Image © A&M Records 2002
Image © A&M Records 2002
(20 August 2002) 21 year old Vanessa Carlton is currently
the darling of the US and UK charts, with her debut album Be
Not Nobody (A&M Records 0694944074, 2002). Her feminine,
exotic beauty and undoubted talent have made stardom almost
inevitable. As a result, visitors of this website may have an
obvious antipathy to such an obvious pop star. However, at
last I can announce that the adulation is truly warranted!
Under the guidance of Producer Ron Fair, many of Vanessa’s
songs, influenced both by singer songwriters such as Tori Amos
and the classic rock she listened to as a child, have been
nurtured into mini masterpieces. Instrumentally, bass and
drums are mixed high, alongside Vanessa’s superb, rhythmic
piano playing. However, it is the addition of a full
orchestra on each of the 11 tracks, which is "symphonic"
feel, while replacing the need for further keyboards, and
allowing piano to take centre stage. Vanessa’s voice is
distinctive, if girlish, with a surprisingly bluesy rasp
to it when required.
"Ordinary Day" is very much a scene-setter, a mid-paced
song with orchestra and piano dueting effectively, while "Unsung"
is a full-paced R & B workout with Vanessa bashing the keys
like Little Richard! The superb hit single "A Thousand Miles"
follows, with piano carrying the melody and Vanessa’s singing
at its sensitive best, while the orchestra, cheekily, borrows
a riff from Western film The Magnificent Seven
alongside some excellent slide guitar from John Goux.
Ballad "Pretty Baby," though by no means a bad song, is a
little syrupy for my taste, however the next two songs "Rinse" and
"Sway" are both astonishing pieces of work. The former is full
of unresolved tension, a genuine taste of Tori Amos style angst
with piano and guitar sharing a dramatic riff, while the latter
is dominated by piano and Charles Bisharat’s wonderful electric
violin, which makes the song reminiscent of American progressive
hard rockers Kansas.
"Paradise" is more sinister, with an infectious hook, while
"Prince" gives drummer Abe Laboriel and bassist, the legendary
Leland Sklar the chance to lay down a complex rhythm on which
to build the song, before a bluesy mid section, which builds to
an explosive climax. A routine (and unnecessary) cover of the
Rolling Stone’s "Paint it Black" follows, while "Wanted" features
with some splendid classical piano, and "Twilight" is the
obligatory dramatic ballad to finish.
This is an album of great maturity, and it is good to see a
talented artist being nurtured patiently by a major record label.
hough the album is not faultless--it peters out a little after
"Prince," it is more than worth a trip to the "chart" section
of your local record store, and it will be interesting to see
where Vanessa takes her undoubted ability from here.--Stephen Lambe
further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here.
Worth a journey, this incredible album by an up and coming vocalist is a very