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Thursday, December 14, 2017

CD Review: The Lindsay Hannon Plus - Make Dark Heaven Light

Lindsay Hannon (vocals), Mark Williams (guitar), John Pope (bass) & Russ Morgan (drums)
(Review by Russell) 
An intriguing running order of ten tracks – the first three compositions are by Lindsay Hannon and Mark Williams followed by four jazz standards then three numbers from contemporary composers. Happenstance? Unlikely, because band leaders are, or should be, meticulous in the presentation of their music to an audience. It would appear Hannon thought long and hard about this. Precisely why the tracks are in the order they are is altogether a different matter. Ask Hannon about it when you purchase a copy of the CD at the band’s next gig!  
Make Dark Heaven Light is Lindsay Hannon’s second album with her band the ‘Plus’. Forty-seven minutes of music created by four first-rate musicians, two of whom, Mark Williams, guitar and Russ Morgan, drums, are new recruits. Bassist John Pope, Hannon’s longtime bassist of choice, was a key figure on her debut album The Spy and makes an equally telling contribution to this recording. Hannon’s writing is observational, personal, and her interpretation of standard material is definitely distinctive, often taking liberties with the melody and succeeding in producing something that is her own.

Everyone opens the album with Hannon declaring monogamy is monotony, inviting you to pull up a chair and listen to what she has to say as the Plus effortlessly generate a lazy, swing time feel. The Hannon/Williams’ composition Maths begins with voice and guitar developing a subtle Latin rhythm which is in marked contrast to Hannon’s dark lower register vocals on Morning revisited dovetailing perfectly with Williams’ fluent, responsive lines.

The standards – Miss Otis regrets, No more blues, the John Dankworth/Cleo Laine Shakespearean album from the mid ’60s is reworked as The complete works, and The very thought of you – feature all four musicians. John Pope’s arco bass accompaniment to Hannon’s achingly beautiful vocals on Cole Porter draws in the listener as Russ Morgan introduces his trademark hand drumming. Jobim, then the Dankworth/Laine number hears more from bassist and drummer with Mark Williams hitting on a swing groove on Ray Noble’s timeless number.

The Shakespeare theme continues – it can’t be coincidence! – with present day songwriters taking centre stage in closing the album. Romeo and Juliet (comp. Mark Knopfler) then USA’s troubadour Tom Waits’ Romeo is bleeding, the latter featuring Hannon’s enviable vocal range as she spits out  the lyrics (almost literally!) and Williams’ gritty guitar lines, bring a darker hue to the album which is finally painted almost black with Robert Wyatt’s Sea song.

The recording of Make Dark Heaven Light at Newcastle’s Loft Studios benefits from Julien Batten’s attuned ear (mastered by Ross Lewis), and the album cover’s startling photography is by Roweena Russell. To obtain a copy of Make Dark Heaven Light email: lindsayhannonplus@gmail.com.  Russell 

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