Producer Larry Klein, who has shaped albums for Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Madeleine Peyroux, Melody Gardot, Walter Becker, Shawn Colvin, or Curtis Stigers and the new one by his wife Luciana Souza, is also responsible for the airy and open sound on singer Lisa Bassenge‘s new album “Canyon Songs”. That canyon of course refers to Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon which became famous as the home to many of the rock musicians of L.A. Joni Mitchell, who lived there as well (and was married to Klein for a few years), named one of her albums after the area: “Ladies Of The Canyon” (1970).
Lisa Bassenge, the German singer who mixes various elements to her style like jazz, pop, folk, and blues, has also had success with the groups Micatone and Nylon and her latest, on the revived MPS label, collects 11 songs associated with L.A. and the Laurel Canyon era. “Riders On The Storm” by the Doors is a fitting opener, with Till Brönner‘s breezy trumpet and haunting strings all adding to the mystery. Elliott Smith‘s “Angeles” is another sparsely produced song with vibes, wurlitzer, and trumpet as the main voices here and the reggae-infused “Aht Uh Mi Hed” by Shuggie Otis (who also wrote “Strawberry Letter 23”) floats along with some alto flute by Steve Tavaglione and more of that compelling wurlitzer.
Lisa re-works two Tom Waits songs: the rocky “All Stripped Down” has a quirky-sounding 80s feel to it and “Blue Skies” is a wonderful remake, with dobro and mandolin going into an affable country direction. And she does two songs by the great Rickie Lee Jones: “The Last Chance Texaco” (1979) keeps the dreamy, road-movie style mood of the original and adds Thomas Dybdahl on guitar. And “Searching For A Heart” is like a so-so middle-of-the-road pop tune; a second-class Jones tune I would say.
And Lisa does Joni Mitchell as well: “The Same Situation” from 1974’s “Court And Spark” is a fair enough cover; Steve Tavaglione on soprano and the vulnerable drum work of Vinnie Colaiuta work well here. And her “Send me somebody who’s strong and somewhat sincere” phrasing is pretty cool. The nicely accommodating James Taylor/JD Souther song “Her Town Too” patters along nicely and Brian Wilson‘s beautiful “Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” reminds me of the much better version by Kat Edmonson. Yet, there is the Joni/Wayne Shorter context again with the sparse arrangement and the emphasis on openness and reservation. Vocals, arrangement, and production mostly gel.
Lisa celebrates the release of the album with a concert at Berlin’s Watergate on October 15th. In November, she will play Hamburg’s Fabrik (25th) and in January, continues in Karlsruhe, Kassel, Dresden, and Kiel.