tubes that connect the Internet and discover great new music?

Here’s a collection of recent videos from new-to-me artists – and one longtime favorite.

1) H.C. McEntire – “Quartz in the Valley.” Mojo – or was it Uncut? – had a good review of McEntire’s solo debut, Lionheart. And after hearing this song, and listening to the album on my morning commute, I have to say – I’m a fan. She’s amazing.

2) Whitney Rose – “Can’t Stop Shakin’.” According to the fine folks over at Uproxx, Whitney – who’s a country singer by way of Canada – penned this infectious tune on Inauguration Day. It’s about seeking escape from the drumbeat of insanity that is the news. The song is from her album Rule 62, which was released last year.

3) Middle Kids – “Mistake.” I stumbled across this Sydney-based trio yesterday, while killing time. Very catchy. Very cool. Their debut album, Lost Friends, is out May 4th.

4) Anna Burch – “Tea-Soaked Letter.” And yet another artist I know nothing about beyond the addictive songs I sampled yesterday. This video was released in December ’17, and the song can be found on her album Quit the Curse, which was released on Friday

5) Neil Young – “Almost Always.” The latest single from Neil’s recent The Visitor recycles the melody – at least in part – from Harvest Moon’s “Unknown Legend.” But it’s Neil. And even recycled Neil is great.