Friday, September 22, 2017

Carol Albert's Fly Away Butterfly on CD

Gotta admit that this CD didn't look promising when I first picked it up. This collection of slick, over-produced lite jazz tunes seemed a little too New-Age to me, its aim toward the ethereal far too forced. Even the title was a bit of a turn-off. Fly away, butterfly? What is this, 1968?

Slowly I started to change my mind. Composer Carol Albert lost her husband back in 2014 and Fly Away Butterfly is a chronicle of her grief and her return to songwriting after many years. The end result isn't bare and revealing like Nick Cave's brilliant Skeleton Tree or as honestly quotidian as Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me, both released earlier this year. Butterfly is liberation, as its title implies, a moving toward happier places. While words such as "original" and "ground-breaking" will never be applied to an album like this, the optimism is contagious.

I'm also impressed with the sound quality of this recording. I didn't expect to be impressed. On casual listening it all sounded too polished, a little too sharply digital, a little too bubbly and bright 1980s in its presentation. Once you sit down and give this music your full and undivided attention, you'll start to discover just how much thought and effort and feeling is hiding in the dark corners. While this music can fall prey to some of that '80s Nagel-esque slickness, Albert is adding important details here and there--distant vocals that symbolism her engagement to the world around her during the grieving process, not to mention her use of other classic songs such as "One Way," "Chasing Waterfalls" and a faithful version of "Mas Que Nada" to show that the world turns with or without her. You might as well succumb to the beat, she seems to be saying.

Albert has wrapped this up in too pretty of a package, and I ultimately prefer an attitude closer to Nick Cave's--the death of a loved one can be a bulldozer that pushes you closer to the abyss. Dusting yourself off and starting over may be a healthier approach, but it's not the stuff of great art. But if you listen to Fly Away Butterfly without knowing all the back story, you may find plenty to enjoy.

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