Less is more. If only a larger number of singers were capable of appreciating this simple fact. Joyce Elaine Yuille delivers an effortless, soulful performance on her debut album “Welcome To My World”. No vocal histrionics or melodramatic over exuberance going on here, just silky-smooth accomplished soul/jazz of astute quality. New York born, Yuille now resides in Italy and having plied her trade as, among other things, backing singer for Gloria Gaynor, she gets the well deserved opportunity here to showcase her vocal and songwriting talents. It doesn’t happen too often, but occasionally an artist releases an album where the synergy between artist, band and producer is bang on the money. This is one of those releases. Yuille teams up with Schema’s Luciano Cantone and the Finnish saxophone player Timo Lassy. Together with the empathetic strings and woodwind of Silva Catasta’s Synthonic Orchestra they make for the perfect fit and it is the arrangements and production that lift this recording to well above the average. Yuille’s influences of Sarah Vaughan and Phyllis Hyman are evident in places and that’s no bad thing at all, but the pleasing thing is that it is Yuille’s originality that shines through. The opening, and closing track of the session, “Come With Me” is performed in two very different ways. The opener is with full band and is a catchy, infectiously uplifting jazzy take. The closing version is paired back to voice and piano and is a slower, more soulful take. Both versions are exceptional and it was a great idea/decision to put the two tracks on the album. There are a mixture of originals and covers featured, and for me it is the not so obvious songs that work best. As an example, Yuille’s take on the classic “Tryin’ Times” is very enjoyable, and one gets the impression she is capable of singing such tunes day in, day out, with consummate ease. But it is the less expected gems that sparkle for this listener. “Late I Rise” is a bluesy number performed with a feel and clarity that draws the listener in with its simplicity. The lush strings and orchestration shine through on the gorgeous “It’s Madness”; this is stunningly beautiful and as highlighted throughout, the arrangements and production help take it into a different league: goosebumps time. “Time to Love Again” draws on gospel influences and its sparse piano and voice opening bars lead into an emotionally mature and very moving piece of music. The lyrics are beautiful and the theme is conveyed in a sincere style by Yuille that simply oozes class. “Make Right” highlights the superb playing of the rhythm section and is just one example of how well the bass and drums are utilised with a skillful sensibility. The title track allows the clarity of the singer’s voice to radiate with warmth, again with some lovely touches of masterful production.
“Welcome To My World” as an album is a triumph, especially for a debut. Full credit to all involved. Hopefully it will get the credit it deserves and propel Yuille towards a long and successful career.
Now then, I have to say that I am not necessarily a jazz man. However, if the voice on display has soul, and I can relate to it, then I’m very much on board. Actually on reflection, I do have a healthy collection of jazz related tunes amongst my soul treasures.
So, to the album at hand. Joyce Elaine Yuille was a new name to me, embedded in a jazz tradition but with more than enough soul to keep me happy made for an interesting listening experience. Her voice sure does suit the genre perfectly, backed as she is by the legendary Timo Lassy Band, which includes the Synthonic Orchestra di Silvia Catasta with a full string section including cello, flute and piccolo. The music score is tight, lavish, inventive and sets a very high bar. (I mention those instruments purely because we don’t get that kind of extravaganza in Southern Soul circles!)
She cover’s Donny Hathaway, Esther Phillips, Marvin Gaye and Penny Goodwin though this is no cover’s album. Instead, each track stands out on their own individual merit. Throughout, her vocals are powerful – demanding the listener’s attention, yet still at the same time they appear understated – like early Anita Baker. At times whilst listening I’m reminded of the great Jimmy Cobb album “So nobody else can hear” – Effortless and passionate.
Straight then to track two, “Come go with me”, a compulsive dancer that seriously swings, a nod to back in the day when Motown dominated. “Too soon your old” ambles along on a bed of percussion, bass and horns to a relaxing pace when at 4.28 ‘bang!’ it takes off – a monster dance-floor mover that is destined for a remix or two. “Just say goodbye” is a stunning dancer too, that sounds like you’ve heard it a hundreds times before. One that is sure to be a big tune, once word gets around. For more of the same, try “Running for my love”; perhaps the most radio friendly of all the tracks amongst the album.
The release isn’t about dancers, there are some fine low-rider moments too, with the whole album is overshadowed by her simply epic version of Marvin’s “Its madness”, this really is one of those OMG moments – the soul ballad of the year so far, as she interprets the pain and sorrow of separation so well when she cries “I’m flirting with insanity”, the string section comes in and bathes her pain away and in the dying moments she pleads “Only you can save me”. It’s on constant replay at home and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, just wonderful.