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Music Review: Missy Andersen – Missy Andersen

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If you're not old enough to remember the 1970's and the ravages of disco, count yourself lucky as you missed out on the first wave of turning music into pre-packaged plastic. One of the worst myths to be borne out of that era was that you can say what you like about disco but there's no other music you can dance to. Which was utter garbage of course, but as you weren't going to hear anything else in clubs, at dances, or on the radio that you could move to aside from disco, the chances of anybody knowing any better were slim to none.

Of course, there were plenty of alternatives if you were only willing to look for them. Funk, soul, R&B, and all the rest were still being recorded and released thoughout the 1970's. Nowadays, of course, disco is long gone, but its legacy lingers in the car stereos and dance clubs which blare out bass-laden cacophony under the guise of "dance music." Like disco, though, its lyrics (if any) are as mindless and mind numbing as the music itself. Yet for some reason people still can't seem to be bothered to seek out some of the great music out there which you can not only dance to, but that has intelligible lyrics as well.

So as a public service announcement to those people I'd like to tell you about Missy Andersen's self-titled release, Missy Andersen, that manages to pack more substance into its eight tracks than you're liable to hear from a night of what normally passes for dance music. Even better is the fact that you can just listen to this recording even if you don't feel like dancing as the music is as enjoyable to listen to as it is to move your feet to.

One of the reasons this disc is so good is that Andersen has chosen to mix it up so that no two songs sound exactly alike. From the old-style R&B of the opening cut "Ace Of Spades" to the up-tempo, horn-driven blues number "New Feet;" from the driving funk of "Pack It Up" to slow and soulful tracks like "Same Old Blues;" she and her band rock you off your feet, before slowing it all down so you can rock in your sweet baby's arms. You could put a DJ out of work with this disc — all you'd have to do is slip it in a sound system and press play. You'll get thirty plus minutes of music you can move to without ever feeling like you've had to listen to the same song twice, let alone over and over again.

The band — Heine Andersen (guitars), Asmus Jensen (drums), Soren Bojgaard (bass) and Jeppe Jull (Hammond organ) with the help of guests Robbie Smith and Bob Mathes on trumpet and saxophone respectively — do a great job of creating the illusion of being loose while actually being incredibly tight. They push the beat forward hard and fast when required, but also slow it right down to play slow and rich so that you feel each note in your bones. And that's not because they've got the bass turned up so high that you can pulverize tempered steel with it, but because they play with such feeling that you can't help but allow it to seep beneath the surface of your skin.

Of course the band can be as hot as you like but if the singer can't keep up her end of the deal, then there's not much sense in listening. Missy Andersen not only lives up to her obligations as a singer; she blows them out of the water. One moment she's growling out some charged-up funk lyrics and the next her voice is aching from the blues. Even more impressive is the breadth of her range as she's able to climb and descend the scale with equal ease so that no matter where on it she's at, she's not showing any strain whatsoever.

Back in the day when people like Aretha Franklin were tearing up the soul charts with their songs, most singers had received their start in church choirs. Things are different now, and Andersen had to make due with singing at home to her parent's collection of soul, R&B, and classic jazz and blues albums. Her first gigs were actually as a rapper, but she soon started earning her chops as a session vocalist. In the 1990's she moved to the West Coast where she joined the Juke Joint Jezebelles, a quartet that sang gospel, blues, and soul and provided back-up vocals for blues performer Earl Thomas.

So even though Missy Andersen is her first recording, she's had years of experience within which she's developed not only her voice and style, but also the ability to handle the demands of singing a multitude of genres. Oftentimes people who have made a career out of being a back-up singer aren't successful in making the switch to lead. While they may have wonderful voices, they lack the presence required to front a band. It's obvious from listening to Andersen that she's not only paid her dues singing for others; she learned enough to be a front person of power and passion.

There's something about her voice that not only grabs your attention but holds onto it as well. How often have you listened to music that makes you want to dance and listen to the lyrics at the same time? Well that's what happens when you listen to Andersen's recording as there's an urgency in her delivery that compels you to at least pay attention to her while she's singing, if not listen carefully to what she has to say.

Missy Andersen is a great recording which proves that dance music doesn't have to be mindless. Missy Andersen and her band deliver great sounding music that will either have you up on your feet and dancing, or sitting back and listening appreciatively. Either way its a great disc and holds out the promise of a great future for her as a lead singer.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
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