Kathy Diamond

Miss Diamond to You

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Miss Diamond to You Review

by K. Ross Hoffman

Kathy Diamond's debut album, a full-length collaboration between the U.K.-based singer and veteran house producer Maurice Fulton, is a deeply satisfying and distinctive work of 21st century disco that draws extensively from soul, funk, and Latin. In a burgeoning and strikingly varied field of revivalist disco artists whose aesthetic and musical integrity trumps the considerable potential for novelty gimmickry -- among them the disparate likes of Metro Area, Sally Shapiro, and Hercules and Love Affair -- Miss Diamond to You stands out for its focus on establishing a consistent, evocative mood and a leisurely, luscious sense of groove rather than dynamic, overtly danceable beats, or even readily recognizable songs and melodies (although it has those things too). It's less blatantly electronic than any of the aforementioned acts, blurring the lines between synthetic and organic (and between modern and retro), with inconspicuously programmed drums and keyboards, subtle ambient textures, swaths of flange and reverb, and other understated flourishes integrated seamlessly with chunky, vintage-sounding synths, clavinets, organs and acoustic pianos, light and breezy guitars, layers of Latin-tinged percussion (cowbells, shakers, congas, pandeiros, sleigh bells...) and, most of all, impeccably fluid, funky basslines, usually of the slapped variety. Apart from some of those bass parts (which are simply beyond the capacity of machines), it's hard to be entirely sure what was programmed and what was played -- nearly everything here sounds like it could have been performed by a live band (Chic springs to mind), except that Fulton was evidently responsible for the whole thing -- but all that's really relevant is how gorgeously it all flows together in a cohesive, unified whole. In fact, the album's uniformity of sound -- there are a lot of different instruments but not, ultimately, a whole lot of textural range -- could potentially be taken as an issue, since it means the whole tends to overshadow the individual tracks. That's not helped by the brief a cappella fragments, taken from various songs, which are sequentially mismatched throughout the track list as if to suggest that the vocal hooks are interchangeable. And Diamond's sweet, wafer-thin voice, while well-suited to the album's languid, smokily intimate vibe, doesn't do a great deal to elevate her lyrics and melodies into truly charismatic or memorable territory. Still, the slyly poppy "All Woman" and "On & On" stand out as well worth hearing in their own right, as do the mostly instrumental electro-samba "Until the Sun Goes Down" and the thickly layered keyboard funk of "Over," with its curious vocal tweaking.

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