Ms Kent sticks to originals and still comes up with the goods...
Kathryn Shackleton 2007
After a dozen albums, singer Stacey Kent has become a household name around the world. It’s four years now since her last solo recording, and with Breakfast on the Morning Tram she leaves the Great American Songbook at home and turns out her most eclectic selection of songs yet, featuring French chansons and Jim Tomlinson originals.
Storytelling has always been Stacey’s forte, so it’s no surprise that she’s chosen a novelist, Kazuo Ishiguro, to write lyrics for her. (Husband and sax player Jim has set them to music.) The four Ishiguro songs on Breakfast On The Morning Tram are sketches of relationships, all narrated by travellers. “The Ice Hotel” is a ballad described perfectly in Stacey’s crisp, clear vocals, while the title track, also by Ishiguro, is faster-paced. Light funk and blues alternate with toe-tapping swing, and it’s packed with comfort-food rhymes (‘pancake’ with ‘heartache’!) that Stacey sings with an audible smile in her voice.
On the Franco-Brazilian “Samba Saravah”, the most upbeat track on the album, Stacey’s intimate vocals dance nimbly with the rhythm section, but Jim Tomlinson’s Getz-ish tenor is a bit pedestrian, while a laid-back arrangement of “Hard Hearted Hannah” comes across more wimp than vamp. Tomlinson’s other arrangements get it right, though, by focusing on the nuance and intimacy that suits his wife’s gossamer voice. He’s back on form with “Landslide”. Stacey makes good, folky sense of this Stevie Nicks torchsong, her dead-on pitch whispering to John Parricelli’s warm and lyrical guitar.
Stacey’s language skills are impressive on the handful of songs she sings, very convincingly, in French. “La Saison des Pluies” is a pearl of a song, Stacey’s little-girl voice shifting the pace gently forward or dragging it slightly back, to a stripped-down accompaniment by Parricelli on guitar. Another gem, “Ces Petits Riens” is treated to a tinge of Piafian vibrato and darkness, against Dave Chamberlain’s elegant plucked bass.
The material and line-up may have shifted on Breakfast On The Morning Tram (pianist Graham Harvey has replaced David Newton and John Parricelli has replaced Colin Oxley) but the product inside the packaging hasn’t changed. Stacey continues to deliver intimate ballads with perfect timing and control.