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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Closer to You: The Pop Side

Blue Note 509996 96087 28



  1. Love is Blindness
  2. Time after Time
  3. Fragile
  4. Closer to You
  5. Last Train to Clarksville
  6. The Weight
  7. Tupelo Honey
  8. Harvest Moon
  9. I Can't Stand the Rain
  10. Lay, Lady, Lay
  11. Wichita Lineman.
Cassandra Wilson - Vocals
Lawrence "Butch" Morris - Coronet (track 1)
Brandon Ross - Acoustic guitar, octave guitar, steel guitar (tracks 1, 5, 7, 8,10)
Kevin Breit - Acoustic guitar, bouzouki, electric guitar, mandolin, slide resonator guitar, banjo (tracks 1, 5, 6, 8, 11)
Lonnie Plaxico - Bass (tracks 1, 2, 5, 7)
Marvin Sewell - Acoustic guitar (tracks 2, 6, 11)
Doug Wamble - Acoustic guitar (track 2)
Jeffrey Haynes - Percussion (tracks 2, 3, 6, 10, 11)
Cecilia Smith - Marimba (track 2)
Perry Wilson - Drums (track 2)
Fabrizio Sotti - Guitar (track 3)
Reginald Veal - Acoustic bass (tracks 3, 4, 10)
Terri Lyne Carrington - Drums (track 3)
T-Bone Burnett - Guitar, vocals (track 4)
Keefus Ciancia - Keyboards, piano (track4)
Jim Keltner - Drums (track 4)
Dougie Brown - Drums, vibes, whistling, lampshades (tracks 5, 8)
Mark Peterson - Acoustic bass (tracks 6, 8, 11)
Cyro Baptista - Percussion (tracks 6, 8, 11)
Xavyon Jamison - Drums (track 6)
Charlie Burnham - Violin (track 7)
Kevin Johnson - Percussion (track 7)
Lance Carter - Drums (track 7)
The Peepers - Background vocals (track 8)
Chris Whitley - Guitar (track 9)
Calvin Jones - Acoustic bass (track 10)

Many jazz singers depend on the Great American Songbook - understandably, because the material written by such people as Kern, Gershwin, Porter and Berlin is superb and ideally suited to jazz improvisation. But are there no more recent songwriters whose material is suitable for jazz vocalising? This compilation suggests that good songs are still being written by composers like Jimmy Webb, Sting and Neil Young.

The songs are taken from albums recorded by Cassandra Wilson for Blue Note between 1993 and 2006. As I noted in my review of her previous album - Loverly (which won her a second Grammy Award) - Cassandra is a genuine jazz vocalist who takes considerable liberties with songs. The benefit is that many of these songs come up fresh and new in her unusual interpretations. The drawback is that her lazy delivery tends in many cases to obscure the lyrics. The latter fault is evident in her interpretation of Sting's Fragile - a truly modern masterpiece - where her almost sleepy diction conceals some of the all-important words. On Robbie Robertson's The Weight, her breathy delivery obscures the lyrics.

The melodies sometimes get obscured as well. Bob Dylan's Lay, Lady, Lay has a memorable hook which is lost in Cassandra's disrespectful reading of the tune.

Yet this album illustrates Cassandra's breadth: covering Cyndi Lauper's enticing Time After Time as well as the country style of I Can't Stand the Rain (accompanied only by Chris Whitley's sliding guitar). And the songwriters who provided material for the Monkees prove their worth with Last Train to Clarksville. Jimmy Webb's Wichita Lineman (immortalised by Glen Campbell) is given its full emotional depth in Cassandra Wilson's performance.

Despite its flaws, this collection proves that Cassandra is a considerable vocalist, whether interpreting jazz standards or more recent popular songs.

Tony Augarde 

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