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

Lady Blackbird Takes Flight With Black Acid Soul

Mark Smotroff gets excited about music all over again…

I’m excited.

Last week I reported on a new discovery for me in Madeleine Peyroux, a kind of modern jazz-folk-pop singer with a whisky-toned voice this side of Billie Holiday. Click here if you missed that review.

Coincidentally, I received an album in the mail that week about a new singer named Lady Blackbird who has released an equally knocked out recording titled Black Acid Soul.

The bio info on her Bandcamp page (click here) kinda sums it up but I think it misses one very distinct touchstone: “….reflecting influences as varied as Billie Holiday, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner and Chaka Khan, Los Angeles-based Lady Blackbird (aka Marley Munroe) possesses a style and emotional intensity that is very much her own.“  

I would add Nina Simone to the top of that list, who wrote the opening track on Black Acid Soul. Here on this track, we get to experience a singer ready for her moment to lift-off; apparently she’s been around on the scene for a while but things — the right songs, the right production, the right musicians, etc. — came together when she connected with GRAMMY® Award-nominated writer-and-producer Chris Seefried who helped shape this music around her.  

The haunting title track which closes the album is an exercise in grand arrangement this side of spiritual recordings ala Alice Coltrane with bowed upright acoustic bass, lush orchestral strings and funky Clavinet-flavored soloing — it creates a soaring mood that I only wish went on longer.  “It’s Not Easy” is great simple showcase for her voice. This too I would have liked to have heard expanded upon — I suspect that live on stage it will grow and blossom.

But for my initial impression, it has been the interpretations and interesting arrangements that make this all work for me.  

The real jaw-dropper is tucked away in the middle of the recording — and the opening of side 2 on the vinyl version of Black Acid Soul — a dramatic reworking of Joe Walsh’s 1969 psych-rock opus “Collage.”  If you know the original which appeared on the first LP by Walsh’s original band The James Gang — called Yer Album — you’ll be a bit gobsmacked by this wistful moody reinvention.

This new interpretation places the burden of carrying the tune on Lady Blackbird vs. the original which is built up on a rich production of The James Gang’s guitar, bass and drum power trio aesthetic plus orchestral strings to elevate Walsh’s thin voice (click here if you’ve never heard that version before). A personal aside: I’m pleased that someone other than myself is still a fan of that band and that great debut album in particular (my older brother had it on cassette when it came out so I used to listen to it on headphones all the time as a little kid!). 

Another stunner on Black Acid Soul is “Fix It” which is based on the Bill Evans classic instrumental “Peace Piece.” The Evans Estate granted Lady Blackbird and Seefried co- authorship to add lyrics and vocals which amazingly sounds like a natural and complete work, again bringing out her very rich Nina Simone influence.  Pianist Deron Johnson’s solo adds drizzles a beautiful sun-shower of sparkling rain drops on this misty blue Sunday morning mix. Click here to hear the original from the album Everybody Digs Bill Evans

The vinyl version of Black Acid Soul is very nice: 180-grams thick, dark black, well centered and quiet. No problems there and with mastering by Bernie Grundman himself, there is nothing not to like here. The production values on this package are also exemplary with gorgeous raised glossy lettering (reminiscent of original pressings of Black Sabbath’s Master’s Of Reality, for those of you trying to imagine this). There is also a colored vinyl version available. Unfortunately, both vinyl editions were very limited runs of 500 each only available on her Bandcamp page and they are sold out already. Hopefully there will be a repress — I imagine there will be some significant demand for this album on vinyl.

Until then, you can find Black Acid Soul streaming on Tidal (click here) and Qobuz (click here) in 24-bit, 44.1 resolution, respectively. Both versions sound very nice as streaming audio goes. I’ve also posted several of her videos below.

Black Acid Soul is a great first flight. I’m looking forward to hearing where the winds take Lady Blackbird on her journey. All fingers crossed for smooth travels ahead.

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