Missy Higgins' album cover for The Ol' Razzle Dazzle
Following the release of her second record, 2007’s On A Clear Night, Missy Higgins had planned to retire from the music business. She had attended university and begun other projects outside of the musical realm where she attained fame in her home country of Australia with hits like Scar, Steer and Where I Stood. Her subsequent writer’s block ironically became the focus of her first writings for what would eventually become her third album, The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle, which opens up with “I got a lot to say I just don’t know how to say it,” from the refreshingly rich Set Me On Fire, Missy’s salute to melody. “Melody/you’re the only one who saves me.”
The songs on The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle are instantly more layered than anything Missy has recorded before. An artist who typically went for a more stripped down, often acoustic approach this time swells her sound for a more polished result without sacrificing any of her distinctly sweet vocals. This gives the album a matured sound as it moves Missy from being the hesitant recording artist to someone who sounds sure of her talents, confident in herself even if her songs are about her lack thereof. While Missy was never one to hold back what she wanted to convey with her lyrics, as is evidenced by the heartbreaking Where I Stood from her last album, this time her music acts as a full support team to keep her going.
Unlike her last album, which she wrote completely solo, this record has several collaborators including some she worked with on her first album The Sound Of White. Kevin Griffin, from the band Better Than Ezra, who co-wrote several songs on that record also had a hand in Hello Hello, the jazzy piano-supported first single in North America. Current go-to-writer Dan Wilson, from Semisonic, and co-writer of supersmash Someone Like You, is on board for Set Me On Fire and Everyone’s Waiting, the latter of which is a personal account of Missy’s frame of thought in regards to her expected return to music. “I know all the lines to say/the part I’m expected to play.” Up-and-comer Katie Herzig jumped in for the catchy Tricks while fellow Australian singer/songwriter Butterfly Boucher played the biggest contributing hand of all by co-writing three songs and co-producing the record with Brad Jones in Nashville, helping to rejuvenate Missy into the next stage of her career.
Missy’s return to music brings her back to display a real sense of sadness in some of her songs. While many of her songs are missed love or songs about desire, the real grabbers are the ones that aren’t. Cooling Of The Embers is about a dying relative as Missy sings “you’re only half here/like someone left a frail body and took the rest.” Missy expands herself to a slightly political recording as Hidden Ones takes a look at those who don’t speak up but should to give their influence. “There is a choice/follow the leader or use your voice/Cos this’ll just keep up until we make a loud noise and the hidden ones speak up.” She ends the record on a comforting note with Sweet Arms Of A Tune where she shares that sometimes, when we don’t get what we most desire, we can fill the void with a song that says what we can’t say. “Hold the one you can’t love in the sweet arms of a tune.”
The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle is an expansion on Missy’s sound, showing her as more prepared emotionally but also still willing to divulge her thoughts into song. While the songs themselves don’t offer a lot that differs from others in the singer/songwriter genre, Missy’s voice remains the winning factor in anything she records. She’s not impressive in the technical sense with her vocals but she’s honest and when it comes down to it, it’s the honesty that shines through.
1. Set Me On Fire
2. Hello Hello
3. Unashamed Desire
4. Everyone’s Waiting
5. All In My Head
6. Temporary Love
7. Watering Hole
9. If I’m Honest
10. Cooling Of The Embers
11. Hidden Ones
12. Sweet Arms Of A Tune