Thursday 25 November 2021

'Change' by Leona Berlin

'Change' is the new sophomore album release from singer, songwriter and producer, Leona Berlin.

With Berlin's self-titled debut album having been released in 2018, the incredibly talented Berlin-based artist introduced listeners to her distinctive blend of contemporary R&B that drew upon a wide range of influences from neo-soul to hip-hop and jazz.  

Also serving as the project's predominate producer, Berlin navigated a bold course over the album's thirteen tracks which saw her execute her singular vision to glowing results.  The album was further bolstered by some incredible collaborators throughout - Olivier St Louis contributed his penmanship to several of the album's tracks; eclectic jazz-fusion hero, saxophonist Casey Benjamin and then throughout the album, Berlin is aided by US pianist Ray Angry and the incredibly versatile drummer, Magro.  With highlights including 'Thinking About You', 'Cruel' and 'Little Bit', Berlin also bravely tackled the seminal classic written by Prince and popularised by Sinead O'Connor, 'Nothing Compares 2 U'.  

And brave is certainly the adjective to employ here - the decision to tackle such a well-known and revered song, and to still be able to inject enough of her own perspectives and imagination, is in part what makes Berlin such a revered artist in her own right and endears her to fans the world over.  Far from an artist that plays it safe or sticks to traditional formulas, Berlin is constantly seeking to express varying facets of her music and character.  Take 'Feminine Energy' as the next example.  The pre-cursor to 'Change' was released in 2020 and delivers an anthemic ode to feminine energy inspired by beauty and confidence ("She's the Mother, the Queen; The Pleasure, the Thrill; The Darkness, the Dream").

The time in between 2018's debut to today's 'Change' was certainly productive as a clutch of singles were subsequently unveiled within that time - 'Cage', 'Wrong Lane', 'Rest in My Arms' and most recently 'High Life' (featuring US vocalist Sedric Perry) continued to set expectations high for the eventual follow-up which has absolutely been worth the wait.

With production that is really brought to life through warm keyboards and infectious grooves, songs like 'Too Good', 'Who You Are' and 'Homeboy' really soar and help to emphasise Berlin's over-arching aesthetic for the album which could be interpreted as ascending to a higher spiritual plane, perhaps best demonstrated through the Stimulus-assisted 'Clouds'.

'Change' is very much indicative of Berlin's continual evolution as an artist.  An album that seems to provide a snapshot of herself in this moment - embracing concepts of hope and optimism over some brilliantly-produced pieces of music. 

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