Party Doll with an Ivy League Degree (11/05/99)
Mary Chapin Carpenter, Party Doll and Other Favorites (Columbia 1999) - Crossover artist Mary Chapin Carpenter has built a successful career by defying the odds. A square peg in the round hole of country music, Carpenter brings intelligent songwriting and quiet strength to her work.
With six albums to her name, including two gold and three platinum recordings, it's about time for this greatest-hits package (which Carpenter terms, "the boxed set without the box").
Party Doll and Other Favorites includes such chart-topping songs as "Passionate Kisses," "I Feel Lucky," and "Shut Up and Kiss Me." The 17-track album also includes Carpenter's live performance with Beau Soleil on "Down at the Twist and Shout" recorded at the 1997 Super Bowl, the highly-acclaimed song "Ten Thousand Miles" from the film "Fly Away Home," and a cover of the Mick Jagger-penned song, "Party Doll."
Now age 41, Carpenter is a long-time resident of Washington, D.C., and has an Ivy League degree from Brown University. Never married and with no children, Carpenter appears to be picking up the Linda Ronstadt role (the woman everybody wanted, but who never let herself get caught).
Party Doll includes six previously-unreleased live performances, along with two new songs: "Almost Home" and "Wherever You Are." Rounding out the set is Mary's understated version of "Grow Old With Me," which originally appeared on the Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon collection. The live tracks include recordings from a 1994 Ryman Auditorium performance, together with the 1995 live appearance on the David Letterman Show.
Discussing the album, Mary says, "I never looked at it as a 'retrospective' or some final word on this episode in my life. I don't find it to be fraught with messages or meaning in terms of my life or my career.
"That's why it's called 'Party Doll and Other Favorites.' These are some of my favorites, and one should be able to release this stuff without it being seen as some sort of closing a door and opening another. It's midstream, you know?"
Also included is Mary's Number One hit, "He Thinks He'll Keep Her," from the triple platinum 1992 release, Come On Come On.
Mary Chapin never set out to be a big recording star: she just wanted to be herself. But "herself" has struck a resonant chord. Fans will enjoy Party Doll and Other Favorites.
Soundtrack to Outside Providence (Giant Records 1999) - "Outside Providence" is the new movie written by Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly (of "There's Something About Mary" fame). The soundtrack is rooted solidly in the early 70s, and is a reminder of what FM radio used to represent.
"Outside Providence" stars Shawn Hatosy as Timothy Dunphy (or "Dildo" as his father, played by Alec Baldwin calls him). Dunphy spends his days slacking off, taking bong hits, and suffering constant insults from his dad.
When a night of cruising ends up with Dunphy crashing into a parked police car, his fed-up father ships him to a posh prep school to learn life's lessons. The question is, Can the upper crust handle this toasted teen?
I didn't see the movie, and can't comment on it. However, the soundtrack comes straight out of early 70s FM radio. Thus, the album includes such radio staples as "All Right Now" by Free, "Do It Again" by Steely Dan, and "No Matter What" by Badfinger.
Outside Providence doesn't blaze new territory. But then, it isn't trying to do so. Enjoy the music for what it is.
Arista Master Hits - Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Arista Records, helmed by hitmaster Clive Davis, has rolled out ten remastered value-priced career retrospectives from artists who helped define the company's musical history, including Expose, Taylor Dayne, and urban legend Phyllis Hyman.
Let's focus on the highlights. For starters, the Jeff Healey Band reveals Healey's deft blending of Canadian blues guitar and rock, which comes through on the Beatles gem, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
Graham Parker did some of his best work for Arista, including "Discovering Japan" and "Temporary Beauty." But you'll buy this album for the classic diss on his former label, "Mercury Poisoning."
The Thompson Twins emerged in the early 80s with their synth-oriented hits, including the catchy "Lies" and "In the Name of Love." With their colorful fashion sense, the band rode to fame at the dawn of the MTV era.
Alan Parsons helped record "Dark Side of the Moon" for Pink Floyd before forming his own highly-successful group, which included seven top-selling albums between 1977 and 1984. Listen for the progressive rock sound of "Eye in the Sky," "Games People Play," and "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You."
Yet the most pleasant surprise is the Fifth Dimension. The album includes such hit songs as "Up, Up and Away," "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," and "One Less Bell to Answer."
Tracks like "(Last Night) I Didn't Get to Sleep at All" make you wonder what happened to the urban pop sound, now replaced entirely by discordant melodies and angry rappers (little wonder that Lauryn Hill gets so much good press for her pop covers, such as Robert Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Eyes": we all want melodies and solid vocals, not angry rants).
Enjoy a quarter-century of pop hits from Arista on these specially-priced selections.
- Randy Krbechek © 1999
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