02 January 2007

NMT: 02 JAN 07 Carly Simon - Into White

Another Tuesday, another review of a just released album.

This week, it's time to give Carly Simon the treatment.

Carly Simon ?!

Yes, Carly Simon. She released an album of mostly covers, and overall it's a solid sonic experience for any listener in the right mood.

It's downbeat, without being down, it's slow and sleepy without being boring. Her voice has gotten huskier, deeper, with less range, but it has a charm and beauty with those new edges and crags.

Her official website (linked above) is pretty well done. She has a database of the lyrics of all the songs she's recorded, whether or not she penned them. That's a great feature that more artists should add to their official sites. For the latest album she has real media (.ram) sound clips of each song, which I'll hotlink on the song by song description (hopefully she won't mind, if she does I'll change it).

On to the songs.

1) Into White (lyrics)
Penned by Cat Stevens (yeah, yeah, one of her exes), she does a lovely job with it. Expressively sung, without being overwrought, just the way a song like this should be done.

2) Oh! Susanna (lyrics)
Didn't see this song coming. Nobody expects a Stephen Foster song! The arrangement on this is less twangy, more modern folky, and it works beautifully. An unexpected take on a very familiar tune (also, I'm fairly certain she was never romantically linked with Mr. Foster).

3) Blackbird (lyrics)
A nice Beatles tune, done very nicely. She doesn't attack any of the notes, more like she cuddles and cajoles the sounds gently out of her lungs and throat. Very intimate.

4) You Can Close Your Eyes (lyrics)
It's a family affair! Carly's joined by offspring Ben and Sally Taylor on a song penned by their father James Taylor. It's a touch creepy how much Ben sounds like James, but other than that (or because of that) their voices fit together very well. Normally, I passionately hate James Taylor, but somehow this ain't bad at all. Both kids (not really the right word, she's over 30, he'll be 30 this month) have their own musical careers with the websites to prove it (Ben here, Sally here).

5) Quiet Evening (lyrics)
This song is credited to David Saw (link goes to his myspace, everybody has to be on myspace), a youngish, seemingly not yet too well known folky. Another really prettily arranged song with a lot of very well played piano and acoustic guitar. A bit too slow, I think this song could have been fantastic a little more up tempo.

6) Manha De Carnaval (lyrics)
The theme from Black Orpheus, a film you should have seen, if not at least heard of (count that as a recommendation to at least put it in your netflix queue). You absolutely better be in the right mood for this song before listening to it, if not, it will just pass you by without notice, but if you do pay attention you'll notice its ethereal beauty and all around excellence.

7) Jamaica Farewell (lyrics)
Made famous by Belafonte, credited to Irving Burgie (but pieced together from previously existing island songs), Carly gives the song a very mellow take. Brings out a very wistful quality to the tune that wouldn't be there with a different arrangement.

8) You Are My Sunshine (lyrics)
Another very familiar tune. Turns it into hymnal, almost. Slowed down to a crawl. Exceeds my limit for accepting that sort of interpretation, but that's not Carly's failing, just an observation.

9) I Gave My Love a Cherry (The Riddle Song) (lyrics)
Not sure why the sloooooooow treatment works for this song, and not for the previous, but that is the case. Not much more to say, more of the same, if the samples turn you off, don't go any further, if they intrigue you, this is probably an album to buy/download.

10) Devoted to You/All I Have to Do is Dream (lyrics)
Starts with a heartbeat, interesting juxtaposition of songs made famous by the Everly Brothers. Her children add some well placed harmonies to add nice texture to the song.

11) Scarborough Fair (lyrics)

12) Over the Rainbow (lyrics)
Hard not to compare every version of this song with THE version. In that context this song suffers, on it's merits it's quite nice. Some songs have been so well defined that they're hard to attack from any other angle. The only non-Judy version of this song I like is Smashing Pumpkins'.

13) Love of My Life (lyrics)
Almost too intimate. She sings this song in an extremely vulnerable manner, letting all sorts of cracks show in her upper register, and it works beautifully (because of that, not in spite of it). She interprets the hell out of her own song (in a good way, of course).

14) I'll Just Remember You (lyrics)
Co-written by David Saw and Ben Taylor, a quiet and simple way to end a quiet, simple, and very beautiful album.

Not much more to say, it's an achingly intimate look at a performer who accepts her current voice with style and grace. She's not the women or singer she used to be, and she uses that to her advantage rather than trying to hide or run from that.

With all the lullaby and children's song like elements to the album, it's surprisingly adult and emotionally engaged.

A tremendously open and honest document of a woman singing songs she loves (or at least it would seem, maybe it's all one big marketing gimmick to get her on Oprah (Jan 16th), but I doubt it)

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