Nothing like calling your album The Classic to get attention but Joan As Policewoman's fifth album deserves any plaudits that come its way. It married her big lunged Any Winehouse-ish delivery with some whip smart soul pop influenced by Motown and Muscle Shoals. After a few false starts earlier in her career it was probably the album where Joan Wasser truly came of age.
Vinyl Double LP £16.49 PIASR685DLP
2LP on Play It Again Sam.
CD £9.99 PIASR685CDX
CD on Play it Again Sam.
I spent a long time getting Joan As Police Woman confused with Emmy The Great and unintentionally snoozed on checking her out. I only realised my error recently upon hearing her latest single 'Holy City' and discovering that actually she's a big-lunged soul lady who's snuck comfortably into the Winehouse-shaped hole at the top of the British-Sharon-Jones charts. "Not bad," says the post-it stuck to its front cover, "bit Winehouse".
That's not to dismiss what Ms Woman has done on this album as some kind of pastiche, mind. That single is really great, and as predicted the weird extended outro with Reggie Watts scatting makes perfect sense in the context of the album as it eases us into the title track which is all a capella beatbox'n'barbershop doo-wop, Take 5 style. Joan's voice is really likeable and powerful, the production is hard-hitting and modern but always with a nod to the great girl groups and soul divas of the '60s.
This is really punchy modern soul pop with huge great arrangements. Does she play with a whole stage full of musicians? It sounds like it sometimes. Ambitious and genuinely enjoyable, particularly when the '60s influences are at the forefront keeping it from getting too Florence.
8/10 coffin dodger 13th March 2014
Forgetting, for a brief moment, the instantly recognisable melancholic edge of Ms. Wasser's fine voice, (yum o yum) I'd like to praise the rhythm section on 'The Classic' - not quite Muscle Shoales - but what is? Joint producer, Tyler Wood, uses a moog bass synth. throughout the album to create deep, rounded and rolling bass notes - laying down some superb riffs, as witnessed on the single 'Holy City' and 'Good Together'. Twinned with the no-frills-tight-as-your-jeans-post-xmas drumming of Parker Kindred gives an album full of simple pleasures to ease the troubled minds of those of us weaned on the soul-stroke-pop delights of Stax and Tamla. I've followed JAPW's journey from her early days on violin and backing vocals for Antony & the Johnson's, and as Mike notes above, she does exhibit a penchant for the odd big production or two. In the past maybe this trait has taken away the edge from her compositions...maybe. On this, her fourth album it looks like she's finally started to appreciate the values of less is more. So, back to her voice and its timbre of melancholia. Here, that's as good as ever: her best yet!
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- The Classic by Joan As Policewoman
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