Steve Nieve


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In 2007, Steve Nieve and his life partner, psychoanalyst, writer, and film producer Muriel Teodori, collaborated on the well-received opera, Welcome to the Voice, in which they enlisted the talents of Elvis Costello, Sting, and Robert Wyatt. Nieve brought these four together again, as well as a host of other friends, in a series of musically conversant duets. Also featured here are old and new friends like Vanessa Paradis, Glenn Tilbrook, Laurie Anderson, Ron Sexsmith, and others; some of these singers also appear in the session band. Nieve's trademark is musical ambition. Though most of these songs are in recognizable forms, they take chances. The jazzy art song "You Lie Sweetly" uses Sting's lower register to fuel a modern torch song. "Save the World," with Tall Ulyss, is a straight-up rocker with a choir added for dimension. "Conversation," with Paradis, finds the two singers atop a lilting hook, with the composer's Attractions-era organ sound filling a backdrop dominated by rolling tom-toms, a droning bassline, and electric guitar. "Tender Moment" features Costello in a grand ballad that would have been right at home on his Burt Bacharach sessions. The deep upright bass by Benoit de Segonzac, and Nieve's own virtuoso playing on grand piano, are as seductive as the vocals. "La Plus Jolie Langue" is the set's only trio with Teodori and Wyatt. It reveals Nieve's willingness to stretch himself, writing lyrics in rudimentary French in a modern chanson -- the first of three songs in that language here -- as a salute to his adoptive home of Paris. Wyatt and Teodori are wonderful soloists; their airy vulnerability is countered by sly humor. Nieve's plaintive, everyman voice adds enough weight to root it to earth even as his atmospheric keyboards push the other way. Unfortunately, "La Crise" with Cali is marred by that singer's Bono affectation, though the song's chorus has the best hook on the album. "Halloween Night," a love song with Sexsmith, nods at Harry Nilsson in melodic and lyric twists, though the images are all Nieve's. The slithering hooks in "Summer Song (Espionage)," with Tilbrook, make for a deft, luxurious, pop song; breezy guitars, cello, keys, and an infectious melody meld the singers' voices seamlessly. ToGetHer is a beautifully conceived album; its production, though relatively clean, contains all sorts of subtle shades and textures. At large, it is a welcome return to what Nieve does best: writing, arranging, and performing wonderful songs.

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