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Wednesday
Nov302011

Lili Anel's Starmaking CD 'Every Second in Between' is a Gem 

ALBUM REVIEW: Lili Anel's timeless Every Second in Between (Wall-I Records) was first reviewed by us months ago, but it's holiday season, so it's time to repost/update this review so you know exactly what to buy for your music-loving friends. 

By Robbie Woliver

Add this to your holiday gift-giving list, now!

 

Lili Anel has been making incredible music for years, but with Every Second In Between she has a recording that finally lands her on the Big-Time map. This is her breakthrough, a brilliant amalgam of jazz and pop vocals, songwriting and production. THis review first ran when the record was released, but a lot has happened since, like Lili winning three top-level New York Music Awards (Best Female Jazz Album, Best Female Jazz Vocalist and Best Female Singer/Songwriter).

Anel, a New York singer-songwriter now Philadelphia-based, grew up in Spanish Harlem soaking up the musical roots of her Cuban and African-American heritage. Professionally, she grew up in the same Greenwich Village singer-songwriter circle as Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin and Lucinda Williams. But unlike those singers who each had a distinct style that was easy to capitalize on, Anel’s approach was more complex and difficult to pinpoint. One set of ears would compare her to Joan Armatrading and Tracy Chapman; another Phoebe Snow. One listener would say Nina Simone; another, Roberta Flack. There were comparisons to Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and even Pat Benatar. And you know what? They were all correct. But they were all wrong as well. Comparing her to all those greats proved a disservice. She was a fusion of them all, meaning simply, LIli Anel is an original—there is no comparison.

With Every Second, Anel’s fifth recording, the singer-songwriter has secured herself a place as a jazz-pop artist to be reckoned with on the national scene.

Let’s start with that incomparable voice. Alto-deep, and as smooth as honey, her rich timbre is what makes her so distinctive and drives the deep emotion of her songs (she wrote all but one on this album). Her persuasive, percussive guitar playing is the perfect companion to a vocal that sways and slides through very expressive lyrics and jazz-tinged melodies. Her superb vocalese is all about shadows, notes and phrasing standing outside and flitting between.

Looking fierce, sounding gorgeous, Lili Anel has everything going for her.

Much kudos for the success of this recording goes to Grammy-winning Glenn Barratt, who was smart enough to pull back the bells and whistles and allow the spotlight to shine on Anel’s main strength—her voice. The CD starts with a rousing “I Don’t Need You This Way,” with its themes of love, loss and empowerment, which permeate the album. The song displays such self-control and self-possession. While Anel can wail with the best (and she does on this and other tracks), she shows as much command over her vocal as she does over the situation she’s singing about.

“One More Night” is a gorgeous bluesy-jazz ballad, showcasing Anel’s stellar voice. The track is just killer. And again Barrett’s golden touch is evident through the top-level musicality on this song—so clean, so complex, so perfect. The instrumentation is spot-on, with the soulful organ adding just the right amount of groove.

The centerpiece of the CD, “Supposed to Be,” could (and should) be a No. 1 pop hit. A stunningly elegant and lilting Latin-tinged ballad, she sings without anger or regret: “I am who I am despite your plan for me.” It is the cornerstone of this album. The tell-tale line, “It’s life it’s death and every second in between,” says it all: She covers all the nooks and corners of relationships, with every moment of the song—all her songs—filled with character.

Listen to "Supposed to Be" here:

"Supposed to Be" by Lili Anel

“Nina Simone’s” “That’s All I Want From You” is a simple ballad, expressing hope for what a relationship could be. The song is so pretty, and the piano accompaniment is heartfelt. A first-class performance, showing how dynamic artists like Simone and Anel can display such vocal restraint when needed. Another magnificent performance.

“So Far Away,” written with her identical twin sister Barbara (a terrific singer on her own) has another nice Latin groove, with Anel reaching deep to some of those low-notes most other artists wouldn’t/couldn't even attempt. And then to prove what a pro she is, she soars heavenly high. She never shows off; she doesn’t need to. She just sings.

“Can’t Fall Out of Love,” is the realist side of Anel. While she won’t take crap in a relationship, it’s still hard to leave someone she loves. It’s this kind of honesty, both lyrically and vocally that makes Anel a standout.
In “Much to My Surprise” Anel gets a bit country at its start, digging back to those folk roots of hers. But it soon gets funky and proves that Anel has strong R&B and rock chops as well. “George Bailey’s Lament” is almost in narrative form, where Anel nimbly plays with song structure. It’s here where the best example of those vocal comparisons occur—in this one song you hear everyone from Armatrading, Mitchell, Chapman, Simone, and Flack, and you shake your head thinking, wow, this is one vocalist reminiscent of all those iconic, individual voices, resulting in a unique sound of her own.

“Won’t You Stay” is one of those dazzling tracks that you can leave on "repeat" all day, and never tire of it. This is a classic—a striking, very coverable song that can anchor movies, TV shows and your iPod. Her voice just flies skyward on this one. The kiss-off “Voyager,” is a poignant goodbye song, typical of Anel's theme of strength lying within, and not necessarily with another. A particular sweet sadness envelopes this one.

You don’t want to hear the closer “Goodbye.” You just don’t want this CD to end. Just start it over again, and again. And then make sure you visit her equally good catalogue on iTunes, Amazon, MySpace or her own website.

Every Second In Between is pure genius. Lili Anel, after years of making fantastic music, has finally grabbed the gold ring with this, the best jazz album of the year, and a real contender for pop’s overall best of the year.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: A Grammy-worthy album for any mood, by one of the most distinctive contemporary artists around.

EVERY SECOND IN BETWEEN RATING: 9.5/10

HOLIDAY GIFT POTENTIAL FOR YOUR FRIENDS RATING: iTunes/10

 

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