Life, Love & Gossip (Kwerk, 2006)
There's a scene in a "Simpsons" episode where Lisa explains that she and Bart are part of the MTV generation and thus experience neither highs or lows. Homer asks her what it feels like and Lisa's articulate reply is "Meh".
"Meh" is a pretty accurate response to Rachael Calladine's debut album, as it too lacks any real highs and lows, and just putters flatly along for an hour or so. Sure there's nothing inherently bad about the album, but it blends together all too easily into homogenous background muzak.
Calladine's past as a singer on Compost Records' "Glücklich V" compilation of Brazillian-inspired tunes, and a guest on Sounds From The Ground's "Luminal" album proves she has the pipes and the poise to forge a solo career, but inspiration is lacking here. The programming and production from label-boss Geoff Wilkinson (from the Blue Note raiding Us3) is one-paced, relying on gently swinging looped drums and bass patterns, with a keyboard occasionally popping out from the bland background to venture a solo.
It's to Rachael's credit that all the hooks on the album are vocal, whether it's on her own or multi-layering a virtual choir of voices. Once beyond an embarrassingly awkward cover shot (Rachael looks distinctly uncomfortable holding a pink cardy around her in a hotel corridor) "Life, Love & Gossip" offers nothing new to grab the attention. As such the label probably hopes that it will become a soundtrack to sophisticated types in classy winebars but even if it gets played in those places it's unlikely to cross over to people actually wanting to find out the name of the singer and listen to it at home.
It's more probable that it will become aural wallpaper, forgotten the moment it stops playing. Calladine's background suggests that she would benefit from the album being overhauled by selected remixers, if only to add a spark of inventiveness and originality behind the vocals. Here she gets sucked into bland, lifeless monotony of mechanical arrangements without any soul – whether she's relating how her man done her wrong, or how another woman's man is doing a friend wrong, there's no real spirit to the performance.
It's a sad instance of a talented vocalist being dragged down by the unimaginative production. It may yet prove a hit if 'Sunshine' gets an inspired overhaul, and the public develops a taste for a blander Dido, but it's more likely that Rachael Calladine will return into the anonymous world of guest singers and backing vocalists.
Review by Mither