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January 5, 1994

A Sweet Irish Voice

Elenor McEvoyEleanor McEvoy, Eleanor McEvoy (Geffen 1993) -- Now, here's the real thing. Eleanor McEvoy is a singer/songwriter extraordinaire from Ireland, and her debut album is chock full of meaningful and intriguing tunes. Somebody at Geffen keeps finding gifted female singers, and the quality comes through time and again.

Don't be fooled by the smiling face and the acoustic guitar on the cover. Eleanor's got the heart of a rocker, coupled with a woman's sensibility and grit. She received the Irish Record Industry Award for best new artist in 1992, and contributed the title track (the plaintive "Only a Woman's Heart," which also appears on this album) to the biggest selling album in Irish history.

Miss McEvoy attended Dublin's prestigious Trinity College, and graduated with honors with a degree in musicology. After graduation, she managed to gain a seat with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland in the string section. Soon, Eleanor started moonlighting with rock bands and playing backup fiddle for artists like Sinead O'Connor and Foreigner. Her name started getting around, and she was urged to form her own band.

Heeding this advise, Eleanor assembled a four-piece band that includes Bill Shanley on electric guitar, Jim Tate on bass, and Noel Eccles on drums. When she signed with Geffen, she refused to be remade into a soft, folksy singer, and insisted on recording a rock album in Dublin with her own band. The new disc is a true blue success, as Eleanor stuck to her strengths.

Though Eleanor McEvoy is not straight rock, her electric sound reaches from what she calls "the deepest place in a woman's heart," and her songs display a willingness to expose personal experience and a great capacity for compassion. Adds Eleanor, "your ability to sympathize increases in accordance with the amount you suffered. Life is all about relationships -- not just male and female, but parents and children and friends, and these are the things that move me."

Including stellar tracks like "Finding Myself Lost Again" and "Apologize," this album grows on you with every listening. Like Lisa Germano's terrific solo release Happiness, Eleanor reached deep inside to produce a personal and transcendent disc. However, Eleanor McEvoy is less moody than Happiness, and more interested in exploring the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.

The best cut on this album is the enchanting "Not Quite Love," a subtle, understated tune in which Eleanor croons "It isn't quite love/It isn't quite romance/But whatever it is/It's worth a chance." The production on this song is first-rate, as Uilleann pipes provide a delicate, haunting background to this wonderfully scored track.

Eleanor McEvoy is graced with a terrific voice and strong storytelling sense. This album just keeps getting better and better -- it's honest, and crafted with care and love.

Hoi PolloiHoi Polloi, Spin Me (Reunion Records 1993) -- Hoi Polloi, a four-person group hailing from New Zealand, has released a groovy new disk in Spin Me. Fronted by lead singer Jenny Gullen, the band finds itself somewhat of a strange stepchild on Nashville-based Reunion Records; the band's sound is more rock-oriented (with a clean, guitar-based sound) than country-flavored. What's happening here?

Hoi Polloi was originally formed in New Zealand in 1984, and spent several years touring down under before tackling the masses in the States. Hoi Polloi (Greek for "the common people") probably finds itself much more comfortable in Los Angeles than Nashville, as the band's sound is reminiscent of early Cheap Trick.

While Jenny's voice is sometimes on the thready side (it was probably her pipes that got the band on a Nashville label), the rest of the group (Joszef Fityus on drums, David Ball on guitars, and bass player Andrew Horst) bring a no-nonsense approach to Spin Me. Thus, tracks like "Back to Zero" and "Lie in the Temple" have a solid rock sensibility, while "Angel" is a slower, Heart-inspired ballad. Just to show that they're not afraid of the classics, the band also takes a valiant stab at the old Byrds' stalwart, "Turn, Turn, Turn" that makes for a moody, understated reading.

Hoi Polloi takes pride in their New Zealand heritage; as the band says, "we are a nation of jack's-of-all-trades, and people who are very resourceful. Also, where America seems to be a more immediate nation that wants to see success right away, New Zealand's thought is to stick it out and work things through." With this kind of dedication, Hoi Polloi might make waves in America.

Bad ReligonConcert Update -- Bad Religion, who have been touted as "one of America's longest-running punk groups," is touring behind their new release, Recipe for Hate (Atlantic). The new disc (the band's seventh, and first major label release) has a hard rock feel to it; you can catch this five-man combo on January 7th at the FSU College Union.

Clive Griffin, Clive Griffin (550 Music/Epic 1993) -- While I'm generally opposed to trashing records, this sorry release deserves it. Clive strives to create an appearance that he is cut from the mold of Jimmy Dean and/or the young Elvis Presley. He is neither. He's just a wimpy poseur.

Clive GriffinThough this disc contains the hit single "When I Fall in Love" (a duet with Canadian sweetheart Celine Dion) from the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack, the rest of it is yucko. Every song features a full orchestra as a backup; worse yet, credits are given on each song for "original ideas." Give me a break!! Clive is just another geeky English white boy trying to be a soul singer. Avoid this album -- look for the real stuff.

-- Randy Krbechek

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