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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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Love In A Bubble CD Cover
Image © Square Peg Music 2004

Fiona Renshaw
Image © Square Peg Music 2004

(21 March 2004) British singer/songwriter Fiona Renshaw has won considerable notoriety for the androgyny of her voice. Many have likened it to jazz diva Nina Simone, though to our ears it suggests Alison Moyet and especially veteran Jazz singer Cleo Laine, and this has perhaps overshadowed the quality of her music. He debut album Love in a Bubble (Square Peg Music LMCD010, 2004) is a fine first effort in a smooth jazz / pop / soul vein, and should provide a platform for an interesting career.

The album presents a very consistent, late night vibe, easy on the ear --perhaps a little too easy, in retrospect--with a production that shimmers and lulls, but rarely surprises. Opener "Rough Trade" is a fine example of her craft, a mid paced song with a great, uplifting chorus, giving Fiona an opportunity to use her mobile voice without ever cutting lose. "Through the Day" continues this approach, while "Is the anything you need" shifts the emphasis to acoustic instruments and a bluesy lead vocal. "Go Down Easy" varies the pace a little--using bass as a lead instrument in an interesting arrangement with cello also prominent, while "Higher Above" is a delightful vehicle for some excellent acoustic guitar. "Long Shadows" introduces an atmospheric Fender Rhodes into the mix in another blues-soul number.

"Kiss Me," sounds like a slightly toned-down Anastacia, while "Love in a Bubble" is incredibly catchy, even if it does rather over repeat its chorus. Gentle strings introduce "Far off Lands," a lovely ballad and an album highlight, while "Home Again" increases the pace a little, engagingly. "Watch and Wait" uses programmed drums and a gentle melodica riff on its chorus to good effect, while "Waste Away" features a strong vocal performance and some cutting lyrics. A cover of Gil Scott Heron's "Home is where the hatred is" closes the album with emotion and a live sounding, almost rocky, arrangement. Fiona finally cuts lose, here, to prove she can really sing with passion.

Overall, this is an excellent album--the songs are generally good, if a little dependent on a repeated single-line hook to make them memorable. Fiona clearly has a fine--and feminine--voice, though it is perhaps a little underused, and the laid back mood is consistent, if slightly frustrating, given the power of the final track. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.comhere. Hopefully, nonetheless, we have a new star in the making.--Stephen Lambe

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