Karen Bernod - Four Women: Side 1 (2016)

Karen Bernod
karen_bernod_four_women_side_1.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Karen Bernod the soul singer becomes Karen Bernod, historian, on her latest project, Four Women: Side 1. The record is a concept project and is the first of four EPs to be released by Bernod. The title of this first EP and the title track certainly has significance in what has become – for better or worse – the year of Nina Simone. There was the critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated documentary “What Happened Miss Simone?” and “Nina,” the critically panned biopic – a movie that illustrates the risks attendant with getting Simone wrong.

Karen Bernod the soul singer becomes Karen Bernod, historian, on her latest project, Four Women: Side 1. The record is a concept project and is the first of four EPs to be released by Bernod. The title of this first EP and the title track certainly has significance in what has become – for better or worse – the year of Nina Simone. There was the critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated documentary “What Happened Miss Simone?” and “Nina,” the critically panned biopic – a movie that illustrates the risks attendant with getting Simone wrong.

To Bernod’s credit, she gets Simone right on her rendition of “Four Women” because, although she hews to the sparse piano driven live version from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that can be seen on YouTube, Bernod endows the number with her voice. Bernod does not have Simone’s dusky voice and she infuses the piece with her trademark range. Bernod can go there vocally, and she does just that on what is the strongest track of the quartet featured on Four Women: Side 1.

The final three cuts on Four Women: Side 1 find Bernod taking a fond look at her past growing up in her Bed-Stuy neighborhood, taking us back to the defining moment in African-American and American history in this still young century and the musical style that likely influenced a young Karen Bernod. Each track gives the listener insight into Bernod’s personal, political and artistic sides, but “Four Women” is the  star of this show.

“Brooklyn Potpourri” finds Bernod preparing a musical stew filled with the Afro-Latin sounds and gospel infused soul and funk Bernod heard while doing Saturday chores in a house, where the music of Carlos Santana, Marvin Gaye, Celia Cruz and Tito Puente blared from the speakers. The track brims with the pulsating bass and throbbing percussion that is key ingredient in of the Caribbean and African-Americans who made that community home. Bernod uses production techniques from 1980s era hip-hop to pay musical homage to a recent historical event on the tune “In Da House (First Family)” – the 2008 and 2012 elections that brought President Barack Obama and his family to the White House. Both cuts appeared on Bernod’s 2014 project # Planting Seeds, while the disco/funk fusion of “Takin’ U Back” is the album’s lone new cut. On that track, Bernod revisits a genre from her youth to express her love for music and for a time when it seemed that the parties lasted longer and the troubles of the world didn’t intrude on the festivities.

There is certainly some compelling music – her rendition of the Simone classic is a gem and “Brooklyn Potpourri” is a shaken and stirred of Bernod’s musical influences. Still, Four Women: Side 1, is the beginning of a story that awaits at least a part two to provide listeners with more insight to her vision. We’ll be waiting. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 

 
Featured Album - Will Downing - "Romantique, Part 1"
Featured Album - The Soul Rebels - "Poetry In Motion"
Album of the Month - Plunky & Oneness - "Afroclectic"
See our Christmas Playlist! - A SoulTracks "Merry Christmas" - Now on Spotify

Leave a comment!