I do like Melanie and I’m surprised by how many albums she put out and, accordingly, how many I don’t have.
Is it worth having them all?
I don’t know until I have heard them.
So you are welcome to join me on this long magical journey of discovery. Much like Frodo in “Lord of the Rings” our tale will go on and on and through it we will experience the highs and lows of ….
That analogy is unfair to Melanie.
Melanie was certainly a worker when it came to music as she certainly was busy throughout the 70s putting out 19 albums in the decade.
The eternal image of Melanie is the hippie chick with the guitar in hand, though, on record (from what I have heard), she is backed quite heavily with instruments. Even so, despite the guitar in hand imagery her voice is her most expressive instrument. She uses its entire range from a hoarse growl to a sub operatic scream and emotes effectively. Think a voice pitched like Dylan crossed with Joan Baez with the expression of a Peggy Lee.
It may be over the top occasionally but generally it is effective and I can feel the emotion she is singing about.
Sure, you have to be in sync with what she is doing or trying to convey but there are treasures there.
Accordingly, with instrumentation and music taking a back seat to voice, each album succeeds or fails on the strength of the material. Melanie is not afraid of a cover, and it doesn’t have to be old and obscure, and, she is quite adept with the pen herself.
To me a mix of originals and covers always entertains me on an album.
Hey it’s great to write a song because it shows off your writing skills. But the fact remains that you have written a song for your voice. Covering someone else shows another, undervalued, side of a musician – how they interpret someone else’s work.
Melanie’s covers sometimes fail but she actually interprets the songs and always injects her musical personality into them.
At worst we have a noble failure and at best we have song that has been taken somewhere else because of its (successful) interpretation.
Melanie on this album has also tried to incorporate other elements into her sound. Notice I didn’t say “update”. OK, there are some (then) contemporary singer songwriter and disco-ish stylings but there is also some jazz torch type sounds as well as trad pop and white soul influences.
See my other comments for biographical detail.
All songs written by Melanie unless otherwise indicated
Tracks (best in italics)
- Cyclone – Contemporary Melanie, circa 1976, some disco and funk elements creeping in. Disturbing in a Melanie song but not enough to overbalance the song.
- If I Needed You – There is a contemporary sound on this power ballad which is in Melanie's normal vocal style. Her usual vocal stylings are here including the cute, innocent quiver in the voice.
- The Letter – (Wayne Carson Thompson) – not the slow burn of the original this is nevertheless a tour de force by Melanie.
- Groundhog Day – a good singer songwriter song.
- Nickel Song / Music! Music! Music! – (Stephan Weiss, Bernie Baum) – Melanie is in her familiar cutesy voice though, lyrically, the song is not cute at all. An excellent bouncy jaunt which is more than a little cynical.
- Photograph – photographs and living ij memories and the past. A beautiful tune.
- I'm So Blue – a late night smoky song a la Helen Merrill. Melanie does not have the jazz singers voice but this is a nice cross between a torch song and a singer songwriter song.
- Secret Of The Darkness (I Believe) – This is in more familiar Melanie territory and she certainly sings the hell out of it
- Save Me – more familiar Melanie stylings
- Raindance – This is apparently a response to the critics and to playing music and is a great song up there with her best ballads.
- Friends And Company – A magnificent end but to optimistic for my mates no doubt.
This album is highly regarded by Melanie fans and it should be. It's one of Melanie’s best despite a move from the Melanie sound I love…. I'm keeping it.
1972 The Nickel Song The Billboard Hot 100 #35
- Backing musicians include David Paich, Jeff Porcaro who went on to form Toto, Jerry Scheff (bassist for Elvis) and Art Pepper doing the sax solo on “I’m So Blue”.
The beautiful Melanie from the back sleeve.
Surely an influence on a generation of 80s
indie hippie chicks.