November 9, 1994
Everything But the Girl, Amplified Heart (Atlantic 1994) -- Amplified Heart is the eighth studio album from London's Everything But the Girl. The band, consisting of Tracey Thorn on vocals and Ben Watt on guitars, vocals and keyboards, has an easy elegance that belies their scruffy appearance. Featuring assistance from Dave Mattacks on drums, Danny Thompson on bass, and Richard Thompson on lead guitar, Amplified Heart has a comfortable feel not unlike meeting a new friend in whom you can immediately place your confidences.
Thorn & Watt (both age 32) initially met while attending the University of Hull. Their first album, Eden, was recorded in 1983; it quickly propelled them to stardom in Europe. By the time of their second disc, Love Not Money, Thorn & Watt were teen idols, and were chased Beatlemania-style across Florence (Italy's) famed Ponte Vecchio.
Sadly, Watt was diagnosed in 1992 with a life-threatening stress-related illness which required months of bed rest and recuperation. Amplified Heart is the group's first album since this episode, and reflects Watt's acknowledgment that fame and fortune are not all-important.
With songs like "Missing" and "We Walk the Same Line," the disc features an understated acoustic rock sound that highlights the lovely voice of Thorn. Like the splendid release earlier this year from Eleanor McEvoy (on Geffen), Thorn keeps her delivery simple and straightforward -- which leads to perfect vocal technique.
While some critics have castigated Everything But the Girl for being too dour, Amplified Heart turns a new leaf. The songs are honest, and the emotions heart-felt. The band's shows on the West Coast were sell-outs; listen to Amplified Heart to learn what makes them special.
Erasure, I Say, I Say, I Say (Mute/Elektra 1994) -- The British duo of Vince Clark and Andy Bell, who form Erasure, have released the seventh studio album of their ten-year career. With the technical wizardry of Clark and the elastic falsetto voice of Mr. Bell, I Say, I Say, I Say shows that techno/pop need not be confined to the dance hall.
Clark, who has also worked with Depeche Mode and Yaz, found Bell through an audition. The band's biggest U.S. seller to date was The Innocence (1988), which went platinum; their last studio recording was a series of Abba covers called Abba-esque, which contained the number 1 U.K. single, "Take a Chance on Me." The pair's collaboration is greater than the sum of the parts; Clark is a major dancebeat studio whiz, and Bell's voice (which frequently sounds like a classically-trained female vocalist) keeps the music on track.
The ten tracks on I Say, I Say, I Say follow the trail marked by Pet Shop Boys (at their best); the lyrics are lilting and lovelorn, and the musical landscape is both propulsive and well-textured. Fans of British techno-pop will love this album.
Jack O'Pierce, Bringing on the Weather (A & M Records 1994) -- The Dallas, Texas-based duo of Jack O'Neill and Cary Pierce have joined forces to produce an uptempo semi-acoustic debut in Bringing on the Weather. Given their strong storytelling skills and loyal following, it won't be long before the word-of-mouth spreads about this band.
Bringing on the Weather was produced by studio-whiz T-Bone Burnett, and features Benmont Tench (from Tom Petty's band) on organ, renowned studio bassist Jerry Scheff (who has played with both Elvis' -- Presley and Costello), and violinist Scarlet Rivera (who has played with Bob Dylan). In the end, the 12 tracks on Bringing on the Weather spring from the joint songwriting skills of O'Neill and Pierce.
Pierce, 25, and O'Neill, 24, have spent countless nights on the road perfecting their trade. Both were awarded theater scholarships at Southern Methodist University (in Dallas), where they met and started playing music together. O'Neill, an Army brat, met his match in Pierce, who was determined to get their musical career on the road. Somewhat surprisingly, both eventually graduated from SMU (though neither stuck to the theater department), while also building a following among the college music circuit.
While some songs get a little down in the mouth, cuts like "Late Shift" (about a fellow who reads a "Dear John" letter after working the late shift) and "Jacob" (about a young boy who gets caught in the cross-fire between his parents' battles) rise above the pack. While the themes on Bringing on the Weather aren't always cheerful, fans of college/acoustic rock will welcome this addition to the electric coffee house circuit.
Young Dubliners -- The Young Dubliners returned to Club Fred recently for their second stand-out show in Fresno this year. In addition to playing cuts from their debut EP, Rocky Road (now available on Scotti Bros.) such as the terrific single, "Last House on the Street," they also previewed new material from their forthcoming LP, including "Big Black Shite" (hear it to believe it).
The Young Dubliners are a band with real potential; they serve up a heady brew of rock, Irish traditional, and country in a mix that always get the crowd going (plus they clearly enjoy being on stage). As usual, the staff at Fred's was attentive and helpful. Get out and see some live music!
Political Fallout -- Initiatives have become the biggest aberration on the ballot, and must be refined to remain valid. Instead of being a grass-roots movement, we now have to worry about big business (Philip Morris) pushing a bogus initiative (Prop. 188, the so-called "anti-smoking" initiative). Old-timer Jerry Lee Lewis (who will be appearing next week at the Tower Theater) was right; when asked, "How do you feel about people who combine music and politics?", he pithily replied, "Buncha fuckin' idiots."
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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