Dancing On Tables Barefoot (Reissue)
Image © Spokes Records 2006
Image © Spokes Records 2005
Image © Spokes Records 2005
(updated 24 March 2008) There is surely no coincidence that John Hughes, manager of The Corrs, is also responsible for the career of newcomer Tara Blaise. As well as possessing a similar, uniquely Irish facial structure to the lovely Corr sisters, she has a similarly wistful approach to her craft. What she brings to her music, however, is a very individual quirkiness that, while it may appear to Corrs fans on the surface, provides just a touch more depth than her famous compatriots. Her voice is charming-–a fragile, aching soprano with a quick vibrato, but with enough power to hold her own in the louder songs. As a vehicle for her pleasing, bittersweet lyric writing it is just about perfect.
Tara Blaise's Dancing On Tables Barefoot (Spoke Records (UK) SPKCD002, 2005) is that first solo offering from the discovery. These twelve songs, written with Hughes and recorded in Los Angeles with Olle Romo (who has worked with Bryan Adams, and the Corrs) at the helm, are certainly varied and never less than interesting. "The Three Degrees" is an excellent, upbeat opener, showcasing Tara's nimble soprano and featuring a joyful chorus. "Superman in a Bottle" combines some subtle contemporary beats with a clipped orchestral backing, and a slightly more intimate vocal leading to another radio-friendly chorus.
The remarkable "Fool for Love," with Tara's haunting vocal over a dramatic string backing, is up next: a beautiful song and an album highlight. The gentle "21 Years" makes excellent use of some subtle acoustic guitar, and a lone cello before building, via some wonderfully layered backing vocals, into something quite spellbinding. "Paperback Cliché" is the finest up-tempo song on the album (though it's a close run thing), with an infectious chorus rounding off a charming verse. Musically, some good rock guitar and the practically ever-present orchestra vie for dominance. "Later" reduces the pace marginally, yet still produces a triumphant chorus, sung with confidence.
"For Your Own Good" is another wistful orchestra dominated piece, with another strong vocal. "I Feel Free" is a mid-tempo love song. It is decent enough, but not quite on a par with the rest of the album, while "Radio Star" improves things somewhat with it’s catchy chorus and quirky synth riff. The shimmering, acoustic guitar and piano-led "Ladybird" benefits from a sparser arrangement, allowing Tara's backing vocals a prominent place in the mix. "Little Girl" is a delightfully fragile ballad, with acoustic guitar, Mellotron and synths dominating the arrangement. "Unbearable Lightness" is a hypnotic album closer, a dramatic ballad with some smooth guitar and an emotional vocal from Tara.
As is often the case, the album does not quite sustain the quality over all twelve songs, though the first half is near perfect. Some listeners may question the use of string arrangements throughout: sparser, slightly less polished arrangements, though reducing the slickness of the end product, may have allowed Tara's wonderful voice even more opportunities to shine. These are minor considerations, though.
Overall, this is a stunning debut by an artist that deserves considerable chart success. We are keen to hear how she follow it up.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham, England and Russ Elliot in New York