Written by 6:00 am Audiophile Music, Audiophile, Audiophile News, Vinyl

How Did I Miss Out On Madeleine Peyroux?

Mark Smotroff would rather be late to the party than never….

It happens. 

Out of the blue, somebody tells me about an artist of the past 20 years that I have never ever heard of… an act that I’ve never even heard anybody talk about. And yet, pretty much everyone I bring this artist up to today seems to know about said performer. 

Last week, I received in the mail a wonderful re-issue of an album from 2004 by a singer named Madeleine Peyroux and it is fantastic.

And, yes, I’d completely missed her the first time ‘round.

You probably know about how great she is already, which is the response I’ve received from most of my friends when I’ve queried them.

Before I get to the review portion, some of you are probably wondering how on earth I missed this gold-record selling release? Well, mea culpa, life happens. And as it turns out I was juggling a whole lotta life, both the very good and the very very bad in those years… so… some non-essentials fell through the cracks…

As I said, it happens…

Anyhow, fast forward to present times and the great thing about music — and the availability of fine reissues like this! — is that we can go back to learn about and appreciate this music anew and with fresh ears.  

So Madeleine Peyroux ’s Careless Love is an instantly timeless sounding recording by this fine singer who apparently appeared on the scene in NY in the mid 1990s, made one acclaimed album (Dreamland) and then disappeared for eight years. 

Careless Love was her second album and it sold more than 500,000 copies. which is quite an accomplishment for a jazz album at any time and especially in 21st-century times when that musical form is far from the toast of the town as far as public taste goes (if you will).

While I was initially taken in with her Billie Holiday-inspired vocalizations, upon closer listening it is very evident she’s got her own thing going on here, working from that root.  Notably, it is her arrangements which are the driving factor setting this music apart.  

There is a wonderful reinvention of the songs performed here to make them her own. The opening track strips Leonard Cohen’s stiff oom-pah drum machine arrangement from “Dance Me To The End Of Love” and replaces it with a looser, slightly boozy swagger which brings out the raw soul of the lyric.  Likewise, her interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” is spectacular, trading the harmonica fueled percolating country folk feel for a slower swing arrangement more akin to Vince Guaraldi’s songs written for Charles Schultz’ Peanuts TV specials.

Some of my other favorites thus far include her rich take on Billie Holiday’s “No More” and the lovely title track — recorded by no less than Bessie Smith in 1925. This very loosely reminds me of an arrangement of a song from Solomon Burke’s 2002 classic Don’t Give Up On Me written by Tom Waits, “Diamond In Your Mind” (click here to listen to that track). 

Another detail for fans to get excited about regarding this re-issue of Madeleine Peyroux ’s Careless Love is that it is now expanded to three LPs — count ‘em 3!  The set includes an entire concert from 2005 recorded at Spain’s Festival de Jazz de Vitoria-Gasteiz. The recording is exemplary with a great vibe and very natural feeling. Both the performance and mix are excellent, providing another perspective on this artist and the music live without a net. 

I don’t know if this music on Careless Love was recorded in analog or digital but it delivers a warm round sound to it that is very appealing and that’s the bottom line. Obviously the focus is on her vocals but the instrumentation sounds terrific as well acoustic bass and guitar accompaniment.

The pressings on the two LPs of live recordings are excellent — thick black dark vinyl that is well centered and quiet. All the things you want for from audio file type disc. The main album of Careless Love generally sounds excellent as well on this reissue but unfortunately my particular copy had a wee bit of “non-fill” issues at a couple of points. It was not a dealbreaker for me because they were short-lived but you should be aware of them in case your copy is more problematic than mine (hopefully mine was just a one-off anomaly).  

Streaming music fans can find the new expanded deluxe edition of Careless Love in CD resolution (16-bits, 44.1 kHz) on certain services. If you have access to these subscription services, click here to hear it on Tidal and click here for Qobuz. This makes it very handy for listening in the car via my iPhone but I no doubt prefer the sound on the vinyl edition for a richer listening experience.

I don’t know about you but I’m excited about discovering Madeleine Peyroux’s music and I’m looking forward to checking out her other recordings soon.  Another new music journey unfolds…

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