Isabelle Antena

En Cavale

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The first solo release by Isabella Antena but essentially a continuation of her work from the days of the Antena trio (then duo), En Cavalle, produced excellently by Martin Hayles and a crack studio band under his direction, is an immediate, enjoyable release. That Antena didn't make a bigger splash at the time (especially after Sade had popularized bossa nova grooves as modern pop) is downright remarkable -- she's in excellent voice throughout and her backing players, including earlier bandmate Sylvain Fasy on guitar, both perform and are recorded brilliantly. But such are the vagaries of the market, though at least those who listen in now will be well rewarded. Starting with the sassy-yet-cool kick of "Play Back," a great showcase for flautist Philip Todd, En Cavalle is also a showcase for Antena's songwriting ability, with six out of nine songs written solely by her. Her singing is confident, sly and straightforward throughout -- there's no being lost in the mix here, more a perfect sympathy with the musicians, from the rollicking punch of "How Can They Tell" to the more modern shock of "Life Is Too Short," an almost industrial-pop brawler at the start. "Seaside Weekend" in particular is a winner, the busy tropical beats set against soft, reflective piano work, then topped off by Antena's sweet singing and gentle scat work. There's also an inspired cover of the Sister Sledge's "Easy Street," interpolating hints of Antena's other musical obsessions into the steady disco punch of the original to create a winning tribute. As with LTM's work in general, part of the appeal of the re-released album from 2005, retitled En Cavalle Bis, lies in the bonus tracks -- seven surface here, including earlier versions of "Be Pop" and "Life Is Too Short."

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