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November 27, 1996

Only a Woman's Heart

Eleanor McEvoyEleanor McEvoy, What's Following Me? (Columbia 1996) - In Ireland, Eleanor McEvoy is a big star. In fact, her 1992 single, "Only A Woman's Heart," is the centerpiece of the biggest-selling album in Irish history. On her second U.S. solo release, Eleanor abruptly changes from folk/pop singer to nostril-studded renegade. The results don't gel.

Eleanor's self-titled first album (released in 1994) was a real treat, as it featured her sweet delivery and slyly-feminist perspective. But now, Eleanor wants more of a Joan Osborne-ish image. I don't buy it.

Eleanor claims that she "really doesn't want to be thought of as political. I'm kind of wary of rock musicians coming out and making heavy political statements because I often feel they had a forum that they shouldn't have. I'm just trying to take little photographs of things that are going on around me."

Eleanor has a real talent, but it doesn't filter through What's Following Me? So I'm disappointed. Instead of allowing her to follow her own inclinations, outside forces (managers?, record labels?, friends?) want to turn her into a rock diva. Too bad for everyone.

Sheryl CrowSheryl Crow, Sheryl Crow (A & M Records 1996) - On her second solo album, Sheryl Crow seeks to develop more of a "bad girl" persona. I'm not sure I buy it, but I'm starting to like her better.

After the big success of Tuesday Night Music Club, Sheryl Crow was faced with a tough challenge - how to top herself? And Sheryl Crow generally succeeds. Sheryl's strong point is an ability to mix and rework pop flavors from the 60s and 70s. Says Sheryl, "I had an idea in mind that I wanted to make a record that had some of the intimacy, spiritual and rural qualities of, say, a Robert Johnson record, but almost Bobby Gentry-ish, too. And throwing it all in the pot and coming up with something that relates to now."

Sheryl CrowOn the new album, Sheryl evokes an aura of mystery and danger, and breaks free from the pop diva straightjacket that Celine Dion wears so gracefully. To Sheryl's credit, at least two of the tracks ("Change" and "If It Makes You Happy") are great radio singles.

Congratulations to Sheryl for taking a chance. Instead of treading the safe path, Sheryl sought something new. Something challenging. The image of the high school girl whom your parents didn't like, but who knew how to have a good time. That's our Sheryl.

Leah AndreoneLeah Andreone, Veiled (RCA 1996) - Following a similar path, but with more success, is Leah Andreone, a 23-year-old singer/songwriter from San Diego. Riding the crest of Alanis Morrisette and Tori Amos, Leah walks the line between rocker and incisive balladeer.

The album is largely a three-person effort - Leah on vocals, David Reven on drums, and Rick Neigher on bass, guitars, keyboards, and production. Tapping into 20-something angst, Leah has walked the mean streets of Los Angeles, but wasn't corrupted by the experience.

With such radio-friendly tracks as "Happy Birthday" and "Who Are They To Say," Veiled has the potential for a breakthrough. More rocker than lover, Leah Andreone just wants some of your time and friendship.

astroastro Puppees, You Win The Bride (Hightone Records 1996) - You Win the Bride is a pop release from Oakland's Hightone Records, long known as a home of quality blues and roots rock. But don't think that it's a big departure. Instead, think of it as a quirky, home recording. Which it is.

The brains behind astro Puppees is singer and multi-talented musician Kelley Ryan, who started recording the album in the basement of her Los Angeles home. Joining Kelley is respected producer Don Dixon, who helped mix the album and who plays on two tracks, as well as friend Maureen Serrao, became a de facto second member.

But in the end, You Win The Bride is a homemade labour of love. Kelley is the heart of the recording: six of the 15 tracks were recorded entirely by her. In particular, her cover of Stealers Wheel's "Stuck In The Middle With You" is a great cut. Sheryl Crow would be delighted to add this track to her repertoire. Give astro Puppees a chance.

TuscaderoTuscadero, The Pink Album (Elektra 1996) - Based in Washington, D.C., Tuscadero, boasts two female vocalists (Melissa Farris and Margaret McCartney) and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. The result is brash, guitar-driven pop that will fill your sweet tooth.

Formed in 1993, Tuscadero quickly drew attention from record companies. In addition to the two lead singers (who also contribute guitars), the band is completed by Phil Satlof on bass and Jack Hornady on drums. Suburban dragons, Melissa and Margaret provide such saccharine-slammers as "The Candy Song," "Hollywood Handsome," and "Dime A Dozen."

The Pink Album was originally released as an independent production. Now, in the best tradition of "new and improved," The Pink Album has been partially re-recorded and entirely remixed for its major studio release.

The Pink Album takes its place in that hallowed region reserved for self-produced debuts with something original. Part pop, part punk, and a whole lot of attitude, Tuscadero wants to jam for you.

-- Randy Krbechek

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