The story of Soraia, the band and the person, is one of personal triumph and it actually has very little to do with making music. The triumph resides in lead singer; ZouZou Mansour’s (Soraia is her given name) decision to take control of her life and walk away from the personal demons that almost devoured her. Now, she is reaping the rewards of her decision and celebrating with her new album, In the Valley of Love and Guns, which has garnered the endorsement of one Jon Bon Jovi; a far removal from where she was and where she was headed.
Soraia open the album with strum acoustic with ZouZou channeling equal parts Melissa Etheridge and vintage Cher on “Good Ain’t Good Enough.” The mid tempo track features harmonized vocals at the chorus over simple the aforementioned strum before electric slide weeps a brief solo at the track midpoint. The backing vocals give this one a strong foundation for the lush vocal delivery to stand at the foreground. For an opening track, the instrumentation may be slight but the vocals and lyrical matter are heavy and poignant. That clears the way for the opening funk keys and spoken word intro on “Love Amnesia.” The track surrenders to honkey tonk electric before the song unfolds as a country-tinged, toe-tapper. Backing keys and vocals bolster ZouZou’s powerful vocal delivery at the chorus with horn-spiked melody and electric bringing up the rear making this one a heavy-hitting, bawdy rocker. “Love Like Voodoo” to much of the same instrumentation as the former, but changes the feel slightly with clever lyrical matter. This one made such an impression, Steven Van Zandt called this rocker “One of the coolest songs in the world.” Rumbling surf rock electric and an incessant horn undercurrent fill this one full of sound. Tight, clever electric riff work and ZouZou belting out her powerful vocal delivery are the hallmarks of “Want What I Want.” This one continues the rocker vein of the tracks and illustrates the soaring heights Soraia can take their musicality. The nasty sax solo at the midpoint doesn’t hurt matters either. “Wild Imagination” lives up to its moniker with eerie reverb slide guitar, tin can vocal delivery and the rumble of toms from the drum kit. Again, backing vocals add to ZouZou’s urgent lyrics and lend a depth to vocal delivery as a whole.
Equal parts great story and great music, props to Soraia for what they have been able to accomplish. What’s also interesting to note is that all the endorsements and accolades they have received from Bon Jovi et al. came after the strides the band made so they must have been doing something right to begin with. The songwriting clearly comes from ZouZou’s experiences, be they happy ones or painful ones and she conveys the accompanying emotions within the body and feel of the particular track she’s singing. Her personal victories aside, the musicality here is vast and weighty and sees an artist putting herself out there, come what may. If Soraia’s story isn’t enough in and of itself, the strength of this album certainly is.
by Chris West – firstname.lastname@example.org
I give this 4/5 Skopes.