‘Piece by Piece’ by Katie Melua

Rating: ★★★★☆

Now eight years old, Piece by Piece can be labelled a classic album by jazz blues singer-songwriter Katie Melua. Her second album was released back in 2005 and the title song was written primarily after her break up with Luke Pritchard, front man in The Kooks.

The opening song, Shy Boy, takes a huge jazz influence with a rolling acoustic bass line and brushed snare beats. It’s a soft song that opens the album really well before the first single of the album, Nine Million Bicycles, appears. It is one of Katie’s biggest hits in the UK and was written with an interesting story which involved Simon Singh, a science writer who corrected some of Katie’s lyrics saying that it ‘demonstrated a deep ignorance of cosmology and no understanding of the scientific method’ and the two reached a compromise that was somewhat scientifically accurate and musically sound. The song is associated with Katie everywhere and is one of the reasons that made the album stand out amongst others.

Piece by Piece follows, before Half Way Up The Hindu Kush which takes back the jazz influence of Shy Boy with a touch of poppy vocal and excitement found only elsewhere. The song starts fairly slow, but easily builds up into a pleasant song with a touch of brass which offers some extra texture allowing it to break away from one sound alone. A heavy piano ending leads nice into the bluesy Blues In The Night which features typical bluesy lyrics and like instruments. Originally written by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, it is one of a couple of cover songs on the album – something which bothers me slightly, but these versions are perfectly composed and work well under Katie’s softer voice.

It separates out from the jazz sound that dominated the release before one of my favourite songs comes up. Spiders Web has somewhat challenging lyrics but features wonderful melodies and a chilling piano riff that echoes throughout sending shivers down every inch of your body. It’s a gentle song that truly deserves its place on the release. In terms of chart performance, it didn’t quite make the top 50 in the UK charts, but hit with a storm in Europe. Being written during the lead up to the Iraq War, it is said to be about finding the difference between right and wrong.

The following three songs feel badly organised, but Blue Shoes is a bluesy jazz piece that is slow and gentle with the enriching voice that Katie has bought to the album throughout. The song differs to On The Road Again, a cover from Canned Heat, being faster paced and mainly bluesy in its performance, making great use of trumpets and guitars. Thank You, Stars goes back to the slow pace of Blue Shoes, downgrading the mood left off from On The Road Again, but the use of strings fills big gaps left amongst this particular song. A particular edge to Katie’s voice, which becomes more prominent in her latest album, The House, seeps through the layers and makes a nice change to what could otherwise be a monotonous tone. The song stretches out her voice, proving me wrong in this instance, but its not long before I begin to get bored and despite the short album length of forty-five minutes or so, the twelve songs seem to drag on a little.

Just Like Heaven is another great song on the album, but I’m not sure if its set in the best place ever – in fact, like other songs on the release, I’m not sure that there is a ‘good place’ to have put it. It is one of few covers on the album, with the original being by alternative rock band, The Cure. Written in the late 80s, it was the third single from the bands album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. The second single from the album, I Cried For You, would have made a better ending to the release for its mellow ending and softer middle before I Do Believe In Love – which doesn’t quite reflect the sound of the album but I guess ends it well.

 

Artist:  Katie Melua
Release Name:  Piece by Piece
Type:  Album
Date:  2005, September 25th
Purchase Link:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Piece-By-Katie-Melua/dp/B000ALLLHU
Artist Info:  http://www.katiemelua.com
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