The Upshot: Wright is a terrific talent, but what might have been a great album merely becomes a good one, due to fact that much needed variation is in such short supply.
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Lizz Wright appears to do everything right. A follow up to her stellar gospel recording, Fellowship, her new album, Freedom & Surrender was five years in the making and promised to be worth every moment it took to conceive. It finds her poised on the brink of wider recognition, if for no other reason than her commitment to pure, authentic soul, a commodity that’s in short supply these days. She can belt with a bluster that will stop audiences dead in their tracks, as demonstrated on opener “Freedom” and then make a moving ballad entirely her own, as she demonstrates on practically every other track here.
So far so good, but then things get problematic. The over abundance of slower songs allows little opportunity to vary her motif. As a result, much of the material sounds so doggedly similar, it prevents any one track for really standing out. It’s a curious scenario given the fact that she’s got a terrific stable of writers to help craft her set — J.D. Souther, David Batteau, Maia Sharp and Jesse Harris among them — and she’s found the perfect producer in Larry Klein, best known as the man behind the boards for Joni Mitchell, Madeleine Peyroux and Tracy Chapman. Yet, while individual offerings such as “The Game,” “Right Where You Are” “Real Life Paining” might have made ideal showcases under ordinary circumstances, the sameness in the song selection mutes any individual impact. Her take on the well wrought standard, the Bee Gees’ otherwise heart wrenching “To Love Somebody,” simply sounds languid in the midst of so much similarly slow fare.
As a result, what might have been a great album merely becomes a good one, due to fact that much needed variation is in such short supply. A terrific talent, Wright deserves better. Hopefully next time, that promise will finally be fulfilled.
DOWNLOAD: “The Game,” “Right Where You Are” “Real Life Paining”