Shy Boy • Nine Million Bicycles • Piece By Piece • Half Way Up The Hindukush • Blues In The Night • Spider's Web • Blue Shoes • On The Road Again • Thank You, Stars (New Version) • Just Like Heaven • I Cried For You • I Do Believe In Love
What the Critics Say Chances are that most of the 1.8 million UK residents who bought Katie Melua's debut album, "Call Off The Search", did so as a result of the album's relentless TV campaign. For the best part of a year, she filled every ad break with the breathless tones and cosy longing of lead track, "The Closest Thing To Crazy", ensuring that her name, face and curious Russian/North London accent were ingrained in the viewing public's conscious. All those who were converted by the primetime bombardment, can breathe a sigh of relief. "Piece By Piece" has plenty more where that came from.
In fact, it's practically an album of "The Closest Thing To Crazy" sound-alikes. Hardly surprising given the song's impact, nor upsetting given that the raft of sweetly melancholic easy listening which fills her second album - tender acoustic heartbreak in the vein of first single "Nine Million Bicycles" - tugs so gracefully at the heart strings.
However, if there is room for disappointment, it lies in the fact that, in going for such a safe banker of a follow-up, some of her original charm's been smothered. In between all the hazy, butter-wouldn't-melt love of her debut, the air was thick with booze, hormones and sleaze, suggesting that while she may have been chasing Norah Jones's dreamy halo, she'd be a lot more fun to hang-out with. The bluesy, bar room sways of "Shy Boy", "Halfway Up The Hindu Kush" and "Blues In The Night" once again hint at Melua being a hard-drinking temptress, but in a toned-down-so-as-not-to cause-offence way.
The need to play safe, while understandable, is something which Melua and her handlers should be wary of. Essentially a gifted singer, plucked from obscurity by song-writer, producer and record company boss Mike Batt - previously famed for his work with the Wombles - her job is to be the alluring voice to Batt's songs. Yet the strongest songs here are Melua's own. "I Cried For You" and the title track are beautifully desolate laments, sung with passion and shivering emotion, while "I Do Believe In Love" is a lullaby spiked with intelligence and a sentiment that lingers. Clearly Melua's real talent lies beyond being a pretty face and enchanting voice. If she's encouraged to use it, she could be something truly exceptional.
In the meantime, "Piece By Piece" is a pleasing diversion; this year's sound of coffee tables, dinner parties and commercial breaks the land over.
by Dan Gennoe
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