When “From Paris With Love” was released by Melody Gardot in the summer, it almost brought me to tears. The heartbreakingly beautiful melody, written by Pierre Aderne, accompanying video and the sweet sweet lyrics were a match made in heaven and somehow became the unofficial hymn of the lockdown. And still is. But the big question remained: can she hold the high standard for her entire album which will finally see the light of day this Friday, October 23rd. After all, it’s her first album in five years. The answer is yes. “From Paris With Love”, still the highlight and my personal fave, easily fits along the other 12 tracks, with the mood and atmosphere of the album similar to her groundbreaking debut “My One And Only Thrill”.
Opening with another beauty, “If You Love Me”, which she co-wrote with Dadi Carvalho (who plays guitar too), who also helped with “From Paris With Love” and the equally sublime “C’est Magnifique” (also written with Pierre Aderne), the album is another milestone for the 35-year old artist. “If You Love Me” is graced with a warm and tender trumpet solo by Till Brönner and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, arranged by Vince Mendoza, is behind many of the tracks here. On “C’est Magnifique”, the orchestra is the perfect cushion for Melody and her brilliant duet partner, the incredibly soft-singing Portuguese fado singer António Zambujo. They both gel in harmony and style. It ‘s indeed magnifique. And the sweet melancholy, the saudade, continues with “There Where He Lives In Me”, co-written with Phillipe Baden Powell (also on piano) and Pierre Aderne. The strings, hard on the edge of becoming syrupy, are left out at the right places and thus, don’t move the track into trivial territory. A wonderful arrangement.
The album, quiet and with lots of Brazilian backdrops, was once again expertly produced by Larry Klein and features Anthony Wilson on guitar, Donny McCaslin on sax, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, and Paulinho Da Costa on percussion.
We also get some covers: Lesley Duncan’s classic “Love Song” is stripped down bare and naked, with Melody caressing the lyrics with pain, heartache, and despair, but also enough fervor and soul to underscore her genuineness. With her dubbed vocals, this becomes one of the essential and central tracks; sometimes she’s just backed by bass and strings, the guitar and her voice bringing some suspense to the sudden finale. “You Won’t Forget Me”, done to perfection by the immensely missed Shirley Horn, has her voice mixed up right in your face, with her phrasing and diction totally sublime. Donny McCaslin’s melancholic sax, accompanied by guitar and gentle percussion, adds more spice. More Szechuan pepper than mint. Worth the trip alone: Melody’s phrasing of the words “you won’t forget me” towards the end of the track, as if she wants to make you believe that you really, honestly won’t.
More “My One And Only Thrill” comparisons are in store with the title track, co-written with Jesse Harris and another tranquil, hopelessly romantic piece which includes some Nancy Wilson moments in her singing, too. Till is back with another svelte solo on the sumptuously orchestrated “Um Beijo”, one of Melody’s own compositions where she slightly ups the tempo for the first time. The dubbed vocals at the end are enticing and are pivotal to the superior arrangement of “Ave Maria” (not the Traditional!), too. “Moon River” and “I Fall In Love Too Easily” are very fitting to this oeuvre re: mood and style and Melody interprets them each with grace and her own inimitable swagger. The only track which is a bit disturbing is the final piece, “Little Something”, which she wrote and performed with Sting. Probably the tune which will get the most attention, but the ethno pop piece doesn’t really click.
Go check out the double-vinyl which will also be available on Friday, October 23rd.