One Track Mind: Clara Ponty, "Sunshine" (2012)

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photos: Kimberley Wright

When I learned that Clara Ponty was coming out with a new album, I got curious, and to be completely upfront about it, I was curious because she is the daughter of famed violinist Jean-Luc Ponty. Much as Beatles fans are interested in what Julian Lennon is putting out, I wanted to see how much her musical pedigree has helped her music. Granted, Jean-Luc Ponty is not John Lennon, but he’s been arguably almost much as a fusion star as Lennon was a rock star. And I might have listened to J-L Ponty over the course of my life about as much as I’ve listened to Lennon.

There’s reason for Clara Ponty fans to be particularly interested in this upcoming CD, too: for the first time, Clara has made a vocal album … with hers truly doing the singing.

Into The Light, as it will be called, introduces the New Age pianist as a pop singer-songwriter. Her vocal is pure and soothing enough that no one would ever get irritated by it and with the right music, even sounds about right, but it doesn’t have any forcefulness or character, either. Wisely, the music is arranged to fit her lithe voice. Her piano takes a back seat to the singing and even on the two instrumentals (including a wonderful one on which her father appears, called “Cœur À Cœur”), she shows little desire to improvise, so this isn’t a record to find out just how good a pianist she is. That leaves the success of the album hinging on the songs themselves, all co-written by Ponty with someone else brought in to write the lyrics. Luckily, there are some good songs on here, all in the vein of adult contemporary/soft rock. A few will even appeal to admirers of the all-time soft rock champions, The Carpenters.

The catchiest song is one that evokes Brian Wilson more than Karen and Richard Carpenter, a sunny slice of pop called, well, “Sunshine.” A finger-snapping tune if there ever was one (and lo and behold, there is finger snapping on it), it follows in the tradition of the radiant glow of similarly titled tunes from “Walking On Sunshine” to “See Your Sunshine,”, and the all-male trio of backing harmonies—by the song’s lyricists Stuart Bruce and Steve Evans, along with additional co-writer Yasmin Shah — brings out Beach Boys richness. To match the light mood is appropriately light production, keeping that hummable melody in focus. Lyrics beckoning the greeting of a new day (Life’s good if you let it in/Open your eyes let the day begin) aren’t particularly deep, but that misses the point.

That point being, a well-crafted, buoyant and positive pop song had a prominent place in popular music back in the day and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t today. A song like “Sunshine,” for instance.

Into The Light goes on sale April 10, by Le Chant Du Monde Records.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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