England's Katie Melua has become a huge success in Europe with her debut album Call off the Search selling millions of copies in several countries. Her latest attempt, Piece By Piece is a commercially calculated follow-up release which debuted at number one in the UK album charts, proving once again that there's just no accounting for taste.
The disc starts out with deceiving promise. "Shy Boy" is a nice little jazzy number with sultry vocals and tasteful guitar licks courtesy of Chris Spedding. Other jazz-tinged tunes work well, as do the bluesier pieces. Canned Heat's "On The Road Again" is given a rather sugary remake, and although it's one of Melua's better choices in covers, her singing is too light and sweet for the blues classic to be convincing.
Melua's voice is undeniably beautiful. Unfortunately her luscious vocals can't save the bulk of Piece By Piece from being embarrassingly predictable pop drivel. A large part of the problem is her producer, arranger and conductor, Mike Batt. Too much mediocre material is wrapped in syrupy string arrangements provided by The Irish Film Orchestra.
What Melua needs is to hook up with a real blues or jazz band, ditch her producer and find a more interesting writing partner. Yes--tamper with success for art's sake.