Melody Gardot takes a couple of steps back and a couple forward with Currency of Man. The first retreating move, a most wise one, sees her reunited with producer Larry Klein, who steered 2009’s My One and Only Thrill to multi-platinum acclaim. Also, with assistance from French engineer Maxime Le Guil, an expert in vintage recording methods, Gardot and Klein sidestepped digital modernity in favor of antique analog equipment, providing the album tremendous presence and richness.
As for the advances, Gardot’s distinctively airy voice has undergone significant transformation, and is now muscular and freshly imbued with a deeply resonant soulfulness. Klein responds with meaty, potent arrangements-electrified, with plenty of horns and even a gospel choir-that both complement and elevate this new sound. And though Gardot has, since her late-aughts breakthrough, proven a formidable songwriter, Currency of Man‘s 10 compositions evince heightened power and authority, elevating her to the plateau of Leonard Cohen and Klein’s ex, Joni Mitchell, with shades of Marvin Gaye and Bob Dylan.
Gone are songs of love and romantic lament. Instead, Gardot’s focus is mankind’s current state, a cross-cultural foray into social consciousness that travels from the booze-fueled bleakness of “Bad News” and retributive “Same to You” to the everyman democracy of “It Gonna Come” and next-generation hopefulness of “Morning Sun,” reaching its apex with the fist-shaking equal-rights anthem “Preacherman.” “This album is about our worth in the world,” says Gardot. As such, its worth is immense.