Whereas Joan Wasser’s first album featured downbeat, melancholic and beautiful ruminations, this latest and her fourth is upbeat, celebratory and yes, rather funky. What breadth! Of course the ‘classic’ of the title is in its soul and similar touchstoning, but it is still very much Joan as Police Woman patrolling now this broadening but signature beat – I think she might like that pun, just a little, as she seems to have a sense of humour.
The signature vocal tone comes across in second track Holy City, though this song equally showcases her sergeant’s stripes as it dances down soul streets with authority: vocal and horn and bass stabs burst in and out of the classic soulful harmonising. The a cappella doo-wop of The Classic itself demonstrates that humorous side – not that this is a piss take, but it does remind of Frank Zappa’s joyous doo-wop playfulness: the beat-boxing on Joan’s approach bringing us from those past historical points to the present.
The slow, meditative mood and tone of her first album gets a recall in fifth track Get Direct, and I do like the deliberateness of her vocalising on this and her starter work. The next two tracks, What Would You Do and New Year’s Day, also reflect how this isn’t a soul album overall and more of what we would expect from Joan [with some great production on both, respectively psychedelic expansiveness to haunting restraint], and then eighth Shame reignites with its more funky inclinations.
The album closes on the reggae flavoured Ask Me, so pulling in one other classic genre and influence. For me – I trust clearly by now – the inference in the album’s title applies to both those other influences and the style Joan Wasser as Police Woman has made entirely her brilliant own. And it is precisely this brilliant individual quality I am so gutted to be missing as she plays Exeter this month – when I am in the States visiting family. I wouldn’t swap that clash at all, but it is amazing that someone I have admired since her first wonderful album will be playing so near and yet I will be missing this.