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Mantler; Karen: Business Is Bad

I have to admit that Jazz isn't my first love, in fact my interest in this vast genre is a far more recent occurrence and one which has been fuelled by a varied set of artists and labels I've encountered through Sea of Tranquility, one of the latter being ECM. As a consequence, I'm still discovering what ticks my boxes and what doesn't rock my boat. Unfortunately sitting perfectly still in my own personal lake is the latest and first for nearly 20 years, solo outing from Karen Mantler (via ECM), Business Is Bad; this seemingly off the cuff release, where languid lyrics are far more important than the music itself, simply leaving me wondering why I should care.

Possibly the problem is that many of the issues are dealt with from a very distinct point of view that I can't quite connect with; the story of the rich being upset at homeless people foraging for any food they can in parks in the US, "Catch As Catch Can", not something that really resonates with a lad from Scotland, while its follow up "My Magic Pencil (Wrote This Melody)", where we hear of the "magic pencil" occurrence that resulted in this song's creation, simply feels lazy and contrived. Many compare Mantler's approach to that of Robert Wyatt and with this lady counting the respected leader of the Canterbury scene as a collaborator, there's definite substance there. Yet, the so laid back its asleep, vibe of "Wintertime" suggests a far more relaxed scene than the cold, dankness hoped for.

Some will find all of these excursions quirky, fun and crammed with wit, yet the, as it says on the tin, "Speak French", which hits like the most convoluted learn a language from a tape course you could ever enrol in, simply meanders in such a way - both lyrically and musically, that I can't ever really imagine wanting to hear it again.

So, a resounding "not for me" from this reviewer. However I appreciate that Karen Mantler has her dedicated followers and considering that her previous albums have included a trio about her cat and then a fourth about the search for a new pet, then I'd guess that the gentle backing of bass, bass clarinet, piano, harmonica and guitar, fronted by this stream of conscience, will still be right up their street. Personally I'll be planning an alternate route…


Track Listing
1. Catch As Catch Can
2. My Magic Pencil (Wrote This Melody)
3. Speak French
4. Wintertime
5. Surviving You
6. Business Is Bad
7. I Can't Afford My Lawyer
8. My Solo
9. That Damn Volcano

Added: October 28th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Karen Mantler at ECM
Hits: 1027
Language: english

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