In a short run at this year’s Fringe, Sarah Jane Morris and Antonio Forcione come together to promote the launch of their collaborative album, Compared to What.
Friends for more years than they can bear to remember, Compared to What is the result of a fruitful and varied songwriting collaboration. It covers a number of traumatic social issues and many songs of emotional intensity which reflect the urgent concern both artists feel for the tragedy of refugees. One song in particular deals with the boat people – a drama most keenly felt in Italy and by Italians – with Sarah Jane and Antonio acting as tribunes of conscience. This sense of witness describes many of Sarah Jane’s most passionately felt songs from the recent past, and in new material Antonio adds his own awareness and artistic response.
For fans of Forcione, an Italian acoustic guitarist and composer who has a long history and loyal following at the Fringe, this collaboration is vastly different from his other Fringe performances. Whilst his composition and virtuosic playing still shines through and is truly a joy to behold and hear, it’s Morris’ voice that steals the limelight, although not always in a good way.
Announcing she’s six years into the menopause, hence her constant need to fan herself, red-headed Morris resembles a modern day Stevie Nicks, with her white, voluminous net skirt, with its tight black and gold elasticated belted waist, worn with a floaty scarf-like shrug. Her mature jazz voice, with its impressive range and power, has a certain rawness and huskiness to it, much like listening to Grace Jones mixed with some Bonnie Tyler, but sadly there’s not much light and shade to the songs being performed.
Eight of the twelve tracks on the album are original material co-written by Morris and Forcione, but they also put their own take on some well-known covers, notably Superstition by Stevie Wonder, The Police’s classic Message In A Bottle and Dylan’s Blowin’ In the Wind, sung like you’ve never heard it before. Some work but others just feel like the originals being messed with for the sake of it.
The performance is an interesting collaboration of two very different yet talented musicians, but loyal Forcione fans might leave the concert a tad disappointed. Whilst you can still delight in his amazing guitar playing, this show plays more to Morris’ lyrics and voice with Forcione’s guitar-playing merely a backdrop.