Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Swing Out Sister - Beautiful Mess

I have to admit that I have been remiss not to take much notice of Swing Out Sister, my solely remembering them for their pop hit in the late 80s. My period of penitence and late enlightenment begins here and now with this tremendous effort, and on whose praises I would like to sing. What strikes me is the sheer professionalism and sturdiness of the group and their material. I am impressed, also with their grasp and understanding of the idioms of both soul and jazz, and the savvy to keep, in places a crossover edge that will draw in the fly-by-night listener or those who appreciate any form of music as long as it is good. And good it is, no beating about the bush. The opening song was impressive enough, gently luring us into the album with warm, real instrumentation, and vocals smoother than an ice-cold pint on a hot summer day. The real eye-opener is the KILLER "Time Tracks You Down". This is classic early 70s soul for today. If the work of Stan Watson / Thom Bell and the Delfonics are your bag then this is exactly up your champs elycées! I must have had this song on repeat at least 3 times on my travels this morning, and cannot recommend this song to you enough. Usually I find that some songs are so great, no matter how good the next song is, it often pales in comparison. Not so with "Butterfly". The 70s connection continues nicely and vocally Corrine Drewery's vocals are superb. "My State Of Mind" echoes Roy Ayers with the dreamy vibes, and funky horns and percussion. Nice hand claps, too, giving it a more organic feel. My second KILLER is the Northern / Crossover smash "I'd Be Happy". I can imagine this being sung by the likes of Patrice Holloway in the very late 60s. Simply awesome SOUL music! For a jazzy, Latinesque instrumental of note, check the sashaying "Butterfly Lullaby" which is seriously nice. I have to say that I was intrigued by "Secret Love (You're Invisible)" which opens up in a very cinematic fashion, quite avant-garde with Barry White styles guitar licks, effects and whatnot, then a frantic drumbeat and breathing. Vocally, this is also a step to the left too, then it hits in as an infectious slice of soulful jazziness worthy of any quality set reviewed on here of late. What Andy and Corrine have provided also are murmurs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's expansive style that I personally adore. Who cannot fall in love with this album? I really must make amends and launch myself into their back-catalogue as soon as possible! This is, my soulful friends, an ESSENTIAL purchase.

Barry Towler

Buy on Amazon