Making Eye Contact (11/27/98)
Grey Eye Glances, Painted Pictures (Mercury/Parachute 1998) - With their fourth album (and follow-up to their major label debut, Eventide), Grey Eye Glances reaches into the college alternative realm, as lead singer Jennifer Nobel has an understated, endearing delivery that is reminiscent of Natalie Merchant.
The core of Grey Eye Glances consists of vocalist Jennifer Noble, Dwayne Keith on keyboards and backing vocals, and Eric O'Dell on bass and backing vocals. The trio has worked together since the 90's, based out of their Philadelphia home.
Grey Eye Glances took its name from an Edgar Allen Poe poem, and built a following by touring the 126-store Borders book chain. Painted Pictures is rounded out by Brett Kull on electric and acoustic guitars, and Paul Ramsey on drums and percussion.
With ten tracks, Painted Pictures develops a rich mood on songs like "Remember This" and "Better Part of Me." Smooth and textured, the band leaves room for Jennifer's vocals, much like the best recordings by Cowboy Junkies or Beautiful South.
Fans of alternative pop will enjoy Painted Pictures.
Helen Reddy, The Essential Collection (Razor & Tie 1998) - 70's superstar Helen Reddy gets a career overview with the Essential Collection, which collects 23 tracks recorded between 1971-81. The set is a multi-label effort, gathering material from her Capitol and MCA albums, plus soundtrack recordings (including "Candle on the Water" from the movie, "Pete's Dragon").
Born into a well-known Australian show business family, Helen Reddy has been performing professionally since she was a child. Five years after arriving in the United States, she signed with Capitol Records. The very first track she cut was not only her first hit single but also the first hit single for Andrew Lloyd Webber, "I Don't Know How To Love Him."
However, it was a song she penned, "I Am Woman" (which she plugged on nineteen TV shows while pregnant) that became her first number one record. Helen won a Grammy Award for her performance and the song is now recognized as the anthem for the feminist movement.
More top ten singles followed and songs like "Leave Me Alone" (Rudy Red Dress,) "Angie Baby," "Delta Dawn" and "You And Me Against The World," on gold and platinum selling albums led to an international multi-media career.
Her television specials have been seen in more than forty countries, while her starring role in the Disney film, "Pete's Dragon," continues to attract a new generation of fans.
In addition to the chart hits, the album also includes Helen's covers of "Fool on the Hill" (by the Beatles) and Van Morrison's irrepressible, "Crazy Love."
While some of the recordings may sound a bit dated, the hit material stands up. Add Helen Reddy: Essential Collection to your 70's collection.
More Cheap Trick Reissues - Following in the success of Budokan: The Complete Concert, Cheap Trick has reissued its first three albums on Epic/Legacy, with expanded editions, including tracks not included on the original albums.
Leading off the expanded editions is Cheap Trick, the 1976 album that introduced the Rockford, Illinois quartet of Robin Zander (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (guitar), Tom Petersson (bass guitar), and Bun E. Carlos (drums & percussion).
The follow-up was 1977's In Color, including such great rock songs as "Oh Caroline," "Downed," and "I Want You to Want Me" (which became a hit in its Budokan live version). The expanded edition of In Color includes five bonus tracks, such as demo versions of "Southern Girls" and "Come On Come On," and two live tracks recorded at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles in June 1977.
Rounding out the reissue is Cheap Trick's third album, Heaven Tonight, which includes the hit, "Surrender."
Says drummer Carlos, "They hold up really well. A lot of what other groups recorded in 1978 doesn't stand the test of time. Nothing was so trendy that it sounds dated on these albums. And the live tracks kick ass!"
In Color holds a soft spot in my rock & roll heart, though it was released more than 20 years ago. Enjoy these remastered and extended editions.
Remy Zero, Villa Elaine (Geffen 1998) - The Villa Elaine is a decaying apartment building in the center of Hollywood. It was once home to filmmaker Orson Wells and photographer Man Ray. Alt-rockers Remy Zero wrote and partly recorded their new album at this faded abode, so they named the record Villa Elaine.
While developing an accessible guitar rock sound, Remy Zero also has dark, slacker-and-flannel undertones. Maybe it's the culture shock engendered by the move from their native Alabama to the slums of Hollywood. Says singer-guitarist Cinjun Tate, "It was such a drastic thing, coming out of Alabama and into this world. This album was our reaction to seeing psychoses and broken dreams everywhere."
While the band may have been thrust into a "weird urban nightmare," tracks like "Problem" and "Gramarye" still have an accessible pop sound.
Villa Elaine is sometimes reminiscent of E, in that the songs range from full-on pop to dark and distressed dioramas. For an off-the-wall shot, give Villa Elaine a spin.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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