September 15, 1993
Beth Nielsen Chapman, You Hold the Key (Reprise 1993) -- The line between country music and adult contemporary music continues to be blurred. It seems that, if a person can write a strong pop (i.e., non-rock) song, they are immediately shuttled off to Nashville. This is exactly what has happened to Ms. Chapman.
You Hold the Key contains a dozen original tunes by acclaimed songwriter Ms. Chapman, and showcases her rich, strong voice. Recorded in Nashville, Los Angeles, New York, and London, the album opens strongly with two cuts featuring studio veterans Lee Sklar (bass) and Russ Kunkel (drums), before downshifting into the slower ballads which predominate the disk.
Over half the tunes on You Hold the Key can be characterized as slower ballads, such as "The Moment You Were Mine," which sounds like a Bette Middler tune, and the torch-style "Dance With Me Slow" (one of the highlights of the album).
The album also includes a radio-friendly duet with Paul Carrack on "In the Time it Takes," as well as a Bonnie Raitt-style number ("You Say You Will").
Ms. Chapman's peers hold her in high esteem, and You Hold the Key shows why. In the end, the whole is less than the sum of the parts, as it seems that too much attention was devoted to the slick production. But then, that's frequently a problem with adult contemporary releases -- the focus on the finish often weakens the heart of the material.
Crash Vegas, Stone (London 1993) -- I guess I don't get it. Maria McKee puts out a wobbly disk that lacks direction and gets tons of hype. Crash Vegas puts out a damn fine debut with a number of blistering, up-tempo rockers, and gets squat for publicity. Maybe music, like law, is not necessarily about justice.
Despite the essentially primitive artwork on the CD, Crash Vegas is a truly rockin' alternative act, with clean, lean productions, and a dynamic lead singer. Fronted by female vocalist Michelle McAdorey, the remaining members of Crash Vegas are Colin Cripps on guitars, Ambrose Pottie on drums, and Darrin Watson on bass. Though none of the cuts stand out as singles, the over-all sound is rough and ready.
Avoid the poseurs -- Crash Vegas, without any fanfare, is a strong new voice. Check 'em out.
Rosie Flores, Once More with Feeling (Hightone 1993) -- The new edition of Pulse, Tower Record's fine in-house publication, features a long spread on independent record companies, including the estimable Oakland-based indie Hightone Records. Though many indies were gobbled up by the major labels in the '80s, the survivors are re-asserting themselves as the strongest supporter of grassroots talent.
Texas honkytonk queen Rosie Flores is a welcome addition to the Hightone fold, a label which often features blues acts. Once More with Feeling is a scootin' little disk, as Rosie matches her country-twanged voice against a rockin' barroom blues band. Highlights include the delicious "My Blue Angel" and "Try Me," a duet with fellow Texan Joe Ely.
Rosie, who wrote or co-wrote all of the tunes on this disk, seems like a real fun gal -- having been around the block one or two times, she knows where to find all the hot spots. If you're looking for a spicy serving from the Lone Star State (with a little country swing mixed in), give Once More with Feeling a listen.
Food for Thought -- I recently read an interview with Nobel laureate Linus Pauling, whose pioneering work with Vitamin C has been unjustly belittled by the scientific community. Now in his 80s, Linus has a challenging insight into relationships.
When asked for his advice to teenagers, Mr. Pauling's suggestion was to look carefully and find a person with whom you want to experience life during the next 30 or 40 years.
I can't say I followed his advice, but I also can't argue with Linus. Instead of focusing on becoming worldly (and jaded), young people would do a lot better if they focused on building friendships and long-term relationships.
Curtis Pitts, Employee of the Month (Sub Pop) -- Employee of the Month is an 11 song compilation of bands on Sub Pop, a small label extraordinare in the big rock city of Seattle. Though Mr. Pitts is given no credit for song selection (he is actually an employee at Sub Pop), he says he dislikes punk music; for whatever reason, the album features little punk or grunge.
Employee of the Month is a collection of garage bands who have met (or exceeded) their expectations. The album opens strongly with rockers from Sebadoh and Velocity Girl, features a mid-album appearance from Reverend Horton Heat, but dwindles with the overlong finale from Six Finger Satellite (who have recently been dumped by Sub Pop because of falsehoods regarding the death of a band member).
The album boasts a price of less than $9.98, and is well worth it. If you want a good feel for Sub Pop's presentation of the Seattle sound, check out Employee of the Month.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
Design by David Anand Prasad and Idea Co.