Sound Waves Magazine USA, Volume 27, Issue 4, Album Review, April 2017
I have reviewed Zoe Schwarz before so when I saw her CD arrive for potential review, I was quite excited at the prospect of hearing more from her. This British band borrows and (I mean this in the most complimentary way) steals a lot of American stylings in their compositions; yet retains their own originality. This thirteen track CD of mostly originals penned by Schwarz and guitarist Rob Koral, begins with “Hold On.” This number has“kicking off a concert” energy, with lyrics by Phil Coles. Track two, “My Baby Told Me So” begins with Koral on acoustic guitar and Schwarz on vocals. The band kicks in as the second verse begins. The lyrics ponder about getting to a gig without a car and not having money to pay the band; yet she is assured that “life is sweet...my baby told me so!” Schwarz’s voice echoes tones of Peggy Lee in this light-hearted melody. The third cut, “People” begins with the band playing a percussive riff in unison, then launching into a “Mojo” meter. “People” is a plea for a more humanitarian/altruistic outlook...worth listening to every sentiment in this song. Pete Whitaker tears it up on Hammond organ, followed by Koral in matching spirit on guitar! The song ends with the head.
Track four; “Broken” switches the mood to melancholy. This song emulates Billie Holiday; lyrically and vocally. The vocals melt into the guitar solo that begins plaintively and builds. Track five does a 180 degree turn in its mood. “I Wanna Get Something Started With You” is light and flirty; kind of a “High-heeled Sneakers” sentiment with a jazzy style. Whittaker starts the solo section on organ, followed by Koral in a jazz groove. Track six, “Free From You” is a rock tune in a minor key. Schwarz tells of getting over a toxic relationship. She expounds on him being a “coward...chauvinist...misogynist...one day you’ll pay for it and I will be over you!” Koral’s solo reflects the mood perfectly.
The seventh cut is the title tract, “This Is The Life I Choose.” It has an interesting arrangement, as it shifts rhythms in minor tones. Schwarz’s voice in the verses is soft and reflective then resounds in the chorus. The true poet shines through in the lyrical content as she describes various scenarios in the life of a blues performer. Whittaker’s and Koral’s solos, respectfully, flare with emotion! Track eight, “Exit;” lyrics penned by Coles, repeats the word exit at the beginning of almost every line; “exit my head...exit straight ahead...exit my every pore, exit my door. Exit, leave me be!” Not surprising, this song has a built in hook. It’s really rather catchy! The horn’s out-tro is reminiscent of Otis Redding’s horn arrangements. The ninth cut, “I Can’t Live Like That” is a lively declaration of how, in spite of advice given by her mother and others, (stay away from boys, stay away from the blues) she has to live her own life! Track ten, “No Money In My Pocket” enters with Paul Robinson on drums, joined by the band. The same primal beat is always present, keeping the rhythm going through the pauses, between verses and solos. The lyrics, penned by Pete Feenstra, tell the tale of touring, living gig to gig financially. This one is a rocker! Song eleven, “Call of The Night” has a dreamy, ballad quality. The musical poem contained within this song’s melody was also penned by Feenstra.
The two final cuts are referred to as “bonus tracks.” The first of which is a song penned by the late, great Jack Bruce. “We’re Going Wrong” was recorded when Bruce was with Cream. Schwarz’s version truly does Bruce proud! Her voice is so well suited for this sad song. Koral’s guitar solo has its own complimentary personality. The final cut, “Feeling Good” has a rich history. It was written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1964 musical "The Roar Of The Greasepaint—The Smell Of The Crowd." Probably the most famous version was recorded by Nina Simone, and first appeared on her 1965 album "I Put A Spell On You." It has since been recorded by a highly diverse list of artists, including Sammy Davis Jr., Traffic, Michael Bublé, The Pussycat Dolls, George Michael, John Coltrane, Frank Sinatra Jr., and Adam Lambert. This song, too, was a perfect choice for Schwarz to cover. She has room to soar vocally, and SHE DOES!
- Words by: Marci Chevian-Hooper