Four years after her previous album Can’t Go Back, Tanita Tikaram opts for more changes on Closer To The People. Compared to the soft rock and country vibes of the previous album, Closer To The People finds its influences rooted in the likes of jazz and soul music; a far cry from rock and country, but almost feeling like a fleshed out version of Sentimental, giving it a familiar but still somewhat unique identity in her discography.
The album doesn’t start in its jazz phase, though; Glass Love Train has more of an alternative pop style to it, mixing simple but high energy percussion and a bevy of woodwind instruments to create the feeling of a locomotive in motion as Tikaram sings over the top with similar fitting lyrics—You can’t stop these wheels in motion / You can’t stop this train. Meanwhile, Cool Waters and The Way You Move lean closer to a folk-oriented blues sound. It’s not until the title track that the album truly turns to jazz, by which point everything begins to join together under the same umbrella.
The album’s sound beginning to unify over each track becomes especially noticeable; Gris Gris Tails and The Dream of Her go for a slinkier, subtler style focusing on strings and percussion over all else, while Food On The Table and Night Is A Bird are more about brass and woodwind. The songs all feel enjoyable, with no major dips in quality, but largely don’t do much to capture your attention. The scope of the album is simple on the surface, yet deeper if you’re willing to give the lyrics and the arrangements the attention they require.
As such, Closer To The People isn’t an album for everybody. Jazz fans, or fans of Tanita Tikaram’s particular style of lyricism and husky vocals, will surely find it easier to get into than the new listener, but even on a cursory listen the album has its charm that makes it enjoyable. Had the scope of its songs been larger the appeal of the album may also have followed suit, but ultimately it remains in a rather subtle position.