Sarah Gillespie With Gilad Atzmon - In The Current Climate
At last, the most extraordinary Sarah Gillespie's second album, In The Current Climate, is here and due for release this coming January on Pastiche Records. At last, because this has to be one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the last year or so, after Ms. Gillespie and her debut album Stalking Juliet hit the scene like a super-charged bolt of lightning. Anybody who has seen this Anglo-American singer-songwriter phenomenon live will surely never forget the experience and would be most impatient for this new album.
Yes, Sarah Gillespie is that addictive. And In The Current Climate is the fix for the addict. It also is everything you would expect and everything you could hope for from Gillespie, and more. A hugely superior effort that leaves the rest eating the dust. Singer-songwriter albums simply don't come any better than this.
In the interim since her first album, Sarah Gillespie's song-writing skills have matured and seasoned some more, as indeed one would expect, and both her melodies and lyrics - as ever, sometimes slightly darkly, always deliciously surreal, or rather one should say surrealist, but never oppressively so - are even more superior than ever. Again, all songs are her own except Cinematic Nectar which she co-wrote with Gilad Atzmon. Haunting, often hauntingly beautiful, and bittersweet, imbued with a spirit of rebellion and fight, In The Current Climate is more sophisticated than ever. Gillespie paints stunning sound pictures with her lyrics and music.
As before, Atzmon's production is perfection itself. Sarah Gillespie's quartet is the same outfit with which she has been touring for some time and in addition to Gillespie herself on guitar and vocals, consists of jazz titan Gilad Atzmon - who is co-credited on In The Current Climate - on accordion, saxes, clarinets and electronics, and the excellent Ben Bastin on double bass and cello with the equally excellent Enzo Zirilli on drums and percussion.
Pleasingly, Ms. Gillespie's superb guitar seems to be given greater prominence than previously. In The Current Climate also manages to come much closer to Sarah Gillespie's most extraordinary high-voltage live performance than the previous album. Indeed, this is probably about as close as you could capture this on a studio recording.
The fairly recent addition to Atzmon's armoury of a Bb bass clarinet finds excellent use on In The Current Climate and is employed to great effect especially on the title track, with an almost mockingly comic riff in its rumbling chalumeau register.
One track that cries out for singling out here is Lucifer's High Chair. The simple, guitar-driven somewhat bluesy body of this song is contrasted with a surprisingly Celtic/Irish sounding outburst of a chorus, emphasised by the almost chirpy sound of a tin whistle. This not only is a most unexpected turn but moreover works supremely well - a stroke of sheer genius.
Overall, stylistically In The Current Climate is a perfect blend of influences in the best singer-songwriter tradition. There are elements of jazz, urban folk, folk, rock, blues, even cabaret and country, yet this remains quintessentially and uniquely Sarah Gillespie. An inimitable original.
When you add in to all this Ms. Gillespie's gutsy, super-charged and incredibly ballsy yet often also lyrical vocals and delivery, you have the makings of a true star. Gillespie is the icy wind that slaps your face, the hot desert air that sears your skin, the cool ocean breeze that cools you in the tropical heat, the ray of sunshine that warms you on a chill autumn day, the cold rain that whips you, the sun's searing furnace that burns you...
Every last song on In The Current Climate is worth the price of admission by itself, and it would be an exercise in futility to even try and pick any favourites. This album, and Gillespie herself, stand lightyears above the rest. In The Current Climate is as brilliantly consistent as it is consistently brilliant. More than merely compelling, this album is magically enchanting, its spell irresistible, as full of charm as it is of challenge, at once exhilarating and exasperating, a heady, totally addictive concoction. A completely electrifying album from a completely electrifying artist. If Sarah Gillespie's first album was the dog's proverbials, this is even more so!
Oozing star quality, enhanced further by the brightest star on the jazz firmament in Gilad Atzmon who sensitively as ever knows when to take a back seat, Sarah Gillespie doesn't need the booze and drugs fuel of say Janis Joplin, and her outstanding music is thankfully free of the kind of self-pity and self-obsession of some singers which is refreshing in itself. Ms. Gillespie takes the singer-songwriter "genre" - for want of a better expression - to a whole new level.
As with her debut album, the excellent sleeve notes of In The Current Climate contain the full lyrics of all the songs as a bonus.
It is almost superfluous to point out that Sarah Gillespie's In The Current Climate is way past essential in any singer-songwriter or vocal jazz or contemporary jazz collection. Leaving aside such silly if sometimes convenient categorisations, this album ought to be in any good music collection, period. An absolute "must-have."
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