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Paula West: Come What May

Six years ago, I was fortunate enough to acquire a copy of Paula West’s debut disc, Temptation, and promptly fell in love. It was, I was sure, only a matter of time before the whole world became equally smitten. Well, time has passed, a second, equally superb album (Restless) has come and gone and West is still waiting for the world to get hip to her hipness. Actually, rather than waiting, the gorgeous San Francisco chanteuse has come out swinging with Come What May (Hi Horse HH03033; 73:37). Again, I can only wonder why she isn’t a much bigger star. Blessed with a full, sensuous voice free of any obvious influences, West has impeccable, if occasionally offbeat, taste. Opening with a gently swaying mix of “Caravan” and “Night in Tunisia,” and wisely choosing to glide when so many others would soar, she segues into “The Snake,” Oscar Brown’s cunning fable of caring women and the reptiles they attract. On “Day In, Day Out” the sexual energy is so palpable that “when I awake, I awaken with a tingle” finally makes proper sense. Similarly, Cy Coleman’s “You Fascinate Me So,” so often treated like a trifle, is transformed into four-and-a-half minutes of foreplay. West is, however, at her absolute best when imbued with a touch of melancholy. On both “Blues in the Night” and “Lush Life” she sidesteps the expected self-pity to instead paint stark, stunning portraits of intelligent women who realize they’ve been duped and yet know they’ll fall again.

Originally Published