I should explain this opening phrase. Kiss sang that we must put our faith in a loud guitar (“God Gave Rock n’ Roll to You”), and Ana Popovic credits her ‘64 Fender Stratocaster’ for her being here today. Before reviewing the songs, the background to this album is one of fight and victory.
Ana tells us,
“In the fall of 2020, while the world was dealing with COVID, I found myself in a dire and devastating situation. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having lost my mother three years before to the same illness, my world just crumbled. My family had just built a beautiful new home in Manhattan Beach, California. It seemed that everything we had looked forward to, suddenly came to a crashing halt. It left me with so many uncertainties. We didn’t know what to do. Should we move back to Europe? Should I abandon my music career and simply stop performing? I didn’t know what choices I had or what path I should take.”
Her bass player and musical director, Buthel, gave her the support and encouragement she needed.
“You can’t retire! You’re born for this,” he told her. “We’ve got work to do. We need to touch people with our music.” “He simply has that gift, Ana says; he can build people up!” Consequently, between fourteen chemotherapy treatments and flights back and forth between L.A. and Amsterdam, where she received her treatments, Ana and Buthel connected on Zoom to write the material that coalesced as the new album. Then scheduled demos, recordings, re-recordings, and live shows with her band took place between her treatments. She never missed a show.
This album is the result of those days, and its positivity and love of life should become clear as you read the review. It will be released on May 5th and will be available on all major platforms. It is her first album of new material since 2018s “Like it on Top.”
1. “Rise Up!” (4:44) begins the album with immediate positivity; it has a gentle blues-funk fusion and a smooth rhythm that you sway along to. I liked the guitar break, and the production was tight and showcased the vocals to good effect, a solid start that shows the album means business.
2. “Power Over Me” (3:43)
A bit of a dance groove is infused in the second number from the album; it has a chilled Martini feel to it (if this were a drink). The rhythm section here burns a good, solid groove, which makes me believe that this Martini would have a cherry in it. I am so tempted to say “groovy baby” here, but I will resist.
3. “Doin’ This” (3:39)
This has a really great instrumental start, that drum sound (delivered by drummer Chris Coleman of Beck, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder), and a song that celebrates life. It is an absolute feel good song, with this very fine chorus that would have me bouncing around the room if I wasn’t sitting in the car during the listening. On the plus side, it did make me drive faster and push the volume up!
“I get powered up from doin’ this
My mind is stronger when I’m doin’ this
Ain’t nothing wrong when I’m doin’ this
It’s here to stay and will continue to do so.
It’s never a coincidence; it’s always so right when doing this.” (“Doin This” lyrics and music by A. Popovic and Burns Corey Ladell).
4. “Luv’n Touch” (4:09)
I bet Ana enjoyed singing this one. It is a simple track in many ways, with a clever blending of instruments and a good nod toward jazz, vocal harmony is the key to a successful album track, which this one is.
5. “Queen of the Pack” (3:28)
Again, I enjoyed the drums and rhythm section for this funky number. It’s a number that I believe would go down a storm live, it is built for live performance and continues to cover female power, confidence, and overcoming what life may throw at you.
Ana Popovic and Buthel by Brian Rasic
6. “Strong Taste” (3:35)
My favourite! It was quite unexpected in a way, as it was slightly out of step with the rest of the album, it had a feel for me of a number that would have slotted into the musical “Chicago.” It has made it onto my playlist, and I will continue to give this one a regular play as it made me feel good! Vocal harmonies to die for, by the way.
7. “Recipe is Romance” (4:12)
My autocheck spell and grammar checker is having a meltdown here at my refusal to change this one to “Recipe for Romance.” But I am overriding it! After the absolute blast from the previous track we settle down to one of those catchy little numbers with a sparkle. It celebrates romance, life and being in love. It’s a really lovely number, dreamy.
8. “Deep Down” (3:52)
A funky dance number, again it has that touch of old school jazz in the mix and it knows exactly how to hit the target. It is a very decent album track.
9. “Ride It” (3:52)
This track is delivered with some attitude! It changes the vocal delivery and keeps that great beat with some duo vocal play.
10. “Flicker ‘n Flame” (2:41)
A rocky blues number here, Ana’s vocals showing she can rock. It is another track that is slightly out of step with the album as a whole, it incorporates a rock drum sound with the vocals containing real angst. It can indeed smash the door on this one.
11. “Turn My Luck” (2:24)
The album finishes on a high, with so many interesting sounds and a clapping rhythm that drives the music along. It is great fun and, again, would steal the show live I think. This was the second track that went down on my playlist and it showcases what Ana can deliver in 2023.
Standout tracks: “Turn my Luck,” “Strong Taste” and “Recipe is Romance.”
My thoughts on the album on the whole – it is really, really good! It has so many shades to it, it showcases a really talented Ana Popovic, but she is lucky in having such wonderful musicians around her that have created an album they can all be very proud of.
A word on the cover comes from Ana,
“I wanted a timeless cover. When you see Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ you may not even be familiar with the music, but you know the cover. I wanted something that mattered. I want people to associate unity with power. I wanted two hands—black and white—without the title for people to know—oh, that’s Ana’s record: POWER. And that I think that Unity’s going to change this world for the better. Being white in polarized America and the rest of the world is either you ignore injustice, or you try to help make the world a better place for our children. It takes the active upbringing of our white children (in my case) to teach them how to treat and respect other races.”
“Just the thought of Black Americans having to live with an idea that they were less beautiful because of their skin tone- darker being the less favourable- is making me sick in the stomach. It’s hard to digest. All these children that thought or think they need to adjust to be more beautiful. That’s crazy. So, there’s my standpoint on that: Unity is power. Unity will save this world. We need to actively try to correct what’s wrong in the world, not just stand by and watch..It needs to be a call for action.”
The album is a call for action, but it does so in a way that leaves a smile on your face and a song in your soul.
POWER is produced by Ana Popovic and Buthel
Download link here, available as of May 5th.
All songs written, composed, and arranged by Ana Popovic and Buthel
Except ‘Rise Up!’ written by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Tia Sillers, and Mark Selby
‘Flicker N Flame’ written by Ana Popovic, Buthel, Sarah Zimmermann and Justin Davis
‘Ride it’ written by Ana Popovic, Buthel, and Jerry Kelley
By Lorraine Foley
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