Sydney-based singer-songwriter Arnab Sengupta recently released his fourth studio album Truth Be Told. According to Sengupta himself, the music on the record is a fresh take on old-school jazz, which I noticed right away when I played it.
The first thing I want to point out is the musicianship on this record, which is superb for the most part. Sure, there weren’t any crazy solos that is expected from a jazz recording, but that isn’t necessary for the type of record Sengupta is trying to make. His piano skills are simple yet make up the backbone that lifts the album up, as seen in songs like “Let the Dust Settle Down” and “Spotlight”. There is also some fantastic saxophone on the record, played by Tucker Antell. Appearing in songs like the charming “Truth Be Told” and “Prodigal Song”, I must admit that hearing Tucker’s playing was the album’s biggest highlight. The flute playing by Ryoichi Yamaki on “Colour Man” was also a great addition.
Sengupta’s voice is definitely an area of contention for me. There is no doubt that Sengupta is a talented singer, having vocals that complement the music in songs like “Chasing the Sun” and “Spotlight”. However, there are moments on the record in which I feel like Sengupta overdoes it. The best example I can give is in “Prodigal Son”, where there is a wall of Sengupta’s harmonized vocals scat-singing the chorus that just wasn’t pleasant to my ears. Even in a jazz song that has a high level of intensity, it shouldn’t be appropriate to over-exaggerate one’s voice.
There were also a few lows regarding the composition and production choices. While I did admit that “Chasing the Sun” had some nice vocals, I wasn’t impressed with it musically. The whole song gave the very familiar feeling of being in a coffee house while rain is pouring outside, which would usually be nice if I already haven’t heard it many times before. “No Friend of Mine”, the lowest point on the album for me, is a song that is as cliché as it gets. While I have noticed that some of the melodies throughout the album sound a little familiar, none is more apparent than in that particular song; not to mention that the overall message of the lyrics doesn’t match the mood.
The only other major objection I have towards Truth Be Told is the single “Til Death Do Us Part”, which closes out the album. Now, don’t get me wrong, the song itself is great. I love the moody atmosphere the song builds up, thanks to Sengupta’s great composition and musicianship. That being said, I feel like it could’ve just remained single and not been placed on this album. “Til Death Do Us Part” sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of the tracklist, denting the album’s musical consistency, and it being the closing track doesn’t do it any favors.
Here are my ratings for each song on a scale of 0-4:
- Truth Be Told – 4
- Chasing the Sun – 2
- No Friend of Mine – 1
- Let the Dust Settle Down – 3
- Prodigal Son – 3
- Spotlight – 4
- Colour Man – 3
- Til Death Do Us Part – 4
SCORE/Good: Mr. Sengupta did deliver a project that can be described as soothing and can fit the mood if the timing is right. While I was intrigued by the fusion of the old-jazz style and contemporary sounds, along with some high points in the musicianship, nothing else from this project really captured my attention. Maybe it’s not just my cup of tea, but perhaps Mr. Sengupta can benefit from taking influence from a variety of other styles to incorporate into his music and make it much more interesting. That being said, this was a fine listen, but could’ve used a little more flavor.
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[We rank albums on a scale of Poor, Mediocre, Good, Excellent, and Outstanding]
Bruno Werner – Drums, Percussion & Mastering
Yoshiki Yamada – Electric, Fretless, and Acoustic Upright Bass
Tucker Antell – Saxophone (Truth Be Told, Prodigal Son)
Ryoichi Yamaki – Flute (Colour Man)
Rafael Bissacot – Mixing & Mastering
Ben Briddon – Vocal Recording @ Kiln Studios, Sydney
Arnab Sengupta – Guitar, Piano, Electric Piano, Vocals, Songwriting, Composition & Arrangements