The first cut here, Osiris' Star, was a trifle ill-chosen, as it doesn't showcase Jana Mashonee's voice in its proper elements, preferring an interesting blend of chart, prog, and elevated New Age musics, much more an instrumental journey than a vocal one. Faded Star, the second, however, displays the powerful soul-oriented talent Ms. Mashonee possesses, coming off as a Dionne Warwick / Gladys Knight number with perfect Motown backing vocals (all by Jana) and recessed pacing. Her emotionality builds to a peak as the song progresses, making such full use of her range that the listener gets gooseflesh just before the cut ends as abruptly as the first (someone needs to teach the producer and engineer about fadeouts).
Thankfully, the third cut follows in line with the second, a bit more chart-ish, but still in a Natalie Cole / Anita Baker vein. The fourth fades back to ape the first a bit, and the CD finds itself oscillating between two poles: someone else's idea of how the singer will be made to fit the charts and the singer's own notion s of what she's very capable of. The singer is the correct party here. A secondary problem is found in the contrast between a backing ensemble that's too often the sonic equivalent of a multi-man drum machine by way of Stephen Galfas, Alex Salzman, Jana herself, and "imaginary friends" (whatever they might be)—metronomic and much too uninflected to compliment her marvelous tones—and the warmer use of greatly subdued orchestra and cello. This song, in fact, demonstrates how the music too often tends to hobbles her: at the close, Mashonee sings a suspended note rising high above the mundaneness of the cut's construction, trailing off in an exquisite tremelo, only to be slammed to a halt…again!
This woman has far more soul than her accompanists are willing to recognize, a voice capable of more than this CD illustrates, the only exceptions being when she seems to say "Screw it!", cuts loose, and just wails. Take Me Back illustrates that beautifully, again leaping high above a clunky monotonic rhythm section. She needs to be, you'll excuse my verb here, bedded down in a lush environment meticulously crafted to bring out the magnificent range and emotionality inherent in her delivery, not trained to ape whoever just made a million in Billboard.
And for God's sake, whatever angels and demons there may be in the strange business realm of music, send her someone who knows how to close down a song properly, nor would it hurt for the PR unit to wake up. The lit says her latest single is a searing version of Sam Cooke's A Change is Gonna Come, which, goddammit, is not here! I was aching to hear it. Then there's the fuck-up in the song listings, which are wrong, requiring an insert card. Someone somewhere is not serving this woman's potentiality very well at all, and that potential is HUGE.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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