(14 June 2004) Leah Andreone worked hard, believed in herself and got lucky. Born in San Diego in the spring of 1974, she got involved in music early, singing in her elder sister's band when she was eight. Leah was a shy child who found both comfort and escape in writing and performing music. By thirteen she had a job writing jingles and commercials. Later, she dropped out of college and moved to L.A. determined to make a career in music. She waited tables during the day and honed her talent by singing at night. It was a hand to mouth existence largely fed by massive self-belief.
But it was hard and just when optimism was fading, she recognised an executive from RCA at one her tables in the restaurant and she got permission from the owner to dash home and get a tape from her room. She got back just in time to thrust the cassette into the exec's hand as he was leaving. "Listen to this," she said. He did. Twenty-four hours later she was an RCA artist.
Her debut album Veiled released in 1996 was given a massive boost by the opening track "It's Alright, It's Okay" being a deserved top 20 single in both the States and in UK. It's a hooked-filled song, excellently produced and with lyrics far above the norm for the singles charts. "The rhyme has changed, compulsion rules, Mary's little lambs are now raised by wolves." And is that a sitar in the chorus?
Musically, it's very hard to place Leah--somewhere not too far removed from Tori Amos for the song-writing, though the music is guitar based, a touch of Alanis Morissette and Holly McNarland in the attitude, but vocally she's very much her own--and she has a terrific falsetto.
She's been helped immensely by the fact that the producer (Rick Neigher) has clearly taken time to read and think about the lyrics and has dealt with the songs very sympathetically. There's some beautiful musical irony in places too. One of the most tender sounding tracks, "Kiss Me Goodbye" has all the aural attributes of a love song, until you actually focus on the words which reveals it to be a vicious and bitter paean to love betrayed. 'Don't sing me a lullaby, don't pretend to care, finish up and get out of here. Indulge yourself."
Although a number of the tracks mention love, they deal far more honestly with relationships than the sugar-sweet, wish-filled nonsense of so many songs. She has a wonderful ability to slip cutting phrases or couplets into her work. In "Will You Still Love Me" a song with a funked-up verse and another hook-laden chorus, she sings. "Call me Eve; how's the apple taste?" In "Hell to Pay" she rips off the mask of human behaviour, suggesting in no uncertain terms that's it's only the fear of being found out that keeps us 'civilised'. 'If there was no hell to pay, would you still need a god?' "Problem Child" considers the lengths a neglected child might go to gain attention.
The CD is stuffed with great ideas and an ability to put them across.
It's fair to say that Ms Andreone does not have the highest regard for humanity. Which is fine by me as it's resulted in some great songs on this powerful and very listenable album.--Jamie Field
Whereas Veiled was described by Leah as a result of working through "every extreme I encountered while growing up," the 1998 follow up Alchemy appears to have had an altogether different genesis. "Now that I live within music on a daily basis, happiness comes very easily to me." Leah is reported to have said. of her second album. Her record company described it thus. "On Alchemy singer/songwriter Leah Andreone has undergone a transformation with many of her new songs boasting a harder, more metallic edge. Rock, pop, industrial and electronics are now crossed with flamenco, jazz, funk, delta blues and even country."
That description sounds like a recipe for a mess, and sadly that's what we get. That's not to say the album doesn't have its moments The lyrics are still well-worth listening too. The opening track, Sunny Days moves along pleasantly enough. The verse of the second track "Swallow Me" is dead ringer for The Beatles "Come Together" so that can't be all bad, and "You Don't Exist" has a complex arrangement involving a string quartet. But highlights are few and far between and the longer the album goes on the more tedious it becomes. The company blurb also makes frequent references along the lines of Leah's 'acceptance of her sexual nature' and her 'explicit approach to sensuality.' But to be honest on tracks like 'Porn' she sounds, quite frankly, desperate. The first album is whole lot more sensual perhaps simply because it's not trying to be.
The producer on this occasion is Bob Marlette who's worked with the likes of Black Sabbath'. The album's splashed with names, like Marilyn Mansun's guitarist, John Lowery and the Chili's drummer Chad Smith and jumps from one style to another without there being any coherence-- it's music by numbers , and sadly so are many of the vocal performances. Alchemy sounds like a group of people trying to make a hit album whereas Veiled sounded like an album that was made because people believed in the songs.
And somewhere in that transmutation what's really been lost is Leah Andreone's individuality. Shame.--Jamie Field in Kington, Herefordshire, England