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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Amanda Brecker - Blossom

Amanda Brecker – Blossom
2013, Emarcy
Amanda Brecker is a New York City vocalist with series jazz and pop vocal chops.  It was in Japan where she first found stardom, however, wrapping up two Gold Awards and best-seller status as a jazz artist.  In 2011, Brecker released Blossom in Japan.  The album, a tribute to the collaborations of James Taylor and Carole King, shows off Brecker’s supple voice on some classic tunes.  With Jesse Harris (Norah Jones, Once Blue) at the helm, and some of Taylor’s and King’s own band mates in tow, Brecker gets an aurally appealing though overly reserved re-introduction to American audiences.

Brecker sets forth with the title track, offering up a light and easy vocal inspired by James Taylor. The track is eminently listenable, and Brecker brings an instantly affable quality to the song. Brecker finds a pragmatic sense of hope in the midst of "So Far Away", making it into a wistful daydream. "You Can Close Your Eyes" is well presented here, with a vague lullabies quality that is sweet and wistful.

Brecker makes a true ballad out of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", using the sweet quality of we voice to make this sound more philosophical than urgent. Brecker is a pleasure to listen to here. The standout track on the Blossom is a difficult choice, but "Sweet Baby James" has to be in the running. Amanda Brecker's voice is her own, but she manages to capture the same easy feel that James Taylor is known for.

The arrangement Brecker uses for "It's Too Late" has a gentle, soulful swing to it that's quietly irresistible. Her laid back vocal has a soulful element to it that's nice without being overdone. "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" is solid, with just a touch of blue eyed soul in the sound. Listeners may start to get a bit restless at this point. Brecker's voice is pretty and her interpretations are reverent to the originals, but she hasn't generally added anything to the songs. This doesn't change with "Long Ago And Far Away".

The tone changes a bit with "Something In The Way He Moves". Brecker switches up more than just pronouns as she sets a gentle swing and adds a nice folk singer/songwriter feel to the vocal line. She tries to so the same with "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman", but just doesn't have the power in her voice to carry this tune in its elemental grace. "You've Got A Friend" acquires a vague jazz and gospel essence, along with a delicious hint of melancholy. Brecker is at her best here, intimately personal and warm in her delivery. Brecker bows with "You Were Mine", which is well done but seems thoroughly out of place stylistically.
Amanda Brecker is a real talent.  I am not certain that a tribute cover album is necessarily the way to break her into the American market.  It sets Brecker up to be more of a musical oddity than an artist that listeners actively seek out.  Brecker has the voice and the charm to overcome this fate, but this is another example of  a major label seeing short term dollar signs than the benefits of allowing an artist to develop his/her fan base in organic fashion.  The result is that the artist (Brecker) and fans get short-changed.  Blossom is a fair effort, but Brecker has so much more to offer.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
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