Imani Uzuri | The Gypsy Diaries
album review by John Powell
I’m not one to slam an album, and certainly don’t want to overlook Imani Uzuri’s use of world music, from Middle Eastern ominous tones to jazz to blues. Some will appreciate her compositions, which are complex and, like on “I Sing the Blues”, beautiful. Sadly, The Gypsy Diaries is bland when it comes to lyrics and melody.
Imani starts things off all wrong with “Beautiful”. She has a strangely wide vocal range, and when she hits the low notes she sounds like a male preacher. She holds out the word “You” way too long and only can follow with “are so beautiful.” Did I really wait 11 seconds for “are so beautiful”? The opener is agonizingly slow, which would be fine if it was working up to some kind of anything, but she instead comes up with “That the wind blows/ just to touch you.” Lyrically, this is amateurish.
On “Whisperings (We Are Whole)”, the music takes off: flute, heavy percussion. Imani even has an interesting voice- it has nothing to do with the talent, really, but she says, “Do you see what I see/ deep inside me?/ I got love, so much love/ and it’s yearning to be free.” Who says the word “yearning” anymore?
“Winter Song” suffers the same fate: incredible musicianship, beautiful acoustic guitar and strings joining hands. Imani stretches her range to hit these awful low notes, almost like she’s not taking herself seriously- but then again is almost taking herself too seriously. You know the type. It never comes out as intended.
Let’s not even really get into “Lament”, with a song title that really sums things up. “These tears been falling for so long,” Imani cries. “My heart sings a broken song/ how could you be so mean/ how could you be so cruel?”
Now, you can get away with lyrics like this when you’re a pop punk band vibing off high school drama and drenched in guitar fuzz. You can get away with this stuff if it’s a musical. But on an album called The Gypsy Diaries, it’s disappointing.
At times, the music is reminiscent of pop rock like Rusted Root, a weird but thought out blend of world sounds and hometown American folk. Imani is singing over music she wasn’t meant for. Put her in front of blues-rock band and she’d kill it. It’s like the band and the voice were meshed together by a DJ intern.
Overall, few songs bristle with potential but fall so short. Like a kid in science class that should be in autoshop, Imani must have walked into the wrong classroom and was too embarrassed to leave.
Bottom line: Great intentions to introduce world sounds into a concept album living up to it’s name, The Gypsy Diaries is one example of the parts being better than the sum.