Singaporean Black Funk Surprise

31 year old Singapore-based vocalist Vanessa Fernandez is well known at home as a former member of hip-hop group Urban Xchange, known later as Parking Lot Pimp. That was more than a decade ago. More recently she's been the disc jockey "Vandetta" or "Miss Vandetta" on Mediacorp Radio's 987FM.

Groove Note and ORG reissue producer Ying Tan decided that Ms. Fernandez deserved the audiophile recording treatment and so brought her to Ocean Way Recording in Los Angeles in mid-January of 2014 to record this album to analog tape in five sessions.

Ms. Fernandez covers Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes and others in an album filled with funky grooves provided by a stellar back up band anchored by bassist Leland Sklar (if you need his credits you've been sleeping for 50 years) with session guitarist Tim Pierce (Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Patti Smith, Joe Cocker, Michael Jackson, Joan Armatrading, Madonna, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Alice Cooper), drummer Victor Indrizzo (Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell, Queens of the Stone Age, Beck, Macy Gray, Daniel Lanois, Willie Nelson, etc.), keyboardist Jim Cox (Lyle Lovett, Mark Knopfler, B.B. King, Leonard Cohen, etc.) and others.

Tasty as is the back up band and are the outstanding acoustic arrangements, Ms. Fernandez steals the show with a voice that is as unlikely as her cover photo would have you thinking "funky black chick". She's no poseur though. If you have any such notions start with side 3's opener, a cover of Bill Withers' "Use Me," which is from where the album gets it title.

While the cover shot makes her look somewhat academic and perhaps reserved, trust me, there's no governor on her voice or the rawness of the emotions she pours forth. When appropriate she dials it down to a simmer as on a great cover of Al Kooper's BS&T classic "More Than You'll Ever Know". She even covers the somewhat obscure John Deacon- Freddie Mercury track "Cool Cat" from Queen's Hot Space album (with original vocals by David Bowie later replaced at by Mercury as Bowie's request). Ms. Fernandez's performance on this slow simmer will have to convince you that she's the real deal.

No one is listed as A&R person here but I assume these are mostly Fernandez's eclectic choices and they are great ones from Tony Joe White's "That Loving Feeling" to Al Green's "Simply Beautiful".

As for the sonics, you can figure that one out yourself: Ocean Way, recorded by Michael C. Ross to analog tape, mixed to analog tape and mastered to 45rpm vinyl from the 30 IPS 1/4" master tape by Bernie Grundman.

Sometimes these "audiophile" productions meet your sonic expectations but disappoint in other ways. In this case, Ms. Fernandez does not disappoint. She is well up to the opportunity presented and she makes the most of it.

My only complaint about this production is the annotation. Rather than giving Ms. Fernandez an enormous slab of gatefold space to gush the usual effusive "thank you"'s, it could have been put to much better use with annotation introducing us to the singer, her background and explaining how she got to be so damn funky. Fernandez isn't parroting a style here. She's living it. I for one would love more background, thank you.

(Had I more time, I'd have gone into greater detail about why the sonics are so spectacular and I would have described the songs and performances in greater detail but off to RMAF I go).

Music Direct Buy It Now

teachscience's picture

Heard a test pressing of this at the Newport show this summer in the GTT Audio room through a Kronos LE TT, Audionet electronics, K-S cables and the wonderful YG Acoustics Haileys. This is one great sounding recording and I've been waiting for its release. Sold!

teachscience's picture

Will this be released?

mraudioguru's picture

Release date is November 18th from what I could find.

Superfuzz's picture

Listed as in stock at Elusive Disc and Acoustic Sounds.
Thanks for the heads up Mikey!

teachscience's picture

From what I could tell.

teachscience's picture

Just ordered the LP from acoustic sounds website. Sweet!

audiof001's picture

I heard a track at the NY Audio Show and loved it. I glanced over to see what it was and barely read 'Vanessa'... It took quite some time to figure out what it was. Ordered from Chad today.

jazz and cocktails's picture

is there a standard LP version?

teachscience's picture

I've found them to sound better than the same reissue at 33 1/3. Ceteris paribus.

JohnnyCanuck's picture

No delivery until Nov 18th here in Canada but it's on order.

groovenoter's picture

The November 18th date is for the SACD and regular CD releases. The double 45 rpm LP is now available at Elusive Disc and they will also be selling at RMAF this weekend.

Re why only 45 rpm release: with just over 56 minutes of music or 28 minutes per side cutting this at 33 rpm on two sides would have resulted in some loss of fidelity.

Thanks to all of you who are supporting this 100% pure analogue release.

jazz and cocktails's picture

so this means i'll skip this release, unless it shows up as a hi=res download.

Superfuzz's picture

I'll be picking this one up. I can switch to 45RPm with the push of a button, and if I couldn't I'd get a turntable that could so I can enjoy the many 45RPM audiophile issues out there.

teachscience's picture

and it is everything I remember from Newport. A great recording of great music by a soulful, moving, songstress.

AZ's picture

I think this is the first Groove Note album that I REALLY like. Musically, of course.