click on image to visit Cindy Alexander's website
accessible powerful female vocals
See Red (1999)
Angels & Demons (2005)
Reviews © Jamie Field 2005
Executive Producer © Russell W Elliot 2005
Images © Jamcat Records 1999-2005
Used with permission
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Last updated: 25 June 2005
Cindy Alexander is an emerging singer songwriter based in Southern California. With three full length album releases under her belt she continues to garner critical attention worldwide. While her music appears to have all the traditional singer songwriter components, its accessibility has brought her a strong following of pop music enthusiasts also. With an extremely powerful voice and broad repertoire, the attractive artist is said to tour incessently. Learn more about Cindy Alexander at her website and read our reviews of her three albums below.
A multi-instrumentalist (lead and backing vocals, keyboards, acoustic guitar, strings) herself, Cindy Alexander's albums include further contribtutions from a huge array of musicians, on See Red, including David Darling (guitars, bass, percussion, keyboard, horns), Rob Ladd (drums), Teddy Andreadis (strings, harmonica), John T. Thomas (acoustic guitar), Paul Trudeau (guitars, keyboard) Bobby Breton (drums), Franco Giordani (strings, percussion). One can see the band emerge by studing the lineups of her three albums.
Cindy continues to expand her guest base on Smash with contributions from: Christopher Allis (drums), David Darling (guitars, bass, keyboards), Paul Trudeau (keyboards), Dennis Matkosky (loop, B3 organ), Jorgen Carlsen (bass), Matt Laug (drums), Michael Lord (piano, guitar, programming), Brewster (drums), Bruce Gaistch (acoustic guitar), Kenny Greenberg (electric guitar), Tony Haines (piano), Michael Rhoade (bass), Evan Frankfort (guitar, bass, keyboard, bg vocals), Christian Nesmith (guitars), Tina Trevino (bg vocals), Fred Asken (electric guitar), Eric Gorfain (guitar), Harvey Lane (bass) Paul Brushnell (bass). Jim Christie (drums), Kevin Montgomery (bg vocals), Doug Pettibone (guitar, pedal steel)
In her latest offering Angels & Demons, Cindy includes contributions from stablemates Paul Trudeau (acousgtic guitar, keyboard, vocals), Dave Darling (electric guitar, bass), Christopher Allis (drums) and Tina Trevino (vocals, percussion), Chip Moreland (drums), Fred Askin (guitar), Harvey Lane (bass), Christian Nesmith (guitar). The Section Quartet, Eric Gorfain (violin), Daphne Chen (violin), Richard Dodd (cello), Leah Katz (viola) also contributes.
See Red.Cindy Alexander's 1999 debut album See Red (Jamcat Records (USA), 1999) is a thoroughly enjoyable affair.
The opening song "Better Than I Am" displays great sense of melody and a lyrical wit ("So you quit another job / And you saved another cat / You know that I'll always respect you."). The terrific hook of the opener is more than matched by the chorus the following cut, "Sick Of Myself," a lovely, driving song and also on the chorus of the third track, the beautiful "Time Falling Down," one of the album's highlights. It's an immensely strong opening trio of pieces to any album, let alone a debut.
Cindy also shows a deft touch when the mood switches from electric to a more reflective, acoustic feel on songs like "Prophet" and "I See Stars" which contains some unusual vocal harmonies.
There's a certain Sheryl Crow feel to the middle section of the album; "Hey, Hey" has a distinct Crow groove to it, but it lacks the melodic strength of much of the rest of the album. It builds well, but flatters to deceive as it fails to deliver anything in the way of a memorable chorus and much the same could be said of "I'm O.K.", though the whole caboodle gets firmly back track with "In My Box."
And just as she opens with three great songs, the closing is, if anything, even stronger, with a triptych of great variety beginning with the excellent harmonica fuelled pop/rock of "Joei" which again has a hooky chorus and terrific lyrics.
This is followed by the stunning "Dresden," a slow, moody, dark song that comes as a total surprise. Played by Robert Vaughn, there's some wonderful guitar on this piece, both acoustic and electric. The electric solo is worth the entrance money alone. Vocally, on the chorus of this track, Cindy brings to mind Heather Nova. In fact the mood and feel of "Dresden" is very much in Heather territory. The song leaves you breathless; it's beautifully constructed.
Sensibly, Cindy doesn't attempt to top this, but instead closes the album with a completely contrasting piece, "City Astronaut," which is basically just a piano and vocal performance with some sympathetic strings to add a little tone.
See Red is a terrific opening to a recording career and on the strength of this album, one can only see that career as being very successful indeed.
"Masterpiece," "I'm So Sad (That You're Happy)" and "Jamie" are all songs with great pop/rock sensibilities and irresistible choruses that will ensure the album gets its fair share of radio play along with the wash of major label female singer/songwriters.
Her wicked sense of humor is again in lyrical evidence in songs like the hook laden "Born Again Virgin" which boasts a tremendous vocal performance. The album covers a broad spectrum of subject matter; loneliness on the Tori Amos like piano-led "Tour Song," and more obliquely in "818"; insecurity in the wonderful and profound "Idiot Child" ("Truth is anything I agree with.")
There's more awareness of sounds and more adventure in using them on this album than on her first. Sonically, there's some very interesting moments; the opening of "Right On", for example and the beats and backwards opening to the powerful title track "Smash."
As with her debut, there are a couple of cuts that don't quite have the impact of the rest of the album. There's absolutely nothing wrong with "Carnival Junkie" and "Right On," indeed most artists would kill for tracks of their quality on their albums, it's just that she sets the bar so high with so many of the songs on this disc that it's inevitable that one or two weren't going to clear it.
There is, it has to be said, one total clunker. "Only Love" is horrible; trite, predictable and almost unlistenable. She's infinitely better in dealing with love when she's looking at it from a more usual perspective - say in the beautiful, almost wistful, treatise on phone sex, "818."
The cover of Smash features a filmic scene of Cindy as '60ft woman,' ripping up her home town of L.A. As well as displaying her characteristic wit, it's a fair reflection of her musical capability. It can only be a matter of time.
Angels & Demons.Cindy Alexander's third album Angels And Demons (Jamcat Records (USA), 2005) was released to a fanfare of great reviews, but, right from the off, it has a completely different feel to her previous releases See Red and Smash and, taking a deep breath here as I'm clearly swimming against the tide on a number of scores we don't feel it matches up.
One of the reviewers of Angels and Demons says he's "bemused to note that [Cindy] is still an indie artist" - and listening to this album, so are we. He adds that Angels And Demons is "slick and professional." And he's right: Cindy Alexander may still be an independent artist, but this album has all the hallmarks of a major label release right from the soft-focus head-shot on the cover inwards. The arrangement are slick, but predictable, the song writing is less adventurous; it's all too serious. Of her three releases, this is the one that's both playing safe and playing to the gallery.
That's not to say there aren't things to be enjoyed here. The album opens with "Immortal" and some typically telling lyrics. "I'm pretty sure that Jesus lives right next door to me / I can tell by the way he's always alone." The chorus hits with "I'm gonna be on MTV / Get a street named after me" and with this song, she has every chance. It's a commercial corker and anyone who uses the word 'narcissists' (twice) AND rhymes it with 'obvious' in a pop song clearly hasn't entirely lost their sense of fun. If only the rest of the album was this good.
The humour and self depreciation on Angel And Demons is far less apparent than in her previous work, though it surfaces again on "Better When I'm Broken" which has a Garbage feel about it until a rather unnecessary jazzed middle eight. "Whoa" is another high spot--both lyrically and musically--the verse bringing to mind Tori Amos in her "Leather" phase, and 'Unavailable Billy' has a nice chorus - sung by a, well, small chorus.
Generally, it's the up-tempo numbers that are the most convincing, although "Warrior" misses the mark. In comparison, the slower songs are limp and occasionally even insipid by comparison.
"Softer" is a piano led piece which at times seems like it's lounge-music, and oddly for someone who, at their best, sounds like she REALLY means it, the vocal performance seems almost disinterested. And the title track could have come from a contemporary Broadway musical. It's all somewhat confusing really. The album lacks a musical focus and on a number of occasions the vocal performances seems to be lacking sincerity.
The closing track "Grace," has a lovely chorus and a perfectly adequate verse, except that they sound like they come from completely different songs. Too often the songs fail to hold the attention, though it's hard to know if this is the writing or the arrangements.
Overall, the standard of the song writing here fails to match her earlier work. And therefore this is a hard album to rationalise. It sounds as if, following Smash, Cindy either made a conscious decision to change direction somewhat, or life dealt her a different hand to which Angels And Demons is the response. Whatever, there are times when she doesn't seem or sound like the same woman who wrote and performed on her earlier albums. It'll be very interesting to hear what she does next time round.
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