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Mvula's orchestral manoeuvres a hit

One of the most intriguing albums of last year was Laura Mvula's Sing to the Moon, a work of wounded gospel-
delica the artist described 
as "a mad fusion."

Mvula grabbed attention with a set of arrangements that echoed sophisticated Broadway musicals, vintage orchestral pop and avant grade soul.

It came as no surprise to learn that her producer was Steve Brown, the TV arranger who'd master
minded the Aretha-meets-The-Carpenters 
success of Rumer.

Mvula wasn't quite as poppy. Sing to the Moon was written following her parents' separation. On its release, her voice was hailed as an impressive new addition to the phalanx of women artists who'd appeared in the wake of Amy Winehouse. As expected, award nominations quickly followed.

Then came word via Twitter that Prince was 
besotted, claiming gallantly to regularly starting his day with Green Garden, Mvula's hymn to 
Birmingham's public parks.

A graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire, Mvula (28) came with some experience of 
singing in local bands. She also lead a 
community gospel choir.

The new album from the one-time school supply teacher is quite a turn-up for the books.

Recorded with the Dutch Metropole Orkest at Abbey Road Studios under the baton of conductor Jules Buckley, this is an orchestral re-make of Sing to the Moon.


Ditching the original's occasional funk pretence, these arrangements are new and, proudly individual and suitably robust, Mvula's songs readily embrace the dramatic range of an ensemble that's a 52-piece mix of symphony orchestra and jazz big band.

The album sleeve portrays Mvula as fitting somewhere between Nefertiti and Nina Simone, whose spirit might be detected on Is There Anybody Out There?

Singing live with this Hollywood-style orchestra doesn't faze Mvula, who rises to the occasion magnificently, bringing a fresh immediacy and warmth to Sing to the Moon standouts Make Me Lovely and Father Father, a prayerful hybrid of old English church music and anguished soul jazz.

Mvula says it was difficult emotionally to record her deeply personal songs again but she was persuaded by Buckley's arrangements. "I was so moved," she says. "It's how the music was imagined. Having the energy of all these musicians concentrated in performance draws out a deeper emotion from me."

Counterpointed by an ethereal choir, her voice on Can't Live With the World captures confusion and heartache.

The album's stately classical undertow might be too demanding for some pop fans. While we await a new studio album, this offering is sure to delight and win new admirers for this precociously talented performer.