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Smokey Traces of the European Cabaret (02/12/99) Write to CD Shakedown

Eleni MandellEleni Mandell, Wishbone (Mr. Charles Records 1998) - Wishbone is a big debut from Los Angeles singer Eleni Mandell. With exotic, sultry tunes filled with images of late nights and sweet encounters, Mandell delivers a labor of love.

Mandell provides vocals and guitars, and is joined by producer Jon Brion, who provides such exotic touches as chamberlain, mellotron, and banjolin. Which means that Eleni has a sound that draws from the post-modern work of Tchad Blake and Mitch Froom.

Eleni gets downWith the sensuous "Snake Song" and the Middle Eastern images of "Tristeza," Eleni delivers the goods on Wishbone. Five years in the making, Wishbone reflects smokey traces of the European cabaret, replete with references to nickel-plated men and narcissistic neighbors.

With her attention to detail, Eleni reminds me of Sam Phillips (such as the terrific Martinis and Bikinis) and Kathy McCarty (her Dead Dog's Eyeball is one of the best albums of the 90s), though some reviewers have drawn comparisons to P.J. Harvey (I don't hear it). Catch Eleni Mandell.

For more information, contact:

Mr. Charles Records
Post Office Box 292528
Los Angeles, CA 90029

Best of Meat LoafVery Best of Meat Loaf (Epic 1998) - Meat Loaf (born Marvin Lee Aday in Dallas, Texas), may have a funny name, but no one laughs at his record sales: more than 50 million albums worldwide.

Very Best of features 18 songs on two disks, starting with his landmark 1977 debut, Bat Out of Hell, and continuing through three new tracks, including compositions by Andrew Lloyd Webber and long-time lyricist, Jim Steinman.

Meat Loaf in Oct. 98Also included is "Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back" (Remix) and "Midnight at the Lost and Found." But the showstoppers are, and remain, the tracks from Bat Out of Hell, including "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" and "Heaven Can Wait."

Explains Mr. Loaf, "In the music business, I'm a blue collar worker. That's what I am. I take the work very seriously, but I don't take what I do seriously. I'm not a necessity: mothers, teachers and people who heal are necessities."

Necessity or not, Bat Out of Hell remains a great CD: One of the top five best-selling albums in history, with more than 30 million copies sold worldwide.

Meat Loaf also believes his acting experience (his debut was the 1975 cult flick, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show") has enhanced his career, explaining, "Jim Steinman's songs are character-driven; he comes from theater, I come from theater. When you see me on the screen, I don't want you to see me, I want you to see yourself. I want you to see you inside that song."

And that might explain the lasting appeal of such dramatic cuts as "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and "Two out of Three Ain't Bad" - the listener can hear himself in the song.

But then, don't overlook the supporting cast: production and guitar work by Todd Rundgren, keyboards by Roy Bittan (from the E-Street Band), and supporting vocals by Ellen Foley.

Meat Loaf delivered some compelling albums, which have easily stood the test of time. Enjoy Very Best Of.

Beach BoysBeach Boys, Endless Harmony Soundtrack (Capitol 1998) - During the past several years, Capitol has been quietly filling in the Beach Boys catalogue, with such treats as the four-CD Pet Sound Sessions.

Endless Harmony is billed as a musical soundtrack to the VH1 musical special that was aired last summer. The 25-track collection is much like a bootleg set, with live, demo, or alternative version of such hits of "Help Me Rhonda," "California Girls," "Good Vibrations" (a 1968 live rehearsal version), "God Only Knows" (a 1967 live rehearsal version by Carl Wilson on lead vocals).

Also included is a Brian Wilson piano demo from 1966 that begins with the well-known "Heroes and Villains" but then launches into sections of two songs rumored to exist but never heard before: "I'm in Great Shape" and "Barnyard."

The surfin' daysEndless Harmony also includes the long-lost "LoopDe Loop (Flip Flop Flyin' in an Aeroplane)," first recorded in 1969 and finished by Al Jardine in 1998, together with Mike Love's 1978 "Brian's Back" (explains Mike, "I never knew that he was gone"), and "All Alone," recorded by Dennis Wilson for his never-released second solo album, Bamboo (Dennis' world-weary tone is best reflected on his compelling solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue).

Fill in the collection of your Beach Boys fan with Endless Harmony.

- Randy Krbechek © 1999

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