Album Reviews and
Image © 2000 J. C. Greene
click on image to visit Jennifer's website
With three albums released in the last four years of the 1990s, Jennifer Parsignault has developed into an original and highly polished singer songwriter. With styles that vary from the lightest almost country and western ballads to showtunes and into alternative female singer songwriter rock, this stunning artist is building a following of loyal enthusiasts. At times similar to Miriam Stockley, others to Martine McCutcheon and others to Sarah Brightman, her music will appeal to a wide audience. Read an exclusive Musical Discoveries interview and explore her three albums with us below.
Born in France and primarily raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Jennifer Parsingault began music playing violin. Her formative years were spent in Boston where she attended Longy School of Music while enjoying annual visits to Paris. Later, while attending Berklee College of Music, she embraced singing, songwriting, music production and record engineering.
During the preparataion of our reviews, we had the opportunity to ask Jennifer about her musical career. She told us, "Well, I was raised on classical music. In fact, I didn't really become aware of pop music until my 13th birthday, when I was given a radio. What an open door that was!" She continued, "I still remain an avid classical music lover but the pop influence was a turning point. I began writing songs - I can't really remember exactly when - but it was sometime around when my parents were going to sell my brother's piano as he had lost interest in practicing. I had to successfully convince my parents to keep that piano!"
Jennifer has released three albums to date. Her self-titled album, Jennifer (Nameless Records (USA) JCP001, 1996 - currently out of print but perhaps available in Spain as CD 0391) is the softest and most balladic of the lot. The follow-up Red (Nameless Records (USA) JCP CD002, 1997) is substantially more instrumentally and vocally dynamic and experimental, building on the style introduced in her debut. The latest album Oh, My (Nameless Records (USA) JCP CD003, 1999) is evidence of further stylistic development with songs varying between original numbers and highly accessible pop tunes.
Jennifer. Her self-titled album is comprised of seven softer songs and was produced in conjunction with Ryan Green. Jennifer sings lead and backing vocals and plays violin on the album. Further instrumentatal arrangements include guitars, bass, piano, cello drums and percussion. All songs were written by Jennifer Parsignault.
Naturally the vocal work on the album is very good and the simplicity of the song structures struck us from first listen. The material varies between soft, almost country, rock and heartfelt ballads. Photos of the artist in a flannel shirt and jeans is indicative of the "Americana" flavour evident within the album's tracks. "This Time" is a soft rock number that opens the album and a perfect introduction to the artist's repertoire. The catchy chorus and guitar work within the track are highly notable. While somewhat lighter, the track "You & I" continues in a similar vein but the vocals are more highly energised, especially in the chorus.
"Still With Me" is sung with light accompaniment and is carried by Jennifer's light and evocative lead vocal. A mix of styles, incorporating the heartfelt sound of a showtune with the instrumental accessibility of a country and western tune, the song works quite well. "You Belong To Me" is a folky rock tune combining electronic and acoustic instrumentation with a catchy lead vocal. The backing vocals in the chorus and accompanying guitar work is most notable.
Jennifer's vocals begin to soar in "Let You Go," a soft and lightly accompanied ballad with instrumental arrangements centred on piano. The evocative vocals in the everso slow ballad "So The Roses" are accompanied by piano and strings and are illustrative of the artist's vocal range and depth. The album concludes with a lovely, acoustic guitar backed lullaby called "Sleep Song." Perfectly illustrative of the artist's burgeoning talent, it is a lovely track in all respects. Jennifer's first album provides a glimpse into the artist's virtuosity and enthusiasts should seek it out.
We asked Jennifer about her songwriting and how she worked with others in the process. She told us, "I have never been succesful with the "co-writing" thing. My songs come out of me very quickly. For example, the title track to "Oh, My" came out of me one day - during the making of the record. I was depressed and attempted to go for a run to cheer myself up but ended up walking instead." She continued the story, "All of a sudden, the song came to me and I ran home and took it down. Music and words come together. As far as musical influences - there are so many - Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Kevin Gilbert, Joni Mitchell, Queen, Heart ... Beethoven ... I love great melodies and harmonies."
Red. The artist's second album has richer instrumental arrangements with the addition of woodwinds and horns. Produced by Jennifer working with Matt Sherrod and Ryan Green ("Want And Wonder" only), the album's ten tracks were written by Jennifer Parsignault with the exception of the 1981 King Crimson track "Matte Kudasai." Production quality is generally richer and higher technical recording quality is evident.
The album opens with "Always Tomorrow," an upbeat acoustic-instrumental ballad. Vocal work is substantially improved from the debut album in the recording quality, final mix, backing harmonies and overall crystalline sound of Jennifer's voice. Although there are no jazz standards included in the album, Jennifer's work with them is evident in the ballad "Make Me An Angel." Vocal work is highly evocative and sensual while the instrumentals have more of an Americana flavour to them. "A Night Like This" is more thickly instrumented but Jennifer's jazz vocal influences are clearly illustrated in this catchy and accessible tune highlighted by crisp percussion and crystalline lead vocals.
We asked Jennifer about how she developed her vocal style and she told us, "I learned music on the violin and sang to Streisand and Heart records in my parents' basement. I'm not conscious of how I developed my 'style' - it just is what it is." She continued, "I believe the voice is the purest instrument because you are your instrument. A good vocalist has to be able to pull it off live (no pro tools please!). My ears come from my years of being tortured with the violin. I believe that the ear is your most powerful instrument and I admire fellow musicians who have an aural 'photographic' memory."
The ballad "Goodbye" is accompanied by light acoustic guitar and, like the lullaby from her debut album, includes Jennifer's most sensitive vocalisations. The style is further developed in the new track "I Can't Believe," a soft ballad sung over the lightest keyboard arrangement. The uptempo light rock tune "Turn Back" is somewhat reminscent of Martine McCutcheon's emerging sound with backing vocal work and thick pop-oriented instrumentation adding to the high accessibility of this lovely song. The catchy chorus has a nice hook with instrumentals perfectly complimenting the stunning lead vocal.
A certain highlight of the album is Jennifer's cover of the 1981 King Crimson track "Matte Kudesai." While King Crimson's normally harsh progressive influences have been left to one side, this is a short jazzy tune that combines stunning vocalise excursions with lyrical parts. Thickly instrumented in an orchestral style, soaring vocals carry the song to its great heights.
Jennifer listens to a wide variety of music. She told us "I listen to Beetoven, Brahms, Peter Gabriel, Prokofiev, Chopin, Kate Bush, Sweetwater, Greatful Dead, Annie Lenox, Sarah McLachlan, Shawn Colvin, Wagner, Ella, Porter ... there are too many! I am also an avid fan of public radio - more bang for the buck."
We asked Jennifer about the songwriting process and she told us, "The songs come out when they are ripe. I can't force it at all. I will go back and do a little editing but not much. This does not mean that everything that comes out is gold! The sickly ones get thrown back into the water for further incubation and ripening! I write at a piano or keyboard." She continued, "When the song is finished, I'll do a chart, lyric sheet, the copyright paper boogie and do a piano-vocal demo. The song is now 'on file'."
Jennifer's Kate Bush influences come through in the sensually sung and highly evocative ballad "I Am Gone." The experimental nature of the arrangements and sensitively soaring vocals demonstrate the artist's singing and songwriting dexterity. The pattern develops further in the light ballad "Forgiveness (Angel's Calling)." The building keyboard arrangements, acoustic guitar solo, percussion and vocal excursions are all especially notable in this lovely track.
The album concludes with an epic and very Kate Bush-sounding ballad entitled "Want & Wonder." Alternating betweeen layers of backing harmonies and a lovely solo lead, the song works very well with experimental piano- and keyboard-based instrumentation supporting Jennifer's stunning vocal work in the first part of the song. A powerful instrumental develops as the song builds to its crescendo in the middle of the track. The song concludes combining both ballad and orchestral styles with stunning vocals actually returning to a short reprise of "Make Me An Angel." The song is somewhat reminiscent of Michelle Young's progressive recordings. It is an especially enjoyable and very dynamic track!
Jennifer's second album is a substantial development from her debut and certainly amust listen in its own right.
Oh, My. The latest album by Jennifer Parsignault is a further development from the former two. With all of the songs self-penned, it was produced by Jennifer with Matt Sherrod whom (she worked with on her former album) exclusively. Effects add to the overall feel and texture of the album while the vocal work is certainly the best produced by the artist to date. Jennifer also painted the album's cover artwork.
We asked Jennifer specifically about her latest album's writing and production process. She told us, "When we did the songs forOh, My, we would do a keyboard track into a sequencer, fix to the tempo, do a scratch vocal, and sometimes, scratch backgrounds, then started adding all the layers. Lead vocal was almost always after all the other tracks are finished so as to fully marry the sounds together. Backgrounds were often tripled for the fatness."
The title song opens the nine-track album. Rich orchestral arrangements accompany lovely vocal passages most reminscent of Miriam Stockley's work on her self titled album. Sensitively sung and crystalline, vocals soar and the background 'fatness' Jennifer speaks of works quite well with the instrumental arrangements.
The highly accessible "Believe Me" includes English and French lyrics that with rich orchestration, lots of backing harmonies and a lovely lead vocal part work quite well. The track opens with sound effects from a French airport; it concludes quite abruptly and at first we thought it was a production fault.
Extensive vocal harmonies add to the accessibility of the catchy light rock tune "Some Religion." The developing instrumentals are effective in building the song's proportions and additing to its overall appeal. The track "Great Escape" is reminscent of Martine McCutcheon's pop-rock especially as soaring vocals that conclude each verse and blend into a layered chorus. The guitar excursions and further instrumentals are notable achievements. A further development in Jennifer's most accessible pop-rock sound is the song "Matter Of Time." Sensuous vocals are accompanied by a jazzy, almost R&B, instrumental arrangement, with lots of backing vocals and sax adding to the texture of the track. The song was featured in classic episode of Warner Television'sDawson's Creek entitled "The Longest Day."
The album's ballads include the soft "More Than Love" with soaring vocals accompanied by light, primarily guitar, instrumentation yet vocal harmonies add lots of texture to the choruses. "Beautiful One" is softer still and sensitively sung over a solo piano, it has that lullaby sound that Jennifer exhibited on her earlier albums. Sung over light ocean sound effects and acoustic guitar is the sensitive and softly sung "Why," a lovely vocally-intense ballad.
Jennifer's "Prayer For St. Symin" which concludes this album was also included on theCeltic Mystique compilation (review). It is a the stunning ballad with light orchestral instrumentation that supports a soaring lead solo vocal and the unique arrangement, with only the lightest of supporting harmonies, works quite well. A lovely a capella vocal actually concludes the track.
Jennifer's latest album is her most accomplished work to date. It effectively blends her original style with highly accessible tunes and will appeal to a very broad audience. Highly recommended and worth a cross-country journey, it is certainly amust listen!
We asked Jennifer about her career outside of music. She told us, "I am a member of PETA ! I also had my own fine arts company a few years ago where I made jewelry, jewelry boxes, hand painted items, hats, etc. I also have a line of pen and ink greeting cards. I have always painted (acrylic) and the cover ofOh, My is one of mine. I do volunteer work - animal shelter, community garden, and other things as well."
Jennifer's music would likely work quite well in a live setting and we asked her about her stage performances. She told us, "I had a seven-piece band a couple of years ago—'Jennifer & Her Most Excellent Band'—for my origianl stuff. We played around LA at the usual places. I mostly do a lot of piano/vocal solo gigs. I also have a somewhat steady jazz gig with a quartet doing those wonderful standards! As a freelancer, I 've worked with Irene Cara, Bang Tango and Lita Ford."
We also asked Jennifer about the web and she told us, "I love the internet. Just ask J.C.! It has made things easier; ok - more accessible for independent artists. Also, the public can find some really wonderful music that would otherwise not be avaible - no thanks to the majors ! I think we're turning a corner."
Jennifer Parsignault's music has developed significantly from her debut album and the path it has taken is clearly illustrated by the progression of recordings leading toOh, My. Readers are encouraged to seek out the latter two albums for her best work, and sincere enthusiasts should make the effort to find her debut album as well. Further reviews, soundbites and ordering information is available at Jennifer's official website. Click on any of the images in this feature to access it. We thoroughly enjoyed the three albums and believe our readers will as well.
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