The Classic - Joan As Policewoman
The Classic - Joan As Policewoman
The Classic, the fourth album of originals by the uniquely charismatic artist known as Joan As Police Woman, builds on the creative impetus and success of its 2011 predecessor The Deep Field, on which Joan strove to create music rooted in an intimate, elemental and uplifting brand of soul combined with her own unique serene, torch-singing temperament, with a more liberated feel than ever before. The result is a perfect reflection of her efforts to address – and solve – personal issues and so reject the singer-songwriter’s traditional melancholic disposition for an unashamed lust for life. As graffiti in the artwork of her 2006 debut album, Real Life, read: “Evolve” and “Be Brave”.
The Classic is named after one of its ten tracks. “Part is to do with the way we recorded mostly live; the way records used to get made,” she explains. “But I wrote ‘The Classic’ itself as a classic girl-group doo wop song, and the lyric refers to classic old songs like Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘ Joy Inside My Tears’ and Danny & The Juniors’ ‘Rock’n’Roll Is Here To Stay’. And at the end, I spell out the name of the song, like Aretha Franklin did with ‘R-E-S-P-E-C-T’! The song begins ‘I am home in your arms’ and it’s solely joyful, expressing jubilation. Melancholy is still part of my life, but it’s no longer leeching energy from my life.”
The title track, for example, includes a street-corner doo-wop bass vocal from fellow singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur and a human beat-box backing from none other than US comedian extraordinaire Reggie Watts, which gives the track’s classic Fifties/Sixties vibe a more contemporary slant. It’s the album’s shortest, snappiest track, with the core ensemble of Joan plus her JAPW cohorts Tyler Wood (keyboards) and Parker Kindred (drums), plus Oren Bloedow (bass and sharing guitar parts with Joan), tending toward longer, simmering and smouldering grooves: four songs last six or seven minutes.
The two longest tracks, the increasingly dramatic "Good Together" (which berates her ex-lover for being “nostalgic for something that never was” and then clandestinely begs for one more meeting at the bathhouse) and the more restrained slow-burn of "Get Direct" are consecutive epics in the centre of The Classic. Leading off The Classic is "Witness" with Joan’s own pizzicato string part on violin plus swaying horns and a chorus that just flies.
The following song "Holy City" is the album’s prime Motown/Hi label-influenced pop fusion, a brilliantly instinctive lead single inspired by a visit to Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall and understanding people find ecstasy in different ways, from praying to making music. After the following triple whammy of "The Classic," "Good Together" and "Get Direct" comes the warm, brooding "What Would You Do" (about “trusting your instinct, to step in when a friend is being self-destructive and no one else seems to have noticed”) that fades to a gorgeous, meditative coda of just Joan and baritone sax. "New Years Day" maintains the stark and poised mood with its exquisite pale strings.
Like "Holy City," "Shame" is funky, faster and festooned with horns, underlining the message from "Witness" that, “we learn to trust ourselves. I wanted to write a song that mocked shame by making it a quick R-n-B gotsta-move-your-body tune.” The Classic draws to a close with the sultry, serene ballad "Stay" and the finale "Ask Me" that unexpectedly rocks a gentle reggae beat: “it was the treatment for the song that felt the most natural, the most buoyant. For me, it’s the chocolate mousse at the end of the meal; the last words being ‘Let’s keep it going’."