Wednesday, November 23, 2005

TURKEY SHOOT, continued.


Dar Williams: End of the Summer (Razor and Tie, 1997). The worst case of oversignificance to hit an artist since Suzanne Vega, Williams could turn a sunny day into midnight just by opening her mouth. The darling of the FUV jetset crowd, calling her pretentious would do a disservice to pretentiousness. And this is her best effort! C.

John Fogerty: Centerfield (Warner Brothers, 1985). With each passing year my contempt for this half-hearted, half-assed effort grows. Sure, it's competently played, and therein lies the problem. Fogerty could always out play his contemporaries. The trick is to bring something unique to the table. If we are to believe that Rock-n-roll Girls is the next Lookin' Out My Backdoor then we'd be believing in a lie. Truth is this was lame then and it's lamer now. B-.

Norah Jones: Feels Like Home (Blue Note, 2004). "What's not to like?" Robert Christgau once queried rhetorically. Plenty. Oh, I'm sure she's genuine when she emotes, and she comes from good stock, don't you know. If her Grammy sweeping Come Away With Me didn't convince you then perhaps nothing will. Sophisticated, easy to digest, harmless, but with just enough - shall we say - pizzazz to keep the multitudes in step. And you know she isn't some tramp or hip-hop chick, don't you know. No Eminem or Missy Elliott, here. Just the sweet girl next door who happens to play her own instrument; even writes a few of her own songs. Yes, talented she is, but with every note she exemplifies what's wrong with the biz. Jones is that perfect product ideally suited for that adult-contemporary crowd you thought didn't matter. Remember Roberta Flack in the '70s? Even if you like her personally, and by all accounts she is very likable, this is the ultimate sell job, by an industry adept at creating gods. Beware strange men bearing gifts too good to be true. B-.

Ben Folds Five: Whatever and Ever Amen (550 Music, 1997). Boy does this guy need a life. I've haven't heard such a pity pot since Billy Joel. Never trust a piano man who can't get laid. C+

Beth Orton: Trailer Park (Heavenly, 1997). I confess I find myself enjoying She Cries Your Name in my more morbid moments, but aside from that this is just one more example of a folkie way too in love with her misery. B-

Steve Winwood: Chronicles (Island, 1987). Like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, Steve "coulda been a contenda." Instead this overwrought and overbearing hack gets the award for doing less with more talent than any other artist in the last twenty years. Even Clapton had Layla. Banal, when it isn't nauseating. C

Sarah McLachlan: Afterglow (Arista, 2003). McLachlan is one of the guilty pleasures I allow myself. Her voice, seductive even when it's soulless, draws you into her world. With 1993's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (still her finest effort) and the Lilith Fair concerts in the late '90s in her resume, she's hard to resist. But for all the seduction and pseudo mature themes her lyrics portend, this is one woman who still can't escape her insipid melancholy. She's as predictable as a broken country record without the twang. Actually, this is New-Age music without the mysticism. C-

The Mavericks: Trampoline (MCA Nashville, 1998). Country music with horns? Who cares. No matter how authentic their ethnicity might seem these guys are pure El Lay. Another Nashville express out to the masses. If you're looking for some good country music with a latin flavor, try Rank and File for starters. These guys couldn't tune their guitars. C+

Indigo Girls: Indigo Girls (Epic, 1989). Closer To Fine headlines this tripe and nonsensical effort. Tracy Chapman is Dylan next to these two wonderkinds. This is the worst kind of folk: deep but with no meaning. How else to explain lyrics like "In the ink of an eye I saw you bleed." They are intense, they are in need, they are in pain, and, of course, they're in love. Oh, come on, get over yourselves, girls. Your demons are in your music. C-

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