January 31, 1996
Pretenders, The Isle of View (Warner 1995) - Chrissie Hynde, with one of the most exciting voices in female rock, has outlasted many of her contemporaries (whatever happened to Pat Benetar?). The reason is her attention to detail and love of rock 'n roll.
This attention to detail shows on The Isle of View, recorded live in May, 1995 at London's Jacob Street Studios. Fourteen classic Pretenders tracks - ranging from such perennials as "Brass Pocket," to "2,000 Miles," and "Back on the Chain Gang" to rarer gems like "Chill Factor" and "Criminal" - are treated to acoustic arrangements and backed by the acclaimed Duke Quartet, a classical ensemble that lends a lush and elegant tone to the recording.
The disc underscores a songwriting talent at the heart of the Pretenders' enduring appeal. Says Chrissie, "I like to think of the Pretenders as a group somewhere in mid-career. We've got time to try all sorts of things. I don't think of this album as some kind of drastic departure. We'll always be a rock 'n roll band. This is just a way of keeping things fresh."
The current lineup features Chrissie on vocals and guitar, Adam Seymour on guitars and vocals, Martin Chambers on drums, and Andy Hobson on bass. Ably assisting the group is producer Stephen Street (who worked on the group's 1994 release, Last of the Independents), and keyboardist Damon Albarn of the group Blur.
Of course, the raison d' etre for an acoustic live disc is to give new life to classic songs. Live discs that get to the essence of the artist (such as Neil Young's outstanding Unplugged) are stalwarts. By contrast, albums that merely rehash the original versions (such as the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over) are a letdown. (Although the Eagles' new recording of "Hotel California" is worth the price of the disc alone, and deserves the Grammy for best live recording).
Unfortunately, The Isle of View falls in this latter category. The recordings are pleasant and easy to listen to. But they lack the essential spark and vitality that shows that the band has reinvented itself.
However, there is one exceptional number. The opening track, "Sense of Purpose," is a beautiful song that is perfectly framed by the Duke Quarter (featuring John Metcalfe on viola, Louisa Fuller and Richard Koster on violin, and Ivan McCready on cello).
Chrissie injects a sense of deepfelt meaning in this track, which is capped by her excited "Let's Go!" And, in a surprising turn of events, this cut is actually getting some airplay.
Chrissie has endured tons of turmoil during her career, which started in Ohio and is now London-based. Always one with a tart wit, Chrissie recently answered an interviewer's question "Describe yourself in five words" with "One hell of a lay." The Isle of View isn't a classic, but will satisfy fans.
Arbitron Radio Ratings -- According to the Fall 1995 Arbitron survey, the top ten radio stations in Fresno for October 19 to December 13, 1995 are as follows:
1. KMJ (AM 580) 10.6%
These ratings (which were released on January 22, 1996) show that the market has stabilized since the O.J. Simpson trial caused many loyal radio listeners to change stations.
The first four spots are unchanged from the summer book, as KMJ (talk & news), KBOS (CHR -- "contemporary hit radio"), KJWL (easy listening stars of the 40s and 50s), and KSKS ("the new KISS country") continue to lead the pack. KJWL has enjoyed incredible success since it started a year ago, and has continually landed in the top five.
Tied at 5th are KTHT (adult contemporary), which moves up from number 7, and KFSO (oldies), a steady performer. Another steady performed is KNAX ("today's hot country"), which moves up from 8th to 7th.
In a tie at 8th are KRZR (AOR -- "album oriented rock"), which continues its frightful slide (it was number 3 just six months ago), and KOQO (Spanish), which appears to have stabilized its ratings.
Rounding out the top ten is KJOI (adult contemporary), which last appeared in the spring book. KJOI displaces KFRR ("modern rock"), which had been at number 9 in the summer book.
Required Legend -- These ratings are copyrighted by Arbitron, and are based on the percentage of listening audience ages 12 and over tuned in during any 15-minute period from 6 A.M. to midnight on Monday through Sunday.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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