It’s a new chapter for singer Melody Gardot with her new album “Currency Of Man”. If you’re an avid reader of liner notes and credits like I am, it was fascinating to read the name Jerry Hey for example doing all the horn arrangements on the record. It was Jerry who, in addition to millions of other recordings, did the horn and string arrangements on George Benson‘s hit album “Give Me The Night” for example, produced by Quincy Jones. And he brought in colleagues Dan Higgins on saxes and Gary Grant on trumpet.
Also, there are the Waters Sisters and Clydene Jackson on background vocals, three of the most consistent names on the back covers of the greatest Soul albums of the 70s and 80s. So there is really a change of sound here for her, except maybe for the melancholic, dark and haunting “If Ever I Recall Your Face”. Melody sings of racism, social injustice, poverty, and religious tensions in her ten new songs (there is a deluxe version of the album with three extra tracks and two additional interludes). And also “Bad News” sounds close to some of her earlier material. The album was again produced by Larry Klein so expect a voluptuous sound again.
The Soul and Funk elements jump right into your face on the opening track “It Gonna Come” with a fat bass line, sexy backgrounds and those intensive horns and strings – right out of the 70s Motown book. “Preacherman” describes the story of Emmett Till whose assassination led to the civil rights movement in 1955. It has a strong vocal choir and dramatic guitar parts. On the powerful “Morning Sun”, Melody turns into a veritable soul singer. The Waters have their best performance on the gritty “Same To You”.
“Don’t Misunderstand”, which she wrote together with Jesse Harris, is another example of her taking the soul route – sounds like a mix between Bill Withers and Gil Scott-Heron in arrangement and tension. One of the highlights of the album I think. Larry Goldings plays organ. “Don’t Talk” follows suit with a catchy string part and a slightly shuffling beat taking the song to some exotic place. My favorite track is the explosive “She Don’t Know”, again borrowing a lot from the 70s (but not merely copying of course) like the horns and flute, organ, handclaps, and backing vocals. Like a Norman Whitfield cut from the Motown heydays.
The album ends with a lovely paean to times gone by, but with a line of hope.
Melody is on a European tour starting in June and extending to the end of November. She plays Berlin’s Philharmonic Hall on November 11th.