Prior to the release of Love Remains, Australian-born Tal Wilkenfeld may have been best known for her talent on the bass in the company of Jeff Beck circa Live at Ronnie Scott's (Eagle Video, 2008). In the interim, however, she has been busy with stints playing for a disparate range of artists including Jackson Browne and Wayne Krantz, besides opening for The Who in 2016 and collaborating with Prince. Not surprisingly given the assiduous work ethic this schedule suggests, the precocious multi-instrumentalist and composer was also toiling on Love Remains, the successor to her first solo album Transformation (Self-Produced, 2007).
In the course of these varied projects, Tal Wilkenfeld displayed no little courage, a virtue on full display here too. The atmospheric instrumental opening of "Corner Painter," previously released as a single and featured in Judd Apatow's Netflix series Love, gives way to slashing but unfortunately generic rock that continues into and through "Counterfeit." The stutter-step gait of "One Thing After Another," however, is much superior because the arrangement's layered vocals and electric guitars enhance the song itself as much as the performance.
Sumptuous orchestration mirrors the heavily-echoed breathy vocals of "Haunted Love " and the title track, while acoustic guitars on "Fistful of Glass" set the stage for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers' Benmont Tench to otherwise dominate on piano. With Browne in an executive role as producer with Paul Stacey (who's been studio helmsman for Oasis and the The Black Crowes, Love Remains is all unquestionably professional and expert, not to mention a far cry from the heady jazz-rock by which the woman left her first impression(s). But, like "Hard to be Alone," those tracks at high decibel levels belie the vibrant, evocative personality of Wilkenfeld, as depicted in the cover images and art, but more importantly, in the lush folk-rock that dominates this record.
In marked contrast are the album's most memorable moments, much more subdued (and intricate) tones such as those filling "Under the Sun" prevail. Recalling at times a young Joni Mitchell, Tal Wilkenfeld's singing can invoke pure rapture, as it does here, and she is clearly using that attribute to become a skillful vocalist for more than just the evocation of mood(s): her voice is becoming as expressive a tool as are her bass and guitar playing. Accordingly, there is as much (or more) genuine yearning as pure craft in action there and on "Killing Me," where the ghostly elements are most insinuating.
With Love Remains, Tal Wilkenfeld clearly wants to broaden the expanse of her music, commercially and otherwise, and thus avoid being type-cast. Nevertheless, more instrumentals along the lines of "Haunted Love," fusion-oriented or not, might've sounded less forced than the rock-slanted cuts here and might have better helped build and sustain momentum. Fittingly, the final number, "Pieces of Me," illustrates that dynamic principle, the vocal swoops and jagged guitars enough to pique curiosity about Tal Wilkenfeld's future work and, in the meantime, compel repeated (if admittedly selective) hearing of this one.
Track Listing: Corner Painter; Counterfeit; Hard To Be Alone; Haunted Love; Love Remains; Fistful of Glass; Under The Sun; One Thing After Another; Killing Me; Pieces Of Me.
Personnel: Tal Wilkenfeld: vocals, acoustic guitar, 12 string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, acoustic baritone guitar, bass organ, kalimba, hi-hats; Paul Stacey: electric guitar; synthesizer, Solina, clavinet, Mellotron; Blake Mills: electric guitar, electric baritone guitar, bass guitar; Sonya Kitchell: electric guitar, background vocals; Benmont Tench: pump organ; Zac Rae: piano, Mellotron, orchestrion, marimba; Michael Landau: dobro; Shiva Ramamurthi: violin; Jay Bellarose: drums; Jeremy Stacey: drums; Molly Sarle: background vocals; David Arch: woodwind arrangement: Jamie Talbot: flutes/ clarinets; Phil Todd: flutes; Dave Fuest: clarinets; David Arch: string arrangement:
violins: Perry Montague-Mason (leader), Peter Hanson (leader of 2nds), John Bradbury, Oli Langford, Jackie Hartley, Dai Emanuel, Chris Tombling, Mark Berrow, Tom Pigott-Smith, Cathy Thompson, Patrick Kiernan; violas: Peter Lale (1st), Andy Parker, Rachel Bolt, Max Baillie.
Celli: Dave Daniels (1st), Frank Schaefer, Chris Worsey, Nick Cooper.
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