Although this is Barbazza’s debut solo album, I have already come across her work a few times before when she was working both with John Greaves and also North Sea Orchestra. Originally a drummer, it was Greg Lake who discovered her vocals and asked her to join him on stage for the concert which was recorded and later released as ‘Live in Piacenza’. As well as Lake and John Greaves, she is also known for her work with Paul Roland where in concert she provides vocals and bass, while also playing drums in the studio and has also been working with the likes of Eugenio Finardi, Osanna, Robyn Hitchcock and many more. Lake originally wanted Annie to play all the instruments on this album, but it turned into a collaboration with the likes of Fred Frith, John Greaves, Lino Capra Vaccina, Daniel Lanois, Paul Roland and of course Greg Lake himself among others, collaborating with her. All tracks are original with the exception of two tracks written for her by John Greaves and Paul Roland and a cover of the Blegvad / Greaves number, “How Beautiful You Are”.
Rooted in the Canterbury Scene, this is in many ways modern progressive rock music combining with modern classical as the incredibly delicate accompaniments combine with her amazing vocals. It is multi-layered, and takes the listener away on a musical journey, where she is sometimes joined by other voices while others it is solo. The use of vibraphone and oboe on “Les Ruines Du Sommeil” leads into steel guitar, and one cannot help but be entranced. There is virtually no percussion on the album, which gives it a delicate feel, and she fully understands her voice as an instrument, allowing it to break and slide when the time is right, or hit the notes perfectly and with clarity if that is what the song demands. While more soprano than alto, she also goes to the low end of her range at different moments and has an incredibly expressive vocal manner which is both entrancing and intriguing at the same time.
Over the last few years she has been slowly building a reputation for her work with others, but now is the time when she is finally putting material out under her own name, and there is no way this sounds like a debut. Emotional, expressive, delicate, but with a power behind it like an iron fist in a velvet glove, this is an album to make listeners think and pay attention. It is certainly not one to play in the car as the world disappears and should only be played when one really does have the time to pay attention and really listen.
9/10 Kev Rowland