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Lianne La Havas isn’t Adele, but she doesn’t need to be

3.5 out of 4 stars

Is Your Love Big Enough?
Lianne La Havas

They don't make pop stars like Adele any more. Actually, Adele was not made – she more or less just happened. But here comes a singer who some are calling the next Adele. Do we need one? Record labels say yes.

Step up, Lianne La Havas, a London-based "soul sensation," according to the excitable British music press, who do their part in the sensationalizing business. La Havas, a 22-year-old of Greek and Jamaican descent, is an intoxicating breeze of a singer – believe it. But the next Adele? There will be no such thing.

La Havas, I don't think, has a breakout single on this, her debut long-player. Gone is the track that invites comparisons to the world's best record seller. It's an emotive piano ballad, about a couple that "had it all." You don't need to be Whitney Houston or the rolling-in-the-deep Adele to know that having it all is something relationship-singers croon about best. The song's title, as mentioned, is Gone. And so you know what happened.

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If there is no standout, the dozen tracks are unanimously marvellous. La Havas kills us softly with her words, strumming her pain with a gentle guitar. Her voice is supple and breathy – carved steam. I can't imagine ever tiring of this instrument of hers.

Indeed, you can play Everything Everything many more times than twice, and never wear it out. Wait, did I say there were no standout cuts? Wrong. "We should learn to breathe again," she suggests, sublimely, "before we suffocate." La Havas is no over-singer: she glides over the marching snare; she hovers above an arpeggio.

Au Cinema bounces softly and deftly, in a jazz-soul sort of way.

Lost & Found is about faith. And, again, the song's title gives away the resolution. This is an elegant softie, with La Havas adopting a duskier tone. "Unfold me and teach me, how to be like somebody else," is her spiritual request. (That somebody else might be Meshell Ndegeocello.)

The title track is by far the most exuberant. The riff is pure Ray Charles vamp. More of this please.

Arrangements are stylish throughout and there's not a hair out of place on this auspicious premiere. Warner Records has a star on its hands. But, these days, what does that mean? Probably Erykah Badu-level fame. Maybe Lauryn Hill. Labels have fewer resources and less clout to find and produce world-beaters these days. The lightning is still out there, but the bottles are getting smaller.


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POP: I Can See the Future

  • Eleni Mandell
  • Yep Roc
  • Three stars

Eleni Mandell is drawn to the ethos of the shabby and the reckless, circa 1950, and has spent her undernoticed career creating new songs that feel well-worn. Her latest collection flirts with several vintage styles without getting fully in bed with any of them. Some, like The Future, have the feeling of campfire songs performed in bad-ass company. Others roll along as easily as a long-finned car that you'd be a fool to restore completely. So Easy rides a wave of big organ sounds, and the spacious Magic Summertime begs for a cover by k.d. lang. Bun in the Oven poignantly considers Mandell's own future, at the time of recording, as a single mom by sperm donation. Robert Everett-Green

ROCK: Whirlpool

  • Michael Rault
  • Pirates Blend
  • Three and a half stars

This here is something for the Mod, and for the Rocker. It's retro-rock, as seen through the lens of the Black Keys. It snaps, it twangs, it's a surefire seven-song black-and-white beauty. Yeah. Dude's a romantic. Fall in Love With Every Girl I See is a strutting, commanding song for the summer. A cover of the Staple Singers' Two Wings is slinky and bluesy, from the church that never was. Edmonton's Michael Rault is young, fly and fit for big things. So, make way. Brad Wheeler

BLUES: Colin James

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  • Fifteen
  • EMI Music
  • Two and a half stars

Complacency is mighty easy – and with prolific bluesman Colin James titling his 15th studio album Fifteen, it seems he's aware of that. Fifteen albums – that's 158 songs over 24 years. So it would be easy to excuse Saskatchewan's guitar hero if he wanted to mail it in. And don't get me wrong: Some of Fifteen is the kind of forgettable fluff that hungerless blues can veer toward (Love For Life). Other songs try to swing, but fall off the playground (Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley). Some of the guitar work would sound at home on a late-nineties sitcom opening (I'm Diggin'). But then again, I Need You Bad belongs on a soundtrack for a drive down a shard of dusty highway; Oh Well just plain rocks. This will be no one's favourite Colin James record, but venerability earns you a little leeway. Adrian Lee

JAZZ: Sleeper

  • Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Palle Danielsson, Jon Christensen
  • ECM
  • Four stars

In the seventies, Jarrett led two quartets, one with American players – Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian; and this one, with Scandinavians. The standard line on the latter group was that it eschewed the earthiness of Jarrett's American band, and pursued a more mannered, "European" approach; perhaps it's time for a rethink. Sleeper, recorded at the same 1979 Tokyo concert that produced part of the remarkable 1989 release Personal Mountains, underscores the combo's rhythmic drive and rapport with the pianist. There's more power in Sleeper's version of Personal Mountains, particularly Danielsson's bass playing, while this Chant of the Soil is as blues-rooted as anything the American group recorded. J.D. Considine

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More


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