Shiver And Shake – Katie Melua
40:10 min • Dramatico • September 16, 2013
Nick Smith reviews
It’s quite hard to imagine that ten years have passed since Katie Melua released her captivating ballad ‘The Closest Thing To Crazy’. Following the slow-burning and formidable Secret Symphony, her fifth studio album comprising of mainly orchestral covers, Ketevan takes Melua back to the peerless blueprint of her previous albums, incorporating contemporary songwriting, the distinctive Mike Batt production and the hallmark sincere, layered and compassionate vibrato Melua vocal. Her sixth studio album is an eclectic mix of musical styles, with rootsy blues, jazz, country and western and orchestral numbers, with new elements Luke Batt (songwriting and production) and Toby Jepson (songwriting) in the mix.
The forlorn melancholy of the opening track ‘Never Felt Less Like Dancing’ draws you into with its stripped back vocal and a splendidly subtle, yet heart-breaking piano and string arrangement. In the metaphorical sense, the track is a bleak contrast to her song ‘When You Taught Me How To Dance’, used in the film Miss Potter. Melua is left broken by a cheating lover and her sorrow is astonishingly palpable.
The mood remains sombre and spiritual for the maritime and ethereal feel of ‘Sailing Ships From Heaven’. Weaving into a present-day sea shanty with its backdrop of crashing waves and an aching string section, the affecting song builds into a beating drum section that is simply stunning.
‘Love Is A Silent Thief’ begins rather softly, with bass and fingersnaps that Peggy Lee would admire, before bursting into a magnificent brass section that threatens to become a Bond theme with a wonderfully melodramatic bridge. Upping the rock ante further, is the formidable ‘Shiver and Shake’, a dark and almost psychedelic rock song portraying a less husky Suzi Quatro and elements of Lana Del Rey in the middle-eight. It’s truly wonderful to hear Melua rock out so effortlessly and this track will be pure gold when performed live.
The quirky and deadpan ‘Idiot School’ is a track only Melua and Batt could get away with. This track has echoes of Madonna on her cutesy ‘Cry Baby’ and this swingy, bluesy number has some canny lyrical license in its delivery,
If there was a stupid degree,
I’d be a qualilfied klutz,
You gave all your loving to me,
I gave you a kick in the …
Not so long ago you loved me so,
And I was your one and only –
‘Mad, Mad Men’ is a soulful, country and western number lifted further with its canny references to Oscar Wilde and Joan Of Arc,
It’s always the mad, mad men,
and wild, wild women that change the world –
while ‘Chase Me’ is a full-on, bluesy jazz number with shades of Sara Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.
Elsewhere, the beautifully harmonic ‘The Love I’m Frightened Of’ precurses the spiritually romantic and remarkable ‘Where Does The Ocean Go?’ with lyrics inspired by The Rime of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and intuitive use of French in some of the rhyming couplets.
‘I Never Fall’ is a heatbreaking, yet bittersweet ballad which soars when Melua seizes the vocal reigns and the album’s closer ‘I Will Be There’ is a tender and compassionate tribute to resilient, shrewd and protective matriarchs everywhere.
Ketevan traces Melua’s steps back to her earlier work and there is an effortless fusion of pop, jazz, rock and blues that is testament to her cherished unique and mature bearing in a music world where inexorable manufacturing often supercedes talented and creative production. Ketevan is an exquisite triumph for Melua. Long may she reign.