Saturday, 23 September 2017

Album of the Month: Edel Meade - Blue Fantasia

Edel Meade - Blue Fantasia

Info: Acclaimed Irish vocalist and composer, Edel Meade, celebrates the release of 'Blue Fantasia', her debut album brimming with sophisticated, romantic and beautifully unpredictable music. Her songs are almost episodic in structure, meandering through vivid ensemble instrumentation, bursts of funk, and intimate balladry, all led by her soulful and vulnerable voice. 

Following on from the video release of 'Blue Fantasia', an enthralling experimental piece earlier this year, and Sideways, a gorgeous, evocative lullaby of sorts, with it’s lush vocal harmonies and intimate lyrics, Edel says; "I’ve always been drawn to artists who speak from the heart, the ones who are honest and fearless in their approach. Certainly I’ve been inspired by Joni Mitchell and singers like Billie Holiday and Nina Simone who share a piece of their soul with you when they sing."

Soul-jazz is a rare bird in the Irish music aviary, and one that had never been spotted up until the last decade or two, like all sub-genres in Ireland, whilst there are few residing in it, the ones we have are to be cherished. Edel Meade is one such artist, her earliest song-writing successes casting all the way back to 2008, her debut album Blue Fantasia, which was released just yesterday, being the fruitful culmination of a long, and you sense, most enjoyable journey.

Opening with the warm balm of 'Sideways', the album as a whole is like a perfect cocktail of classic sounds from the past which left their mark on Meade over the years, and modern creations incorporating jazz, soul and a little bit of blues. It's a deeply intoxicating start to the LP, with multi-layered vocals drawing you into an old-world trance. The 70's cabaret ball-room energy of 'Cheek To Cheek' has a firm bossa nova styling, musically akin to a cross-over between Stan Getz and the hard-bop twists and turns of Kenny Dorham, it's uplifting and then some.

The unassuming 'Love Lost' is most definitely a key highlight on Blue Fantasia, with its painfully tender pace and mood, Meade's vocals shine through, again she brings us right into the middle of an oasis of jazz-induced calm. The bass-runs are expertly delivered and accompanied very well by keys, it's hard not to be filled with a strange sense of hope despite its lovelorn theme. 

We then reach the funky punch grooves of 'Round Midnight', isn't that the time that music such as this is at its best? Gorgeous blues guitar and be-bop percussion take centre stage for a good minute and a half before we collapse into a stream of other-worldly subconsciousness to the most escapist part of the album. We veer further into soul funk territory on 'Blind Eye', I don't quite know why, but, without the ensuing catastrophe of the film, the delivery hear reminds me of The Commitments very first live performance in Roddy Doyle's 1991 classic. 

The album's title-track arrives, and it's one that should firmly be in the jazz-standard mould. It's the epitome of Meade mixing past and present on Blue Fantasia, moody, upright bass humming in the background, and a shroud of darkness to finish it off, all under-pinned by her spoken-word style. Covers within the same genre can be so much fun, but when you remove them from there and place them in an entirely different environment they can become almost unrecognisable, without losing their magic. Michael Jackson's 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough' gets an admirable reworking here, slowed right down, alluring and warm, it is done great justice, yellow, mellow.

'Iris' has an enchanting charm, it is quintessentially how I understand modern Irish soul jazz to sound like, and although my exposure has been limited in a live sense, it echoes a similar feeling within me to that which Meade's contemporary RĂ­ona Sally Hartman displays. That sincere gravitas in delivery, and a sense of life-embracing freedom and heartfelt yet nonchalant feeling in the soaring vocal. 

We close with the appropriately titled 'Beyond the Coda', although the album has until now been a mix of funky brevity and tender moments, this is certainly a piece which begs quiet reflection. You wonder is Edel Meade asking herself, "What is next?" as the curtain draws down, and that artistic vulnerability can be quite inspiring, being on edge gives birth to greater things, but for now she should afford herself some well-earned satisfaction for a very special album.

Edel Meade will officially launch Blue Fantasia at The Bello Bar in Dublin 8 on Thursday, 28th of September with a 7-piece band, doors are at 8pm and tickets are available via

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