By Andrew Ross
Eleni Mandell’s debut album Wishbone garnered much positive press and critical acclaim. Thrill, her follow-up release, promises to do the same; the CD is a solid performance from start to finish.
"I feel like I’ve kind of graduated from my first record," Mandell said. "In terms of instrumentation and everything, it’s kind of the record I’ve always wanted to make."
However, don’t think her second album is just a repeat of Wishbone; she was careful not to give anyone the opportunity to pidgeonhole her.
Although Mandell originally wanted to name the album Pauline, after the first track, she was told this would be too confusing. Instead of this name she decided to take the moniker from a line in that song, "I was bored in the spring / I was looking for a thrill."
Thrill showcases Mandell’s talent well, emphasizing both her sultry voice and her esoteric style. The variety in the album is also remarkable, with raw sexuality in "Action is Action," vengeance in "Taking You Out," and even a ’50s latin sound in "Never Know the Party’s Here." Every single track distinguishes her from the countless hordes of coffee-shop pretenders who flood the airwaves at the franchise coffee bars. Mandell is a true lounge singer, with all the smoky sex appeal this implies. Despite her obvious talent, Mandell is quick to give credit to her producer, Brian Kehew.
"Brian really listens and tries to get the music to be all that it’s supposed to be, without putting his own values on it," she said.
She also gives thanks to her mentor, Chuck E. Weiss, and to Tom Waits. Interestingly, she thanks both her grandmothers as well. Another person who earned Mandell’s gratitude is Ian Pearson. Pearson, a journalist, created the Zedtone record label specifically for this project. It is difficult to think of a greater possible tribute to Mandell’s talent.
Eleni Mandell will be performing at Kaos on Wed., Nov. 1. Her current album, Thrill, is now available at local record stores or online at www.elenimandell.com.