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CD REVIEW: Barbie Anaka - Speechless
By Cyrus Rhodes - 09/04/2013 - 04:44 PM EDT

Artist: Barbie Anaka
Album: Speechless
Label: Green Light Productions
Genre: Smooth Jazz
Sounds Like: Nora Jones, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Eva Cassidy
Technical Grade: 10/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 10/10
Commercial Value: 10/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Speechless, Lavender Sky, The Lesson
Weakness: A few winded songs, Short Sided Catalogue
CD Review: Pacific North West based Barbie Anaka’s third CD, Speechless, was released on 1/6/13 to a sold out crowd at Seattle’s Triple Door. The single (the title track) is currently being played on over 60 radio stations nationwide and debuted on the smooth jazz radio charts at #35.  Speechless made an impact abroad, holding strong on the UK Soul Chart (Top 30) at number 15 for two months.  

The CD kicks things off with "Did You Love” a heartfelt intro piece with methodical intro, rock steady beat, melodic jazz ambience and smooth as silk vocals from Anaka. Track 2 “Like the Fourth of July“ is an impressive follow up statement serving up methodical intro, impressive R&B-jazz accents, and seductive lyrical content via more honey coated vocals from Anaka. Track 3 “Speechless” a radio friendly hit for Anaka dishes out a brilliant yet catchy-piece with eloquent vibe and mesmerizing musical coupled with heartfelt vocal delivery from Anaka that flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. The music itself has a jazz-pop vibe reminiscent of Kenny G, Nora Jones, Barbra Streisand, Eva Cassidy and a dash of Natalie Cole. As this CD slowly unfolds it’s obvious the players in Anaka’s band are quite accomplished. The Jazz guitar is spot on and the drummer pushes the natural accents perfectly and the silky rhythm section clearly gives this production. Make no bones about it this is classic Smooth vocal-Jazz with a touch or Pop. What I like the most about this band grooves together – testament to hundreds of hours of rehearsal time no doubt. There is a plethora of musical instrumentation featured here including Keyboards, Saxophone, Jazz Piano, Jazz Guitar, well placed Percussive accents all built upon a thick as a brick rhythmic foundation. Now turning out attention over to Anaka, as for her vocal abilities she fits perfectly into this Pop/Jazz territory - like a glove. Yep this is clearly where she belongs. Her voice goes down smooth and her vibrato and Mezzo-Soprano is to die for. Like the aforementioned; she fills the Jazz-Pop space flawlessly. Along the way you will no doubt notice some of her vocal influences which may include, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald and of course Judy Garland and Doris Day. All songs are extremely well crafted and consistent across the board. Anaka and company delivers 10 solid tracks all providing deep, thought provoking wisdom with messages. From heartfelt “Star” to Sade Classic “The Sweetest Taboo” to swinging “That Night” and “The Lesson” to invigorating “Lavender Sky” this CD pretty much has something for everyone. The CD ends with Track 10 ”Second Skin” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.

All tracks over 3.5 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. I wish there were say 2-3 more tracks on the CD. I wish there were a few songs where Anaka would take more vocal risks and really let loose showcasing an elite world class vocal delivery.   

After spending some quality time with Barbie Anaka and company I simply abandoned all hopes of finding any solid weakness. Instead as the CD progressed I became more and more impressed. Let me go on record and say Speechless is a world class musical production from start to finish. There’s not a weak song on this entire catalog period! The musicianship is first rate, the songs are strong and consistent musical experiences. Each one possessing a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Lastly - the playing, writing, and singing abilities of Barbie Anaka are world class, and her X-Factor dial is well into the Green Band. Anaka is an artist worthy of attention, spotlight, and praise. Everything about Anaka screams talent and professionalism and she is the real deal, and it's just a matter of time before artists like her reach critical acclaim on an international level. I guess could go on and on all night about Barbie Anaka you simply have got to get your hands on some of this music and see what I am talking about. You should start with Speechless.

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