Blue No More: Gabriella Cohen
Gabriella Cohen’s flavour of sixties pop-soul creates an interesting range of styles, harbouring a vast span of influences from over fifty years ago. Following other people such as Amy Winehouse and the nineties Britpop rockers, she seems to have come to a similar conclusion about the sounds of the sixties still having a lot to say for people today.
Passing through a whirlwind of doo-wop ‘shoops‘ and bluesy guitar licks, this album doesn’t disappoint in terms of pastiche. Even the album’s structure seems to reference the old ‘side A, side B’ vinyl arrangements, with a clearly distinct musical style between both.
The first five tracks are the ‘pop’ side, with full-band arrangements of rocking bass, hand-claps and woozy backing vocals, enjoying the very best of the honeycomb-hair generation. The last five songs show a more soulful approach, emulating the folk-poet scene of the day, with artists such as Joan Baez and Leonard Cohen coming to mind.
The songwriting has its fair share of earworms as well. The chorus in Just For the Summer glides along smoothly, with blues-inflected guitars and a winding melody that sounds a bit Mr Tambourine-like. The backing ‘shoops‘ and clanging pianos keep it light. The hand-claps in Frangelico Dreams have a similar youthful exuberance as something from The Beatles’ Please Please Me. The playful I Just Got So High packs all the punch of a Marc Bolan T-Rex song in the guitar solo, a brief anachronism as the seventies begin to creep, but only slightly.
However, the genuine tenderness behind the acoustic songs shows she’s not just surface pastiche. She’s genuinely inspired by the artists of old and manages to bring a new life to their sounds. Water is filled with rich poetic imagery as she describes being engulfed as a means of embracing passivity; giving up the ghost and accepting the fight is over. Set against stoic and tender guitar strums, her voice floats over one of the most sensitively-written melodies found on this album.
When at the end things take a turn for the new-wave, it’s already too late. The sound-collage Blue No More makes it clear the sixties have finished, being based around a series of abstractly sequenced musical scenes, from a soulful a cappella opening to electronic hums and whirrs in the background. The only vocal passages lack the beat and fun of earlier, ripping away the layers of pastiche to behold a frail identity underneath.
Rewind tries to redefine itself. Going for a colder set of synthesisers and a minimalist-style melody, any innocence left is finally over, but maybe something new has just begun.
This album is a wonderful homage to a decade that really changed music for good. Mixing her soulful vocals over wonderfully authentic arrangements, whilst not being afraid to step outside these stylistic boundaries when it counts, it should be listened to by the musical fun-seekers and stylistic connoisseurs alike. A lot of good where this came from!