Recorded and mixed at Atlantis Studios, Stockholm, Sweden, October 23 - 26, 2008.
Mastered at 4ohm, Munich, Germany, November 2008.
"True Love" is the second ACT album release from vocalist/keyboard player Ida Sand following on from 2007's "Meet Me Around Midnight". Her first album featured ACT regulars guitarist Ulf Wakenius and trombonist Nils Landgren. Sand has also made guest appearances on several of Landgren's solo ventures.
For "True Love" Sand has decided to keep things more "in house". Her husband Ola Gustaffson is one of two guitarists on the album and he also shares the production credits with Sand. Gustaffson is a respected figure on the Swedish pop and rock scene and "True Love" veers as much to pop and soul as it does to jazz.
The material consists of seven pop/rock/jazz covers alongside five original compositions from Sand. Joining Sand and Gustaffson in a slick studio band are second guitarist Mattias Torell, bassist Peter Forss (also heard on violin) and a veteran of the Swedish session scene drummer Per Lindvall. There are also appearances from Peter Asplund (trumpet and flugelhorn), Magnus Lindgren (flute and bass clarinet) and backing vocalists Ingela Olson and Andre De Lang.
Sand possesses a powerful "white soul" voice and is also an accomplished keyboard player. The careful arrangements and high class production values are of the elevated standard we have come to expect from ACT. However there are times when everything appears overly slick and the sound sometimes recalls the ultra smooth stylings of the CTI and GRP labels. Sand's own "Notice Me", probably the weakest of the original compositions suffers particularly in this regard.
"Ventura Highway" by Dewey Bunnell of vapid 70's country rockers America benefits from an imaginative arrangement featuring Gustaffson's guitar and Asplund's trumpet and improves considerably on the original. A richly soulful cover of Robbie Robertson's old Band classic "The Weight" doesn't quite do that but is hugely enjoyable nevertheless.
The album really hits it's stride with a trio of Sand originals. The stripped down piano/vocal arrangement of the ballad "My Biggest Fear" is in stark contrast to what has gone before and is all the more effective for it. Forss's mournful violin adds a dash of haunting colour and the whole piece is chillingly beautiful.
"As Long As You Love Me" is another strong composition with a memorable tune, an assured vocal performance and an excellent band arrangement with the emphasis on Gustaffson's guitar.
"Devil's Game" is a convincing blues/soul performance with powerful vocals, dramatic guitar and an outstanding contribution from Lindvall at the drums. It is the rawest track thus far and this trilogy of high quality original songs can be viewed as the backbone of the album.
Sand returns to covers territory with a version of Neil Young's "Heart Of Gold". It's a classy interpretation with an interesting arrangement that makes use of Gustaffson's steel guitar but the original is so iconic that one can't help missing Neil's "shaky shaky voice".
A different kind of problem applies to"Lover Man", the only established jazz standard in the collection. It's another quality performance and the sparse arrangement makes good use of Asplund's distinctive trumpet sound. But this is one of those songs that begs the question "just how many versions do you need?", especially of a song identified so closely with Billie Holliday.
Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" just doesn't sound convincing coming from a white woman despite the obvious care put into the arrangement. However I found Sands's version of Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" far more enjoyable . There can't be too many covers of this tune around, especially by a female vocalist. Sand's bravery pays off in an arrangement featuring sinister drums, reeds and electric piano.
"Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further" is an enjoyable soul/gospel romp with Sand's band affecting a convincing impression of Toussaint's New Orleans grooves. The singer really sounds as if she's enjoying herself here.
The closing title track is a little too earnest and saccharine for my tastes and that sub CTI/GRP feel creeps back in. However this is the kind of soft soul that may well appeal to many. Others have compared Sand to Norah Jones and Lizz Wright and there is no doubt that there is scope for considerable cross over success here.
Sand is clearly a highly talented singer and keyboard player and an accomplished writer. She has surrounded herself with a class band with Gustaffson the dominant figure, his solos are short,sharp and tasty. Instrumentally guest artist Asplund also adds a distinctive touch and Lindvall's on the money drumming drives the band.