An Army of Amys (3/02/2001)
Amy Correia, Carnival Love (Capitol 2000) - Amy Correia, with roots on both coasts (educated at Barnard College in New York City and now residing in Los Angeles), has released a gentle debut album in Carnival Love. Part autobiographical folk ("Sun Comes Up"), part sweet pop, Amy brings to mind Shivaree and Mary Lou Lord.
In her biography, Amy says, "I was born in Lakeville, a small town in Massachusetts. My dad was, and is, a barber with a shop in town. My mom stayed at home and raised me and my two older brothers."
Amy continues. "Lakeville was a beautiful place but there wasn't much to do. I was raised a Catholic and went to church with my family every Sunday. I believed that God could read your thoughts and saw everything, so it was best to behave."
After graduating from college and working the clubs in New York City, Amy performed in L.A. in 1997 and says she was "seduced by the place and moved a few months later."
While Carnival Love opens with the gentle, string-enhanced "Angels Collide," there are two great singles - the winsome "Fallen Out of Love" and the perkier, "Life is Beautiful." Amy's delivery is all her own; her voice is honey, and the beat infectious and syncopated.
Carnival Love draws from the Sarah McLachlan school of songwriting, with waifish undertones. Friends love Amy Correia when I play her mournfully-sweet tracks.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Collectybles (MCA 2000) - Nearly 25 years after the plane crash that claimed the life of lead singer Ronnie Van Zant and guitar player Steve Gaines, MCA has released a double-disc set of collectibles and rarities that will delight Skynyrd fans everywhere.
During the 70s, Lynyrd Skynyrd blazed a bright path across the Southern Rock firmament, second only to the Allman Brothers. Disc one consists of early studio efforts (known as the Shade Tree Recordings), including a 1970 version of "Free Bird."
Also included are six tracks from a live radio performance on Memphis' WMC-FM in 1973, including "Call Me the Breeze" (written by J.J. Cale), the barbed, "Workin' It for MCA," and an early version of their Southern anthem, " Sweet Home Alabama."
Disk two is the real treat, as it highlights the full power of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, consisting of Ronnie Van Zant on vocals, Allen Collins on guitar, Gary Rossington on guitar, Steve Gaines on guitar, Leon Wilkeson on bass, Artimus Pyle on drums.
Disc two includes seven tracks recorded during the performances at Atlanta's Fox Theater in 1976 that generated the live double LP, One More from the Road, including alternate takes of concert standards "Saturday Night Special," "T for Texas," "Crossroads," and a great live version of "Freebird."
The real surprise of disk two are the outtakes from the band's last studio album, Street Survivors, starting with a re-working of Merle Haggard's "Honky Tonk Nighttime Man," with new lyrics written two months before Van Zant's death.
According to the liner notes, the band scrapped the original version of Street Survivors when engineer Kevin Elson heard the finished studio recordings and told the group, "If you release this album, your career is over." While the band re-recorded Street Survivors in Doraville, Georgia, the initial Tom Dowd tracks are great counterparts.
Of course, the question is, Why did they wait so long to release this material? I have no answer, although I suspect that some of this material has floated around in bootleg circles.
While Skynyrd Collectybles should have been released years ago, fans will be rewarded.
The Essential Bob Dylan(Columbia Legacy 2000) - Bob Dylan represents a voice, an attitude, a generation. In a remarkable career, Dylan has remained politically and musically relevant for almost four decades.
With more than forty albums to his credit, every one of which is in print, Bob Dylan is an American icon. The Essential Bob Dylan tackles the impossible task of distilling this towering artist's entire output to two limited edition disks.
Disk one covers the first five years of Dylan's recordings, starting with his acoustic version of "Blowin' in the Wind" through "Like a Rolling Stone" from Highway 61 Revisited (1965) to "Just Like Woman" from Blonde on Blonde (1966). Also included is Dylan's version "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)" recorded with The Band.
The real treat is disk two, which covers three decades and displays the full flower of Dylan's poetic brilliance. And so you get "If Not for You" (1970), "I Shall be Released" (1971), and "Knockin' on Heavens Door" (from the 1973 album, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid).
And it continues. "Forever Young" is taken from Planet Waves (1973), "Tangled Up in Blue" comes from Blood on the Tracks (1974).
It gets better. The politically-charged "Hurricane" (a 1976 song about boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter) leads into "Gotta Serve Somebody" (a Grammy winning cut from 1979's, Slow Train Coming), which segues into an intensely rocking trio: "Jokerman" (from 1983's Infidels), "Silvio" (co-written with Grateful Dead collaborator Robert Hunter for the 1987 album, Down in the Groove), and the gorgeous, "Everything is Broken," a Daniel Lanois-produced track from 1989's "comeback," Oh Mercy.
The Essential Bob Dylan is short on Bs-side and gushy liner notes. Instead, you get bare recording data, classic photos, and release history. Know the truth. Know Bob Dylan.
Aimee Mann, Ultimate Collection (Hip-O 2000) - Describing Aimee Mann as miffed about Ultimate Collection would be a major understatement. The vocalist and songwriter says, "It's a product I consider to be seriously substandard and misleading."
While the artist's criticism is stinging, it's not entirely fair. Ultimate Collection shows Aimee's sharp, smart, and edgy songs, from her days with Til Tuesday through her work on the soundtrack to Magnolia. (In a move that infuriated Aimee, the collection includes a track from the Jerry McGuire soundtrack, "Wise Up," that was reworked for the Magnolia soundtrack.)
Ultimate Collection draws heavily from Aimee's two '90s solo albums, Whatever and I'm With Stupid. The album includes just two Til Tuesday tracks (including the terrific "Everything's Different Now"); for a stronger Til Tuesday set, find Coming Up Close: A Retrospective.
The 20-track collection begins with "That's Just What You Are" (from 1994's Melrose Place soundtrack), which found Aimee in a brilliant minor chord session with Glenn Tillbrook and Chris Difford from Squeeze.
The Ultimate Collection includes a fair share of rarities, including: previously unreleased sings ("Take It Back" and a cover of Badfinger's "Baby Blue"); "Sign of Love" from the 1987 movie, Back to the Beach; a live version of "The Other End of the Telescope"; and "Driving with One Hand on the Wheel," from the 1996 album, Safe and Sound: A Benefit in Response to the Brookline Clinic Violence. Also included is a promotional-only single, "Jimmy Hoffa Jokes."
Admittedly, some of this material is for collectors. So Ultimate Collection would be a prime bootleg set. But let's face it - Aimee has scored some grand pairings, with relationships involving Jules Shear, Jon Brion, and now Michael Penn, and there's no reason for Aimee to hold this material from her fans.
Counters Aimee: Ultimate Collection "does contain several things that I personally consider to be absolute crap, including a rough mix of one song from just one of two reels of tracks, a song recorded live off the radio ten years ago and never authorized by me to be recorded at all, much less released, a song I recorded for a movie as a favor to a producer friend that I didn't even write, etc. Missing are all of the great little b-sides and demos that I am actually proud of and thought would be perfect for this kind of collection."
After her brilliant performance on Magnolia and her recently-acclaimed solo album, Bachelor No. 2, fans want more. Aimee has been recording for 15 years, and Ultimate Collection assembles some hard-to-find tracks. Better to let the dust settle.
- Randy Krbechek © 2001
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