Editors' pick

Nicole Atkins & the Black Sea


Editorial Review

Album review: "Mondo Amore"

We live in the age of the diva - the huge-voiced female singer who's not shy about pushing a song to its limit - and beyond. This approach has worked a lot better in the dance, pop and R&B fields than in rock, but Nicole Atkins is out to change that. The New Jersey soprano has the big, octave-spanning voice and the melodramatic instincts of a pop diva, but on her new album, "Mondo Amore," she applies those qualities to classic-rock arrangements. If you miss the days when Pat Benatar and Heart's Ann Wilson reinterpreted Led Zeppelin for Top-40 radio - matching those screaming guitars wail for wail - this is the album for you.

It has been more than three years since Atkins's last full-length album, the promising "Neptune City." Since then she has parted ways with her record company, her band, her boyfriend and the relative restraint of that 2007 release. Here she holds nothing back in venting her frustration at her ex-label and ex-lover on such rockers as "Cry Cry Cry" and "You Come to Me" and such power ballads as "The Tower" and "You Were the Devil." As you might expect from a diva, there are more ballads than rockers. But whatever the tempo, Atkins relies not on her generic lyrics but on her piercing high notes and thick vibrato to exact her revenge.

- Geoffrey Himes, March 2011