Krall’s Wilting ‘Wallflower’

Courtesy of Verve

Courtesy of Verve

Jazz legend Diana Krall recently debuted her new album “Wallflower.” And the album is just that — a wallflower. Indistinguishable from a sea of better albums, “Wallflower” will go down as one of the singer’s most uninspired and forgettable albums.

The opening — and arguably strongest — track “California Dreamin’” is a cover of The Mama’s and The Papa’s 1990s hit. The song features Krall’s savory voice crooning the iconic lyrics “all the leaves are brown.” Next, “Desperado” features that raw sound that propelled her to fame. Her smoky voice over 88 keys is exactly what set her apart from the crowd. Unfortunately, the remainder of the album goes in a different direction.

Krall’s cover of “Superstar” is a prime example of overproduction and vociferous instrumentation  overshadowing the one really good thing about Krall — her voice. Every time Krall seems ready to explode into a fiery jazz barrage, she retreats behind a wall of uninteresting orchestral music.

The smartest thing this album does is bring in jazz vet, Michael Bublé. He breaks the monotony of Krall’s sound by inserting some much needed lively energy to “Alone Again.” The milk and honey voiced duo almost make up for the uninspired heap that is to come. Almost.

“Wallflower,” the title track of the album sounds exactly like every other song on the album. The same orchestral looping, the same soft vocals and the same unextraordinary piano. Krall is a great pianist in her own right, but her skill just doesn’t match up to other players in the genre. With similar artists like Jamie Cullum and Jonah Nillson far surpassing Krall on the keyboards, even her piano skills fail to impress. “Sorry is the Hardest Word to Say” and “If I Take You Home” are just more of the same. Krall teeters on the edge of her vocal comfort zone, but never dares to go beyond it. These tracks are missing all that makes jazz, “jazz:” experimental phrasing, individuality and most importantly, soul.

Her cover of the Eagles song “I Can’t Tell You Why” is a hint of what the album could have been if Krall experimented with a greater variety of sounds. The song’s bossa nova style groove is a wonderful break from the repetition. The music is relaxing, even pleasant, and the subtle vocal harmonizations add a degree of musical complexity to the track.

Good things don’t last with this album, however. The remaining tracks are just a stew of the mundane. The overpowering orchestrations desperately try to make beauty and lushness out of nothing. The real beauty is Krall’s voice but that’s nowhere to be found beneath the mess of overproduction.

The album’s lack of originality seems to hint that Krall may be too out of touch. While other jazz artists are evolving and clawing to keep the genre alive, Krall’s music stagnates and loses all the flare that earned her recognition in the first place. Her voice becomes overshadowed by the mundane inclusion of unnecessary scores of violins and cellos. Krall’s voice is the biggest wallflower in this dance.

 

 

NOT RECOMMENDED: Full of uninspired covers and the one saving grace, Krall’s voice, is hidden beneath poor arrangements and overproduction.