Thursday, 23 July 2015

FLOSSIE MALAVIALLE

CD Review

If I Have To Go

Not quite what you would call a concept album but Flossie Malavialle has put this collection of covers under the theme of the impact we can have on others and what we leave behind as we travel on our own journeys through life.

Flossie Malavialle
It's a brave thing to do your own versions of well known songs, especially ones such as Willie Nelson's On The Road Again, Suzanne Vega's Luka and Abba's Slipping Through My Fingers because they have become part of many people's cultural make up. They come with the baggage of life memories, good, bad or indifferent and can be extremely personal. People become protective of such emotional artifacts and so to a certain extent not only does the album have that theme but Malavialle's very act of recording could be seen as part of that process. Malavialle is a solid performer and has a distinctive voice which, in this case at least,  neither relies on her French or Geordie heritage.
She opens with pretty much a straight lift of Paul McCartney's Early Days. It's a gentle ballad which lends itself to her voice very easily and the simpleness of the execution gives it very much an unplugged feel. This gives way to the aforementioned Abba's contribution to the collection and Malavialle's version is much more mature sounding than the original. Agnetha Faltskog's version is a little saccharin to say the least but Malavialle plays it straight and makes it slightly more emotive. Willie Nelson is a living legend but it would be interesting to know how many people know this song because of a donkey companion to a green ogre. Malavialle's version has the same energy of Nelson's rendition but she does struggle with some of the high notes which tend to drop flat because there isn't enough vocal energy to keep them up there.
With Katie, from Jimmy MacCarthy, you get more of the real sound of Malavialle. Her voice finds a much more comfortable level with this ballad. Perhaps the bravest song to tackle is Suzanne Vega's Luka which was a massive hit in the 80s and it's just one of those songs where almost everyone knows at least the chorus. However, few realise the song, light as it may sound, is about abuse and domestic violence which was pretty groundbreaking in its day. It's obviously lodged in Malavialle's pysche and she neither adds nor takes away from the original but plays it straight giving it a kind of matter of fact feeling with her singing. She goes local for Tin Soldier from John Wrightson
"The Tin Soldier" 1101
inspired by a Ray Lonsdale sculpture called 1101 which represents shellshock, now called traumatic stress disorder. It's a very emotive song about a very emotive figure slowly rusting away in Seaham, Durham. Unfortunately Malavialle's version doesn't really capture the emotional charge and it all sounds a little lifeless, no pun intended. Girls' Night Out doesn't work at all it has the feel of a karaoke session, unless of course that was intended as part of the night out, and once again it seems Malavialle is trying to outstretch her range but doesn't quite make it. She does get back on track with the second of MacCarthy's songs No Frontiers. She sings the verses almost in single blocks which give it an impressive, breathless quality and a sort of urgency like she has to get the song done before she runs out of time. Malavialle keeps the roll going with Fil Campbell's Touch of Your Hand. She again sounds much more comfortable singing this kind of gentle ballad. The penultimate song At The End of the Day, is the sort of ballad Malavialle can do standing on her head, she does it well and faultlessly.
It doesn't stretch her abilities and the strength is in the lyrics and the fact it means a great deal to her.
The album
The final and title track has the feel of The Carpenters about it. It seems Malavialle is almost reciting poetry on top of her guitar playing rather than actually singing. It's a very gentle, likable and aptly named ballad on which to finish the album.
If I Have To Go is quite hit and miss and possibly the reason for it is Malavialle has picked songs with which she connects deeply but could have misjudged whether her listeners will feel the same. There is very little wrong with this album but by the same token there is very little which stands out either, which is a shame really because Malavialle live is an engaging and extremely verbose character who enjoys connecting with her audiences, sometimes for quite long periods between the songs. However, there is a suspicion that this album means more to Malavialle than it will to her fans.
If I Have To Go is available now for download and through the artist's own website.