Katie Melua Secret Symphony Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A fine fifth album from Melua, mixing accomplished covers with original material.

Adrian Edwards 2012

For her latest album, Secret Symphony, Katie Melua embraces songs old and new, cleverly chosen and winningly sung. She makes each song her very own, so much so that one wouldn't know that her cover versions hadn't been written for her. She is ably assisted by Mike Batt, whose long experience as a songwriter and producer is evident.

The earliest song here, Nobody Knows When You're Down and Out from 1923, presents a timely lyric on the theme of the transitory status of wealth while it swings gently in a Dixieland arrangement with tuba emphasising the revivalist spirit in the bassline. Other singers may have tapped deeper into its New Orleans roots, but Melua's expressive handling of the lyric is just as affecting for being understated.

The gentle nature of many of these songs suits her lyrical, youthful voice. There's a prevailing air of optimism to many lyrics of open country, which are complemented by imaginative arrangements that don't distort the spirit of the originals. The opener, Ron Sexsmith’s Gold in Them Hills, and the lovely Heartstrings, written by Melua and Batt, both tap into this vein; likewise Françoise Hardy's All Over the World, a trip down memory lane to 1965, but perhaps she should have sung this in its original French language.

The whimsical lyric to Moonshine, a gentle rocker with acoustic colouring, suits Melua to a tee. A song of her own, Forgetting All My Troubles, avoids the maudlin through a sleight of hand in the harmony. Another new song, The Bit That I Don't Get, is a cautionary tale with a country edge in the instrumentation, recalling a similar scene in the Rogers and Hart torch song It Never Entered My Mind. Overall, this is a very relaxing album to while away an hour, and it's beautifully recorded.

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