Released March 17, 2014
Jazzwise Top 10 Releases of 2014
‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’ is a beautiful re-working of eleven Leonard Cohen songs and is Tobin’s 2014 salute to the legendary Canadian singer, songwriter and poet in the year of his 80th birthday. In her own songwriting, Christine Tobin specializes in idiosyncratic, highly musical poetic vignettes with a strong sense of story, so it’s no surprise she weaves such magic with the profound, sensual and mysterious songs of Cohen. She has been a lifelong fan and has always included one of his songs in her live programme since the mid-90s.
The songs chosen are from his early 1960s albums through to his 2001 release ‘Ten New Songs’. Christine was first drawn to Cohen at the age of ten after hearing ‘You Know Who I Am’ on the classic compilation double album ‘Fill Your Head With Rock’ which belonged to her eldest sister. Despite her tender years, she fell under the spell of his hypnotic tones and became a Cohen devotee, learning every song from his second LP ‘Songs From a Room’ by heart. Speaking of ‘You Know Who I Am’, Christine says, “I guess because I internalized it at such a young age, I feel its presence like an old friend, a comforting hymn that’s always there in the background.” Tobin’s masterful arrangements and captivating delivery bring great luminosity to his work. Sometimes she reframes the songs, by changing the rhythm or broadening the harmonic backdrop to introduce new colours that present Cohen’s beloved melodies afresh and burnish the lyrics to a powerful glow. ‘Tower of Song’ is taken from its 1980s soundscape back to the 1960s – not hippie introspection but a homage to the Miles Davis band, deftly quoting ‘In a Silent Way/It’s About That Time’ in the finale. Tobin’s long-time musical partner, guitarist Phil Robson, contributes a compelling arrangement of ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, where the lively West African influenced opening riff sets the tone for a reading imbued with an almost defiant emotional bravery. The band is a team of great musicians that provide a sensitive and responsive soundworld. Tobin is reunited with one of her earliest collaborators Huw Warren on accordion (long-time pianist/arranger with June Tabor),
award winning guitarist Phil Robson, Dave Whitford double bass, and Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale (Antonio Forcione band).
Special guest Gwilym Simcock unfolds a version of ‘Anthem’ that creates a kind of alchemy on an intimate voice and piano reading. Nick Smart’s trumpet intro to ‘Dance Me To The End of Love’ conjures up an otherworldly ballroom of romance and heralds the finale of this imaginative.
1. Famous Blue Raincoat 4:26
2. Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye 4:42
3. Tower Of Song 6:02
4. Take This Waltz 7:07
5. Suzanne 5:18
6. Anthem (featuring Gwilym Simcock) 6:38
7. You Know Who I Am 4:27
8. A Thousand Kisses Deep 5:20
9. Everybody Knows 6:56
10. Story Of Isaac 4:15
11. Dance Me To The End Of Love (feat. Nick Smart) 5:54
Christine Tobin: vocals
Phil Robson: guitars
Huw Warren: accordion
Dave Whitford: double bass
Adriano Adewale: percussion
Gwilym Simcock: piano
Nick Smart: trumpet
August 6 & October 4, 2013, at Curtis Schwartz Studio
Berry House, Ardingly, West Sussex, UK
Produced by Christine Tobin and Phil Robson
Artwork by Maxine Sutton
A Thousand Kisses Deep brings together Christine Tobin’s voice, Leonard Cohen’s songs, a bunch of Premier League musicians and superb arrangements. What’s not to like? Nothing. There’s absolutely nothing not to like.
Tobin is blessed with a distinctive, expressive, voice. She’s also an artist who pursues her own vision with an admirable determination—and who isn’t afraid to risk comparison with some of the finest writers of the modern era. That vision has seen her re-imagining Carole King’s classic album in Tapestry Unravelled (Trail Belle, 2010) and setting the words of William Butler Yeats to her own music on Sailing To Byzantium (Trail Belle, 2012). Cohen is another of Tobin’s loves—she made this recording to …”share my passion for his words.”
Tobin’s passion is shared by the musicians, too. Phil Robson’s guitar choice is crucial to the mood of each song—gentle acoustic playing on “You Know Who I Am” or “Hey That’s No Way To Say Goodbye,” full-on electric rock riffage on “Story Of Isaac” or folky rhythms on “Take This Waltz.” Dave Whitford and Adriano Adewale generally keep their rhythms subtle, playing a key supporting role, but each man can open up with some powerful grooves—as evidenced by their playing on “Suzanne” or “Story Of Isaac.” Of all the songs, “Suzanne” gets the most radical re-imagining. Cohen’s original creates an intriguing picture of the titular character, but the relationship seems ambiguous at best—his live 21st century versions are even more downbeat. Tobin’s take on things—which she and Robson surround with a cheery afrobeat-cum-zydeco arrangement—makes the whole thing sound like terrific fun, tea, oranges and all. No hesitation, no second thoughts—this Suzanne seems like a serious party animal, despite what the words might be saying.
“Anthem” is stripped bare: just Tobin’s voice and the piano of Gwilym Simcock, who’s also responsible for the arrangement. When she sings “That’s how the light gets in” for the final time her voice lightens, almost imperceptibly, and so, too, does the entire mood of the lyric. All that remains is for Simcock to close the song with 60 seconds of delicate, crystal clear, piano.
Faced with such beautiful interpretations of Cohen’s songs, it’s important to remember that Tobin is also a talented and original songwriter herself. That talent may well be one reason why she’s such as great interpreter of others’ work: she understands the process of creating a lyric, of crafting a tune, she shares an awareness of just how personal that process can be. Of course, her fellow musicians, the arrangements and that voice all help. A Thousand Kisses Deep is quite simply a marvellous collection of Cohen songs.
Bruce Lindsay (All About Jazz)