Album Review: Gabby Young & Other Animals- We’re All In This Together

Prepare for something different. How often have you heard that? Well, this album is different. Quite unique in fact, because it defies most labels you might like to apply to it. Gabby Young lets you in on her individual take on the world and comes close to doing full justice to her creative imagination and fabulous vocal prowess on her new offering, We’re All In This Together. Young mixes and matches musical styles and genres at will. Her vocal range is remarkable, and if there is one criticism of the record, it is that it does not always convey the power and subtlety of her voice in live performance. It is probably a mission near impossible, as the other key facet to Gabby Young is that quintessentially she is a live performer, along with her terrific band, the endearingly named Other Animals.

The new album is a collection of description-defying songs. It’s the dressing-up box of all your dreams, and sometimes your nightmares. Two songs, “Umm…” and “Maybe” are reprised from Young’s second album, the eponymous Mole, and given fresh workings. As with her debut, Free Second Memory, Mole the album is at times quite difficult to listen to, but is always surprising and brimful of ideas. With We’re All In This Together, Young has distilled her most creative juices and produced a powerful blend that bears repeated consumption. You have the feeling it will really mature with age, too.

The new album kicks off with “Umm…”, bringing a novel angle on communication between couples which, after all the chatter, concludes “Maybe we’ll grow old together in silence”.  Jazzy, syncopated rhythms underpinning a Gypsy swing tune give way to a full-on chorus, abrupt stops, and fast bits which would challenge many a Dad dancer out there. “Ladies of the Lake” brings with it a big band feel, but is a bit too short to get anywhere interesting and is followed by an odd 16rpm reprise. Things really get back on track with “Ones That Got Away”, a joyously breezy workout taking you back to 1920’s cabaret. You don’t get many tunes you could do The Charleston to these days, but this is one of them.

The suspicion that you’re truly in vaudeville territory is immediately lifted as the next track, the title song “We’re All In This Together”, opens with plaintive guitar and banjo. The song is a showcase for the delicate side of Young’s vocal range and shows her amazing control and impassioned command. Variety then comes thick and fast with the tuneful “Lipsink”, which has echoes of Ingrid Michaelson’s style of song construction, followed by “Whose House”, to which you can swing your Steins like you were at Oktoberfest and briefly sober up to join in with the jolly sing-along chorus.

“Sour” finds a more downbeat Young as she confides, “It’s amazing how I find it so hard to write/when I’ve got so much to say”. Vocally, though, she is at her jazzy, bluesy best here, and the band develops the song to great effect. “Ask You a Question” heralds the return of gypsy folk, the tune leaning heavily on the Russian folk melody, “Kalinka”. You don’t need to close your eyes to see Cossacks dancing and wish you were watching this live.

Two of the very best are saved for the end. “Maybe” is a classic Young exploration with a dreamy, flowing vocal opening, evocative lyrics, imaginative instrumentation, a frantic cabaret-style crescendo and then a lovely quiet conclusion: “Maybe I’m a little erratic but I have this fear that my bath is running over”. Marvelous. “Too Young to Die” is quite different from anything else here, and arguably the finest song. It’s a chillingly beautiful, hauntingly sad, but ultimately uplifting magnificence of a song that is worth the price of the album alone. And for once, that’s no cliché. “Don’t assume that I’ll be fine/I’ve had this foreboding about this for a long long time/I don’t mean to seem morbid/I just wish I could be immortal”. Young overcame thyroid cancer at 22, and this song clearly relates to that darkest of times. “Too Young to Die” will make you cry and be overjoyed almost simultaneously. And after the drama of the penultimate song, “Two By Two” closes the album almost anti-climatically, but manfully picks up pace and builds to a bright conclusion.

Gabby Young has a style and purpose that goes beyond her brilliant red hair, love of elaborate hairpieces, surprising accessories, iconic fashions, and dramatic stage make-up. This is a brave and compelling record from an artiste who is keen to experiment and prepared to take a fall when it doesn’t quite come off. Thankfully, she stays on the tightrope almost all the time, and the crowd roars. The record is unlikely to unseat Lady Gaga and her like, but in a parallel universe it is already No 1. Once uncovered, it’s an album you can cherish, revisit, and find new treasures in, even when you think you’ve lost the map.

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