"Anyone who can score a first recording contract with Telarc must be something special. And Raya Yarbrough is. This eponymous debut is as good a debut c.d. (outside of Roberta Gambarini's, that is) as there is, and leaves me with a world of hope and expectations for Ms. Yarbrough's future.
Raya Yarbrough, who looks like a cross between Cher and Rain Pryor, sounds like a cross between Patricia Barber, June Christy and Tierney Sutton. This c.d. is eclectic. At times, Ms. Yarbrough sounds like she's ready to break into the top 40, what with her catchy "You're So Bad For Me," and her "Honky Cat"-sounding "Round We Go." But then she knocks off a gorgeous vocalese version of "Mood Indigo," with an arrangement that starts out like Monk's "Ruby, My Dear." And then an even more gorgeous dreamy version of "Early Autumn," complete with string quartet. Then a cross between folk, r & b and close vocal harmony with "Dreamer's Ball." Then a dreamy version of Clifford Brown's "Sing Joy Spring," with none of the pep usually associated with that tune.
Sometimes eclecticism like this can drive me mad. But in this case, the musicianship is so good that it doesn't. Kudos to Steve Bartok, the producer. Plus, Ms. yarbrough is a terrific songwriter. My favorite on this disc is "Listen, Emily," an angular-sounding cautionary tale to a young woman who is moving too fast. Likewise, "Hollywood Love," a tale of how the bleached-blonde look is what attracts "dumb men" for whatever reason, is one that I could see covered by others in the future.
I'm a little bit surprised that I'm the first Ammy reviewer to review this. This c.d. has been getting pretty good press in the trade mags. And for good reason. I think that as Raya Yarbrough finds her voice, she will record some Grammy-winners at some time in the future. RC"
Words&Music | Washington State, USA | 03/29/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Raya Yarbrough's debut album showcases an enormous talent: wonderful vocal and emotional range, beautiful original music, and an interesting and altogether unique take on some standards, like "Mood Indigo." Betcha never thought that Queen's "Dreamer's Ball" could make you misty. You've never really heard what underlies these lyrics, this melody till you hear Raya Yarbrough sing this song. She has such an eclectic range of material--and vocal control over her material--that the album creates its own singular mood. "You're So Bad for Me" will have you dancing in your kitchen (or wherever you listen to music) and "Listen, Emily" is a haunting cautionary tale. There are many young singers out there, but this one is the one to watch. She weaves complex emotions around memorable music. Her delivery on the album is impeccable. And in performance, you can't take your eyes off her. If you have the opportunity to see her live, go. Ask her to sign your cocktail napkin, and frame it. You won't be sorry."
R. Shaer | Boston, MA | 08/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Incredible album. Wonderfully mature and intelligent. Ms. Yarbrough is a brilliant, knowledgeable, effortless jazz performer. (The "Little Sunflower" reference is too good to be true.) How old is she? More please!"
pier g. foreman | Los Angeles, CA | 07/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Raya Yarbrough is an extaordinarily talented songwriter and an original vocalist who is corageous and complex. Her musical references are wide-ranging and ecletic, whith notes of Nina Simone at times, Joni Mitchell at others and the catchiness of the best of showtunes at others. Her music reminds me of one of my food fantasies. It lets me have bites of all the really great food on the menu, leaving totally, happily satisfied but also wanting to go back again really soon. You'll return to her music again and again! "