Music Reviews

Popular Music CDs - Part 12 - January, 1999

Graham Vine




"The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie"

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Vanguard; VCD3

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Vanguard's new release, titled more in hope than expectation "The Best Of Buffy Sainte-Marie", is a double CD which could easily fulfil its aspirations in the form of a one-CD album or even an EP! Buffy has a fabulous voice and it's fair to declare here that few of the tracks disappoint. However, the emotion in her voice does seem to take over rather too often, taking the form of an excess of vibrato. Most of the songs are self-penned and it is nice to hear these originals of "Universal Soldier" and "I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again". She tackles subjects close to her heart; part of her very being. Buffy is of Native North American descent herself. So where is "Soldier Blue"? Surely the highlight of her career so far and yet excluded from this so-called "Best Of...". Then there's "The Big Ones Get Away". Or rather, there isn't. It's one of my own personal favorites and a real tear-jerker.

Yes, I knew these tracks weren't on the album when I picked it up but, you know, you hope the overall high standard will compensate. I can only assume we will have to wait for a "Very Best Of Buffy Sainte-Marie" or even "The Only Buffy Sainte-Marie Album You'll Ever Need"! Let's not be bitter; I mean these criticisms in a light-hearted way. The album is an enhancement to my collection, and I can always play those 2 favorite singles from my 45s when I want to hear them. This isn't an album to chill-out to, it demands one's attention. With the amount of effort Buffy puts into all her material, I'm sure that's the way she wants it to be.

For reference, full track-listing:

CD 1:

1. Soulful Shade of Blue
2. Summer Boy
3. Universal Soldier
4. Better To Find Out For Yourself
5. Cod'ine
6. He's A Keeper Of The Fire
7. Take My Hand For a While
8. Ground Hog
9. The Circle Game
10. My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying
11. Many a Mile
12. Until It's Time For You to Go

CD 2:

1. Rolling Log Blues
2. God Is Alive, Magic is Afoot
3. Guess Who I Saw in Paris
4. Piney Wood Hills
5. Now That The Buffalo's Gone
6. Cripple Creek
7. I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again
8. The Vampire
9. Little Wheel Spin and Spin
10. Winter Boy
11. Los Pescadores
12. Sometimes When I Get to Thinking

- GV -


"Good Morning Spider"


Parlophone; 7243 4 96014 2 0

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"Here, try this," said the lad in the record store.

I'd been asking for some fresh new music to review, and not necessarily by acts I would choose for myself. The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary number of tracks on offer. OK, so not all of the 17 cuts are full-length fully-formed "single-length" songs - but most of them are.

On a first listening, while capturing my attention, I did find the sheer quantity of material here quite a handful to get my head around. But there was enough interest to play the thing a few more times. And then I was hooked!

There is quite a variety on the CD. Some of it fits rather well into the grunge category, like the first track "Pig" and track number 12, "Cruel Sun". Other tracks, such as "Painbirds" have a Snow White air to them, except for the flanged effect used on the vocals. While on the subject of effects, these abound on most if not all of the tracks. Well that is fine by me. It is taken to its limit in track 8 "Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man" where we find the band tuning across the (A.M.) waveband of a radio set, picking up snippets of Sparklehorse) songs along the way. Quite clever and great fun.

A couple of tracks are disappointing. "Hey Joe" (no, not the Hendrix song) is OK but spoiled by that fake vinyl crackling which some record producers seem unable to resist when mixing a track. "Come On In" is a different kettle of fish with its harmonium and vibraphone. It is done as a round - an acceptable folksy technique if the song is strong enough in the first place. Sadly that is not the case with this one. There are plenty of fine tracks for the rock fan. The words seem to fit the music rather than being poetic in their own right, though I did like "...You are worth hundreds of sparrows..." - I think that's a compliment!

So I am glad the CD was proffered. Is the attraction the clear vocals, the special effects, the lyrics, the overall sense of fun? Yes, all of the above. I do hope Sparklehorse receives a lot of exposure with "Good Morning Spider".

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Pig
2. Painbirds
3. Saint Mary
4. Good Morning Spider
5. Sick of Goodbyes
6. Box of Stars (part one)
7. Sunshine
8. Chaos of The Galaxy/Happy Man
9. Hey, Joe
10. Come On In
11. Maria's Little Elbows
12. Cruel Sun
13. All Night Home
14. Ghost of His Smile
15. Hundreds of Sparrows
16. Box of Stars (Part Two)
17. Junebug

- GV -


"Real as I Wanna Be"

Cliff Richard

EMI; 7243 4 97406 2 4

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We have waited quite a while for new material from Sir Cliff Richard. His new album is quite a departure from the style of previous releases, but I think his fans are ready for it.

Song-writing is not one of Cliff's major strengths, so on this album he enlisted the likes of Peter Zizzo, Robin Lerner, and Noel McCoy. This of course allows him to select those songs he wants to use to trace out this new direction of his. My reaction to the overall sound is that it is a very obvious attempt to capture the sound of late '90s 'soul' and dance-groove. This could be his undoing - why make do with ersatz Jon Secada or Luther Van Dross when you can have the real thing?

Cliff has taken one single from the album, the track "Can't Keep This Feeling In". The UK has seen a certain amount of success for this song though wider charting is doubtful. "Climbing Up Mount Everest" is a stronger song but maybe the record company executives are holding this one back for a further onslaught.

Many of the tracks rely heavily on Cliff's falsetto. It is one of the strengths of his voice. However, its overuse tends to suggest the songs would be better suited to other singers. I felt "United For Evermore" would be handled better by the likes of Eternal. Believe me, from this reviewer, that is no compliment!

No doubt the record company and Sir Cliff are hoping to attract a whole new audience with the style change we see in this album. Sure, Cliff's existing fans will be very pleased by the album. I don't expect too many new fans to be created though.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Real as I Wanna Be
2. Even If It Breaks My Heart
3. Can't Keep This Feeling In
4. Climbing Up Mount Everest
5. United For Evermore
6. She Makes Me Feel Like a Man
7. Butterfly Kisses
8. Snowfall on The Sahara
9. Woman and A Man
10. Till I'm Home Again
11. Come Back to Me
12. The Miracle
13. Vita Mia (Duet with Vincenzo La Scola)

- GV -


© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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