OCTOBER ALBUM OF THE MONTH
I have to confess, I’m not really an ardent blues person; I don’t own any corduroy trousers, nor do I drink artisan real ale! But whilst good music pushes genre boundaries – great music blows them away in an open-plan world, where music can be fully enjoyed free of genre labels.
This is the true achievement of the new album by Sari Schorr and her talented band. Whatever your musical tastes, whatever the fashions or sub genres you’re into – here is music from the soul that presents the sheer joy of music making. There’s something for everyone – it presents the healing power of music to unite people, in a world where too many exacerbate differences and division.
‘Never Say Never’ is beyond comparison with its predecessor ‘A Force of Nature’. Whilst the debut album showcased Sari as a great vocal talent, for much of the debut album the voice sat above the music. With ‘Never Say Never’ there is a clear evolution – it’s the songs as a whole that do the work: The music making, the lyrics and the vocal performances are far more united, more cohesive – and the result is far more emphatic.
So often with new release albums there is a pervasive sense of studio technology at play creating songs or boosting musicianship that will never sound quite the same outside the studio environment. Sometimes songs are over-constructed, sometimes they’re artificial creations of computer wizardry. This Sari Schorr album is the total opposite. From start to finish, it feels like the band is playing the music in one take in your living room – right in front of you. Clearly, there was studio art in putting this album together, but there is a feeling with this album behind the music, you can feel the chemistry and interplay between band members, people that like each other’s company and intuitively understand one another. It’s real music on this album, and the magic captured on this album is the coming together of a group of musicians at a time and place to put something down, music that feels natural and was fun to make. This album captures a special moment.
‘King Of Rock And Roll’ opens the album, oozing atmosphere and setting the character – a body of work that has greater weight to it than the last album. Greater depth, more attack and a bit more edge. It’s an album with an extra dimension.
‘Thank You’ has done the rounds as a grat track. It’s solid but points towards the album highlights that are yet to come. For me, the album goes up a gear from track three and it then keeps rising to a knockout crescendo, as the songs keep getting better and better. Some albums slowly fall apart after track three – but with ‘Never Say Never’, doors just keep opening as you work your way through the album.
‘Ready for Love’ is a cleverly worked version of the old Bad Company favourite. It marks an album that has as much rock as blues on it – but with this song I am reminded how much soul Sari has. For an artist with a close sense of the human condition, it is the soul behind her singing and emotion that stands her apart from other artists that just technically sing well.
From track three the album’s panorama unfolds. Throughout, the music is alive, living and breathing – the playing has intent and dramatic expression and Sari’s vocal range brings character, intimacy and soul as the stories she tells are vividly expressive. You can paint pictures in your mind through the feeling of what you hear.
After the warmth of ‘Ready for Love’, ‘Valentina’ bursts into life. After a first listen, it was the song I immediately picked for airplay, a perfect self-contained radio song – pace, urgency, excitement and one you can dance round the kitchen to, while your dinner slowly burns in the oven. The crispness and drama of the vocal delivery reminded me of seeing Tina Turner play Wembley many years ago. Try to sit still to this song if you can: It’s a song made for radio and it’ll pick you up no matter what kind of day you’re having.
For me, ‘The New Revolution’ together with ‘Freedom’ define this album. Having spoken to Sari at intervals over the last two years, what strikes me is her close sense of connection to the human spirit as she travels the world, closely connected to world affairs, ethics, social justice and the power of music to make the world a better place. With ‘The New Revolution’ and ‘Freedom’ we have wonderful and timely musical expression for these sentiments. They liberate, empower and inspire. ‘New Revolution’ feels like a new kind of protest song with supreme vocal power and a masterfully expressive guitar solo from Ash Wilson – an anthem of hope in age of spin, lack of political role models and false realities. ‘Freedom’ just brings the house down. This one is too good for words, you just need to belt yourself in for this one and listen to it – loud!
‘Beautiful’ gives us a nice slice of blues, the guitar and vocal performances almost dancing with each other; it’s the interplay of the two that frame this classic blues number.
‘Turn The Radio On’ follows. Yes, a song with a name like this is going to work well with radio producers! It’s another song that takes Sari beyond the blues and the album is better for it. There’s sensitivity and feeling in the verses, words that paint a vivid picture – and a rousing chorus that is hard not to sing along to. It’s another song with a wonderfully empowering sentiment. Songs that celebrate being alive and, put simply, convey the joy of music. ‘Turn the radio on and dance in pouring rain’ – why not? It’s good to feel alive!
In a similar spirit to ‘Turn The Radio On’, ‘Back to LA’ is another firecracker for radio in the American rock radio tradition. Imagine Tom Petty and Tina Turner writing a chart topping song together – and you have ‘Back to LA’.
‘Maybe I’m Fooling’ is a complete band song – the sum of the parts creating greater musical intensity. There’s far greater light and shade on this album, a stronger heartbeat – and spontaneous chemistry delivered with immediacy and panache.
After a vibrant and energised musical tour de force, the album closes with the title track ‘Never Say Never’ – a yearning emotion and honesty that reminded me of ‘Ordinary Life’ from the last album. Whilst ‘Black Betty’ and ‘Freedom’ underline vocal power, Sari also has a great talent for making less feel like more, to deliver impact through restrained and – seemingly – simple songs. There’s a blues signature with the closer, but throwing genre labels out the window, soul is a better word for these heartfelt songs.
As a second album ‘Never Say Never’ will delight Sari’s fans and win her new audiences from many and varied backgrounds. Many artists flounder with the difficult second album, but Sari and her band have turned all that went before to dust. If Sari’s debut announced the arrival of a new vocal talent to the blues world, ‘Never Say Never’ presents a masterclass in song writing and performance for the music mainstream, a band led by a true music diva. It’s the feeling – the heart and soul – behind the band’s music that articulates the power of original music making to make the world a better place, one person at a time. It’s music to unite people, to inspire hope and to stop in the moment and enjoy being alive. In the (at times) crazy world we live in, ‘Never Say Never’ reminds us why good music always matters.
Sari Schorr’s ‘Never Say Never’ is released by Manhaton Records on 5 October 2018
Pre-order the album
Follow Sari online
Re-live Sari’s story through past Great Music Stories interviews
Feature Interview: Sari Schorr (26 August 2016)
FEATURE INTERVIEW: SARI SCHORR CHRISTMAS SPECIAL (December 2016)
SHORT INTERVIEW: ASH WILSON ON SARI’S 2017 TOUR – AT THE BORDERLINE
Listen again: Freddie Mercury – A Tribute
See Sari in concert: September 2018 UK tour dates
13th LEICESTER The Musician
14th LONDON The Borderline Record Launch with Mike Vernon & The Mighty Combo
15th DURHAM Mickleton Live, Mickleton Village Hall
18th BILSTON The Robin 2
19th BRISTOL The Louisiana
21st PONTYPRIDD Muni Arts Centre
22nd DERBY The Flowerpot
27th OXFORD The Bullingdon
28th POYNTON Blue Funk Rhythm & Blues Club
29th GOLDALMING Wilfrid Noyce Community Centre