The Beauty Room – The Beauty Room II (2012)

photo courtesy of Far Out Recordings

The craftiest revivalists of that early ’70s, soft, soulful LA rock sound are a couple of guys from the UK, virtually unknown stateside. But The Beauty Room, as they’re called, deserves wider notice on these and other shores.

It’s been six years since their critically well-received self-titled debut but singer Jinadu and producer/keyboardist Kirk Degiorgio put in a lot of work on the follow-up release The Beauty Room II to avoid the dreaded sophomore letdown. A couple of new tracks which appeared on the band’s MySpace page in 2009 gave hope that the next album was forthcoming, and after a few more years, we finally got confirmation that this album will go on sale at long last next week. Ace session drummer Chris Whitten (Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney, Dire Straits) returns, but is now joined by Jamiroquai guitarist Rob Harris and superbassist Brian Bromberg. String arrangements? The legendary Paul Buckmaster has that covered, with Amsterdam’s Metropole Symphony Orchestra. Grammy winner Peter Henderson handles the engineering.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: The Beauty Room’s 2006 debut album is a soft-edged effort that keeps the listener’s attention with smart, mature songwriting and flawless delivery.]

So, like Becker and Fagen, Jinadu and Degiorgio carefully assembled together the right supporting cast, but ultimately it’s about their songs and how they present them. Theirs is a songwriting partnership that sparks from two opposing forces rubbing together: Degiorgio and his predilection for chord progressions that are a little unusual for pop and Jinadu’s ear for crafting compelling hooks and meditative verses. They got that down on their first collaborative project, and the chemistry persists on II.

And like the first album, the most distinguishing feature of the record is Jinadu’s lushly layered vocals that snuggles up to the ears like the best Crosby, Stills and Nash recordings, or — dare I say — the Beach Boys do. Degiorgio conjures up warm, analog sonic washes, never revealing a preference for neither electronic nor acoustic instruments to get that kind of sound; one of the more gorgeous selections is the piano/strings “Walking The Fine Line,” in fact. On cuts such as “We Can’t Throw You Away” (Youtube below), “The Last Calling” and “No Rejection” you can pick up traces of his gurgling techno/electronica heritage submerged in the mix; there’s often small hints that these recordings indeed come from the present and not from 1974, but those hints are kept discreet. Whitten is once again perfect on these sessions: his precise fills, cymbal splashes and overall timekeeping is up to par with the craftsmanship applied elsewhere, and he even gives songs like “Shadows Falling” a little propulsive nudge.

The progression from the first album to the second comes in the additional help they brought on board. Buckmaster has lost none of his touch with orchestral arrangements for about half of the tracks, he understands that in pop and rock settings, the role of them is to bolster the songs, not dominate them. Rob Harris’ presence introduces electric guitars into The Beauty Room mix for the first time, subtly pushing the music toward a more rock direction, but still deployed with a lot of discretion (his savory blues licks on “So Far” is the most up-front he gets).

Resonant and quirk-free with refined production and swelling choruses, The Beauty Room II confirms that the Jinadu/Degiorgio union can recreate the thoughtful song craft, graceful production and soulful, soaring vocals of a bygone era when such things were in ample supply.

The Beauty Room II is set for release September 24, by Far Out Recordings. Visit The Beauty Room’s Facebook page for more info.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst 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. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.