* Prices may differ from that shown
I first came across this singer when she appeared on Later with Jules Holland and sang an acoustic version of Who Will Comfort Me from her second album, My One and Only Thrill. This was the follow up to her debut offering Worriesome Heart and unlike many singers who produce great first albums and then fail to fulfil that early promise when it comes to their next attempt, that's not so here. In fact, this album is even better than the first.
Melody Gardot is a young singer/songwriter who is living proof of the saying 'It's an ill wind'. Whilst recovering from a bad road accident she was having music therapy as part of the treatment for serious head and spinal injuries and discovered in the process that she had a rather good singing voice. She's often been compared to Norah Jones, Duffy and Adele, and I'd agree that there are some similarities between her voice and Nora Jones's, but to my mind Melody's voice is far less breathy and insubstatial and definitely much more warm and sensual in tone than any of the aforementioned ladies. In fact, whenever I listen to any of her songs, I always get a mental image of Jessica Rabbit!
I have to admit to not being a huge fan of jazz and this album certainly leans towards that genre, however there's also a healthy dose of blues thrown into the mix and nowadays the musical lines are very blurred and singers tend to range in style over several genres. What is certain is that the quality of Melody Gardot's vocals together with the excellent song choices and musical arrangements, make this a total listening pleasure.
Baby I'm a Fool gets the album off to a great start. This is big band jazz ballad but with a modern twist beginning with softly sweet strings joined by jazz guitar. As the song title implies, this is about the foolishness that leads us to fall in love. The lyrics are sophisticated and intelligent, very much in the style of Cole Porter or Irving Berlin, delivered in Gardot's velvety and slightly understated voice. The chorus is scat singing and although the words may be meaningless, it's like listening to a language that one should understand.
There's a slightly Latin Astrid Gilberto-like sound to the more upbeat If the Stars Were Mine which carries an acoustic jazz guitar accompaniment with maracas and rhythmic beat and here again the central section has some scat singing. Melody Gardot's voice is smooth as silk and this song definitely falls into the easy listening category.
Who Will Comfort Me is another medium tempo song with a much more bluesy feel to it and an almost gospel theme. Beginning with guitar and clicking fingers and jazz drums. As the song progresses, the song becomes more orchestrated with brass and organ. This showcases Melody Gardot's voice demonstrating that she can extend her vocal range from jazz, to blues, to gospel. This lady has definitely got soul in spades.
The tempo is slowed down for the fourth track which is my absolute favourite on the album. Your Heart is as Black as Night has a sound that's pure 1940s film noire and from the first sleazy strains of the saxophone and solo piano to the final notes from the muted trumpet, this is a totally captivating piece of musical composition. Melody's jazzy bluesy voice blends perfectly with the piano, the saxophone and the sensually undulating rhythm puts this firmly in Jessica Rabbit territory.
Lover Undercover is a torch song in the best American tradition and the Judy Garland influence is strong on this track. This song is a slow and sweet ballad, with simple piano accompaniment and soft strings, brass and percussion added for emphasis. Melody's voice takes on a husky yearning sensuality ideally suited to the lyrics which, though sentimental never stray into the realms of mawkishness.
The orchestral beginning to Our Love is Easy has a classical sound which wouldn't disgrace the start of a symphony. One the song gets going, it's another retro sounding offering, taking the listener into a smoky club or speakeasy. Like most of her songs, this one is a fine balance between the music and the words, the one complementing the other. This is a beautifully romantic ballad which perfectly expresses the perfect love.
Les Etoilles is not only partly sung in French but the music conjures up images of 1950s Parisian nightlife to such an extent that one can almost smell the smoke from all those Gauloises cigarettes! This is a very simple, understated and pleasant song, though not one of my personal favourites. The Rain, on the other hand, is very much more to my liking. This is one of those songs that grows on the listener the more times one hears it. The rain of the title symbolises the end of a relationship and Melody's husky rendition and beautiful enunciation manages to paint a vivid picture of a cloudy, rain-drenched street and two used-to-be-lovers saying a final goodbye. There's a wonderful poignancy to this song.
The eighth, and title track, My One and Only Thrill begins with a classically sounding violin introduction before Melody and piano join in and the slow love song begins. The soft and slow approach lulls the listener into thinking this is just another love song but the slightly strange musical rhythm keeps the interest whilst allowing the music to remain fluid. This is music to listen to in a candle lit room with a glass of wine and the one you love.
Deep Within the Corners of My Mind is a slow and deeply emotional ballad, delivered in Melody's beautifully clear yet husky tones. This is one of those songs which really tugs at the heartstrings. It's about clinging on to a desperate hope that love will find a way and the sentiments of the song, the vocals and orchestration all blend seamlessly into one superb whole.
'But deep within the corners of my mind
I'm praying secretly
That eventually in time
there'll be a place for you and me'
I've never been a fan of Over the Rainbow either Judy Garland's original or any of the cover versions, with perhaps the exception of Eva Cassidy's, and I can't say that Melody Gardot's jazzed up version changes my mind much. On a more positive note, it doesn't really sound very much like the original having been given a samba rhythm and there is some interesting orchestration and as ever, Melody's pure voice transforms anything she sings.
The album ends with a second version of If the Stars Were Mine which is much more orchestrated having additional string accompaniment, though essentially it's the same song and my own preference is the one with less orchestration which allows Melody's voice centre stage.
If I'm honest, this isn't an album I listen to very often in its entirety. The mood of all the music is slow and relaxed and lends itself more to quiet times than the bustle of everyday life. There is an intimacy about this music as though Melody Gardot is singing only for the listener. Her clever use of lyrics blended with the music may hark back to the golden era of jazz but her vocal interpretation also brings a modernity of sound putting her squarely into the 21st century. This is a woman who has a superb singing voice and great song writing skill and who never compromises her integrity for the sake of commercial success. This album is proof that Melody Gardot belongs to that rather niche group of female singers whose recordings will undoubtedly stand the test of time.
The only slight criticism I can give is that I would have preferred the second version of If the Stars Were Mine to have been higher up the track listing and for the album to finish with Deep Within the Corners of My Mind. Despite this, I'm giving the album 5 stars because even though it isn't absolutely perfect, it's still way better than a 4 star recording.
Also posted on Ciao under the same user ID.
The Times called My One and Only Thrill 'an exceptional album' and the Telegraph called it 'irresistable'. I think Melody Gardot thoroughly deserves this praise for her enchanting album mixing smooth and soulful jazz with a folky style of singing.
Her voice might take a little bit of getting used to, and some may find it a little annoying, comparable with Norah Jones' style. It is by no means a bad voice, however, and the songs are growers as a result. It makes the album even more exciting, because you grow to love her touching lyrics and talented scat. The album develops, then, from being a little nondescript jazz sung by a largely untalented artist, to being a lovable collection of cheering and dreamy songs mostly written by Gardot herself.
Here are some of my favourites:
1. Baby I'm a Fool - a particularly touching song "Look me in the eyes and tell me love is never based upon insanity"
2. If the Stars Were Mine - a brilliantly rhythmic and nicely written song about true love and containing some amazing scat.
3. Who Will Comfort Me - reminiscent of a negro spiritual and featuring well developed percussion work
4. Your Heart is as Black as Night - jazz at its best, particularly the trumpet and piano parts
7. Les Etoiles - a beautiful song with an especially catchy melody and enchanting French
9. My One and Only Thrill - particularly notable for its orchestral brilliance, my one and only thrill's lilting tune will be in your head all day, and is perhaps the most sumptious and relaxing of the album: "Ships may never leave the dock, but it don't matter, but it don't matter. Ticks may never hear a tock, but it don't matter, but it don't matter. 'Cause when I'm with you my whole world stands still."
11. Over the Rainbow - a difficult song to cover originally, but Gardot succeeds with a beautiful and cheering song to lighten your day, one that you'll listen to again and again.
Melody Gardot's album is easily noticed for its unusual cover: artists don't usually wear glasses on their albums. In fact, Gardot was the victim of a car accident when she was nineteen, and after severe head injuries and multiple pelvic fractures, has become hypersensitive to light and unable to walk without a stick. This makes her becoming a musician afterwards even more amazing, and such a talented songwriter as well.
My One and Only Thrill is a relaxing album with beautiful lyrics that are well sung and excellently produced. There is variety in it, and a pleasing amount of original songs for a jazz album. I would recommend it to anyone for easy listening, but particularly for jazz fans, because it has some wonderful features that makes it high quality in every sense.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Baby I'm A Fool
2 If The Stars Were Mine
3 Who Will Comfort Me
4 Your Heart Is As Black As The Night
5 Lover Undercover
6 Our Love is Easy
7 Les Etoiles
8 The Rain
9 My One And Only Thrill
10 Deep Within The Corners Of My Mind
11 Somewhere Over The Rainbow
12 If The Stars Were Mine (with orchestra)