Nellie McKay returns with Obligatory Villagers, a 9-song odyssey and follow-up to Pretty little head, one of the best-reviewed records of 2006. Like its predecessor, Villagers produced, arranged, written and performed by ... more »Nellie, this time featuring an ensemble of jazz greats, including Phil Woods, Dave Liebman and Bob Dorough. An early review from Pitchfork testifies, from the cheeky ukulele-and-tap-shoes dance break! in the middle of album opener Mother of Pearl to the chorus of brain-hungry zombies on a finale titled, yes, Zombie , Villagers finds Nellie and her collaborators at their most lively and rambunctious.« less
Nellie McKay returns with Obligatory Villagers, a 9-song odyssey and follow-up to Pretty little head, one of the best-reviewed records of 2006. Like its predecessor, Villagers produced, arranged, written and performed by Nellie, this time featuring an ensemble of jazz greats, including Phil Woods, Dave Liebman and Bob Dorough. An early review from Pitchfork testifies, from the cheeky ukulele-and-tap-shoes dance break! in the middle of album opener Mother of Pearl to the chorus of brain-hungry zombies on a finale titled, yes, Zombie , Villagers finds Nellie and her collaborators at their most lively and rambunctious.
"What a short and sweet album! I think to truly appreciate it you have to think of it as two songs--Mother of Pearl and Zombie--which serve as bookends for one of the most thrilling suites of musical inventiveness since, well, I'm not sure when. Comparisons to Bohemian Rhapsody don't do Nellie justice. The suite kicks off with McKay's shout out to newsworthy dog owner Maxine Shreck and ends with the gospel rave up Testify. In between the listener is treated to everything from sea chanties (Livin) to Latin ballads (Politan) to hip-hop pop (Identity Theft). Just in the space of one song (Testify) she goes from Mancini-style spy music to anthemic rap to SNL-horn ensemble jazz to raise-the-roof soul. The album is incredibly well-served by McKay's choice of backing musicians, including Bob Dorough whose scratchy vocals provide a perfect counterpoint to young Ms. Nellie on Oversure and Galleon. Give this album a couple of spins and the nifty arrangements and hook-laden melodies will stick in your head for weeks. Lyrically, McKay manages to take episodes from her own life and turn them into poetic vignettes. Like Steely Dan lyrics, they are vague enough to keep you guessing yet include enough concrete imagery to point you in the right direction. One of the best albums of 2007! "
"Nellie McKay's tunes continue to amaze, impress and delight. After the first listening, I was struck with the musicianship and quality of the arrangements, although I was left feeling that the album may be a touch over-polished. Then, after subsequent listening sessions, I realized that the polish was intentional, necessary and glorious.
Just as the Beatles crafted songs that were complete in and of themselves, at the same time weaving perfectly in an overall album concept, so does Nellie McKay's third album. Each song perfect and complete in its own chapter of the album.
Identity Theft, Mother of Pearl and Testify are the shining stars of this bright collection, although each and every of the nine songs is a complete, living, breathing success.
Obligatory Villagers is a happy addition to Nellie McKay's catalog. Highly recommended!"
Daniel Holland | Arroyo Grande, CA United States | 01/11/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I really like this one. I complained a bit about "Pretty Little Head" because it was too much and needed paring. This is short and sweet and it works for me. I love the songs, the orchestration and the players. Nice fat trumpet sound, great sax solos, and a rough and tumble feel that's endearing to me. More than just about any album I've listened to lately, I find myself replaying the songs in my head and liking it. "Testify" is truely awesome and I can't help but love "Zombie."
I also love her singing and the contrast between her and guest singer Bob Dorough - very cool. I gotta say, you don't hear stuff like this anywhere else (or I haven't).."
Instantly became one of my top 10 favorite CDs...
Ray59 | White Haven, PA USA | 12/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I had never heard of Nellie McKay until just a couple weeks ago, when I caught a bit of her music (and interview) on NPR while driving home. The music impressed me so much I turned the car around and headed to our local Barnes and Noble. NPR often features really off-beat music, so I was pleasantly surprised to find "Obligatory Villagers" in stock.
I popped it into my car's CD player on the way home, and it has been there ever since. I am totally hooked! I have been buying records (showing my age here) for about 35 years, and have just a few favorite albums that never seem to get old. This one instantly entered my top 10 albums of all time...which is pretty amazing, considering those personal favorites go back to the 1970s!
How to describe this music? A lot of it I would class as jazz...or close to jazz...with sharp, often funny lyrics. About the best comparison I can think of would be a hybrid of Nora Jones (sound) with the Cherry Poppin' Daddies (lyrics). But even that is doing Nellie a dis-service, because her music is totally original and takes so many different forms. She also has some GREAT catchy musical hooks and elaborate orchestrations.
Just bought her first CD yesterday ("Get Away from Me") and really enjoyed that as well...but not quite as much as "Obligatory Villagers". Which means she is only getting better with time. Can't wait to hear the next one!"
Peaks and Valleys
moose_of_many_waters | Palo Alto, CA United States | 08/19/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Ms. McKay has both a tremendous amount of talent and energy. Her voice is rather ordinary, but her musicianship is wonderful. Her lyric writing is sometimes brilliant and sometimes amateurish, often all within the same song.
Obligatory Villagers is to my ear probably her best CD so far with less low spots and excess than her previous CDs. But I think and know she can do better.
My view is that Ms. McKay needs someone like a modern day Norman Ganz to harness her immense talent into something that all can enjoy. Right now there is a lot of quirky stuff and brilliance mixed with material that's just plain dopey. It's music for audiophiles.
I don't think Columbia was the right place for her, but this do it yourself approach she's using now desperately needs an editor. She needs to find an outside ear she trusts to help her refine her sound and approach. I hope that this happens eventually."