(05 March 2012) Since her debut album Call Off The Search singer songwriter Katie Melua has gained significant notariety in the UK and other territories. She has been working with Mike Batt and his Dramatico label since completing her musical education at the BRIT School for the Performing Arts and completing her B-Tech in Music. In 2006, she was the United Kingdom's best-selling female artist and Europe's highest selling European female artist. She has amassed great wealth from her music at the age of only 27.
In 2003, at the age of only nineteen, Melua released Call off the Search, which reached the top of the United Kingdom album charts and sold 1.8 million copies in its first five months of release. Her second album, Piece by Piece, was released in 2005 and to date has gone platinum four times. Melua released her third studio album Pictures in 2007 and The House in 2010 to similar success. The 2008 best-of compilation entitled The Katie Melua Collection was well received in many territories.
Katie Melua's Live at the O2 Arena (2009) and three top-selling live DVDs On The Road Again (2006), Concert Under The Sea (2009) and the stunning Katie Melua with the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra (2011) brought the artist and her band into the homes of many enthusiasts around the world. It was perhaps this last DVD that led to the title of Katie's latest album Secret Symphony (Dramatico (UK), 2012).
In addition to her drop dead good looks, Katie Melua has one of the finest voices recording popular music today. Her material is largely centered around blues standards although pop and rock tracks occasionally grace her repertoire. The standards helped establish Katie Melua without falling claim to or getting lost in the pop music machine. The standards have also given her material a lasting and broad appeal, but we think singer has the talent not only to record, but to write and perform more innovative and personal material. And our we hoped that following the release of the With the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra DVD that she would branch out further.
Awaited by her enthusiasts for months, Secret Symphony is an oustanding production that again integrates Katie Melua's stunning voice with Mike Batt's outstanding arrangements and studio production. And while well produced and great sounding in every respect, the album left us with a feeling of "more of the same" instead of demonstrating the kind of growth expected from a maturing artist. See a video of the album's first single performed live at Ronnie Scott's in London here.
We weren't really struck with the Katie Melua album. It seemed very weird, made us feel very uncomfortable actually, a lot of the songs really didn't work. For example "Nobody Knows You when You're Down And Out" (written by Jimmy Cox in 1923), is a blues song that many people have performed over the years. Every ounce of the meaning and significance of it was kind of smoothed out. The project doesn't seem to have had a great deal of respect for the material, which is something we feel is essential to it having a chance of success.
Katie Melua indeed has a gorgeous voice, but it's time that she find herself some suitable material and sit down with just a guitar and sing her heart out. She really doesn't need an orchestra. While her goal of working with blues standards helped make a spot in the industry for her, we're convinced she has a great album in her, if only she could get away from the shiny side of the business she seems to have fallen into. In closing, Secret Symphony is a good album that
many will adore, but we think it's time to break the mold. Katie Melua can do better.--Jamie Field in Kington, England and Russ Elliot in Boston, MA