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Margo Leighton & Tim Nikolsky: Redemption (2011)

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Margo Leighton & Tim Nikolsky: Redemption How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Redemption is the songwriting collaboration of two Melbourne-based musicians, vocalist Margot Leighton and guitarist Tim Nikolsky. Essentially a vehicle for Leighton's honey-toned voice, the quintet interprets 14 originals, which cover a range of styles from Latin and soul, to funk, ballad, R&B, and a slice of the Aussie equivalent of Americana. Leighton and Nikolsky certainly don't try to reinvent the wheel, but the sunny disposition of the music, the excellent musicianship, and memorable compositions mark Redemption out as the perfect soundtrack to a long, hot summer.

Nikolsky provides subtle rhythmic accompaniment—adding buoyancy to the gentle swing engendered by bassist Ivan Ross and drummer George Andrews—and deft, sympathetic touches throughout. When Nikolsky does take center stage with a Latin-tinged electric guitar solo on the up-tempo "Bittersweet ,"or the slower "Swept Off My Feet"—where he switches to acoustic guitar—there's the overriding feeling that this date could have benefitted with more of Nikolsky's voice elsewhere. On the gorgeous "East Coast Holiday," a slow burning epic which could have been written with singers Alison Kraus and Robert Plant in mind-, Nikolsky's atmospheric slide guitar colors the song beautifully, but he leaves the limelight to Whitehead, whose tenor sax solo resonates moodily.

A fair proportion of the material on Redemption has a Brazilian feel, like "Cold Feet," where Adrian Whitehead 's purring saxophone and Leighton's breezy delivery combine to evoke the silky sway of singer Astrud Gilberto
Astrud Gilberto
Astrud Gilberto
b.1940
vocalist
and saxophonist Stan Getz
Stan Getz
Stan Getz
1927 - 1991
sax, tenor
. Samba rhythms pulse through "Station Street," which features a bold, four-piece horn section and Lachlan Davidson's singing flute intervention. The nostalgic "Just A Dream Away," and faster-paced "Cycling Through France," also share Brazilian currents, largely stemming from Nikolsky's strummed rhythms, and Phil Binotto's bubbling percussion, which has just the right presence in the mix.

Leighton, however, is the star of the show, and her warm tone, keen sense of time, and pristine delivery , would bring luster to a weaker set of songs than these; graceful yet plaintive on the swaying "Rum Rhumba," with its promise of tropical romance, sassy on the infectious, Motown-sounding "What's It All About," and invitingly intimate on the slow numbers, "Twice on Sunday" and the soft blues of the title track, where she gives a commanding performance, marking her out as a singer of some talent. She is also equally at home tackling the funk of "Get Up"—with Nikolsky's chopped chords driving the number—or the trad-jazz throwback of "Dinner at Eight," which is notable for Alan Lee's lovely vibraphone solo.

The up-tempo R&B workout, "The Road Ahead," closes out an enjoyable set. Craig Smith's Hammond B-3 organ riffs and shimmers, as Nikolsky stretches out on a bluesy electric guitar solo, followed by a lovely bass-and-sax interlude. Drums kick in, tenor sax dances, and Hammond raises the temperature again, before Leighton returns the tune to its head. The obvious chemistry between Leighton and Nikolsky, as songwriters and musicians, results in a satisfyingly melodic, grooving set with plenty of memorable moments.

Track Listing: Rum Rhumba; Cold Feet; What's it all About; Station Street; Twice on Sundays; Redemption; Bittersweet (Cumquat Descarga); Get Up; Just a Dream Away; Cycling Through France; East Coast Holiday; Swept off my Feet; Dinner at Eight; The Road Ahead.

Personnel: Margot Leighton: vocals; Tim Nikolsky: acoustic and electric guitars; Adrian Whitehead: saxophone, clarinet, Wurlitzer; Ivan Ross: acoustic and electric bass; George Andrews: drums; Phil Binotto: percussion (1-2, 4, 7-10, 12); Craig Smith: piano, Hammond B3 organ (1, 6, 9, 10, 14); Alan Lee: vibraphone (13); Horn section (3-4, 7-8):Lachlan Davidson: alto saxophone, flute; Tony Hicks: tenor saxophone; Jordan Murray: trombone; Greg Spence: trumpet; Matt Amy: horn arrangements.


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