CD Preview: Madeleine Peyroux - Half the Perfect World (Rounder)
Madeleine Peyroux will release her third album, Half the Perfect World on September 12th in the U.S. and on November 6th in the U.K. The production here by Larry Klein is masterful, Klein has been knockin' em dead with regularity recently with similarly superb production on albums by Joni Mitchell, Julia Fordham, Bird York, and soundtracks such as Crash (2005) and Duets (2000), as well as Madeleine's last album, Careless Love (2004).
Half the Perfect World features four new originals, three written by Peyroux, Klein, and Jesse Harris, and one song penned by Peyroux, Klein, and Walter Becker of Steely Dan. The other eight tracks are well chosen covers by the likes of Johnny Mercer, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, and Serge Gainsbourg, among others. The core band from Careless Love is back including Dean Parks on guitar, David Piltch on bass and Jay Bellerose on drums. Keyboard duties are ably handled by Sam Yahel and Larry Goldings. Each track sounds like Klein has given it the perfect arrangement.
The modern jazzy sound (like Steely Dan almost) on the opening track "I'm All Right" provides a very tasty counterpoint to Madeleine's distinctively retro sounding voice. "Summer Wind" is a great classic song that sounds just right in this interpretation. Sam Yahel's Hammond organ combines with Larry Goldings' celeste on Leonard Cohen's "Blue Alert" to achieve the sort of sound that Julia Fordham dubbed "groove-ilicious" on Concrete Love (2002). "Everybody's Talkin'" is a nice update on the Harry Nilsson hit.
On Joni Mitchell's "River" Madeleine sings with guest vocalist k.d. lang who also covered Mitchell and Leonard Cohen on her last record, Hymns of the 49th Parallel (2004). "A Little Bit" and "California Rain" have more of that Larry Klein "groove-ilicious" sound. "Once in a While" and "La Javanaise" both feature a string quartet arrangement, with the latter offering some great sounding vocals in French. "The Heart of Saturday Night" will delight Tom Waits fans who treasure these cover versions.
Gary Foster's guest appearance on alto sax totally defines the mood on the title track, which is the second of two Leonard Cohen tunes on this record. Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" has been done so much and sounds so familiar that to cover it now seems almost cliched, but Madeleine pulls off a fresh and enjoyable interpretation that totally sounds like she means it. Half the Perfect World is a fine piece of work that should rightfully expand upon the success that Madeleine achieved on her first two releases. On first listen this sounds like her best album yet.
Here's the track list:
1. I'm All Right (Becker/Klein/Peyroux)
2. The Summer Wind (Mercer/Mayer/Bradtke)
3. Blue Alert (Cohen/Thomas)
4. Everybody's Talking (Neil)
5. River with k.d. lang (Mitchell)
6. A Little Bit (Harris/Klein/Peyroux)
7. Once In A While (Harris/Klein/Peyroux)
8. (Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night (Waits)
9. Half The Perfect World (Cohen/Thomas)
10. La Javanaise (Gainsbourg)
11. California Rain (Harris/Klein/Peyroux)
12. Smile (Chaplin/Turner/Parsons)
Remember to click on each photo to enlarge.
All Madeleine Peyroux photos by Marina Chavez, courtesy Rounder Records © 2006.