Reviews linda discs


millennium pick

Linda Lewis is back in business! After resurfacing on background vocals of Joan Armatrading's excellent Square the Circle, she released two solo albums, including a live set of old favourites, Born Performer [Sony, 1995, 18; 72:44]. What a thrill hearing Linda live. Now comes whatever..., her best since Heart Strings.

whatever... [turpin, 1997, 15; 68:24 or Sony, 1996, 13; 55:17] is one of these rare albums with great songs, one of the best singers ever, beautiful arrangements. I don't know where to begin to sing its praises, but should probably leave the singing to Linda. "Far Cry," featuring a flute and hints of her Jamaican roots, is an infectious song I can't get out of my head, nor would I want to. And that's just one highlight.

Sometimes an old-time artist stages a comeback that is embarrassing. Not on whatever.... Once in awhile, it harkens back to previous compositions, but this is very much vibrant, new music, full of catchy melodies and lyrics that make you take notice, like "Easy."

Playing to the gallery
Spends her life hidin' from what's gonna be
Dreaming of sugar from her Daddy
But finding daggers in his eyes
There's a stiletto in his smile
There are thirteen songs, two added alternate arrangements on the European version. Two of the thirteen are new versions of the classics, "Reach For The Truth" from Heart Strings and "Light Years Away" from Woman Overboard (which, along with Not A Little Girl Anymore, I have been unable to get on CD). An import well worth whatever it costs.

Kiss of Life

Kiss of Life

Forget Sedaka! Never mind the Bullocks. Linda Lewis is back – with four big albums and several singles since 1995

I admit it. When it comes to Linda Lewis, I'm prejudiced. That conceded, Kiss of Life (Sony, 1999, 12, 45:50 or Turpin, 1999, 11, 42:18) is a keeper.

Midnight 31st December 1999 I was spinning Linda's Woman Overboard, as I noticed the clock clicking over to midnight. Her newest album is in the same league as my New Year's accompaniment, except Linda wrote ten of the songs (and co-wrote another with producer Robert Ahwai) on Kiss of Life. "Our Day Will Come," a familiar chestnut, gets a fine new treatment.  While the album is definitely Linda, the songs are distinctive with varied arrangements, even some Island flavour.  The lyrics are spontaneous and thoughtful simultaneously.  Linda knows from experience what's comfortable for singer and listener.  Her vocals have never been more self-assured.  Kiss of Life becomes more enjoyable the more I listen.

"Wearing Wings" is typical of Linda's most infectious tunes, although the great arrangement doesn't hurt. On "Da'Lin'," she has fun because the Da-Lin chorus also sounds like "Linda," which wouldn't be much, but over a great Latin beat, Linda cuts loose, demonstrating that she can still deliver octaves of delight.

She has even more fun on "All My Laugh"
'Cha Mush! It's me again
Your bushy bird is back
No more the egg woman
No meal ticket with that

See you're still begging for it
They said you'd gone to seed
At tease time we'll have a bit
Of booty and la beer   

Not sure what that means exactly, but I've got ideas. I always have ideas. For the first time on a recent album, Linda does not rearrange one of her classics. These are all new. As I play Kiss of Life, different songs capture my imagination and play in my brain all day (and night). They are infectious and the quality too consistent to select favourites.

Makes me wonder what a person has to do to see Linda Lewis live in concert. Until then, Kiss of Life is another great addition to her fabulous discography. [Rare and wonderful!]    

Heart Strings millennium pick Heart Strings
I've listened to Linda's Heart Strings since 1976 and never tire of it. In fact, now that it's on CD [Japanese], it sounds better and I'm more into it than ever.

Heart Strings [Reprise, 1974, 10; 36:44] is an album without which no collection is complete. I was trying to think of what kind of music it is, for the category-conscious and realised that's why I love Linda. She fits no niche. Even her classic British hit, "Rock-a-Doodle-Do," one highlight of this album, isn't really a rock song, as the title suggests. Her songs are distinctly LL. Without the Bean. (Get it?) But it's not like the songs are very good and someone should cover them. I can't imagine anyone else doing justice to them, especially considering some of her great covers, like John Martyn's "May You Never" on Not A Little Girl Anymore.

On Heart Strings, there are no duds, no filler. From the calypsoesque "Sideway Shuffle," to the flute fade-out on "I Dunno," every song is terrific. Even her advice for rejection still rings true, in
"I'm In Love Again."

Just put on a little lipstick, take a trip uptown and get pulled,
don't be like Linda Lewis sitting home alone getting fooled.
She sounds like a little girl on those early albums, though she isn't, but when her incredible range takes over, spanning octaves and mastering all the background singing, you know better.
Best of Linda
Lewis Best Of

What's better than a Linda Lewis album? Two Linda Lewis albums. And that's basically what best of is [Camden (BMG), 96; AAD, 20, 74:44]. It contains most of the songs from Not A Little Girl Anymore and Woman Overboard. A few are omitted, six I've never heard are added. Considering my inability to get the albums on disc, this is the next best thing. And what value! Imagine if American companies included this many great songs on a CD. They might actually be worth $16.99. However, I picked up this gem for $10.99 (plus tax) at Tower. It would have been a steal at twice the price.

One excluded song, which I have on my Not A Little Girl tape, is Linda's own composition, "My Grandaddy Could Reggae." Her music often reflects her Caribbean roots, but this is her definitive tribute. She reworked the song on the live and lively Born Performer [Sony, 95; AAD,18, 72:44] as "My Grandaddy Could Calypso," I guess correcting a slight misconception. The new version is nifty, although she had to leave out my favourite verse ("he reggae in the pub and he reggae in the tub"). This Japanese concert is wonderful, by the way. She performs songs from throughout her career, managing to invoke the originals without merely duplicating them. And the rhythm in her heart makes you feel good from the start.

I also miss some great songs from Woman Overboard, notably the Cat Stevens song, "Bonfire," and Allen Toussaint's "Dreamer of Dreams." The new (to me) songs are a mixed bag. "Baby I'm Yours," frequently-covered Van McCoy chestnut, doesn't really add anything new. Unlike the "Shoop Shoop Song" and "This Time I'll Be Sweeter" included here, which are gems. Her cover of John Martyn's "May You Never" is one of my all-time favourite recordings. It is amazing but, then again, it's Linda Lewis. I mean, how many folks could have a 75-minute compilation without lots of filler? And from only a portion of her career?

There are new (to these shores) Linda compositions which I like and the poignant "Can't We Just Sit Down and Talk It Over." For the holidays, it ends with "Winter Wonderland."

Not one Linda Lewis CD is available domestically. Not even a greatest hits. Considering that she's a consummate artist who has recorded some of the most wonderful songs over the past thirty years, it makes the United States seem like some vast cultural wastebasket.  

copyright 2001 gt slade
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