Nikka & Strings: Underneath and in Between
Go Funk Yourself Records Inc/Metropolis Recordings
The soul, blues and pop sound of Nikka Costa has been sorely missed across the last half-decade. Here with not quite a new album but new renditions of old favourites (from her pen as well as some standards) we have Costa in covers territory with strings clinging to the sides of the songs. It’s lovely. That’s the default setting. And often enough it rises above that.
We begin with a rendition of Nothing Compares 2 U, Costa had worked it up as a live favourite before Prince’s death – now it’s here on record as a tribute. One of several, the re-take of Headfirst here feels like Nikka Costa-as-Prince covering herself; the influence so palpable. And her own lyric Silver Tongue, from a deep piano ballad written by Prince (he B-sided it) feels like a spiritual conversation, or connection – a way of further referencing the Purple One.
Now, as good as her version of Nothing is, the surprise magic-cover is a wonderful version of Jeff Buckley’s Lover, You Should’ve Come Over; surprise in that it’s a reminder that Buckley really had some songs. But they can exist without him, without his (definitive) versions. Costa gives it her all and the band-treatment is sublime. It’s a real highlight.
As is the dreamy, wafting rendition of Come Rain or Come Shine. Her father, the legendary arranger Don Costa, worked on Sinatra’s recording. So there are all sorts of in-stories and tributes and references here. But even if you’re not here for that what you’ll get is some great songs, great stories told (and sold).
The closers, Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying and Stormy Weather, have Costa in very fine voice and it’s maybe where the strings work best – we expect them, anticipate them.
There’s a real warmth here. A lovely album. Yes, it’s almost a tad cautious in places, but as a re-entry this is sublime.
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