Stepping into diva’s shoes, American chanteuse reaches out for dawn and dusk, with erstwhile Devadip paying a visit
It’s no coincidence there’s an imperative shift between 2016’s "Walk With Me" and “Wake Up”: while Jennifer Saran’s sophomore album felt like an inspired invitation to try many a route, its follow-up finds the singer take wing and take her listener way up high. That the mesmerizing “Look At Me Fly” – a duet with producer Narada Michael Walden – is this record’s centerpiece is rather telling, although such a placement can’t distract anyone from the artist’s fully-fledged ability to own not only the little gems she co-wrote but also pop classics inhabited here with, if to quote one of them, love and devotion.
To gender-bend Billy Paul’s “Me & Mrs. Jones” and swing to a strings backdrop or to reveal new emotional layer in Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me” may require a lot of self-confidence, and Saran is truly possessed with assertiveness now, easily outshining the sensual backing provided by LADYSMITH BLACK MAMBAZO on a few numbers – first of all, on the title track where Carlos Santana’s soulful licks kick in to elevate the opener’s vibrancy. With the same rapturous throb filling the translucent “Too Young To Know” whose arrangement ebbs and flows under its melody, and with a wide-eyed delight in “Really” which rides a funky groove, Jennifer doesn’t shy away from the moonlight serenade in “Old Cape Cod”; more so her delicately passionate treatment of “Jesus To A Child” can make Sade blush.
On the opposite side of a rhythmical spectrum, silvery spiritual yet dance-inducing, “Grace Is The Champion” has the potential to become a riff-spiced mantra for an experienced party-goer, one that will deem Saran’s reading of “Aad Guray” too entrancing. But when the orchestra and choir flock into “I Will Always Be Your Home” to warm its welcome, it’s impossible not walk there with the singer and then wake up each morning with a smile and faith in the future.