A strange one, this… New Yorker Susan Aquila is clearly well connected – hard rock legends Billy Sheehan and Rod Morgenstein contribute to this record, which is coming out on an imprint of entertainment Sony – and clearly a top notch violinist in her own right; and yet, on this self-titled album she flits across styles and moods without really convincing the listener she’s committed to any of them to any great degree.
The opening brace of tracks kick things off well enough, with Just Like That and Things You Make Me Do both being perky, new wave-tinged rockers. The latter track is the first to feature some of Aquila’s excellent violin playing, and at this point things are looking up. Aquila has a languorous vocal style which fits the style of music well, and the package as a whole is pretty appealing.
Things come unstuck a little on the riot grrrl-lite of Mine All Mine, and then go down the gurgler completely on the doo wop novelty No, I’m Not That Kinda Girl; this is a song might have just been acceptable on a Holly and the Italians album in 1981 but here just sounds twee and forced.
After this, all pretence at cohesion evaporates as Aquila takes on three Van Halen covers (Eruption and Cathedral transposed to the violin and a straightforward take on Jump), rewrites a Who classic (Can’t Explain), takes a dip into slightly stiff funk rock (Peace and Love) and offers up a possible entry to the San Remo Song Festival in the shape of the fragile ballad Su Di Noi. None of these things individually are actively awful – they just don’t sit together very well in an album context.
Easier for the casual listeners to comprehend are the no-vocal showcases like Life on the Line and Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee, which will both appeal to listeners who enjoy instrumental tours de force, and maybe a mixture of music in the style of the opening brace of tracks and these would have made more sense overall.
The best of these tracks would have made an excellent EP, but they are dragged down by the filler and the lack of a real theme running through the record. Which is a shame, because Susan Aquila is clearly a very talented musician indeed. Maybe next time?
Susan Aquila is out now.