From Brooklyn to Brighton, via sleet and snow, Joan as Police Woman and Benjamin Lazar Davis came to the Haunt in Brighton to showcase their latest collaborative album, 'Let It Be You', Thankfully the weather in Brighton was a lot better than their drive down from Hebden Bridge, the venue for the previous night's gig. Here, in the screening room of a converted cinema, Joan, Ben and band took to the stage to perform album highlights as well as some of Joan's solo back catalogue.
Appearing throughout, as per the album cover, in blue jumpsuits (Think Kwik Fit ad extras vs 70's L.A car wash) Joan and Ben set about mixing the very new with the very special. The gig got off to a strong start and hardly faltered in the near ninety minute set. Opening with 'Satellite' it was clear that Joan was in good voice, her vocal at the forefront of this track and sounding especially emotive as the song de-constructed into a near A cappella end. Album highlight 'Magic Lamp', followed by its more angular title track and soulful reflection, 'Hurts So Bad', were up next; Joan, Ben and band assuredly affirming the quality of their new record.
At five songs in Joan went back a decade to revisit her first solo album, 'Real Life', with a stirring, organ heavy, version of 'Save Me'. Shortly afterwards Joan went solo again, alone on stage as she initially struggled to relieve herself of her, rather more difficult to take off than anticipated, wrist band. "Thanks for understanding my plight" she commented to the crowd, "I'm free at last". Stood at the keys, Joan first played out, 'To Be Loved', from her second record 'To Survive', and then, guitar in hand, proceeded to deliver a fabulous take on 'We Don't Own It'.
Following the release of two incredibly good albums in recent years, 'The Deep Field' from 2011 and 'The Classic' from 2014, Joan APW has decided to throw a slight curve ball on her latest record, 'Let It Be You'. For this, her 5th full length album proper, she has teamed up with producer, performer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and serial collaborator, Benjamin Lazar Davis. (Joan herself is knowingly never averse to an opportunity to collaborate either having previously worked with Antony Hegarty, Lou Reed, Brian Molko and Lloyd Cole amongst many others)
With both artists mining a rich vein of creativity in isolation the prospect of a joint venture would, at least conceptually, sound very appealing. Where Joan excels is in her delivery and expression. Her soulful, smouldering, sometimes smoking vocal is a wonderful thing to experience. It's often said of many an artist that they have a unique, individual or immediately identifiable voice but it's also often a crock of sh**. Joan however is the real deal, the reason why so many other artists want to work with her, want to use her vocal, want her input or desire her participation. Joan defies classification because of the diversity of her work but at the very least, certainly in terms of contemporary soul vocalists, there are few who come close to touching her.
So why Benjamin? What does Ben bring to the table that's made Joan hook up and make an entire album? Has he brought anything identifiable, anything to make this a worthwhile and productive collaboration? On balance I'd have to say yes he has on both counts. If you don't explore the possibilities you'll never know what could have been and throughout 'Let It Be You' the pair are clearly keen on shaping a new sound through a creative musical exploration.
Continue reading: Joan As Police Woman & Benjamin Lazar Davis - Let It Be You Album Review
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