JENNY BEECHING A RIGHT SONG AND DANCE
A review by ADRIAN MAY
A Right Song & Dance is the first album by an established London folk artist. Its also the first album from a new label (MKS) and full marks to them for picking a distinctive and talented singer for their first release.
Jenny Beeching has been a consistently interesting artist over the last few years, both as a soloist and in her time in a duo with keyboard wizard Tony Cliff. Her adventurous choice of material (some of it self written),and her strong expressive voice both single her out from most female singers who seem a little tame besides our Jenny. Given the strength of this album its surprising that she has never recorded before.
On this album she gives a very fair representation of her club repertoire with some originals, a couple of traditional songs and some bluesy, jazzy thirties-style numbers that show off her vocal expertise. Theres even a spot of dancing, hence the title.
At first sight this may sound like an odd collection of songs. But I think it works in the main because of Jennys obvious enthusiasm and knack of picking the right song for her voice.
Her reading of songs is always intelligent and a lot of natural humour comes through. If you were looking for a strong musical direction and deeply relevant lyrics you might be disappointed but a good collection of songs, well sung, Is what we have here, and heaven knows that is rare enough.
One of my favourites is a song from her early days, written with Dominic Patten, called Rain It is a lovely wistful evocation of the romance of the afore-mentioned substance. A bit sixties in feel, maybe, but that is when it dates from. It has an excellent tune and a memorable chorus.
Love is Pleasing also stands out, with some fine melodeon from Derek Simpson of Ticklers Folk Circus. Jennys singing always keeps a fine balance between wryness and sensitivity, which is the essence of her talent. This works well on the jazzier numbers too, even Ellingtons I Got It Bad, which is a tricky number even for a skilled jazz vocalist.
Easily the most commercial track is the Tony Cliff original Onion Tears. This would be the most likely contender for a single. However, to my ears, It is a little smooth beside the rest of the songs, although it is well performed and has interesting lyrics. Never Swat A Fly is a humorous jazzy number that I feel does not quite come off. I cant help thinking that she could have done a Music Hall number for comic relief, Instead.
Her own compositions are strong and witty, with good vigorous guitar work. Generally,t he backing is clean and uncluttered and Im glad she has not been tempted to swamp herself with orchestras and heavy rhythm sections like some soloists do when they get near a studio.
We have Jenny instead backed by: keyboards on four tracks, Tony Cliff;violin on one, Steve Keith; and melodeon on one, Derek Simpson. The result is pleasing to listen to, with the unobtrusive sidemen adding a little colour to the proceedings.. Jenny's own guitar and banjo playing is fine and sprightly and comes over well on record.
This is altogether an excellent album from a very good artist. Id advise anyone to buy this in preference to all your disco-clone ladies and expressionless Blondie impersonators. Jennys rough sophistication will charm your ears.
The cover is striking and I like the title, which seems to sum up Jenny Beechings cheerful Cockney character and wit. Go along to your local folk club and see her in action if you can. Jenny has something to make A Right Song & Dance about.
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