The idea of Dinner Party Music is that it should help create a warm, sparkling, heightened atmosphere and at the same time, be accessible. It should be there to inspire smiles and laughter, but only occasionally noticed. Invariably, Dinner Party Music also reeks of being inoffensive, spiritless dross. Imagine a terribly dull contemporary Margot from The Good Life not wanting to raise any eyebrows. Outside of Come Dine With Me, I don’t know anyone who really has a Dinner Party, which is completely different from our supposedly low-key versions of so and so’s coming for dinner. Yet I think I’ve found some perfect Dinner Party Music and almost want to host a Proper Dinner Party. If the idea of the Dinner Party also intimidates you, I’d also like to emphasise that this is great driving on the motorway music. Or getting ready music. Or just good music.
You’ve probably already heard Caro Emerald. Her album is called Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor.
Inside the album sleeve is a short story to explain each fantastical scene for the audience. It’s really worth buying the cd, rather than a download, to read the tantalising tales. There’s a smoky night at the Copacabana, tension in occupied French Saigon, and a light drive in a 1956 Sunbeam in Riviera Life. Riviera Life recalls this sweet afternoon drive in a hot convertible. The narrator explains how: ‘You clear my face so I can feel the breeze.’
If Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina never went back to the Larrabee’s in Connecticut, but instead found a Frenchman to drive her down to the Med, this would be the moment she would share with him.
Caro Emerald is Dutch and sings jazzy, dance-y numbers (and doesn’t sing with a Dutch accent). If you like a pencil skirt, red lip or smoky eye, this is music for you. That’s not to say it’s only for the Mad Men or Philip Marlowe loving types. It has a retro lounge feel to it but it’s mixed with modern beats.
Emerald’s voice has a classic big band jazz singer sound to it: it’s pure, playful and slips over melodies, sometimes softly, sometimes with a strong slap. The opening song, ‘That Man’ definitely conforms to the “Let's Get This Party Started” album philosophy. Emerald quickly and sharply sings of how ‘Ooh that man is like a flame/And ooh that man plays me like a game.’ The theme of the danger, game and mystery of love is developed throughout the album. You’ll find yourself singing along and bopping to the easy lyrics, melodies and fat bass sounds. The songs are accented with brass instruments that add bounce.
The only naff moment on the album occurs when there is some DJ scratching. Somewhere between 1992 and 1997, songs had a moment when there would be scratching or a rap out section, which we were supposed to think was amazing. There’s one of those moments (thankfully there isn’t a rap) but it’s really the only moment to make you groan, and it’s at the end of a song.
Back It Up sounds like a song that the Brand New Heavies would have liked to have written, if they had have been better. The liner notes set the scene in New Orleans in 1951. There’s some scatting, horns, funk and general hijinks.
Overall, I think this cd makes a great gift for a woman. It has taste, personality and takes you to scenes where you’d like to be. 8/10 (a 9 would have to be life-changing).