Volume 92, Issue 1
Friday, May 15, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Sizzlin' summer sounds to warm the soul
Candy From a Stranger
It has become pretty easy for all the late '80s indie-music hipsters to slag-off Soul Asylum. After all, back when Minneapolis had the kind of scene that paralleled the Seattle of the early 1990s, Soul Asylum (along with The Replacements and Husker DŸ) led the way as the college rock kings with a punk rock ethic.
These Minnesota darlings then hit the big time in 1992 when their Columbia Records debut spawned hits such as "Somebody to Shove" and "Runaway Train." Many of the old fans, however, found these songs lacking in the earnest grumblings which helped make the band so popular.
Now with their eleventh release, Candy From A Stranger, fresh into the record stores, Soul Asylum remains... well, a rock band. There is nothing ground breaking on this album but that's not to say it isn't a good record.
Soul Asylum remain true to their four-piece rock n' roll sound, which is complimented by lead vocalist Dave Pirner's clever lyrics. This album is not going to take Soul Asylum to any new career peaks but sometimes you don't need elaborate string sections or trip-hop samples to prove you're still growing.
Still it would be nice to hear Soul Asylum try something a little fresher. While most of the songs on Candy From A Stranger are decent, the glossed-over production becomes a little tiresome by the record's conclusion. Pirner's normally shimmering acoustic arrangements are noticeably lacking while the entire album could use a touch of rawness.
Amazingly, the most exciting part of this disc is the free five-song E. P. that is included (in Canada only). Taped live at Toronto's Palais Royale club, these songs truly shine with wonderful tracks like "Straight Up" and "Die in Your Arms." Perhaps Pirner and the boys should listen to the subtle beauty of these songs to help them realize how great they can be.
Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music
When Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan proposed a tour with fellow Canuck Paula Cole, she was told to forget it two females could never share the same stage, as the inevitable competition would undoubtedly manifest itself in an all too stereotypical cat-fight.
Instead, McLachlan organized a massive, all-female North American tour. Named after the first woman to ever share the biblical stage with Adam, Lilith Fair proceeded to become the biggest concert event of 1997, without a scratching post to be found.
In conjunction with the concert's success comes the recent two-disc release of Lilith Fair: A Celebration of Women in Music, containing 25 live tracks. Keeping with the spirit of the festival, this album is not publicity for McLachlan or any other single act, but rather a showcase for female talent as a whole.
While boasting tracks from main stage draws such as the Indigo Girls, Meredith Brooks and Shawn Colvin, there are also many by those yet to break through the music scene. The album contains a huge range of style and diversity in message that is most notably characterized by confidence in performing.
Leading the romp in chick-music heaven is Cole, with a howling version of "Mississippi." Adding to the harder rock tracks are the likes of Wild Strawberries and Tracy Bonham, who gives a commanding performance of "The One."
On the mellower side is Lisa Loeb's tale of "Falling in Love," performed in the dialogue-style she adapts so well. Susanna Hoffs, formerly of The Bangles fame, performs an acoustic version of the '80s classic love song "Eternal Flame" that glides smoother than honey off her lips and guitar. A hymn-like track by Yungchen Lhamo explores ranges and notes that usually remain in uncharted territory.
However, the standout track remains with the concert's birth mother and combines McLachlan's talent with that of Indigo Girls and Jewel. Their sultry voices glide through "Water is Wide" in a perfect harmony that would make any kitty purr.
The risks and success of the Lilith Fair tour translate into a CD that illuminates the strength and wealth of talent in female musicians. Which shouldn't come as a surprise everyone knows cats land on their feet.
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