Sunday, March 9, 2014

Christine Tobin - A Thousand Kisses Deep (2014)

‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’ is a beautiful re-working of eleven Leonard Cohen songs and is Tobin’s 2014 salute to the legendary Canadian singer, songwriter and poet in the year of his 80th birthday. In her own songwriting, Christine Tobin specializes in idiosyncratic, highly musical poetic vignettes with a strong sense of story, so it's no surprise she weaves such magic with the profound, sensual and mysterious songs of Cohen. She has been a lifelong fan and has always included one of his songs in her live programme since the mid-90s.

The songs chosen are from his early 1960s albums through to his 2001 release ‘Ten New Songs’. Christine was first drawn to Cohen at the age of ten after hearing ‘You Know Who I Am’ on the classic compilation double album ‘Fill Your Head With Rock’ which belonged to her eldest sister. Despite her tender years, she fell under the spell of his hypnotic tones and became a Cohen devotee, learning every song from his second LP ‘Songs From a Room’ by heart. Speaking of ‘You Know Who I Am’, Christine says, “I guess because I internalized it at such a young age, I feel its presence like an old friend, a comforting hymn that’s always there in the background.”
Tobin’s masterful arrangements and captivating delivery bring great luminosity to his work. Sometimes she reframes the songs, by changing the rhythm or broadening the harmonic backdrop to introduce new colours that present Cohen’s beloved melodies afresh and burnish the lyrics to a powerful glow. ‘Tower of Song’ is taken from its 1980s soundscape back to the 1960s – not hippie introspection but a homage to the Miles Davis band, deftly quoting ‘In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time’ in the finale. Tobin’s long-time musical partner, guitarist Phil Robson, contributes a compelling arrangement of ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, where the lively West African influenced opening riff sets the tone for a reading imbued with an almost defiant emotional bravery. The band is a team of great musicians that provide a sensitive and responsive soundworld. Tobin is reunited with one of her earliest collaborators Huw Warren on accordion (long-time pianist/arranger with June Tabor), award winning guitarist Phil Robson, Dave Whitford double bass, and Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale (Antonio Forcione band).
Special guest Gwilym Simcock unfolds a version of ‘Anthem’ that creates a kind of alchemy on an intimate voice and piano reading. Nick Smart’s trumpet intro to ‘Dance Me To The End of Love’ conjures up an otherworldly ballroom of romance and heralds the finale of this imaginative
re-visioning of Cohen classics.

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