Sometimes you can’t get ahead, its hard to get out of bed, when clouds are knocking at your door, you’re standing on a ledge, getting closer to the edge, nothing seems to matter anymore…” All too often, society today seems to be repeating these words over and over again on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and in such vast numbers, it surprises me that there’s even anyone left on this planet anymore, but enter, the one and only, Martha Wash!
*Insert clapping hands as you read this*
You may remember the cult classic track; “It’s Raining men” by the Weather Girls, yeah? Well that’s your gal! And she’s back with punch in her latest album “Something Good”.
Throughout the album, there’s an underlying tone of “keep going” and “never give up” with soft, smooth vocals that don’t just fall into one ear and out the other, oh no, these are vocals that tease you, make you feel curious, almost mother-like. The sound trickles down the side of your head, walks slowly into your ears and dances like nobody is watching, all the while, keeping you in a state of mesmerization and nurture as you day dream about your life and how much better it could get with the help of Martha playing through your headphones at every opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong, being a young musical entrepreneurial genius isn’t always easy, I have to listen to the charts every day and to be frank, chart music just isn’t what it used to be, with the likes of Flo Rida and Ne-yo esque club dance music constantly hitting the number one spot, with their electronic drum patterns and their over the top use of compression and reverb like it’s some kind of competition to see who can get the loudest sexual cheer in a room full of underage kids sneaking into clubs trying to get themselves a little bit of hot nooky.
Martha Wash takes a different approach.
Using her blend of out-standing vocals with such strength and clarity and power, she washes over you (see what I did there?) with a blend of what sounds like real instruments and backing singers, really giving you that old school feeling of love and passion and soul igniting fire, giving you strength to carry on with that difficult life journey you’re walking through right now.
The first track “Alright” hits you with a somber mix of drum kicks and guitars, with lyrics such as “you gotta keep breathing, you gotta keep believing, you gotta keep dreaming, you’re gonna be alright”, highlighting various home truths about the world we live in, whilst keeping the sound uplifting and hopeful, veering away from the depressing side of things and constantly reminding you that you’re worth something. I don’t think, for the past generation of music, there’s been a track as honest and painfully “cruel to be kind” as this.
“Destiny”, track two of the album, starts to get upbeat, with a flicking guitar, wide sensual piano and that all important motherly tone. Track three “I’m not coming down” is where things start to get interesting. If I could release an album called “shit you can drive to whilst in a state of melancholy”, this track would be on there multiple times. In fact it would just be this song from track one to track fifteen on all four CD’s. The song doesn’t veer away from it’s classic rock/disco style drumkicks and guitar, with a subtle drop of piano here and there, and a very positive sounding “I never fell until i fell down on my knees, I never knew I could feel such peace, i didn’t know I could soar above the clouds, and now I do, I’m not coming down”, it reminds you of a time when things were better, happier, more positive. A time when you would walk down the street with a spring in your step and not a “skank” like some all these little boys who think swagger is above class.
The thing I love about this album and all of it’s content, is that nothing is over done. Sometimes you wish the tracks were just a little bit longer so you cold enjoy the sound and the message for just that little bit longer, but it ends precisely when it means to, and more often than not, you end up putting tracks on repeat until you’ve had your feed. At first I thought it was going to be an annoying thing to have to do, but I’ve realised that, the more you listen to the songs, the stronger and more clear the lyrics become, making the experience all that much more pleasurable.
Tracks four “It’s my time” and track five “I’ve got you” is where things really start to hit a powerballad/ love-ballad combination. Your head will be nodding along merrily and your lips will be miming the words whilst you’re locked away inside your mind thinking to yourself “Yeah, things can get better…”. Track six “Proud” intrudes on the kickdrums and guitar and goes right back to piano and vocals. This is the kind of song you close the Bafta’s with, or hit number one in the charts with a charity single, Live Aid type thing. The feeling of this song is so eerily haunting, I still cannot figure out just how it still sounds so uplifting and positive! Again, the vocal clarity and articulation makes you wonder just how music has moved from an artist like Martha Wash to the likes of “P!nk” and “Wrong Direction”, who are good vocalists, but it’s like comparing karaoke performers to real concert performers. It makes me lose faith in humanity, but then I listen to the album again and I think, “It could happen…”.
Interestingly, track seven is a cover of Aero Smith’s “Dream On”, and I hate cover songs. The only cover songs I’ve ever liked is “Duke – Message In A Bottle” and “Polly Scattergood – New York”. Now as fortune favors the brave, this cover isn’t actually half bad. If you had never heard of the song before, you might actually be fooled into thinking that the original was by Martha and that Aero Smith covered it. We see the return of the disco/rock drums, subtle hints of piano lurking in the shadows and a beautiful dance of violins and rhythm guitar in a melting pot of delicious musical stew.
This brings us to our final track (eight, for all you three year olds reading this), “Something Good”. This is where Martha, I feel, really comes into the new era. It’s pop, but still ballad style. It’s up beat, it’s catchy, it’s positive, and it really is something I could listen to in the charts of today. It even has a hint of movie soundtrack (Love, Actually anyone?). It’s one of those songs that you hear once and humm to yourself for hours afterwards, the kind of song I imagine girls sing into hairbrushes when they’re having naked pillow fights at their sleep-overs.
The tricky thing about this album, is that describing each track, and the energy that cradles it, is no easy feat. You really do just need to listen. Not just listen; embrace it, appreciate it, share it, love it, and most importantly, take away the message Martha is sharing with you. In this day and age, an opportunity like this seldom comes along often. It has been an absolute pleasure listening to each and every track, and as I have it playing in the background right now as I write this, I’m scared the the last full stop will end up in me taking off and flying into the sunset.
Who say’s you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?