(08 August 2009) Jo Gabriel's fourth full length album follows her debut Tinderbox and follow-up The Unreachable Sky in 2003 and Island in 2005. Now combining the best of both an evocatively mixed personal version and a more ethereally styled mix, Jo's new album Fools and Orphans album is available as self-released limited edition (2008) and as a European release (Kalinkaland (Germany) CD 02526, 2009). It is the artist's second release on Kalinkaland, fronted by Chandeen's Harald Lowy.
Some will recall the story of Jo's break onto the music scene in the wake of Kate Bush before and around the time that Tori Amos was still unknown. Allthough Tori got the deal with Lava Records and went on to sell millions of albums on most of the major labels, she still ignores many of her followers and much of the music press with equal fervor. Even stricken with illness, Jo has remained steadfast to her fanbase and has always taken the time to communicate with media regardless of the size of the publication.
The release of Fools And Orpans came without fanfare but to the delight of enthusiasts that follow her music. While the self-released artist limited edition is the one truer to the artist's personal style, some listeners are certain to appreciate the mix and mastering that Harald Lowy has added to the Kalinklaland release which glistens with more reverb and sonic processing and an alternative track order. The artwork also has the handwork familiar to the label and common with the work done for Chandeen, Elaine and some of the label's other stalwarts. The Kalinkaland release arrived almost a year later than expected, likely due to work on the latest Chandeen album and the retouching done on Jo's original recording.
Jo's heartfelt voice soars above piano backdrops in the tracks that grace the album. Unlike the pop music of those that seek to be like her, Jo's tracks glide through melodies and experimental musings and demand concentration. Additional vocal layers, cello and light percussion add to an overwhelming coffee shop texture to the album. Without overtly trying to, Jo has created an album that is certain to draw Kate Bush affectionados closer to her work with both editions. The strings add a depth of character to the song stylings and expound the production quality of the recording.
There are memorable tracks certain to draw attention and repeat playing. One of these is "Heavy" sung as a duet with Jeff Ladd. Jo's friend Hannah Fury makes a guest appearance adding vocals to "The Habits of Shadows." Jo is also joined again by Linda Mackley (percussion) and Wendy Schneider (guitar) as well as Matt Turner (cello), Mark Urness (upright bass) and Stephanie Rearick (trumpet). The additional instrumentation contributes additional texture that warms up the arrangements.
We especially enjoyed Jo's striking vocal work contrasting the string parts in the tenderly delivered track "Vacant Little Stare." She continues to muse in the heartwrenching delivery of "Firefly" and "Cellophane." Contrast this with the electronically symphonic arrangements of the evocative tune "How The Devil Falls In Love." The strings work perfectly to echo the vocal passages. As with "Fable Honey," favorable allusions, likely due to Lowy's mix in the Kalinkaland version especially, of the old Kate Bush sound come to mind.
In the four years since Jo's last album, she has been busy working on a new offering for her fans. Her limited edition self-release combines purity and intensity that have been homogonized out in the Kalinklaland release. On the other hand, the ethereal textures Lowy added to the Kalinkaland version provide an alternative sound that is certain to appeal to listeners equally.
With a consistent vocal and piano driven sound, Fools And Orphans demonstrates Jo Gabriel's continued artistic growth and illustrates her private musical journey. It is equally great to hear the fruits of Jo's collaboration with other artists as she continues to hone her craft.
The east coast tour that we have discussed for years may be on the horizon. Clearly a singer songwriter to listen to at home or in a live venue, Jo Gabriel always has our full attention.