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New Natalie Merchant


Josh Hurst
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I haven't enjoyed Natalie Merchant's work since leaving the Maniacs- and even her work with them was just okay- but it's worth mentioning that her new album comes out on the 12th.

Anyone planning to hear this one? I haven't totally given up on her, but it's going to take an awful lot of rave reviews before I'll put down any money on this one.

...especially since I'm saving my pennies for the new Amy Grant.

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Thanks for the tip. I was just wondering what Ms. Merchant was up to these days. I've been a fan of her work for years. My favorite stuff is her work with the Maniacs. Her solo work is just too...serious. Which reminds me of a theory of mine...

There are lots of bands that just weren't the same after a key member left. Examples would include Pink Floyd before Roger Waters left, pre-reunion Fleetwood Mac before Lindsey Buckingham left, and The Police before everybody left. Yeah, there are more but these come immediately to mind.

Anyway, my theory is that part of what made these bands great was the tensions (musical and personal) that eventually broke them up. It's the music that emerged out of their conflicts that brought out the best in the band. Take Pink Floyd for example. Roger Waters and David Gilmore always fought but they managed to make some amazing albums together. After they split, neither was worth listening to. Pink Floyd lacked Waters' lyrical style and Waters' solo work lacked Floyd's musicality.

So back to Natalie Merchant. First off, the Maniacs without Natalie was just silly but Natalie without the Maniacs was just too...too Natalie. I think she needs the rest of the Maniacs to balance her out. Maybe this CD will be different. We'll see.

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Blah. Went to NatalieMerchant.com last night and they've got some previews of some of the songs for her next CD. She's on some hyper-neo-hippie trip, like she's trying to channel Joan Baez or something. The songs on the web site are super slow, serious, and very folk. She needs the Maniacs to lighten her up and bring some fun back into her music but judging by the sound of this CD, we'll sooner see the Police reunion.

Bummer. Guess I'll just have to wait for the new Sheryl Crow CD. Anybody know when that'll be out?

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I'm a Merchant fan, but I'll put in a plug for her solo stuff, too. I don't own any of it; all I know is what I've heard on the radio. But I think her song "Kind and Generous" is really quite lovely. I remember, when that song was released, how strongly it stood out from everything else on the radio. The title tells the story; she's thanking someone for their generosity toward her. No angst, no selfishness, no blatant sexual slang.

I think Dido's song "Thank You" came out not too long thereafter. That was another refreshing change. I hope it's part of a trend.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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: But I think her song "Kind and Generous" is really quite lovely. I

: remember, when that song was released, how strongly it stood out from

: everything else on the radio... No angst, no selfishness, no blatant

: sexual slang.

Oh dear. Your mention of "no blatant sexual slang" means I need to tell this story.

Merchant's diction isn't the best, and so the first few times listening to the song, I had a difficult time understanding what the gal was saying. (I'm neither a Merchant nor Maniacs fan, so admittedly I didn't try hard.) So perhaps the fifth time I heard it on the radio, I decided to figure out what she was saying, and the best I could come up with for the outro was: "F*** you, f*** you. F*** you, f*** you. F*** you, f*** you. F*** you, f*** you."

I should not have told this anecdote.

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Dude, you must've been listening to Sinead O'Connor...

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Guest Russell Lucas

Yeah, she's saying "thank you" as clearly as she's able, I think. To say what you're referencing, Dale, would be the ur-Merchant talking.

I'm not sure I've ever heard her sing about sex, unless it's to tell a story about wayward sex leading to single motherhood, e.g. "Eat for Two."

I've enjoyed her solo albums less than the Maniacs ones (and I enjoy "Ophelia" less than "Tigerlily"), but there's a good chance I'll check this one out. 10,000 Maniacs is the only group I've seen in concert more than once (my wife and I saw them in '89, '91 and '93).

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Groups I've seen in concert more than once:

(This is going to be really embarrassing, but I've embarrassed myself so many times in this forum, what's one more occasion?)

Stryper (4 times!)

Kix (3 times -- ever heard of them?)

Dokken. Twice.

Moving on to my college days...

24-7 Spyz (ever heard of 'em? I saw 'em twice)

Indigo Girls (twice -- with no apologies then, or now)

Phil Keaggy (three times)

Ashley Cleveland (twice -- and I'd see her again in a heartbeat, as I would ...)

Buddy and Julie Miller (twice)

Lowen and Navarro (three times)

Kim Richey (three times)

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (twice)

--Whew. I finished strong, despite my slow start, didn't I? Didn't I? Anyone? I'm lookin' for a little support here...

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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If we're talkin' festivals inclusive:

Michael W. Smith (three)

DC Talk (two)

Newsboys (two)

Over the Rhine (about six or seven)

VoL (about four or five)

Steve Taylor (two)

Iona (two)

Terry Taylor/DA (three)

Lost Dogs (four)

Sixpence (two)

Susan Greenbaum [local artist my wife likes] (four)

Ashley Cleveland (two)

Bjork (zero, dang it)

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Also -- and I'm not sure here -- but I may have seen psuedo-acapella band Glad twice back in middle school. I know I saw them once.

I've also seen Michael Card once, but Phil Keaggy was opening for him.

Dale

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Guest Russell Lucas

Kix? Aren't they like Winger Lite? Dokken?

My first concert was ZZ Top, Afterburner Tour. 1986. I'm not counting The Little River Band at the Clearfield County Fair circa 1983 or 1984.

My comprehensive concert list, guaranteed to make you not look so bad:

The aforementioned two.

Genesis, Invisible Touch tour. 1987.

George Michael, Faith tour. 1988.

Elvis Costello, Spike tour. 1989.

R.E.M., Green tour. 1989

The aforementioned three 10,000 Maniacs shows.

They Might Be Giants. 1990.

Bob Dylan, O Mercy tour. 1989.

Take 5. 1990.

C&C Music Factory. 1991 (This might approximate the Dokken double shot).

The Cure, Wish tour. 1992.

Aerosmith, sex in elevators with transsexuals tour. 1994 (You're off the hook, Christian)

Midnight Oil. 1993.

Wow. I think this is what you'd call a concert drought.

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Artists we've seen in concert more than once?

Terry Scott Taylor (solo, several times going back to Cornerstone 2000)

Mike Roe (solo, several times going back to the mid-'90s)

The 77s (in Vancouver in 1996, in Seattle in 1999, and at Cornerstone 2000)

Lost Dogs (at Cornerstone 2000 and at Regent College in 2002)

Phil Keaggy (several times in the '90s, including Greenbelt 1994)

Stryper (on the To Hell with the Devil and Against the Law tours)

Over the Rhine (at Cornerstone 2000 and in Seattle in 2002)

Steve Taylor (in Vancouver in 1985, 1994 and 1995 and at Greenbelt 1994)

Carolyn Arends (at a country bar in Langley in 1991 or so, at a bar in Vancouver in 1995, at Soulfest 1996, at a music video shoot in 1996, and possibly elsewhere)

Mike Scott (at Greenbelt 1994 and in Vancouver in 1996)

Ben Harper (in Vancouver in 1996 and again a few years later)

Hocus Pick (Maneuver) (in 1992 and 1997ish)

Sheila Walsh (opening for Steve Taylor in 1985 and solo in 1986)

I'll try to see if I can come up with any more.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Back to the topic...

I really liked Natalie's last solo album... until the last four or five songs. But the first part had T-Bone Burnett's fingerprints all over it. He, finally, recognized that Natalie should not be a pop star, but a gospel/soul singer, and paired her up with... of all people... Mayvis Staples for some serious houseburning gospel. It was a strong signal that she should go farther in that direction. I'm eager to see if she has...

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Guest Russell Lucas

Huh. I skipped her last album, but only because I skip most albums. Was the gospel-influenced stuff actual gospel songs, or more like gospel-style spirituals and such?

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The lyrics were deeply rooted in gospel. The opener, "This House is On Fire" is a knockout... the lyrics reminded me of the opening track on Chagall Guevara. There's a song called Saint Judas that's the highlight of the album.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Her lyrics and her voice are what I like about her but without the Maniacs, she's just too serious. CD comes out tomorow, I may yet pick it up.

As a side note, my favorite Maniacs CD is In My Tribe. I was listening to it again recently and I had an odd reaction. I guess I've become more conservative politically and I found it harder to get into the music. I found myself skipping tracks I used to love - like Gun Shy and A Campfire Song, and even What's The Matter Here which is the song that first got me into the band. It wasn't a visceral reaction - like "ugh, I don't like what this song may be suggesting" - it was more subtle like "I'd better skip this song to avoid the possiblility that I'll get upset and never be able to hear the song again." I'm not sure what to do. Maybe I was just having a bad day.

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