Friday, 23 July 2010
Allison Crowe - Spiral
My first impression on opening the package was of the unusual nature of the digipak that contains the CD. It is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The design of the pak, which opens out to reveal the disc, is beautifully conceived and contains a montage of part embossed and wonderfully colourful images around the main disc holder. Unusually, and so much better is the way that the user does not need to drag the disc out of a tight cardboard sleeve, thus scratching it forever, but can merely remove it from a slotted base after all the flaps have been folded back.
So, full marks for packaging but what about the content? Allison is known for the largely piano based output of her previous albums like the acoustic ‘Little Light’ released in 1998, but this time she has gathered her small but select touring band around her and the effect is to fill out her sound in quite a delicate way.
As has become standard for Allison’s albums there is a majority of original material with one or two covers of others’ songs. In this instance, she has covered Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel No 2’ and Annie Lennox’s ‘Why’ and for me these are the highlights. It takes a certain type of artist to take another’s song and have the insight to reinterpret it in a way that makes you see another side to the song. There has been a good amount of discussion about the subject of covers in this blog in recent months and commentators have contributed a whole list of cover versions from a variety of artists where they feel that this object has been achieved. Certainly it is a subject that seems to provoke a lot of debate amongst musicians and listeners alike. In the case of Allison Crowe I do not need to make a case as her record of covering songs by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and other big hitters in the song writing fraternity proves.
This album shows yet again what a sensitive interpreter she is. ‘Why’ in particular is a tour de force performance giving the song a spine tingling sheen. And this is where I find myself wondering what direction her career might take. Left to me, I’d say that in view of her special talent, she should reorganise the content of her albums and increase the number of covers. This sounds like her own material is sub-standard, but that is not true, it is just that she may find playing to her obvious strengths may benefit her in the longer term, but that’s just my opinion.
In any event, this is another fine album and comes with an unconditional recommendation.