+ Live In Central Park

Annie Lennox

1995: RCA/BMG 74321331632

  1. No More “I Love You’s”
  2. Take Me to the River
  3. A Whiter Shade of Pale
  4. Don’t Let It Bring You Down
  5. Train in Vain
  6. I Can’t Get Next to You
  7. Downtown Lights
  8. Thin Line between Love and Hate
  9. Waiting in Vain
  10. Something So Right

Live in Central Park [9 September 1995]:

  1. Money Can’t Buy It
  2. Legend in My Living Room
  3. Who’s That Girl?
  4. You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart
  5. Little Bird
  6. Walking on Broken Glass
  7. Here Comes the Rain Again
  8. Why
  9. Something So Right [Studio Version with Paul Simon]

This album hits me unevenly, never quite coming across to me as a very good one overall but also not actively turning me off. I guess it’s because the sum of my reactions to each track doesn’t amount to a cumulative delight, plus which no track stands out to me as stunning (as I have come to expect of Lennox over the years, both before and since this album). That said, I can listen to any track on the album and say “Yeah, I like that!” very easily.

If I had to call out favorites, though, I’d change my answer from month to month and year to year. For example, “No More ’I Love You’s’” got played a LOT on the radio in the mid-1990s, so that opening/closing vocal motif got old real quick and I kind of shut it out of my mind so I wouldn’t burn out on it further…but decades later I find I can hear it again and appreciate it happily. (Although she didn’t do much more with it than The Lover Speaks did in the original recording, it must be noted.) That the video was such lovely dark fun, overtones and all, doesn’t hurt the song’s lasting ability to impress.

Both “Train in Vain” and ”I Can’t Get Next to You” I like, although Lennox does sound rather like a white girl singing Soul at times there. That may be due to the rather safe/bland instrumental arrangement, which lacks any thrill or pizazz (I suspect this would have been rectified by balancing efforts by Dave Stewart were these Eurythmics tracks). “Train in Vain” does build well, though, and she certainly can strut the vocal groove even if it’s within a slightly antiseptic vehicle.

I was going to say that most of the latter assessment applies equally to “Take Me to the River,” but that track’s biggest problem is more one of balance of passion: the lead vocal is restricted, even in the emotionally gushing bridge, and the backing tracks are given all the expression range. The overall impression is therefore that these are hypothetical feelings…quoted longing rather than first-person love.

I do quite like “Downtown Lights,” although it took me a while to get to that place—probably because too much of the front half of the track is low-key and moodily pensive without a sense of destination. But she does take us on a journey in the nearly 7-minute-long recording, and it’s a very interesting one indeed for the last third or so. And god knows she’s delivering a great vocal throughout, by turns intimate, passionate, desperate, grand, frail, and resigned. The ending’s odd lurch to a cutoff is a quirk that works as a setup for the following track, her pal Chrissie Hynde’s “Thin Line between Love and Hate,” but outside of the album context I’m not sure how it would land to a casual listener.

Probably my least favorite track—sorry, Annie, I know you love the song, and I know why—is “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” but then the song has always seemed to me to be a pointless bit of hallucination that didn’t need to be documented for posterity and is vastly overrated as a song.

I can’t do an assessment of this release’s CD of her Central Park concert in support of Medusa, at the moment, but I do want to say that that version of “Waiting in Vain” is one of my favorites of all her live performances. It gives me chills, especially when she sings “it’s been three years since I’m knocking on your door…and I still could knock some more….” But the track she closes that extra disc with is such a treat: I mean, to have fuckin’ Paul Simon sing backup on his own song for your cover version…that is some serious awesome, honey.