Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews

Melissa Stylianou – Silent Movie – Anzic Records

An attractively recorded album that frames a beautiful voice.

Published on May 13, 2012

Melissa Stylianou – Silent Movie – Anzic Records

Melissa Stylianou – Silent Movie – Anzic Records ANZ 0036, 54:47 ***½: 

(Melissa Stylianou – vocals; Pete McCann – guitars; Gary Wing – bass; Rodney Green – drums; Jamie Reynolds – piano; Anat Cohen –  soprano saxophone 2,5, clarinet 9, bass clarinet 4,11;  James Shipp – percussion 2/4/5/10/11; Yoed Nir – cello 4/10/11)

Melissa Stylianou has a lovely clear lyrical voice with an interesting way of delivering a lyric. However whether she is a jazz singer, or someone who can sing jazz, is not evident on her latest release Silent Movie. While she does offer some tunes that have a jazz following and her accompaniment are all jazz players, we end up with an album of stories without a jazz-based theme.

The twelve tracks on the album are an eclectic mix of tunes from the pop world, some jazz flavoured standards, and originals by Stylianou, each one arranged to show-off Stylianou’s beautiful vocal range. The  instrumental theme for the 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times was “Smile” and this leads off the disc to position the musical subject. A rather dreamy version compared to most other interpretations but nevertheless quite effective. Oftentimes, one can find some guidance as to the artist’s  musical intent by a careful reading of the liner notes. However Stylianou seems to have been caught up in the “less is more” school of information, and very little can be gleaned from these brief renderings other than the recording is “a collection of small stories…(of) everyday life”.

The epitome of the pop singer-songwriters are James Taylor and Paul Simon with Stylianou using “Something in the Way She Moves” and “Hearts and Bones” to conjure up musical ideas in an expressive way that draws in the listener. She easily gets on top of the tricky lyric lines in the Simon composition. While only on five of the tracks, multi- instrumentalist Anat Cohen, slips in and out of the musical conversation with ease, happily adding her unique offerings to buoy up those cuts on which she plays. Her concise solo on “Folks Who Live on the Hill” gives some added lustre to Stylianou’s empathetic reading to the tune.

Stylianou’s own co-written compositions “Silent Movie”, “Hearing Your Voice”, and “First Impressions”  while nicely presented, are slight affairs unlikely to find a wider audience, although the title track written with her husband and pianist Jaime Reynolds has some welcomed intimacy. Capping the album is the Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini oft-recorded “Moon River” from the 1961 hit movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Stylianou’s thoughtful rendition gives new meaning to the romantic lyric.

This  is an attractively recorded and arranged album that frames Melissa Stylianou’s beautiful voice. However there is a sameness to the pacing and content that detracts from the well-intended concept. Perhaps on her next project, she will deliver a disc that swings and is less introspective.

TrackList: Smile; Something in the Way She Moves; Silent Movie; Onde Ir; Hearts and Bones; Today I Sing the Blues; Hearing Your Voice; I Still Miss Someone; Folks Who Live on the Hill; First Impressions; Swansea; Moon River

—Pierre Giroux

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