Ahhh, more Melanie.
This album gets panned a lot.
Not that I pay too much notice of what others say because every halfwit has an opinion. Err, yes I do have enough insight to see I'm knocking myself but do you pay any attention to what I say? … (rhetorical question).
The thing I like about Melanie, apart from her voice, is that she is quite versatile and adventurous musically. And that is at odds with the usual descriptions of her in the all the usual music mags, books and forums.
But, you can only pick that up (naturally enough) after listening to a lot of Melanie. The albums should not be listened to in isolation otherwise they seem to be just random aberrations. When they are listened to en masse you see a musical persona appearing beyond the hippie chick with a guitar.
Melanie is quite the musicologist. She can write a very good tune but she also loves a cover. Here, she tackles things she, no doubt, heard as a kid in the 50s, and as a teen in the 60s. And, these two eras she would come back to on other albums. I don't think she is haphazard in her choice of covers or even that they were suggested to her. It seems to me that she has an emotional connection with the songs and something that comes from her youth.
Now, I suppose many singers do this (cover the songs they loved as kids) but Melanie, in a sliding career circa 1975, has to be quite determined to record Broadway standards and 60s girl group songs.
And that is admirable but more admirable is the fact that her versions are not faithful reconstructions of the earlier songs. They have the sprit but not the sound. Some songs you don't even realise what they are until you are half way through them. If you are going to cover it, put a personal stamp on it. Melanie does.
Of course she has surrounded the covers with her own tunes and they are always interesting as Melanie tended to wear her heart on her sleeve and her songs reflected her life at the time.
Melanie and her husband and producer, Peter Schekeryk had, around the time of this album, relocated their family from New Jersey to Tennessee, and, apparently, she felt reinvigorated by her new surroundings. Perhaps that is refected in the albums title.
In any event Melanie does not do a stylistic flip flop. The record may have been recorded in Nashville with country instruments and strings (at times) but it has a New York sensibility and a California feel.
And this is the beauty of Melanie. Within her parameters and her musical world she created interesting and personal music. But, poor sales, and an image of the perennial flower child means her music was overlooked by the mainstream, and then dismissed as the years past (the hard core Melanie fans know otherwise) The joy, now, though, for budding music archaeologists is that there are many Melanie albums waiting to be discovered.
Sunset and Other Beginnings would be Melanie’s final album on Neighborhood Records, which she and Schekeryk started in 1971, and closed down in 1975..
All songs written by Melanie Safka, except where noted.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Perceive It – a perfect start and the type of song Melanie does in her sleep. But it works.
- Almost Like Being in Love – (Lerner / Loewe) – from the 1947 Broadway musical (and 1954 film) "Brigadoon" this has been updated to a soft rock sound with jazzy asides. As bad as that sounds it works quite well. In 1978, pop country and folk singer Michael Johnson gave the song another makeover that seemingly owes a debt to Melanie’s interpretation (right down to the prominent saxophone) and earned a US #32 hit with it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almost_Like_Being_in_Love
- Loving My Children – more Melanie in her normal style and obviously speaking about something on her mind.
- You Can't Hurry Love – (Holland/Dozier/Holland) / Mama Said – (Dixon/Denson) – a nifty medley. The former is the #1 1966 song originally recorded by The Supremes. Melanie does a folk pop version and it works. You can't sing along to it like you can with the original but it is pleasant on the ears. Mama Said was a US #4 for The Shirelles in 1961. This is also given the "modern" treatment and the two songs are meshed pleasantly. Excellent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Can%27t_Hurry_Love https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mama_Said_(The_Shirelles_song)
- People Are Just Getting Ready – a dramatic song.
- Ol' Man River – (Hammerstein II / Kern) – whoa. She turns this on it's head. The drama and sweat is gone and instead we have a bouncing pop country folk tune. I like it. The original is from the 1927 Broadway musical "Show Boat" (and the 1929, 1936 and 1951 film versions, as well as the Show Boat sequence from film, "Till the Clouds Roll By" (1945)) and then subsequently done by everyone including Paul Robeson, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis, Jr., Al Jolson, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Cilla Black, Ray Charles, Cher, Jim Croce, The Beach Boys, Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ol%27_Man_River
- Got My Mojo Working – (Foster) – a 50s R&B song written by Foster but popularised by Muddy Waters in 1957. Conway Twitty (1964), Manfred Mann (1964), The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965), The Electric Prunes (1967), Canned Heat (1969), Elvis Presley (1970), J. J. Cale (1972), B. B. King (1977) and others. This version is quite funky and in the country-ish guitar breaks (not the pace) it sounds a little like Elvis' version. Perhaps it's a weird song for a chick to sing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Got_My_Mojo_Working
- Where's the Band – hmmmm, not too bad.
- Dream Seller – (Clements) – written by Rod Clements of British folk rock band Lindisfarne who recorded this in 1971 as " Meet Me on the Corner". This one work perfectly for Melanie.
- What Do I Keep? – another good Melanie tune with a discussion on yesterdays, todays and tomorrows.
- Sandman – the couplet "Go away from my window / Go away from my door" has been used in other songs. It works here
- The Sun and the Moon – old school Melanie and a great tune with heavy folkie overtones.
- Afraid of the Dark – a nice spare arrangement which sounds like something from a Stephen Sondheim written musical..
More than meets the eye … I'm keeping it.
Almost Like Being in Love
You Can't Hurry Love / Mama Said
People Are Just Getting Ready
What Do I Keep? –
The Sun and the Moon