A quality album, and band, to restore your faith in contemporary music.
Michael Quinn 2008-09-22
Bristol-based five-piece Phantom Limb may well be the most musically sophisticated (and satisfying) band the UK has produced in far too long a time.
Formed in 2004, individually the quintet has worked with the likes of Massive Attack, Bugz in the Attic, Skin, Jazzanova, Roni Size, Andy Sheppard, Emily Breeze, The New Mastersounds and Will Young. A stylistically diverse array that should tell you something about just what this fine ensemble is capable of. Appearances at this year's South By Southwest Festival and a scene-stealing spot on the Glastonbury Jazz World Stage in early summer saw eloquently accomplished sets garner the kind of rapturous acclaim that surely also awaits their eponymous debut.
What astonishes most is the sheer elegance and lightly-worn maturity of it all. Actually, that's not true. What astonishes most is just how good it is. A seamless amalgam of classic, late-night jazz, southern soul, country blues and gospel, this is intelligent music-making with impeccably high standards.
Few bands can boast a vocalist of the quality of Yolanda Quartey. Think Janis Ian crossed with Sister Rosetta Tharp. Equally, Etta James, Madeline Bell, Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples come to mind in a vain attempt to describe the unique blood pulse and heart-soaring beat of Quartey's burnished mahogany voice. It's put to blissfully intimate use on the emotionally torn Don't Say A Word, is anthemically defiant on Withering Bones, boldly corkscrews into the imagination in I'll Never Be The Same Again, and is fractured, fragile and vehement in equal measure on My Love Has Gone.
Few great voices get the backing they deserve, but Quartey can happily claim to be the exception to the rule. And if the knowing instrumental accompaniment provided here by Stew Jackson (guitar, pedal steel, banjo), Dan Brown (Bass, guitar), Matthew Jones (drums) and Dan Moore (piano, Hammond organ) is the result of a crack outfit firing majestically on all cylinders, the close-harmony vocals they also provide are no less compelling.
It seems inconceivable that there will be a more accomplished debut than this in 2008. A quality album, and band, to restore your faith in contemporary music.