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Friday, April 24, 2020

CD Review: Gabriele Heller – Nightshifts


Gabriele Heller (vocals, live sound mixes, percussion); Steve Glendinning (guitar, percussion); Wolfgang Weileder (guitar on 3 tracks).

This is such a good CD that I felt compelled to play it twice before writing the review and I enjoyed it even more the second time. The songs are a heady mix of cabaret tinged songs and jazz which are intriguing, disturbing, compassionate and even amusing by turns and always interesting. Steve as always does a grand job of appropriate accompaniment and Gabi, an experienced improvising actor, writer and teacher, interprets the lyrics with feeling and skill.


Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7 are the work of Heller and Glendinning, with poetry from Graham Mort on track 7;
Weileder contributes guitar to Heller's lyrics on tracks 2,4,and 8; track 9 gives us Heller's voice unaccompanied; track 6 is a medley of Heller's words with those of other writers; and listeners will of course recognise Billie Holiday's song at track 10, and the immortal words of Meeropol's Strange Fruit bring the album to a close.

Broken is a list of many broken things, including broken hearts, dreams, shoes and ankles, with the recording of the speaking clock suggesting broken sleep: indeed many of the songs have the suggestion of insomnia and unpleasant 'nightshifts'.

 The agitated vocals of Run ('baby run') repeated many times make the listener wonder what is being run from, and the guitar seems to run along; the title track seems to be about an unpleasant bout of insomnia, sung to a rumbling heartbeat sound and fragmented guitar, yet ending with a final letting go. Tomorrow Starts Today is a more gentle love song; Wallflower is a party scene with a soundtrack of voices, and the wallflower telling us that 'you know the way they shake their beautiful bodies'. 

One of the best tracks is number 6, a medley of songs about boats and ships and migrants who are desperately trying to escape, with clever electronic sounds producing 'water' noises; Electricity concerns that energy in all its forms, which suggested to me that someone was awake listening to household electrical noises; True Love is a lively request for love, amusing, with a steady clapping rhythm and Gabi's very adventurous, unusual scat. My Tears is sung a capella, a hymn-like tune with disturbing lyrics about 'dreaming to be dead' weighed down with heavy stones.

Listeners will be familiar with the last 2 tracks, track 10, Billie Holiday's plea for love, and then Strange Fruit, which manges to bring out the horror of the 'burning flesh' and 'scent of magnolia', with eerie guitar sounds and odd bell-like percussion.

A veritable tour de force. The album is available from April 2020.

 I'd like to see a gig featuring these songs when social distancing ends. And yes, the album is dedicated 'For all doctors, nurses and health workers, who work day and night to save our lives'. The real Nightshifters
 Ann Alex

Track list 1/ Broken Silence 2/ Run 3/ Nightshifts 4/ Tomorrow Starts Today 5/ Wallflower 6/Hope, My Ship, Little Boat 7/ Electricity 8/ True Love 9/ My Tears 10/ Tell Me More And More And Then Some 11/ Strange Fruit

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