More than a dozen years after the release of her then latest album, Happy Little Bluebird: The Music of Harold Arlen, singer Courtney Freed returned this week with her new album, Big Crazy Love. Released independently, Freed’s new album will appeal to a wide range of audiences through its blend of originals and covers. ‘Ancient History,’ one of the album’s early entries, is among the most notable of the record’s originals. It will be discussed shortly. ‘Lilac Wine,’ which comes late in the album’s 41-minute run time, is among the most notable of the album’s featured covers. It will be examined a little later. ‘There’s A Mornin’ Coming,’ which opens the album, is yet another of the album’s notable originals. It will also be examined later. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album overall a strong new offering from Freed.
Big Crazy Love, the latest album from jazz singer Courtney Freed, is an enjoyable new offering from the up-and-coming vocalist. Its blend of originals and covers makes that clear. Among the most notable of the originals is ‘Ancient History.’ The song stands out in part because of its musical arrangement. The arrangement is a wonderfully light composition that is driven by the work of guitarist Hamody Hindi. Hindi’s subtle picking lends itself to comparison to the work of Wes Montgomery. Meanwhile, Freed’s own vocals, with their delivery style and sound, lend themselves to comparison to Diana Krall. Kyle Owens’ gentle time keeping and Josh Gilbert’s equally subtle accents on the saxophone add even more to the arrangement’s enjoyment. The whole of the musicians’ work makes the arrangement reason in itself that the song stands out. The arrangement stands out even more when it pairs with the song’s lyrical content, which finds Freed singing about a relationship that is at that point where the couple has gotten too comfortable and forgotten the flame that once burned so bright.
Freed subject asks in the song’s lead verse, “Are we ancient history/Are we past our prime/Have we become the thing we always said we’d never be/Are we out of time/Have we crossed the line/Have we crossed the line…Have we orchestrated our demise/Are we out of time?” From there she continues, “Are we young/Are we old/Is our story all but told/Did we miss the boat and cannot float/Are we dust/Or are we gold?” Again, this is not a story of a relationship at it’s end, but at that crucial moment when a couple discusses whether the flame is still there. That Freed broached the topic in such a light, almost playful fashion here instead of the more serious tone she and her fellow musicians could have taken is a change of pace that plenty of listeners will find refreshing. That is considering the typical heaviness and seriousness of such a topic. The whole sort of throws back to the playful approach of George Gershwin’s timeless 1937 hit, ‘Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.’ To that end, the whole of the song does plenty to show why it and the album deserve to be heard.
Another notable addition to Freed’s new album comes in the form of the cover song ‘Lilac Wine.’ Originally composed by James Shelton in 1950, it was made popular by Hope Foye in the short-lived musical, “Dance Me a Song.” Being unable to find the original through any online outlet, it is difficult to make a comparison between the original song and Freed’s rendition. What can be said of Freed’s take on the song is that her take is deeply emotional and does so well evoking the emotion of someone who is intentionally getting lost in the bottle after being dumped by a romantic interest. What feels like a two-movement song opens with a deeply emotional movement backed so powerfully by its string arrangement. The use of the cello alongside the piano and Freed’s vocals paints a rich picture of someone at a dimly lit bar, bottle in hand, head on the bar. As the song progresses into its “second movement” the sadness is still there, but the subject’s mood alters slightly, perhaps being lightened by the alcohol. Again, the instrumentation, paired with Freed’s vocals are to credit with making the song so engaging. All things considered here, this rendition is well worth hearing, especially when compared to the countless other takes on the song performed by so many of Freed’s more well-known counterparts (E.g. Nina Simone, Jeff Buckley, Eartha Kitt, etc.). It is just one more example of what the album has to offer.
Going back to Freed’s originals, ‘There’s a Mornin’ Coming,’ which opens the album, is another notable original here. This song’s arrangement is so much unlike everything else featured in Freed’s new album. Instead of the jazz leanings that are so present throughout the album, this song’s arrangement blends elements of soul and neo-folk for a completely unique composition. Listeners can even argue that there is a touch of gospel in the mix, too. Some might call it a stretch, but Freed’s vocals here are actually ever so slightly comparable to those of Joni Mitchell. That is evidenced through a close examination of the warmth in her sound and the richness therein, too. All things considered, the arrangement makes the song a great start to the album and an equally strong first impression to Freed for those who may be new to her and her work. The energy in the arrangement pairs with the song’s lyrical content to make for even more interest in this case.
The lyrical content featured in this song seems to deliver a message of hope and determination as Freed sings, “There’s a morning coming for you.” She notes at one point in the song, “Spare me the story of your sad, sheltered youth/Spare me the saga of your hidden truth…The song’s lyrics are difficult to decipher from here sans lyrics to reference. That aside, the message remains clear here. It delivers that message of hope, reminding listeners that things will get better and to look forward, not back. That message, along with the arrangement’s equally positive energy, makes the song in whole yet another example of how much Big Crazy Love has to offer audiences. When the engagement and entertainment ensured by this song, the others examined here and the rest of the album’s songs, the whole makes the album overall a welcome new addition to this year’s field of new jazz albums.
Courtney Freed’s new album, Big Crazy Love, is a strong new offering from the up-and-coming jazz singer. That is proven through its musical and lyrical content alike. All three of the songs examined here make that clear. When they are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album a positive new offering from Freed that will appeal to a wide range of audiences.
Big Crazy Love is available now. More information on the album is available along with all of Courtney Freed’s latest news at:
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