Charmaine Clamor is a cheeky little firecracker, a singer with an absurd amount of soul, and a gifted artist with a fantastic sense of humour. When her debut album, Searching for the Soul, was released in 2005, many predicted that Clamor would “shake the musical world.” With her new CD, Flippin’ Out, she expands on her career and synthesizes American jazz, blues, soul, Filipino folk music, and other musical forms to create what she dotingly dubs “jazzipino.”
The essence of “jazzipino” is evident from the opening welcoming notes of Flippin’ Out. The enchanting and humorous track “My Funny Brown Pinay” is a raucously entertaining re-invention of Rodgers and Hart’s “My Funny Valentine.” Having a Filipino wife, the song found instant significance in my home as the combination of English and Tagalog lyrics delivered an anthem of native pride. At times on the standout track, Clamor sounds like a revolutionary as she celebrates her heritage and inspires anyone who has ever struggled.
From that wonderful opening number, Flippin’ Out delivers a broad spectrum of addictive music. Some performances are affectionate and ageless, like Clamor’s beautiful vocals on “I Hadn’t Anyone ‘Til You,” while other tracks are back to the fun and culture of the album’s opener, like the swing and strut of the sexy “Candy.”
Another terrific highlight is Clamor’s lingering and exquisite cover of U2’s classic tune “With or Without You.” With Clamor behind the wheel of one of my personal favourite songs, things get very interesting very quickly. Coaxed by a soothingly swaying bass line, the song takes on brave new meaning and Charmaine’s forlorn vocals fit the mood charmingly. It is one of the best covers of the song I have ever heard.
Flippin’ Out moves from gentleness to sexiness without missing a beat. The almost bawdy rendition of Nina Simone’s “Sugar in My Bowl” is scorching and steamy. Clamor claims that friend and mentor Linda Hopkins taught her to “sing dirty,” as it’s not a skill one learns naturally in the Philippines.
At the heart of Flippin’ Out is a splendid homage to Filipino culture. The exquisite “Filipino Suite” is comprised of five tracks sung wholly in Tagalog or Bisayan. The suite melds American jazz superbly with the slightly tropical sounds of traditional Filipino music, making for a lovely piece of music that will please fans of both styles. Using the kulintang, a percussion ensemble of drums and gongs from the Philippines, the suite is beautifully textured and affecting.
After the suite, Clamor buckles down again for a fun scat romp and closes the album out with the striking “Be My Love” by Mario Lanza.
Flippin’ Out is an eclectic, vivacious, poignant, emotive, stunning, and creative piece of music. It is a brilliant CD. Filipino music lovers and those inexperienced with the delightful genre will find something unique and extraordinary on this electrifying album. With several Filipino guest musicians and enough swagger to jolt even the most hardened critic, Flippin’ Out is a splendid world music experience.