“Whatever this is, I want more” is the catchy refrain from the opening track on the superb debut studio album from Zeeteah Massiah.
And I agree. Juice will leave you wanting more. What is this? Well, it’s jazz, but it’s totally accessible, with hints of blues, soul, R&B, even reggae, without lapsing into pop. Many of the tunes will have you tapping your feet, and their infectious choruses encourage you to sing along.
From the bouncy Whatever This Is to the mellow Too Busy, and the powerful Magic Mambo, the music is far from one-dimensional, and it all ties together as a coherent collection of songs about love.
In fact, the tracks cover just about every aspect of relationships: the thrill of love (Whatever This Is, You Drive Me Crazy), lost love (When You Were Mine), the potential for love (A Tear In the Rain, Guinness and Black), and sex (Too Busy, Magic Mambo).
If you haven’t heard of Zeeteah, you’ve almost certainly heard her. She is best known in the US for her number one dance hit Slide On The Rhythm, and in the UK for chart hits Sexual Prime and This Is The Place.
And she has sung with some of the biggest names in music, including Tom Jones, Phil Collins, Robbie Williams, Kim Wilde, Leo Sayer, Barry Manilow, Johnny Hallyday, Boy George, Paul Weller and Michael Bolton.
For the past two years, she has been working with her partner, the multi-talented Paul Caplin, whose incredible CV includes being the ‘secret mastermind’ behind 1980s new wave band Haysi Fantayzee.
Caplin wrote music and lyrics for all but one of the tracks on Juice, as well as handling production and arrangements. The only exception is the final track, He Called Me Baby, a soulful cover of the Harlan Howard country classic.
While Zeeteah’s talent and personality shine through, Caplin’s contribution is hugely important too, and the album is a true product of their collaboration. The lyrics (always important to me) by Caplin really are worth listening to – and there are lots of them!
I urge you to listen for yourself, but I would single out the lyrics of Guinness and Black: It would be easy and obvious to use the word “love” here, but Caplin opts for “I like you”, capturing those early, tentative stages of a relationship. This is reinforced by imagining how things may develop, and the poignant line “Maybe one day there’ll be more to say about us”, without the confidence to state it definitely will happen. I like that. Love it, in fact.
I’d also highlight the additional spoken dialogue which introduces Whatever This Is – Daniel Collen and Naz Aziz, discussing what “this” is. They try to sound smart, but it comes over as amusing nonsense, so Zeeteah steps in to sing some wisdom.
“We added that just a day before mastering,” she told me. “We felt we needed something else for the track. They took less than five minutes to do the chat – absolute naturals.”
It certainly adds a fresh dimension to the opening track, although the entertaining exchange probably doesn’t help our understanding of what “this” is. But, whatever “this” is, I’m sure you’ll want more.