Sketches From Eden is the latest release from Gigi Harold, or GG, who has featured regularly on KoJ over the last few years. The album is old-school soul, which is just how I like it, and arguably less jazz-oriented than some of her previous outings. As usual, it features some fine arrangements courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Mark Harold, and some of the cream of the British soul scene, including trumpet player Kenny Wellington and saxophonist David (Baps) Baptiste - both ex-Light Of The World (and the horn section on Spandau Ballet's Chant No. 1).
The album itself is something of a song cycle, with each song designed to represent different stages of a relationship. "Everyone experiences their own Eden sometime," explains Gigi, and indeed, everyone will be able to relate to the emotions expressed in these new songs.
Boyfriend, as the title suggests, tries to capture the feelings of first love. There's a summery warmth to the arrangement, which features Andy Pickering on organ, with faint echoes of Long Hot Summer by the Style Council. The opener also features some delightful backing vocals, courtesy of GG herself. Close Your Eyes is GG's personal favourite, and it's easy to see why. The song opens with a more modern keyboard sound, which gives way to a dramatic, Bond-esque arrangement, which GG handles with some style. "Time stands still, when the magic starts," she suggests. There is also some dual guitar action to enjoy, with Brian Harris on lead, Rob Blackham on rhythm and Mark Harold providing the string-like keys as the song builds.
Every Colour Blue hints at the first signs of love going wrong, and features some aching muted trumpet by Kenny Wellington himself, whilst If You Let Me Go has a slight Sade feel, and features a cool bass line, courtesy of Mark Harold. The use of a drum machine didn't work so well on this track, and i felt it would have benefitted from something a little more natural.
March Of Time has been gathering some positive press ahead of the album launch, and rightly so. The tune was remixed by Rod Layman, and whilst GG's voice is a little low in the mix, it still has a great vibe and a slight Ibiza feel, which still feels like a distant dream at the time of writing! Perfect Storm is another highlight, and features a dramatic arrangement, suggesting a brewing storm, and a powerful vocal from GG, particularly as the song builds to a climax.
Raising Steam suggests a reunion of two lovers, GG asking, "What was I supposed to do, leave you in the past?" Wellington returns on muted trumpet, but guest guitarist Paul McLean steals the show here, delivering some Benson-like guitar lines. The Answer Is You is one of my personal favourites; one of the best arrangements and maybe GG's best vocal on the album too, the breathy warmth of her vocal matching the warmth of the lyrics.
There are a couple of tracks that don't work so well, but overall this is a delightful new collection. The album is probably best heard in order, but inevitably with download-only releases, that probably won't happen. But most of these songs stand-up in their own right, and with the album being launched on the late May bank holiday, just in time for summer, it's one to download right way and enjoy!