Monday, 4 May 2015

Maya Angelou – Caged Bird Songs, album review

Still Rising

This is definitely an interesting album, and a tribute that as such justifies itself, and Angelou was keen on its production just before her passing so all is good. The hip-hop to funk to other beats attached to her poetry and readings highlight and complement and perhaps most of all present to a further audience.

It is an extra: I am always content enough to listen to Maya Angelou read aloud, her own rhythms and sassy intonations, that deep resonance of voice, all quite sufficient to engage me as listener. I got to see her reading once many years ago and that was genuinely special, and of course she would occasionally break into soulful song so I would be content enough again to have a recording of this.

Some of these poems lend themselves to the adornments more than others. The plosive sounds of Pow Pow as well as its natural rhythms are perfectly transformed by the additional grooves supplied by Shawn Rivera and Roccstarr; Harlem Hopscotch seems to have the spoken word slowed to an unnatural pace to accommodate the beats/percussion; On Aging is auto-tuned, and there is fuzz, and I am not sure; Ain’t That Bad is similarly vocally enhanced, but I think the inherent sass gets whiplashed effectively through the slight echoing, and the repetitions and quick rhymes work particularly well here: ain’t that bad ain’t that black ain’t that bad ain’t that black and ain’t that fine.

One More Round retains the spoken pace and rendition with a jazzier underpinning that is a happy medium. Naturally, one looks forward to the ‘classics’ Life Doesn’t Frighten Me and Still I Rise, the former suitably haunted [some literal sound effects!], the latter roused by a gospel repeating of lines, and overall the most overtly musical: wonderful.

You can hear much of it here.

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