Less is More (03/03/2000)
Sarah O'Brien, Dans Mais Reves Jai Reviens (In My Dreams I Return) (1999) - In My Dreams I Return is a nine-song set of instrumental duet pieces by Southern California cellist Sarah O'Brien and Canadian pianiast Claudine Lapointe.
This is a delightful collection: The musicianship is impeccable, and the arrangements and delivery are sure-footed and unerring.
Ms. O'Brien was born in England, and began studying cello at age nine. Ms. O'Brien's resume is impressive; her early career was guided by Keith Harvey of the Gabrieli String Quartet, and she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 1993, which she used to move to Los Angeles to commence further advanced studies in cello performance with Eleonore Schoenfeld at the University of Southern California. (Ms. O'Brien also holds a Master's Degree in music performance from City University in London.)
Since relocating to Los Angeles, Ms. O'Brien has toured with Yanni, and has appeared and/or recorded with such artists as Lionel Richie, Celine Dion and Dwight Yoakam. Her talents have also been noticed by Hollywood, as she has performed on numerous movie and television soundtracks.
In My Dreams I Return is more than the sum of its parts: words like warm, rich, enveloping, and feminine come to mind. Familiar songs like "Send in the Clown" and "When You Wish Upon a Star" take on a gentle hue in the hands of this sweet pair. (I particularly enjoyed the Disney cut.)
Also listen for "Theme from Schindler's List," Tchaikovsky's "Vals Sentimentale," and an original composition, "Chanson Pour Femmes," which was also included on the "Always in our Hearts" benefit album for the Nicole Brown Simpson Charitable Foundation.
A welcome switch from the wasteland of one-hit pop acts, In My Dreams I Return is a refreshing find.
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Richard Thompson, Mock Tudor (Capitol 1999) - Mock Tudor is proof that less is more. On his first album since 1996's You? Me? Us?, Thompson disengages himself from producers Froom and Blake, with results that show that he needs no further embellishment.
Thus, Mock Tudor emerges as one of Thompson's best albums of the last decade, with challenging songs and a solid feel.
The music on Mock Tudor is broken into three conceptual sections - the opening "Metro Land," followed by "Heroes in the Suburbs," and ending with "Street Cries and Stage Whispers." Thompson says the new album traces his perceptions of London: "On the album, the three parts are chronological; they're different eras. The first one is 1963-68, the second is 1969-74, and the last is from then until the present."
The new album was recorded, mixed, and produced by Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf, who have previously worked with Elliott Smith, the Foo Fighters, and Beck.
Thompson provides guitars, vocals, mandolin, dulcimer, hurdy gurdy, and harmonium, and is joined by Teddy Thompson on guitar and harmony vocals Dave Mattacks on drums, Danny Thompson on double bass, Atom Ellis on electric bass, and Mitchell Froom on keyboards.
I've not been to London, so can't say whether the album evokes the City. Yet I like the way the rich instrumentation balances against Thompson's heavy voice and deep content.
While the last section (the concluding three songs) are a bit ponderous, the first 2/3rds of the album moves with real style, bringing to mind some of Thompson's finest work with ex-wife Linda Thompson. In particular, the bouncy "Crawl Back (Under My Stone)" deserves to find radio air play.
According to Thompson, "Mock Tudor is a conceptual record inspired by the City of London and particularly, the suburbs of London, which are kind of a desert, a cultural wasteland when you're a kid, growing up and looking for something to do - all the fun's in the middle of town, and you're stuck out in the sticks."
Thompson recalls the inspiration for "Walking the Long Mile's Home": "I used to do that all the time. If you miss the last bus, you're basically screwed if you are a 16-year-old in London in the pre-car era. I did that countless times - walked home to North London from the Marquee Club or Ronnie Scott's. It is kind of an exhilarating thing to do, although it is exhausting."
Though I can't trace the conceptual aspect, Mock Tudor is a real return to form for this veteran performer.
Soundtrack to Drowning Mona (Hip-O 2000) - "Drowning Mona" is the new film starting Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Jamie Lee Curtis, Neve Campbell and Will Ferrell. The soundtrack is a throwback slice of early 70s pop/rock.
The promotional materials describe the film as a follow-up to such crime comedies as "Ruthless People" and "Throw Mama From the Train," in which "Mona Dearly seemingly drives her Yugo into the river to her death - and no one really cares that it wasn't an accident, because Mona was not liked by anybody."
The film features a solid collection of early 70's rock hits, built around four selections by Three Dog Night, including their 1971 number one hit, "Joy to the World," and "Shambala" (which reached number 3 in 1973).
Also included is "Jackie Blue" by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils (number 3 in 1974), R. Dean Taylor's "Indiana Wants Me" (a number one song from 1970) and "In the Summertime" by English skiffle band Mungo Jerry (number 3 in 1970).
Other artists include Dave Mason ("Only You Know and I Know"), Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds ("Don't Pull Your Love") and Dobie Gray ("Drift Away").
In addition, the album includes "Sucker" and "Blue Plate Special," two score selections composed by Tree Adams (apparently that's not his real name, which is not disclosed in the press materials).
All told, Drowning Mona is an enjoyable look back at early 70s AM radio rock hits.
- Randy Krbechek © 2000
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