Review of Claire Tchaikowski's album Those Thousand Seas released through Gra Mor Phonic Records.
Looks like that old ribless warbler has finally gone and gotten her wish. When Cher so emotionally pleaded "If I could turn back time, if I could find a way" I doubt that the manifestation she had in mind was this one. Let me take you back.......
In 1998, blow me if President Clinton wasn't in the news denying 'Sexual relations' with one Monica Lewinsky. That year also saw James Cameron's 'Titanic' pick up 11 Oscars and an Israeli transsexual, by the name of Dana International, claim the mighty Eurovision Song Contest title in Birmingham! Musically, producer Mike Hedges was on top of his game having produced another highly acclaimed album from The Manic Street Preachers in the form of 'This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours'. One Sally Herbert, a musical director, violinist, producer and writer had just completed the string arrangements for the aforementioned Manics album. (She would later work with Radiohead, Elbow, Kylie and Muse among many others). Faithless, featuring one Dido, released Sunday 8pm, Enya released 'Maiden Of Mysteries' and oh yes Madonna, re-creating herself in yet another typically 'of the moment' guise put out the 'Ray Of Light' album containing the song 'Frozen' as well as a few other slickly produced but suitably fashionable cuts.
So where does my digression lead me. Well, it appears that time has not moved on at he same rate for everyone. Claire Tchaikowski's album, produced by Mike Hedges and co-written with Sally Herbert, could so easily have been released in 1998. Back then she may have been treading new ground and developing a fresh sound. In 2010 however it still sounds like 1998. It is a softly scented Celtic blend of Madonna, Enya, Clannad and Dido all wrapped up in a package that Richard Curtis would probably sign up in a second if he had had the pleasure. This is made for Rom-Com movie credits or Chick Flick "moving" moments. So what, I hear you cry. Dido, according to some charts, delivered 2 out of the 10 best selling UK albums of the last decade. The buying public probably cant wait for 'Those Thousand Seas'. Not everyone is comfortable with change after all.
The album is pleasant enough and will pass by unassumingly at many a party. Its tepid electro rhythms and beats accompanied by a very pleasing, if a little plain, smooth and soothing voice are never offensive. Claire is not however a Diva, she is not as tortured as the PR would have you believe. 'Beguiling' , as one commentator put it, is pushing it. The title track is certainly a highlight. It is a softly harmonised and layered vocal with minimal instrumentation. Her Irish roots are clearly betrayed from the off. 'Undone', her last single, released on 25 January, encapsulates more of what the album is about. Madonna-ish electro/pop, a sensual undercurrent and with a weak lyrical content. (Fine for it's brand endorsements, including Armani, Tiffany and Nike apparently). 'Mothered Sons', although stuck in time, is also one of the better tunes on '..Thousand Seas'. A stab at Tori territory, but without the mystery or menace, it nevertheless is a broody more melancholy and atmospheric piece. 'In Your Arms', with its near blatant robbery of a Faithless bass and drum backing mix, ups the beat and, not for the first time on the album, throws in a little Morcheeba style sophistication. Near the close 'Angel' tries so hard to convince you of the emotion and beauty within. The harmonies carry on, backed by the strings and synths, but the connection is weak at best...."I am your shadow, I am your rain, I am your longing, A little of your pain."
Producer, and also co-writer, Mike Hedges says "I'd been listening out for a voice like Claire's for years, and when we met I just wanted to produce an album, whether it got signed or not". Well, its not the Manics, U2, The Cure or Texas (Some of his previous employers) but if it pleases Mike, given his past track record, it will probably please an awful lot of people. Me, I'm not convinced. If it doesn't work out Claire can always fall back on her skill as a Horse Whisperer, Bob Redford is getting on after all......