If you lock two people in a room and play a musical selection for both, one person may tap his or her toes, strum an imaginary air guitar or sing along. He might even get up and dance. The other person may nod off in total boredom, squirm uncomfortably in his chair, look at his watch, drum his fingers impatiently or clasp his hands over his ears to block out the offending sound. Depending on what you think of Jazzhole lead vocalist Marlon Saunders, you will may find yourself in one of the preceding categories. Or you may be bored into total indifference.
One person's favorite singer may drive another person to distraction. The music on Poet's Walk is a generic cross between Sade at her best and Maxwell at his most tedious. The mood is supposed to set a cool groove that you can chill to. However, Saunders has a limited rangewhich he apparently is unaware of, because he repeatedely stretches for notes he can't reach.
Whether or not someone can sing or not is a purely subjective argument. Barbra Streisand's voice is one of the greatest ever captured in recorded music. That's a widely held opinion, but other people may think her voice grates like nails on a blackboard. The same principle holds true for Marlon Saunders. The nadir of this recording is a numbingly atonal attempt at the Boz Scaggs classic "Lowdown." It's so dully interpreted, you have to check the track listing before you're sure its the same song. Saunders's voice saws away like a dull blade at the lyrics while the sleepy arrangement drones on until the merciful end.
Instrumentally, Jazzhole makes competent, if not especially distinguished lounge music. After knocking back a few martinis in a dark club, it might even be raised a notch to "okay." But Saunders' feeble vocalizing totally sinks the whole affair. If you're already a fan of Jazzhole, you already know what to expect. Everyone else will probably walk right by Poet's Walk.
Poet's Walk; All the Ways; Jonesing; Lowdown; One More Time; It Would Have Been Enough;
The Slipping of Time; Do It Right; Timeless; All the Ways (dub).
Mark Robohm: drums; David Inniss: bass; John Pondel: guitar; David Sancious: keyboards;
Daniel Sadownick: percussion; Peter Mark: percussion; Marlon Saunders: vocals; Ahmed Best:
drums, bass & fender rhodes (2); Dave Binney: saxophone (1,3); Michal Cohen: vocals; Warren
Rosenstein: clavinet (5), programming and synthesizer (4), David Whitworth: backing vocals
(5); Billy Baker: backing vocals (5).
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