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Music Reviews

Popular Music - Part 37 - October, 2000

Graham Vine

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

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"Time After Time"

Eva Cassidy

Didgeridoo; G2-10073

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

This album by Eva Cassidy is one of only five I have managed to trace; are 60 or so tracks sufficient to summarize the career of such an artist? Since she very sadly died at the early age of 33, the demand for previously unreleased material must be strong, and all of the tracks on this album fall into that category. Some are said to be 'live', but there is no audience sound - just a little hiss on a couple of tracks. Such blemishes are perfectly acceptable in building the library of songs available from this lady.

Eva has a lovely voice. It is always spot-on pitch, with just the right amount of vibrato, if any. Apparently, her songs are featured fairly heavily on certain BBC and other radio programs, though not on one of mine. It is easy to hear how some exposure can lead to a step-increase in Eva's fan-base.

These tracks are, by and large, 'standards', such as the title track (Cyndi Lauper) and "The Letter" (The Boxtops), owing much to the Joe Cocker remake, though on a mainly acoustic framework. Some electric guitar and the glorious Hammond B3 on track 9 are about the only embellishments on the otherwise 'unplugged' arrangements. Virtually all of the tracks please this particular listener. I have reservations over "Woodstock": I have only ever really liked the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young version, and the final track has a 'gospel' treatment which I am not keen on. So far as I can tell, it is well done.

So, a very welcome addition to the available discography of Eva Cassidy. Look out for "Songbird", "Eva By Heart", "Live at Blues Alley" and "The Other Side", the other four albums I mentioned earlier. And let us hope that more material is uncovered in studios and private collections, as time goes by.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Kathy's Song
2. Ain't No Sunshine
3. The Letter
4. At Last
5. Time After Time
6. Penny To My Name
7. I Wandered By A Brookside
8. I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again
9. Easy Street Dream
10. Anniversary Song
11. Woodstock
12. Way Beyond The Blue

- GV -

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"Big Honey"

Big Honey

Wonide Music; E3120-5944-069

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

With the CD player set to 'repeat all', and only 16 minutes total running time, you would be forgiven for thinking that a couple of circuits round the tracks would be quite enough. But no, the first evening's listening was fully occupied studying, if that's the right word, the lyrics, tunes, and musicianship brought out on the Big Honey EP. And the second evening was pretty full too.

The first track opens with some rather pointless murmuring and a vinyl-style crackling, and ends with some more vinyl effects - scratching this time. All a bit disturbing but in-between a fine rock song built on a solid beat and crunchingly punchy rhythm guitar. I especially like the way the instruments fade out individually before that final-'vinyl'.

Track 2 has a finger-style backing but somehow manages to avoid the trap of 'here is the acoustic set to show how versatile we are' syndrome. No doubt the wah-wah lead-guitar helps, but also it is the vocal displaying a certain sharp edge. I would liken it to an XTC track, but the musicality is 'richer', if XTC fans will forgive my impertinence.

There are some other parallels to be drawn in the style of Big Honey. My first reaction to track 4, for instance, was how much I could hear of Love from the "Forever Changes" era in there. Even the very long last note has these echoes - not to criticize for imitation, but to enjoy some familiarity from.

Without any noticeable mimicry, I feel I can hear the likes of the very excellent Cheap Trick - maybe these guys are influenced by them to some extent. Either way, such a good sound can be no bad thing. Apart from Greg Amici's song-writing and the instrumentation already mentioned, I must also make reference to the drum sound. Dean Sharenow takes the credit for drums on "Remedy", and what a terrific slapping bash he gets out of that snare-drum. I understand some particularly distinctive drum samples find their way onto many another 'song', so do not be surprised if Dean's also gets 'borrowed'!

The EP is a splendid showcase for the band - this high quality of rock must surely find a home on both sides of the Atlantic.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. The Long Haul
2. You Made The Headlines
3. Pumpkin Man
4. Remedy

- GV -

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"The I-10 Chronicles

Various Artists

Back Porch; 72438-48991-2-7

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

It's as good a concept as any: a useful coat-hanger upon which to hang disparate songs without too much by way of original thought. "The I-10 Chronicles" is said to be a road-album: OK, the Interstate Ten is a road. The premise for the supposed selection of songs is the set of districts passed through on its way from one coast to the other. But that hardly qualifies for its being a road-album.

Does the collection work without any external and possibly specious justification? With its smattering of different musical traditions, be they Cuban, Native North American, or standard-fair Country music, there is scope for annoying nearly everybody. That it doesn't is, to my ears, due to a certain blandness in the choice of material rather than taking the risky option of selecting songs that represent the freshest aspect of each genre. The epitome of this process has to be track 3. Willie Nelson: yes, superb Country music exponent. "Everybody's Talkin'" a brilliant song. But put the two together, and it's just safe as houses. There is nothing new about the interpretation of the song and nothing to find exciting either.

The album isn't so much 'easy listening' as 'easy on the ear'. I could imagine it playing in the background at a party and not causing so much as a ripple in mood or conversation as it moves from track to track. All of the performances are of a high standard - my personal favorites being the ethnic ones. All of the vocals sound good, but maybe some more passion wouldn't go amiss. But, as for creating the mood of a journey along the 'Eye-One-Oh', I didn't feel moved.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. L. A. Freeway feat. Bill Hearne
2. Carmelita feat. Alan Duritz
3. Everybody's Talkin' feat. Willie Nelson
4. Saint Valentine feat. Joe Ely
5. He Don't Care About Me feat. Sarah Nicole
6. Smack Dab In The Middle feat Joe Ely
7. New Mexico Rain feat. Bill Hearne
8. Black Magic Woman feat. Charlie Musselwhite
9. El Guateque De Don Tomas feat. Eliades Ochoa
10. Across The Borderline feat. Meredith Marshall
11. Eighteen Inches Of Rain feat. Bill Hearne
12. Yipi feat. Cherokee Rose
13. AreYou Listenin' Lucky feat. Joe Ely


   - GV -

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