With a clutch of 'best vocalist' awards to her name plus plaudits aplenty, Clare Teal is surely now established. *Paradisi Carousel *is her seventh album, the second since her Sony contract garnered publicity as the most lucrative ever for a British jazz singer. In light of that, it may be no surprise that the music here is as much pop as it is jazz; indeed, Teal herself cites Burt Bacharach, Dusty Springfield and The Carpenters as points of comparison. And rightly so; on the opener, "Baby, I'm Coming Home", Teal's phrasing and intonations sound uncannily like Karen Carpenter.
On this evidence, Teal's voice is heard to best effect on ballads and songs laden with emotion, being perfect to express a sense of loss and yearning as on "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying". While she easily handles a more bombastic brass-driven arrangement like "Breakout" – which doubtless goes down a storm in concert - its relative lack of emotion does not play to her strengths. The four Teal originals included here demonstrate her growing prowess as a songwriter, and suggest that she writes material ideally suited to those strengths, with the title track and "Stay With Me" being particularly strong.
Teal is renowned for cover versions that reinvent the original – witness her earlier radical rethinking of The Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreaming". Here, she does something similar with The Four Tops classic "Reach Out (I'll Be There)", slowing it down dramatically and changing the mood from one of joyous celebration to hopeful longing. By comparison, her version of Pentangle's "Light Flight" stays very close to the original; with its complex rhythms, it allows Teal to demonstrate her vocal technique, but this version doesn't establish its own identity.
Existing fans of Teal are likely to be more than satisfied with this album. It may also appeal to the burgeoning audience for pop-jazz singers such as Norah Jones and Corinne Bailey Rae.