I commented on another late Melanie album no so long ago, “Arabesque” (1982)..
It was a revelation as I thought she had gone off the boil by the mid-1970s.
That album proved me wrong.
See my other comment for biographical details on Melanie. I will say here she is the original flower child who had to deal with changes in musical tastes not to mention a changing world and no doubt changes within herself.
This is her 18th album in 10 years. She certainly didn’t take a laid back “hippie” approach to recording.
That, or she had a lot to say.
Or maybe not that much because only four of the songs are originals the rest being covers.
Covers I never mind but Melanie is a prolific songwriter so it is perhaps surprising..
Actually, if the truth be known, Melanie is not adverse to covers. She sprinkles, sometimes liberally, most of her albums with covers. The beauty is that she doesn’t always remain faithful to the originals. She adapts them to suit her musical persona.
On this particular album is that she has changed her musical persona, ever so slightly, to keep up with changing tastes. You can’t pay the bills by sticking to your guns. No matter how noble it is.
You can change without selling out. And, Melanie, for the most part avoids selling out but where she does make a lot of concessions she sounds a little duff.
A pity …as the covers are well chosen and the originals have their moments.
Generally it’s accepted that Melanie’s previous album “Photograph” was a triumph though not commercially so. This was seen as a chance to redress that.
Oddly, Melanie had just released a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy” (which is odd in itself) but the song is not on this album.
Sexy saxes are provided by the Brecker Brothers – Randy (ex Blood Sweat and Tears, Dreams) and Michael (ex Dreams), and David Sanborn.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Knock on Wood- (Steve Cropper / Eddie Floyd) – Sexy sax on this song? Ill conceived but original at least. The Eddie Floyd hit (#28) from 1966 and covered Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. Amii Stewart had a #1 with it in 1979.
- Bon Appetit – (Melanie) – an excellent original by Melanie. Wistful and delicate. With the gentle horns it’s as if Burt Bacharach went hippie.
- Spunky-(Melanie)- funky but not really spunky. Melanie’s persona is innocently sexual not raunchy spunky.
- Runnin’ After Love -(Melanie)- a dramatic song about "love" with unusual mood changes.
- We Can Work It Out – (John Lennon / Paul McCartney)- another cover (Beatles , derrr) that misses the mark though the original was such a good song that this sounds better than it otherwise should.
- I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love – (Peter Allen / Carole Bayer Sager) – hmmmm, good advice. Peter Allen (the co-author) released this in 1979 and Rita Coolidge released it in 1980 and had a minor hit with it (#3 Adult Contemporary, #32 Country, #38 Hot 100 ). Melanie seems to know which songs will become hits … for others!
- Let It Be Me -(Gilbert Bécaud / Manny Curtis / Pierre Delanoë)- Done by everyone this is well sung but maybe misguided. The sexy saxes kill.
- Yankee Man – (Jesse Winchester) – a song byt eh occasionally great Jesse Winchester. Dramatic and telling.
- Record People – (Melanie)- a (very) cynical comment on the music industry.
- California Dreamin’-(John Phillips / Michelle Phillips)- wow, Melanie, in the tradition of the great jazz vocalists (think Helen Merrill) , totally re-invents the Mamas and Papas ode to being in California rather than in an East Coast winter. This California, with just vocals and piano, is now darker and more dangerous. The narrator doesn’t seem to be one hundred percent convinced she wants to be there though she still doesn’t want to be where she is. Regardless of meaning this is a tour de force.
Not at all successful but Melanie nails some songs and, I have her other albums…. I’m keeping it.
There are a lot more to come.
Nuttin’ no where
Knock on Wood
We Can Work It Out
live (awful clip)
I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love
• This was released on RCA in the US.