With Red Eyes, French-Beninese chanteuse Mina Agossi dives delivers an array of eclectic selections drawn across a darker-shaded palette of blues, rock, folk-country, bossa nova and jazz.
There are interesting elements here, highlighted by Agossi’s unique voice. Her vocal approach is theatrical, but, not a distracting presence. It is seeped in emotion. She relies on nuance and deftly integrates lyric with appropriate textural approach. That ability dovetails with these diverse selections. They’re drawn from a range of artists and styles - from rock’s Jimi Hendrix to jazz’s Archie Shepp.
Rocker Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” is a perfect choice as opener that lags over an underwhelming supporting arrangement - unfortunate, as Agossi’s performance deserved more at launch.
Agossi offers four originals, each demonstrating an affinity for traditional genres. “The Crying Girl” is down-home emotion wherein Agossi spews heart out. “Sleep Babe Blues” is blue heat. “Oh, You!” is a good-time roller aided by Sue Richardson’s growling trumpet. “Red Eyes,” has 1950s early R+B rock blues all over it.
“The Stars in Your Eyes” is a beautiful bossa nova from guest Archie Shepp. The vocal duet, however, falls short as compared with the music. Shepp’s unique saxophone sound is somewhat in discord with the selection. This is not Getz/Gilberto.
“Why Did You Do It?” is Delta-oriented with hard guitar strumming intro reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Hendrix’s “Red House” continues the blues salute with Shepp offering a soulful solo. “Let It Rain” frames Agossi’s wonderful ability to deliver a lyric. It’s a highlight.
Red Eyes is engaging listening wherein a talented artist takes risks, embraces her material well and ultimately shines.
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