It’s hard to believe but Erja Lyytinen is already on her tenth album. The first studio effort since 2014’s Elmore James tribute album ‘the sky is crying’ (although a deeply impressive live album did appear in 2015 – see our review here), ‘Stolen hearts’ is an eagerly anticipated work from the Finnish star. With instrumental tracks recorded at Sonic Pump studios in Helsinki, Erja then decamped to State of the Ark studios in London to record her vocals with legendary producer Chris Kimsey (Rolling Stones) and to see the album mixed on the same EMI console upon which Chris mixed ‘Sticky fingers’ and ‘some girls’. With so much rock ‘n’ roll history already woven into the fabric of the album, Erja then turned to Ray Staff (‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘All the young dudes’) at Air Studios to master the record and the result is Erja’s most adventurous release to date.
The album opens with ‘Stolen Hearts’, a soulful, bluesy number that operates in the same slinky mode as Beth Hart, telling the (fictional) story of a true heart breaker before Erja lets rip with a stinging riff on the chorus that brings the track to life. Elements of Hendrix abound, but, in the carefully layered solo, Erja also brings to mind elements of Radiohead and Pearl Jam at their hard rock best and the result is a track that is truly timeless, drawing upon four decades of musical history and combining them into one perfect moment. ‘Rocking chair’, with its atypical time signature, is a hard rock track and you can certainly feel the Zeppelin influences that run through the song. Blistering solos are the order of the day here and Erja is on fire, pushing her playing to its limits as the band lay down a rhythmic barrage behind her. ‘Love laboratory’ is a gently funky track with nimble guitars and a vocal performance that runs its fingers gently down your spine with a surprising intimacy. ’24 angels’ has a glorious slide solo that utilises unusual harmonic patterns to emphasise the subject matter which deals in mortality and forgiveness. A song that seems to embody a gentle sense of regret at past actions, Erja’s playing and her vocals are both sublime and it’s a truly emotional experience listening to the song, so much so that the blues swagger of ‘black ocean’ offers some much-needed respite. With its heavy central riff, you can imagine ‘black ocean’ truly blazing live, whilst the extended run time (over seven minutes) gives Erja and her band plenty of time to let their musical skills swell to fill the space. ‘Slowly burning’ is a gorgeous slow blues that damn near breaks the heart and draws the first half of the album to a close on a melancholy note.
The second half of the album opens with the shuffling ‘Lover’s novels’, a lovely boogie that will keep feet tapping whilst Erja’s sensuous slide guitar is draped across the framework sketched out by the band, its liquid tendrils spreading far beyond the base the song offers and drawing the listener ever closer. A particularly hard subject matter to tackle in a sensitive fashion, mental disease is the focus of the lyrics of the sublime ‘Silver stones’ and Erja perfectly captures the vulnerability at the heart of that invisible illness with deft intelligence and subtlety. At the song’s centre lies a Clapton-esque solo that is simply heart-breaking. Heading back toward the sun, ‘Awakening’ deals with falling back in love with someone and it’s a simple, sweet song with a pop edge that marks it out as the perfect choice for a single. Paying tribute to the city in which Erja studied music, ‘City of angels’ is another track with a Clapton vibe, not least in the gorgeous and memorable melody around which Erja builds the song. It’s another track that could easily find its way to the radio, and it offers space enough that the listener can also bask in the glory of the beautiful production. The album ends with ‘Broken eyes’, a gorgeous, piano-led ballad that recalls Elton John in his prime with its delicate melody and intricately woven atmosphere. It’s the perfect end to an album that is an emotional rollercoaster and it leaves the listener feeling as if the journey that first undertook when ‘stolen hearts’ blazed into view, has come to a bittersweet conclusion.
Erja Lyytinen is justly feted for her work to date, but there’s no question that this album is her masterpiece. Although the record was recorded with the aid of industry giants Chris Kimsey and Ray Staff, it is the song writing that makes the album truly exemplary and here Erja excels both musically and lyrically. Each song has its own unique character and the album is carefully sequenced so as to take the listener on a contemplative journey. A magical blues gem, ‘stolen hearts’ is a record to treasure. 9
APRIL 2017 UK TOUR DATES
Square & Compass, Ilminster
Sunday 9th April 2017
Box Office – 01823 480 467
Windmill Hill, Ilminster TA19 9NX
The 100 Club
Record Release Party
Tuesday 11th April 2017
Venue Tel: 020 7636 0933
Book Online – WeGotTickets.com
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100 Oxford Street, London, W1d 1LL
Durham Gala Theatre, Durham
Co-headline with Chantel McGregor
Thursday 13th April 2017
Book Online: Durham Gala Theatre
Box Office: 03000 266 600
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Millennium Place, Durham, DH1 1WA