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September 2004

Jackie Allen
Love Is Blue
A440 Music Group

If, after last year's elegantly accomplished The Men In My Life, anyone needs further proof that Jackie Allen is a real comer in the contemporary canary sweepstakes they need look no further than the far more impressive new Love Is Blue (A440). As hybrids go, Allen is a rare breed. Her firm roots are clearly folk-rock (and, as evidenced here, her sound grows increasingly similar to Joni Mitchell's), but they are wedded to a keen jazz sensibility. She can take an overripe pop chestnut like the title track, still best known as a syrupy instrumental '68 chart-topper from Paul Mauriat, and remind us of the emotionally desperate depths of Brian Blackburn's lyric. Likewise, she rescues "A Taste of Honey" from the brassy clutches of Herb Alpert (or the melodramatic bleating of Julie London) to deliver a bittersweet reading that is starkly, refreshingly honest. "I'll Be Around," too often performed with suicidal desolation, is here injected with a tiny glimmer of hope that better underscores Alec Wilder's heartbreaking eloquence; and Allen's "Pavement Cracks" ably captures all the bleak brilliance of Annie Lennox's original. But what really lifts Love Is Blue off its hinges are two Allen originals, both written with her screenwriter pal Oryna Schiffman. "Go," penned nearly a decade ago but recently refitted with new lyrics, is a cunning little one-act play about a woman with an obvious romantic bias, urging a male friend to end a dissatisfying relationship. Even better is "Moon of Deception," which (quite intentionally, I presume) sends up those moon-June-spoon tunes of old by recasting the moon as a cruel mistress. Dazzling.

Originally published in September 2004
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