Image © Landsleit Records 2003
Image © Landsleit Records 2003
More Helen Slater
Interview and Photos
(01 June 2004) The debut album from Helen Slater is a ten track collection entitled One Of These Days (Lansleit Records (USA) HS8640, 2003). Though she has always loved music, Helen began her career as an actress with major parts in over 25 major motion pictures spanning the last two decades including Supergirl, The Secret of My Success, Lassie and Ruthless People. Educated at New York's High School for the Performing Arts, the actress is also professionally trained in singing, songwriting and musical theater. She is founder of several stage groups, appeared in numerous roles, and has written music and lyrics for the urban opera The Ugly Duckling. The final track of her album is from the musical. Our interview provides further insight into Helen's background and includes photos spanning her career.
One Of These Days is a lightly arranged album, with vocals primarily accompanied by Slater's own piano playing, with woodwinds and soft percussion that contribute to the overall feel of the collection. While the material defies categorization, the album is described best as a blend of early Laura Nyro and theatre music. Helen's heartfelt and often melancholy solo vocal rightfully dominates each piece, often reflecting ordinary life and applying her own unique twist to the evocative delivery the lyrical message.
The album opens with a delicate piano part that compliment's Helen's vocals in "Greenland," a lovely ballad, setting the tone of the album with strings and woodwinds that continue into "Shoes," a short, upbeat and bluesy number. Woodwinds continue to support Helen's tender vocal delivery in the "Typical," a bluesy, theatrically-styled number. The memorable tune to "Love Comes In" and warm delivery make it one of the album's standouts. The first half of the album concludes with the evocative "Love Comes In," a piano-backed ballad that would fit well in a theatrical production.
The title track of the album is a folky tune, with a bit of a country influence; acoustic guitar, piano and light percussion support the singer's heartfelt vocal delivery. "Robin's Egg" is most reminscent of a smokey jazz club with a slow and deliberate acoustic arrangement accompanying the bluesy vocal that builds as the song crescendos. We especially liked the way the woodwind and vocal lines interact through the number.
"Get Up" is a refreshing, carefree and well-performed tune. Woodwinds appropriately support Helen's lead, with instrumental production that never overpowers it. The album begins to come to a conclusion with the gently delivered ballad-come lullaby and theatrical-style "Remember Last Sunday." The album concludes with the ballad "Home," a finaly theatrically styled number from Helen's urban opera The Ugly Duckling. Singing across the album is sweet and evocative; the full power of Helen's voice developed in her musical theatre training is not evident in the selected recordings.
Some of the songs have a lot more potential than we hear in the finished product, most likely due to the way the album was recorded. For example, the vocal phrasing on "Touch And Go" could be improved. "Love Comes In" is nice ballad, but it could be done in a totally different way. In fact, with a little bit of thought, it could be done as a prog track--it wouldn't take much, just a little vision and a leap of faith! Just listen to that little piano riff intro, and just for a moment your ears prick up, then the vocals come in and it all goes bland again.
So many of the songs seem to be dictated by the simple jazz chords. There's no musical edge to a single one of these pieces. "One Of These Days" would really suit James Taylor circa Mud Slide Slim (1971). Listening again, there is potential here but if Helen's serious, she needs to work with a producer who can think 2004 rather than 1974. And she needs to sing like she means it rather than singing so far within herself, as appears on the album, it's not true. Only on the words "Green land" in the opening song does she open up at all. The album would have been better if the other nine tracks were up to that standard.
Helen Slater's debut album One Of These Days clearly illustrates the artist's breath with light theatrical delivery perfectly accompanying her own piano playing and songwriting. As a departure from her motion picture and stage theatre roles, the project is a stepping stone for the continuation of her performing career. While additional production and more varied material to illustrate her vocal power would help accessibility, Helen's vocal work is superb and she likely has as bright a future in music has she had in motion pictures and theatre.