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The Future And The Past (Inertia)

At the best of times, and certainly now in what would reasonably be described as approaching the worst of times, I’d say give me grim, angry or pointed any day. I’ll take agitation over sedation, disgruntled over gruntled, and will resist the allure of enforced joy and contrived good cheer any day.

But when you get a set of easy happiness, an R&B album that sets its focus on making you move in your seat rather than break out on a dancefloor, a pop record which deploys its hooks rather than enforces them, only a fool would turn his face against it.

If you were to come across Never Too Late (silky yacht rock meets glistening soul) one evening, you’d buy it a drink and admire the cut of its suit. Walk in on Short Court Style (Brothers Johnson taking Minnie Ripperton for a tour) and you’d be asking it to dance, though not minding if you’re rebuffed politely.

Meanwhile, the expanding shape of Ship Go Down brings jazz vocal lines to the table, building out from piano chords to strings to band to running bass to a guitar solo that has an eye on space rock. All this while Prass slowly removes herself from centre stage without ever leaving the room, the intimations in the background remaining blurred between guitar and distant voice.

At the risk of putting off a good number of people – but maybe not those Julian Hatfield fans who came over recently – there’s something of Olivia Newton John about Prass here, Ship Go Down notwithstanding. She’s not as wispy a singer as ONJ, and lyrically there’s more going on, but Prass has a similarly light touch and a way of easing out of a line like someone ghosting a party.

In Lost, which takes its cues from Motown in its west coast incarnation and presses its point with intent, and The Fire, which has the easy groove of Natalie Cole but the heart of Gladys Knight, sometimes the breath and the note are indistinguishable. Even in Sisters, which is mid ‘70s funk with talky response backing vocals, she’s practically needing to be tied to the microphone.

Interestingly, in the quietest song, Far From You, which closes the album, Prass is at her most solidly “there”. On this track, her voice gentle enough for rainy days and Mondays, there is no groove and little more than piano, so Prass must hold the song together. And she does.

Nice work. Good feelings. Now, back to unhappier times …..

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