Dig These Discs :: Barbra Streisand, Cher Lloyd, Tori Amos, Beth Orton, The Script
Folk music abounds in this edition of Dig These Discs. La Streisand thrills with a collection of classic covers, and folkie Beth Orton releases her best album yet. Irish folkies The Script make a big splash, Tori Amos reworks her best hits and UK singer/rapper Cher Lloyd showcases her dynamic voice.
"Release Me" (Barbra Streisand)
The Babs takes pity on us lowly hoi polloi as she releases her new album, "Release Me," a collection of 11 classic covers never previously recorded, from her private vault. She guffaws her way charmingly through the intro of her first track "Being Good," singing, "Being good, won’t be good enough/ When I fly I must be extra high and I’ll need special wings/ so far to go from so far below." It’s a sacrilege to doubt Streisand’s amazing vocal range, and it’s all on display from the get-go, complemented with full orchestration. She laments the near miss of love in country music artist Lee Greenwood’s "Didn’t We," and keeps the sadness flowing in the 1932 jazz standard, "Willow Weep For Me." "Try To Win a Friend," is a sad tune made popular by Johnny Mathis, as Streisand sings of the end of relationships, singing, "After you’ve lost a lover, try to win a friend. The parting’s easier when they are smiles instead of tears." If only it were so easy, Babs! In Randy Newman’s "I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today," the dialogue intro gives you a peek into the studio, where rich piano chords pick out a tune about human kindness overflowing. Both Nina Simone and Bette Midler did a fine version of this song, and Babs does as well. She tackles Paul Williams, "With One More Look at You," featured on the album "A Star is Born," singing, "With one more look at you, I’d learn to change the stars/ And change our fortunes, too. I’d have the constellations paint your portrait, too/ So all the world might share this wondrous sight/ The world could end each night with one more look at you." She seizes upon a Brazilian bossa-nova sound in "Lost in Wonderland," which seems like the less pretty and far more talented version of "The Girl from Ipanema" as she sultrily sings her story, "I took a walk and I lingered there." She belts out "How Are Things in Glocca Morra," asking each weeping willow and brook along the way, and segues into "The Heather on the Hill," both from the classic movie "Brigadoon." A music-box intro sets up "Mother and Child," a nice vehicle for Streisand’s peerless pipes to shine, as she duets with herself as both mother and child. She employs theatrical metaphors in "What Matters Most," singing, "Why was there no applause, that was our best performance, all in all I thought our last night went quite well." The song is redolent with a deep sadness, as she sings, "some things are just too good to be true." She closes out the album with "Home," originally recorded in the ’80s for "The Broadway Album." This barn-burning powerhouse is a great way to end a stunning album of covers. Now if only we had an extra $600 lying around for a ticket to see her perform them live...
"#3" (The Script)
An intense burst of drums and guitar opens the Script’s third album, "#3," as the Irish trio of Danny O’Donoghue, Mark Sheehan and Glen Power attempt to replicate the success of their 2010 album, "Science and Faith," which hit #1 in the UK and Ireland. In their first track, the pub song "Good Ol’ Days," they sing of chilling out with cigars and whiskey, talking trash, because, "Ain’t no shame in the game that’s just how we were raised to always sing of the better days." Their hit single, "Hall of Fame," featuring will.i.am, debuted in London during the Olympics. It is a rap-style pop song with the chorus, "The world’s gonna know your name." Said Sheehan, "We wanted to capture as much emotion in the track’s sound as there is in the lyrics, which are definitely some of the most positive and upbeat we’ve ever written." They recalled how they played it cool upon working with will.i.am, waiting until they left his hotel room with the finished track to fist-pump and hit the bar to celebrate their get. The band has a piano-heavy, pop melodiousness that resonates well with listeners here and in their home of Dublin. They will put this to the test as they kick off their North American tour with an Oct. 9 concert at Radio City Music Hall. They’ll hit cities between New York and California, before returning for a final show in Camden, NJ, to promote "#3." "There’s a synergy to three," said frontman O’Donoghue. "We’re all extremely different people, but magic happens when you mix us together." A heartfelt song about smiling through the pain of a relationship ending is "Six Degrees of Separation." The song lyrics borrow from AA’s 12 steps, as they chart O’Donoghue’s recovery after breaking up with his longtime girlfriend earlier this year, singing, "And the third is when your world splits down the middle, in the fourth you’re gonna think that you face yourself, fifth, you see that it was someone else." "Glowing" is another song about a lover leaving. The band’s other slow tune is "No Words," a string-heavy orchestration with a secret Irish banshee shriek in its ghostly chorus that sounds like, "No words." The lyrics outline the many topics the guys can talk about endlessly; yet when it comes to their girl, there are no words. "This is about those moments when you need to tell someone how you feel about them, but you can’t find the words," said O’Donoghue. A cool echo filter opens "If You Could See Me Now," a hip-hop/pop amalgam that looks at the death of Mark’s parents and Danny’s father, with lyrics including, "would you still be disgraced or take a bow, if you could see me now?" "As writers, we’re used to venting everything in song," said Sheehan. "But that was the one topic for two albums we always shied away from. One night, I’d brought in a number of whiskies I wanted the guys to try -- that was the porthole. We had to be drunk to tackle that song. Danny and I sat in opposite corners of the studio, writing our verses. "I’ll remember that night for the rest of my life," said O’Donoghue. "Emotionally, we achieved exactly what we got into music for, what we’re all still in it for. Not the No. 1 singles or the fame, but to capture an emotion in three and a half minutes that we know will mean an awful lot to other people." "Give the Love Around," is a song about good karma, with lyrics, "if you treat a man wrong he’s gonna pass on it down to the next in line who’s probably his wife/ bringing up his kids, watch their mama cry." "Broken Arrow," looks at the old adage, "winners never quit, quitters never win," and a host of others. O’Donoghue asks for it all, no holds barred, in "Kaleidoscope," and sings about living good despite living the hard life in "Millionaires." The Script’s sound is like Eminem meets The All-American Rejects: total dude music, but with some heartwarming, emotional touches for the ladies. Welcome to America, boys. You’re sure to be a hit in college bars across the country.
"Sugaring Season" (Beth Orton)
English singer/songwriter Beth Orton releases another deep, moody collection of 10 tracks that is a follow-up to her 2006 hit, "Comfort of Strangers." The album was recorded in Portland, OR, and produced by Tucker Martine with keyboardist Rob Burger, drummer Brian Blade, bassist Sebastian Steiberg, guitarists Ted Barnes and Marc Ribot and folk singer Sam Amidon. Orton has left behind her early ’folktronica’ label and gone full folk, but her soft voice continues to pack a wallop, rising and falling beautifully in "Magpie," parroting a bird call as she sings, "What a lie what a lie what a lie what a lie looks like." She moves through "Dawn Chorus" with quick syncopation, with stellar accompaniment on guitar and clarinet. In her darkest song, "Candles," she sings with urgency about moving forward despite the pain, singing, "What’s done is done you just find another way to cry." Slow drums build up in "Something More Beautiful," and move up and down with Orton’s voice as the anchor, singing, "You ought to learn the trick to turn what’s not so pretty into something more beautiful." She goes full folk in the song, "Call Me the Breeze," channeling Neil Young with her steam engine-guitar accompaniment to her request to call her the fire, air, grass, birds, bark, stone, day, night and wind. There is a real Woodstock feel to the whole affair, very earthy and rooted. Folksy guitar opens "State of Grace," another song about regret and forgiveness, with a simple folksy feel. In "See Through Blue," there is a very organ-grinder, circus feel, à la Gogol Bordello. She sets William Blake’s "Poison Tree" to music as an intense story-song, singing, "I have watered it in fears, night and morning with my tears/ And I sunned it with smiles and with soft deceitful wiles." Amidon joins Orton for this track, but cedes his power to her voice, making it shine even more so. Among the best of her songs are "Last Leaves of Autumn," which features a beautiful instrumental accompaniment. As she sings the chorus of, "alive" in her fine, high voice, she stuns with the slow track, "Mystery." Critics have already labeled "Sugaring Season" as Orton’s best album yet. And you can add this critic to that list.