May 4, 1994
Sarah McLachlan, Fumbling Towards Ecstacy (Arista 1994) -- On Fumbling Towards Ecstacy, Sarah McLachlan reaches a new plateau; though dense and challenging, the album has flashes of hopefulness and understanding that mark McLachlan's maturity as a singer and songwriter.
McLachlan, now 26 years old, is a Canadian who makes her home in Vancouver. Fumbling Towards Ecstacy has an intensely personal feel, as McLachlan appears to be revealing her innermost thoughts. However, McLachlan refuses to discuss the meaning of any of the songs in interviews; instead, she prefers to let the music speak for her.
The production on Fumbling Towards Ecstacy is a close cousin to Sarah Brightman's Dive (which was uneven but hauntingly beautiful in places); it's filled with lush, engaging melodies, and the rich, swirling voice of McLachlan. The opening track, "Possession," is said to be about the behavior of an obsessive fan, and the song "Hold On" was inspired by a story about a woman whose fiance discovers he has AIDS.
The standout cut on the disc is "Mary," in which McLachlan paints a vivid portrait of a woman's search for love and tenderness. "Mary" is a splendid single, and deserves tons of airplay. The second half of the album, which features cuts like "Ice" and "Fear," shows McLachlan's moodier side; these songs are frequently dark, and convey a fear that life may be empty and meaningless.
In the end, Fumbling Towards Ecstacy is also uneven. Half of the songs are beautiful, inspired melodies, the other half are obscured by McLachlan's personal obsessions. Nonetheless, there's something extremely touching about this album; it's as if McLachlan is baring all of her secrets in the songs, and daring the listener to discover their meaning. Fumbling Towards Ecstacy has spectacular moments that make it one of the year's best albums. Find it.
Mozart, Mozart (Bachoven Musicwerks/I.R.S. 1993) -- Mozart, a quartet hailing from Los Angeles, will bring their musical extravaganza to the Cadillac Club on May 15th. Their debut album, Mozart, is a pleasant surprise; though the band has a heavy metal look, the disc actually features theatrical rock (which the band calls "Operagasmic") a la Queen circa Day at the Races or A Night at the Opera. This result is not surprising, considering that Mozart was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, who also produced most of Queen's finest work.
The struggles of Mozart are a story of rags-to-riches and back-to-rags again. Once considered one of the hottest acts in Los Angeles, the band signed with SBK Records in 1991 for an advance of nearly $1,000,000. After the band spent all of their advance and completed the recording of an album, SBK was purchased by EMI. During the course of the merger, Mozart was dropped from the label's talent roster, leaving them with no money and no album.
Back on the mean streets, Mozart gained the attention of Miles Copeland (the head of I.R.S. Records), and was given the green light to go into the studio to record a new album. The resulting disc, Mozart, boasts a number of strong cuts during its 38 minutes (which makes the album even more palatable; 60 or 70 minutes of this stuff would be a lot, but 40 minutes is perfect). Featuring understated gothic influences and the layered vocals that made Queen famous, Mozart has a grand and strong sense of identity.
It takes a band with balls to pull off this kind of stuff. Give Mozart a spin, and be sure to catch them on May 15th at the Cadillac Club.
The Grays, Ro Sham Bo (Epic 1994) -- Ro Sham Bo is an album that sends rock back to its pop & folk roots; with no sign of angry thrash or jolting hip-hop, the disc has a pleasantly disarming feel. By focusing on rich harmonies and melodic riffs, the band would like to be considered as popmeisters in the sense of the 60s harmony-based bands; however, their closest kin is the electric coffee house circuit best represented by groups like Toy Matinee.
The band, consisting of Jon Brion on vocals, guitars and keyboards, Jason Falkner on vocals, guitars and bass, Buddy Judge on vocals and guitars, and Don McCarroll on drums, have outstanding musical pedigrees; among other groups, they have played with Jellyfish, Aimee Mann, and The Buddy System. Like many rockers who have relocated to Los Angeles (several of the band members are originally from the East Coast), some had become disillusioned with music scene and were considering leaving the business. However, fortune brought them together for an impromptu jam, and the resulting chemistry led to Ro Sham Bo.
The 13 cuts on the album were produced by Jack Joseph Puig (who has also worked with John Hiatt and Dire Straits) and the result is lush production work that doesn't obscure the delivery. The album opens with the optimistic "Very Best Years," and then quickly settles into a groove between rock and pop/folk with cuts like "Everybody's World." Frankly, the album runs a little on the long side; the group sags on its pure rockers (such as "Not Long for this World") that could have been left off the disc.
However, the diversity of cuts on the album reflect the diversity of the band members; each has his own personality, and each has his own favorite cuts. Ro Sham Bo is a likeable project: fans of the "Beatles-Meet-a-Rock-Quartet-in-a-Coffeehouse" will dig this album.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
Design by David Anand Prasad and Idea Co.