It's been a good year for LA vocalist/songwriter Larkin McLean. Since the fall, she's covered a lot of ground, including: releasing her latest CD, "X-Rated Musical" and two videos for the project, being added to a 30k unit Euro-compilation disc, giving her piano recital and partying at the Playboy mansion.
For those unfamiliar with McLean, this is her sophmore release. Though it's not a major label release, the arrangements and production down to the last guitar notes will likely evoke references to Donald Fagan's 'Nightfly'. But don't let that fool you; there's another kind of humor at work here. She pulls you in with a sultry voice you feel you know, only to whipser something you never expected with a delivery that says, she knows something you don't, but wants to tell if you'll let her. But the story wouldn't end there. Though its clearly a lot of fun, it would be superficial to dismiss this as simply lounge as there's a lot more going on. It's too unique and there's a definite island feel to everything, regardless of the chosen groove it's set to. It's music to have a hip weekend in the Bahamas or Bermuda by. The sex and relationship material is all taken from (someone's) reality but is good-natured and she leaves you with no doubt that it could happen to you. Along with the tongue-in-cheekiness, there's a cool, funky kind of kitsch happening as Larkin's voice is ever present to cajole, inflame and inspire desire, but after all, that's what this collection is all about.
As McLean herself puts it, "You'll never hear me scatting in public. I'll call myself a pop singer. I do songs with a jazz feel. I just approach songs with humility and put my personality in it."
Consider the LA session players McLean's collected for "X-rated Musical": Producer/arranger/bassist, Kenny Lyon has worked with the Divinyls and Lemonheads. Keyboardist Michael Boito has recorded or toured with Beck, Bjork, Sonic Youth and the Brand New Heavies. Mike Bolger (trumpet/trombone) lists stints with Jewel and guitar legend Ry Cooder. Danny Frankel (drums) has worked with Jewel, Fiona Apple, KD Lang, Lou Reed, Marianne Faithful and Madelaine Peyroux and David Railcke has toured or recorded with Beck, Macy Gray, Ben Harper, Natalie Merchant and Greg Kurstin's Action Figure Party. Scott Breadman has worked with Paul Simon, Rick James, Pat Benetar, Morphine and The Cult, among others.
"Devil Tuesday" opens with a loose steel guitar to a backbeat thing with a tinpan alley bridge. "Do I still Love You" breaks with a retro groove organ in a pseudo bossa. A keys lick repeats and fades as if to underscore the lyrics: "that was a lifetime ago." "Giving" almost evokes Jobim with its Latin treatment. The title track, "X-Rated Musical," persuades with a backdrop of Tahitian Ukelele (ok, it sounds like a Hawaiian steel guitar), but it's cool. "Don't Wake Up" is rhythm changes with a vamp; cocktail vibe with muted trumpet. Let's dream some more.
"I Get to Be Me" is a choice ballad. "In The Life We never Spent Together" could have been the album title. "Roma Roma" is infectious as it teases with the dichotomy of distance - you cant catch me. "You're alone and I'm in Rome. Just like Evita in 'la Dolce Vita." Careless, carefree and innocently taunting. You can't manage anything but a smile with this on. "Nobody Gets Over Ava" is about her best friend. You know the type...they've got something you never forget, or want to, but then so does Larkin, and so does this album. Enjoy.
"X-rated Musical" can be found on CDbaby.com. Larkin's website is www.larkinmclean.com.