Regular readers of this blog would know I have a thing for Melanie. She is one of my favourite chick singers in rock and pop.
For those not up to speed on Melanie, or only know Melanie from her early 70s efforts check out my other blog entries.
This album is relatively obscure and comes at a time when Melanie had lost her earlier "hippie" (for want of a better word) audience.
In the mid 70s Melanie had flirted with some disco soul sounds, soft rock, contemporary rock and some jazzy torch singer sounds and this album was perhaps the culmination of that.
The sound is slick, and tight with a lot of beat and more than a few danceable grooves … and I don't mean the imitating a tree in the wind type dancing that one would have done to Melanie's music five years earlier
Melanie sang her old hits and threw in a few new songs but used jazz, soul, blues, and funky rock arrangements on all the songs.
What is interesting is she decides to do it in front of an audience.
The albums is essentially a live album though recorded in the studio with only a small audience (an audience of 30 people).
According to the engineer: "I'm so glad to see that people enjoy this record as much as all of us who made it did! My name is Michael Laskow, and I engineered Ballroom Streets. It was extremely unusual in the way we recorded it. It was in fact done live in the studio with an audience of people who won a contest at a local radio station in Miami.
The band played live with the audience members sitting on the floor, often mingled in and around the band members while they played. We rarely overdubbed anything, and virtually all of Melanie's vocal's were done live (which is all but unheard of!).
I had to mix the PA system in the room for the audience, watch the levels going to the 24-track tape machine, do at least two separate mixes for the floor monitors that fed the band members their mixes. I honestly don't think anybody in any era has recorded an album in quite the same manner. Dealing with the sound bleeding from one instrument's microphone to another is something that is normally handled with iso booths, and lots of moving blankets ad gobos (sound iso panels that get rolled around a studio).
For this record, we had VERY limited gear by today's standard, and had to use a lot of physics to calculate musician, microphone, audience, PA monitors, and band monitor placement to get the best possible isolation. Just isolating Melanie's incredible voice from bleeding into her acoustic guitar mic would be more than most engineers would care to deal with …"
So, Melanie may be playing it safe by redoing her hits, but is taking a bigger chance by redoing arrangements and playing that in front of a live audience.
The only way for her to save the day it to perform the hell out of all the songs.
And, she does.
Melanie's voice and her interpretive skills as a vocalist never let her down.
All songs by Melanie unless noted.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Running After Love – Very slick but very catchy.
- Holdin' Out – a slight calypso beat sneaks in but Melanie's voice is perfect.
- Cyclone / Candles In The Rain – an interesting coupling. "Cyclone" is in your face and "Candles" is heavily re-arranged compared to the original and not at all subtle. It all works though as an electric gospel shouter.
- Beautiful Sadness – a new song – bluesy & wonderful
- Do You Believe – screeching guitars abound but it somehow doesn't offend here.
- Nickel Song – not as cutesy as the original and the song needs the cute.
- Any Guy – Is some cynicism and sadness creeping in or is the voice just older?
- Look What They Did To My Song – A great song. Again she plays with it but it's still great
- I Believe (Secret of the Darkness) – Backing Vocals by The Persuasions. Another gospel shouter
- Poet – a dramatic ballad
- Save Me – a delicate folk number.
- Together Alone – nice but slight …
- Ruby Tuesday – (Keith Richards – Mick Jagger) – always a crowd favourite. Here it is given the BIG treatment and Melanie always did it big anyway … it works.
- Buckle Down – A new song. And a good one.
- Miranda – (Phil Ochs) – a great Phil Ochs song beautifully done by Melanie.
- Brand New Key – Melanie's other famous "cutesy" song … it doesn't come off here.
- Groundhog Day – a great song and one that shows of Melanie's voice perfectly.
- Friends & Company – a show stopper …
No overdubs, done live … this gal can sing. I'm keeping it.
Nothing no where
Running After Love
Cyclone / Candles In The Rain
Look What They Did To My Song
Friends & Company
Live – memorial for Phil Ochs 1976
Johnny Cash and Melanie – Silver Threads & Golden Needles
Melanie and Miley Cyrus
- The Persuasions are an a cappella group that began singing together in Brooklyn, New York in the mid-1960s". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Persuasions
- Produced by her husband Peter Schekeryk.