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Half The Perfect World

118 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 12, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Madeleine Peyroux doesn't simply interpret songs, she possesses them and vice versa. Half the Perfect World is the much-anticipated follow-up to Peyroux's breakthrough album, Careless Love, which drew critical raves from around the world and sold more than a million copies. This time around, Peyroux focuses primarily on songs written by artists from her lifetime, including Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Fred Neil. The album also features an unforgettable duet with k.d. lang on the Joni Mitchell classic "River" and four original songs co-written by Peyroux, including the single "I'm All Right" which she penned with producer Larry Klein and Steely Dan's Walter Becker. Half the Perfect World is a sublime showcase for Peyroux's eloquent, understated delivery and timeless one-of-a-kind voice.

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Smokey-voiced chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux's third CD is a lovely collection of after-hours ruminations and should confirm her rise to fame. Credit producer Larry Klein for doing a bang-up job with the album's sound: the elegant, pared-down arrangements are all brushed drums, acoustic guitars, and cool organ licks. But of course it's Peyroux's voice that brings it all home--preferably one where the shades are drawn, embers are smoldering in the fireplace, and the white wine is kept dry. Two-thirds of the songs are well-chosen covers, including a duet with k.d. lang on Joni Mitchell's "River"; a relaxed version of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'," from Midnight Cowboy; a delicately lilting samba take on Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas's title track; Serge Gainsbourg's "La Javanaise," performed in the original French; and Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," from Modern Times. The four originals, all coauthored by Peyroux, easily keep up with such august company, especially "I'm All Right"--written with Klein and Walter Becker, it captures the easy sophistication of Becker's regular band, Steely Dan. Fans of Norah Jones (whose collaborator Jesse Harris cowrote three of the songs) should gobble up this album, but Peyroux is no mere imitator: She's her own, very real thing. --Elisabeth Vincentelli

More Madeleine


Dreamland

Careless Love

Got You on My Mind

(with William Galison)


1. I’m All Right
2. The Summer Wind
3. Blue Alert
4. Everybody’s Talkin’
5. River” (duet featuring k.d. lang)
6. A Little Bit
7. Once in a While
8. (Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night
9. Half the Perfect World
10. La Javanaise
11. California Rain
12. Smile

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 12, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rounder
  • ASIN: B000GFLE86
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,052 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Vishal Bhartia on December 11, 2006
Format: Audio CD
The eagerly awaited follow-up album to the enigmatic singer's phenomenally successful "Careless Love" may not be as beguiling, but it has charms of its own - not least the upbeat, laughter-filled opener, "I'm All Right" (an original composition), Serge Gainsbourg's "La Javanaise" and Leonard Cohen's sensual "Blue Alert".
There is a stronger country vibe and, if anything, the lackadaisical Billie Holiday drawl is even more in evidence than in the first CD.
And if ever a song suited the persona of the singer, it's "Everybody's Talkin".
When beauty is understated...
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72 of 76 people found the following review helpful By MUSiCOLOGY on November 10, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Madeleine Peyroux comes across as an artist older than her years.

Even though she is only in her early 30's, her music and voice sound like they belong to the previous generation.

The fact that Peyroux's voice absolutely reeked of her Billie Holiday influences somewhat tarnished that breakthrough album "Careless Love".

For her new album, "Half The Perfect World", she showcases the emotional core of songs by other singers and songwriters she's admired, and also displays her talents as a writer on four songs she co-wrote, keeping a distinctly romantic edge.

The CD is slightly less heavy on the Holiday-isms but more intriguing in the song selection.

For Peyroux tackles the love songs she loves, treating them to timelessly jazzy readings.

Given the makeover are Johnny Mercer's "The Summer Wind", Leonard Cohen's "Blue Alert", Joni Mitchell's "River", Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'", Tom Waits's "(Looking For) The Heart Of Saturday Night", Serge Gainsburg's "La Javanaise" and Charlie Chaplin's "Smile".

The album conjures in the mind imagery of smoky bars, music lifted from the screen of an American feelgood movie. Drums are always light brushes, barely touching the skins, guitars light and fruity, clearly a double bass rather than an electric.

No cutting edges are approached, no taboos challenged, but it is a pleasant amble through familiar territory.
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Y. Dharnidharka on October 28, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Madeleine Peyroux's occasionally acidic voice has drawn comparisons to Billie Holiday, which, while not entirely amiss, tended to overlook a singular facet of Holiday's style: When Holiday sounded like she was keeping something from you, it was because it hurt too much to be expressed. Peyroux's floating, Georgian-inflected alto, though similarly enigmatic (a "Mona Lisa voice," wrote New York Times cabaret critic Stephen Holden), seems to barely conceal excessive happiness.

Take Half the Perfect World's opening track, "I'm All Right". She's dating a lout, who "makes her cry", and who "threw a few of my things around", but it's all right, because she's been lonely before.

She sings it with resignation, but where Holiday, for all her strength, would've made you feel pity, Peyroux impresses you with her resilience. Consider it the postfeminist style of female jazz vocalism.

With its chunk-chunk guitar, brushed drums and B3 organ, the stage is set for Peyroux to lay down a soft-focus album--and she does. The title track, by Leonard Cohen, is turned into a soft samba, and Joni Mitchell's "River" is sung with k.d. lang, who doesn't steal the spotlight.

In a world clogged with mediocre jazz chanteuses--with the dreaded Norah Jones at the front of the line--Peyroux's soul and melting voice stand out, way out, from the pack. She remains a happy enigma.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Libman on December 10, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I remain devoted to her previous album, Careless Love. This new effort is okay, but so slavishly faithful to that Peyrouvian sound that at the start of each of the first two songs I literally had to go back and check to be sure I wasn't listening to the first album. It varies somewhat after that, although you sure couldn't accuse it of taking any chances.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By N. Protonotarios on November 13, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I loved '' careless love`` and saw Madeleine live here in Rio de Janeiro in a reasonably good show.I am quite disappointed with this album however because I had great expectations.Let's face it folks, however smoky and billiesque her voice is she is never going to have the power and the range of the original.She needs to be really close miked and well recorded to get that voice to sound right.This is obvious from seeing her live.

So what were those marketing executives thinking by promoting a cd full of soft and slow ballad covers that are obviously going to turn a huge spotlight on her vocal delivery? Those songs need an Ella,a Sarah Vaughn,or even a Shirley Horn -to name some giants- to have a chance of pulling it off with their huge range, timing and phrasing.

To compound the problem , the recording engineers/producers did not do a great job on her voice or the rest of the band for that matter.Everything is much too soft and distant (unlike careless love).If you want an atmospheric but still powerful sound you must produce something like the last Shirley Horn cds.

Last but not least the rest of the good band are not allowed to play anything remotely interesting but are relegated to very minimalist backing chores.

I think there is a misconception with the record excecs that M.P. has the qualities to make her a modern pop-jazz diva ala Diana Krall.She has to find her real voice and the correct material to match.Good luck.
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