I don’t think we have to worry about another British Invasion, but Juliet Kelly’s new album, Aphrodite’s Child evidences its possibility. The young vocalist is talented, knowledgeable and hard-working. The London located artist gives us an almost complete album of originals, and at the same time challenges us not to fall in love instantly.
In fact, most of the album is about love. Kelly’s compositions are about the possibility and magic of romance. She sings unabashedly about the wonderfulness and beauty of such passionate feelings. Although abstract at times (from "Garden of Eden" - "There is a place, far on the horizon; The faster you run, the farther away it seems; A land that’s new, full of hidden treasures; But where is this place, the secret’s in your dreams."
), her lyrics are poignant and engaging.
Equally engaging is her voice. Her rich alto tone grabs our attention immediately. Like so many great jazz songstresses, her voice is powerful but always in control, giving us the impression it could burst at any moment. Not only is her tone vibrant but her rhythmic feel is just as vivacious. Her articulation is smooth but accurate. Her lyrics clear but not over enunciated. All these things combined give us the feeling of a truly instrumentally knowledgeable vocalist. Her entire performance gives an air of perfection without the perception of over-preparation.
Equally evident is her knowledge of jazz that comes through in her song choices and compositions. One of the only two non-originals is "Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise," a familiar and heart-wrenching ballad. In the melodic themes of "Too Late Now," we are reminded slightly of "Too Darn Hot." A probable accidental and slightly subconscious nod to another jazz vocal classic.
The most romantic track on the album is the beautiful ballad "Wait For Me." Kelly’s voice is beautifully matched with the song, and she does wonders with this gorgeous tune. Kelly is equally comfortable in burning, Latin rhythms as she is in simple, unadorned ballads. It is a tribute to her talents as a leader that she and the rhythm section can be so comfortable in all styles.
The rhythm section deserves special attention. This is truly a remarkably talented group of musicians. Seb Rochford provides the backbone for the group on drums. Always steady and driving, the rhythm section never for a second lacks energy due to his sticking. Also, Mike Gorman on piano provides an awe-inspiring performance. As accompanist he provides better than adequate support, but as soloist he shines with creativeness and technicality. With a nod to Ms. Kelly, he also does this without ever seeming pressed, but at any moment ready to burst. Finally, Tom Barlow on bass is an ever-present member of the group. Rounding out the section well, he also provides unique and musically intelligent solos within the framework of the group. He adds particular maturity to the ballad, "Wait for Me."
Ms. Kelly swings hard and swings well on Aphrodite’s Child. Her songs elicit the feelings of a lover who has been jilted more than once but who has not lost hope. One has much hope for Ms. Kelly and her vocal talents. This is a wonderful album, and one hopes that more albums as good and greater are just over the horizon for her.