Friday, September 22, 2006:

The Roots Canal: Blue Alert

Madeleine Peyroux -- Blue Alert
Anjani -- Blue Alert
I got lucky tonight. I stopped by one of my local hangouts where Madeleine Peyroux was tuning up for a new tour by playing the "early bird special," as she put it, in the back room. Just her and a terrific bass player named Matthew Penman and a pretty good keyboard guy from Australia. No drummer, which she bemoaned but I kind of liked. I have mixed feelings about her work. I really enjoy listening to her, but she's been over-hyped. I think her popularity is partly due to a kind of shtick, that her voice is so reminiscent of Billie Holiday and, at times, Edith Piaf. But if you don't get hung up on that kind of extraneous stuff and just listen to her, she's very enjoyable. It was a real treat to hear her in such an intimate venue, maybe 30-40 people at most, where she could be more informal than in a big concert hall. She played a bunch of songs from her new album, which I hadn't heard yet. I was really struck by this one, which she said was written by Leonard Cohen.

When I got home, I looked up the song online and found out it was actually co-written by Cohen with a young jazz singer named Anjani Thomas, who must think she's a Brazilian soccer player because she only uses her first name. Wow. What an unforgettable performance. If you want to hear a sultry singer who knows how to make a song come alive -- and even provides the songs herself -- you have to check this out. This is the title song on her new album, her first on a major label. (She also has an earlier vocal album and a religious album available on emusic, which seem to be pretty good but not as spectacular as this one.) It's a gorgeous song. The lyrics are worth repeating here:
There's perfume burning in the air
Bits of beauty everywhere
Shrapnel flying, soldier hit the dirt
She comes so close you feel her then
She tells you no and no again
Your lip is cut on the edge of her pleated skirt
Blue alert

Visions of her drawing near
Rise, abide and disappear
You try to slow it down, it doesn't work
It's just another night, I guess
All tangled up in nakedness
You even touch yourself, you're such a flirt
Blue alert

[chorus]
You know how nights like this begin
The kind of knot your heart gets in
Any way you turn is gonna hurt
There's perfume burning in the air
Bits of beauty everywhere
Shrapnel flying, soldier hit the dirt
Blue alert, blue alert

She breaks the rules so you can see
She's wilder than you'll ever be
You talk religion but she won't convert
Her body's twenty stories high
You try to look away, you try
But all you want to do is get there first
Blue alert

[repeat chorus]
If you're in the neighborhood, it's not too late to catch Madeleine Peyroux. She'll be there a few more nights, playing the early shift before the regular shows begin.

[Half the Perfect World]
[Blue Alert (album)]
Comments:
I have mixed feelings about Madeleine Peyroux too. Sometimes she seems just right; other times her approach wears thin. I've only heard her CD Careless Love, though, so maybe I haven't heard a good sample of her work.

I like this other version for its sobriety.

I found Careless Love to be the weakest of her three albums, although I love her version of Dylan's "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go."

You might like the new album more. At first listen, it's more consistent. It's got a nice cover of Tom Waits' "(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night." Also, the title song is a very nice take of another song by Anjani.

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