Second Sight by Kate St. John Review
March 2018 - "Editor's Choice Awards" issue
AS Rating: music – 3.5 of 5 stars, sonics – 4 of 5 stars
These days you might know singer and songwriter Kate St. John as a film-music supervisor (Far from the Madding Crowd), orchestral arranger (Laura Marling, Hal Wilner), or session player (Van Morrision, Tom Waits). But 20 years ago the former member of Dream Academy released a trio of critically acclaimed solo albums. Her 1997 sophomore solo effort, Second Sight, is now available on 180-gram vinyl and hi-def FLAC. It finds St. John immersed in passionate art songs influenced by French chanson and clad in tasteful chamber pop. At times her voice, barely above a whisper, blends seamlessly with her oboe, cor anglais, accordion, saxophone, and piano. Hers is a shadowy, lyrical world glimpsed through dreamy minor-key melodies ("My Lonely Love"), soft piano ("Dark Heavens"), and Parisian cafe jazz ("Notti Senza Amore"). Built around a strong emotional core, the songs meditate on the doomed nature of love and the death of a friend's girlfriend. But Second Sight is full of bright surprises: St. John picks up the pace on the polka-beat Tex-Mex number "A Foolish Dance," and longtime collaborator Roger Eno adds the "mad piano" to the middle section of the eerie "Fireworks."
- Greg Cahill
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