I discovered Steven Blane a little less than a month ago while reviewing his “Kill Me Nice” album. I was left pretty much in awe by this Adult Contemporary performer who writes, sings and plays the ukulele, piano as well as the guitar. I could imagine Steven Blane kicking ass during the 50s and 60s when artists like Bennett and Sinatra were the hippest men around. His immense talent, both vocally and as a songwriter, is probably wasted in an era where ears are more fine-tuned towards T-Pain’s Auto-Tune pitch correction effect than the sound of a sweet Baby Grand.
Having said that, Steven Blane is here now, and should be cherished by all those who still prefer real instruments and sweet melodies, wrapped around well-structured arrangements and enchanting chords. The 11-track “Taboo” album is a lovely getaway from the hustle and bustle of over indulgent electronics, compressed vocals and superfluous production values. Steven is accompanied by piano, bass and little else. He carries the weight of each and every song on his vocal deliveries.
“Taboo” is that too rare event: a perfect singer, a minimal but world class accompaniment. Throughout Blane’s voice remains as vital and powerful, and sensitive, as ever. The songs are exactly what you want to hear Steven sing: “Cold Blood”, “That’s All I Got To Say”, “Pretty Lies”, “Taboo”, “Naked” and “Crashing In” being the pick of the bunch for me. Any aspiring or experienced pianist would do well to heed Steven Blane; his keys, chord choices, their placement, fills and touch are almost always transparent and accessible, allowing relatively quick and sure transcription of what he does. Not the least of his special talents is his restraint; the outstanding musical performances creating the intimacy for Blane’s voice to revel in subtlety.
Rhythmically, lyrically and musically I think Steven Blane would appeal to at least three generations. It’s not often that I run into an album that contains more than one peak experience. On “Taboo”, Blane performs in a totally captivating set of carefully selected songwriting jewels, spinning mesmerizing performances, one after another. It is an essential recording for any fan of ballads, blues, jazz and esoteric pop songs.
“Taboo”, is a well-crafted, if undeniably slow-burning affair, which impressively shies away from cumbersome jazzy arrangements. Steve Blane, with his versatile, reassuringly far-reaching voice and burnished vocal style – can seemingly do no wrong. Much like “Kill Me Nice”, the works on this album feel honest, heartfelt, and uncompromising. If you give yourself over to the music, it is captivating and compelling, and I have the feeling that, over time, this will remain one of my favorite Steve Blane albums. Sure, I’ll still be popping in other releases by the man, but this album acts as a subtle emotional roller coaster, if such a thing is possible. It takes you on a journey of a desperation, love and hope going through its 11 tracks; definitely worth your precious time!