This disc starts off with a grand one-two punch…the silky, jazzy “Shy Boy” and the wistful, engaging “Nine Million Bicycles” (with lilting “ethnic flute” accents)…both of which were written by the collection’s producer/arranger/pianist Mike Batt. And though the rest of the set doesn’t match those highpoints there is much to enjoy and appreciate here.
Melua and Batt co-wrote the jaunty “Halfway Up the Hindu Kush” (no, I don’t know what that means.) Navel-gazing, naïve, high school poetry-like lyrics bog down some of the songs that Melua wrote by herself (“Spider's Web”, for example, asks “If a black man is a racist, is it okay?/If it’s a white man’s racism that made him that way?”…which I guess must have sounded profound when she wrote it…)
But the disc is enlivened with a handful of eclectic, nice-arranged covers: Johnny Mercer’s classic “Blues in the Night” (delivered with just enough soulful conviction to make it work), an interesting, low-key take on Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again”, and a sweetly earnest version of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”.
Melua also shines on “I Do Believe in Love”, the lovely closing song, which she wrote and which features just her lovely voice and her piano (this is the only cut on which Batt did not play piano.)
This is not a perfect CD by any means but the best parts of it are soothing, inviting, and even downright wonderful.