It's a New Order (4/19/2002)
New Order sprang from the ashes of Joy Division, following the death of original singer Ian Curtis in 1980. The band consists of Peter Hook on bass, Bernard Sumner (aka Bernard Albrecht) on guitars, Stephen Morris on drums, and Gillian Gilbert on keyboards and guitars.
Though they only have seven albums to their name during a 20-plus-year career, New Order shows how Brit Pop should be made - plenty of atmosphere, crunchy guitars, and big hooks. Which is to say, Get Ready has all the polish of U2, but with a darker stripe.
The album opens strongly with "Crystal" before shifting into the many hues of "60 Miles An Hour." The album continues strongly with the VU guitar sound of "Vicious Streak" and the danceable synth jam on "Someone Like You."
Leona Naess, I Tried To Rock You But You Only Roll (MCA 2001) - On her sophomore album, Leona Naess continues with her brand of British waif rock. Like Beth Orton, Leona takes a folkie approach and brings in full instrumentation on her confessional songs.
A world citizen, Leona has roots in Norway and grew up in London. At age 18, she left for New York to study music at NYU. Comments Leona, "I don't really like being taught about music - it kind of takes the magic away for me."
Leona's first album was the largely acoustic Comatised. Leona has gone for fuller instrumentation on the new album. "When I did the first record I was somewhat unsure. I wanted this one to be more focused yet adventurous, more of an explosion."
I have a hard time calling I Tried to Rock You But You Only Roll an explosion. Yet songs like "Blue Eyed Baby" have a bouncy melody and open, if breathy, vocals. Thus, Leona brings to mind Fiona Apple. Also listen for the string section on such smiley weepers as "Serenade."
For the new album, Leona teamed with Swedish producer Martin Terefe. Musicians include Jason Darling on acoustic and electric guitars, Martin Terefe on bass and acoustic guitar, Claes Bjorklund on synthesizer and drum programming, Andreas Olsson on programming and keyboards, Jed Lynch on drums, and Glen Scott on drums and Fender Rhodes. Also appearing on three tracks are the Love Sponge Strings.
Comments Leona, "The music is very up but the lyrics are very personal, my battles between head and heart, the conflicting emotions of relationships . . . On the road for a full year, hotel rooms in the middle of Kansas or Oklahoma, my personal life went absolutely out the window. These were some pretty stark, lonely moments. You either go crazy or break out your guitar."
In this regard, Leona shares company with David Gray, who suffered through heartbreakingly lonely tours of Middle America before the British busker burst loose with White Ladder.
I Tried to Rock You But You Only Roll is hardly a cheerful album. Nor does it share the angst that made Alanis Morissette a star. Yet confessional rock fans will enjoy this addition.
Joe Jackson, Millennium Collection (A&M Records 2001) - Joe Jackson gets treated to a 12-song best-of set on Millennium Collection. Covering all of his moods, from the original pop-with-a-chip-on-its-shoulder of "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" to the sophisticated sound of "Steppin' Out" through his brilliant exit from pop music, Blaze of Glory (represented by "Nineteen Forever"), Joe Jackson has remained a pop enigma.
Joe Jackson burst on the scene as a scrappy rocker with a narrow tie and a big attitude on I'm The Man (1979). After three albums recorded with his uncompromising trio (which yielded the brilliant gem, "It's Different For Girls"), Jackson shifted gears for a jump-blues set called Jumpin' Jive, which led into newfound maturity on 1982's Night and Day, which included the bittersweet ballad, "Breaking Us in Two."
The liner notes say it better than I can. "The fruits of Jackson's first decade as a recording artist - first as a slyly venomous rock 'n roller and subsequently as a thoughtful adult pop troubadour - continue to resonate with passion and craft."
There's not a weak track on Millennium Collection, which shows Jackson to be every bit the equal of his contemporaries Elvis Costello and Graham Parker.
During the past decade, the former child prodigy who spent three years studying at London's prestigious Royal Academy of Music has continued his eclectic career, with near misses (such as Heaven and Hell) and unrecognized masterpieces, such as Summer In The City.
Get beat crazy on the Millennium Collection.
Lucy Kaplansky, Every Single Day (Red House Records 2001) - Lucy Kaplansky, a raven-haired beauty with a doctorate in clinical psychology (making her Dr. Kaplansky to you and me), returns with her third album, Every Single Day. While the album delves deeply into fem-folk, with an emphasis on storytelling, Lucy scores when she lets her hair down and rocks out.
Lucy first started singing in Chicago bars, but moved to New York City, where she hooked up with a fertile group of songwriters and performers, including Suzanne Vega, John Gorka, and Cliff Eberhardt. When Lucy started singing as a duo with Shawn Colvin, she seemed fast-tracked for success.
However, Lucy found her calling in another direction, as she earned her doctorate and took a job in a New York hospital working with chronically mentally ill adults. Yet Lucy's creative side remains strong, and she made vocal appearances on albums by Shawn Colvin, Nanci Griffith, and John Gorka. Lucy is also part of the folk "super group" Cry, Cry, Cry, with Dar Williams and Richard Shindell.
Hustled into the studio to record on her own, Lucy delivered Ten Year Night, which was awarded Best Pop Album of 1999 by the Association for Independent Music. Lucy also contributed to last year's A Nod To Bob compilation.
Every Single Day builds slowly, with such slow folk storytellers as "Broken Things." Yet when Lucy kicks up her heels on "No More Excuses" and "You're Still Standing There," she sparkles. And the confessional, "Song for Molly," in which Lucy sings "I'm 13/I'm with my mother/She doesn't know my name/I remind her I'm Lucy/But she looks at me same," is an effective piece.
Continues Lucy, "Oh it's time to go/It's a dirty trick/This growing old."
For the new album, Lucy was joined by producer and percussionist Ben Wittman, guitarists Larry Campbell, Duke Levin, and Jon Herington, and bass player Zeb Katz. Also making guest appearances are vocalist Jennifer Kimball and busy Nashville guitarist Buddy Miller.
One of the problems is that Lucy's voice is mixed too low. The emphasis is on her words, yet you have to lean into the song to extract them.
And I don't understand the artwork on the album. The back cover is a picture of Lucy with her head turned away, just a mass of hair. Why the record company would fail to grace the album with a portrait of the artist is beyond me (it's almost as if they deliberately attempted to sabotage sales).
So there you have it. A lot of somber tales, and occasional flashes of Fred Eaglesmith's down-home folk-rock sound.
- Randy Krbechek © 2002
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