February 7, 1996
Carly Simon, Clouds in My Coffee: 1965-1995 (Arista 1995) - For this three-disc extravaganza, Arista received assistance from several other record companies, including Simon's long-time home, Elektra. The result is a 56-song collection that spans Simon's career, from her folkish beginnings through her early 70s chart toppers to her mature recordings for Arista during the last decade.
And this material is all aces. From such big sellers as "Let the River Run" (from the movie, Working Girl), "You're So Vain," and "Haven't Got Time for the Pain," to previously unreleased gems such as a cover of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery," Clouds in My Coffee is chock full of goodies.
Also featured is the lovely "Libby" (from 1976's Another Passenger) and "Have You Seen Me Lately? (from the 1990 release of the same name).
The remastering of the cuts is terrific, and the order of presentation is ideal: disc 1 contains "The Hits," disc 2 features "Miscellaneous & Unreleased Material, and disc 3 contains songs to help you "Cry Yourself to Sleep."
My one knock is the liner notes. First, they're painfully short of biographical material regarding Simon. Other than learning that she started recording at age 19, that she's the daughter of one of the founders of the Simon & Schuster publishing house, and that she was married to James Taylor for several years (Simon has two adult children from this marriage), little else is revealed about Carly.
Furthermore, the notes don't contain a complete discography, nor do they list the musicians who played on each cut. For example, I'd like to know who did the masterful job on the drum kit for "Anticipation" - it may be the legendary Russ Kunkel. Fans who buy this set will tend to be completists, and will want this information.
But, of course, fans buy the box set to listen to the music, not to read the liner notes. And the music is great. The 220 plus minutes on these three discs would have never been released on a greatest-hits LP set (it would take over five LPs), but they hold up well here.
Simon was one of the seminal voices of her generation, and she painted vivid portraits of life and love among the high rollers. Who hasn't listed to "You're So Vain" and imagined herself in Simon's position?
However, Simon's insight into human nature has been overlooked. "Anticipation" is a great song of longing from a young woman; the companion piece, "Life is Eternal" (from 1990's Have You Seen Me Lately?) responds to these yearnings from a more mature perspective, as Simon acknowledges that "I've been doing a lot of thinking/About growing older and moving on/No one wants to be told that they're growing old/And maybe going away for a long, long stay...Life is eternal/Love is immortal/And death is only a horizon."
I didn't used to be a Carly Simon fan. I respected her 70's hits, but thought she was past her prime. However, the material she released in the last few years has been refreshing, vibrant, and easily-accessible. Clouds in My Coffee (the title is a line from "You're So Vain") is a swell collection from her long career, and a special treat.
Dan Zanes, Cool Down Time (Private Music 1995) - Dan Zanes, who recorded four albums between 1980 and 1987 with the Del Fuegos, has recorded his first album in several years. With his moody, atmospheric guitar playing and vocals, Cool Down Time is late-night music.
Now age 34, Zanes was raised in New Hampshire on a diet of oldies, doo-wop, blues, and rock 'n roll. After the breakup of the Del Fuegos (which built a solid following but failed to become a household name), Zanes retreated to Greene County, a sparsely inhabited area of New York State, to refine his songwriting and guitar playing and, as he says, "seriously get a life." In the process, he created the "Greene County sound," strong, soul-rooted, country instrumentals that began appearing on such soundtracks as Natural Born Killers and The United States of Poetry.
In the summer of 1994, Dan started to hang out with keyboardist and producer Mitchell Froom, and soon formed a trio with talented drummer, Jerry Marotta. The band started playing in local nightclubs, where they became a modest sensation. The next logical step was Cool Down Time, which was recorded and mixed by Tchad Blake.
The resulting product is exactly what you would expect from Zanes and Froom - moody, echoey roots-rock, with lots of atmosphere and overdubs. From driving cuts like "Rough Spot" to the more melodic "No Sense of Time," Froom and Blake (who also created the Latin Playboys) display a continuing sense of unconventionalism, setting their traditional blues-and-roots sensibilities against urban beats and odd instrumentations.
When it works, Cool Down Time clicks solidly. This is not a daylight album; the persons who inhabit Cool Down Time come out late at night. The album delivers exactly as promised, and that's something you don't often find.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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