2006: Interscope/Weapons of Mass Entertainment B0006644-02
* = twinned with a track on Make Believe, the 1974 album
Heavens, where to start .
I guess I should get one thing out of the way first: with the exception of a brief comment comparing the two available versions of the song Happiness I will not be dealing here with the purportedly-1974 Platinum Weird album Make Believe, as I consider it to be a quirky offshoot of this albums origins and not the other way around. Ive addressed the other album with this one in mind, but Platinum Weird stands on its own here.
Its fascinating to finally get to hear the fruits of a labor Dave Stewarts been at for awhile (and so vocally enjoying). That hes not merely producing but is actively performing in this band is abundantly clear, and he is obviously enjoying this opportunity to strut his guitar stuff (probably even more than Im enjoying hearing him get to show off and really rock out on some tracks). His singing contributions are brief but appropriate and effective, and I can only guess at his presence in the lyrical side of things because what he and Kara DioGuardi have generated here could be from either of their worlds.
But that does bring up the subject of his partners songwriting credentials, which are abundant but feature some really dubious artists of fly-by-night celebrity status whose talent has less to do with music or art than with publicity and the seedy side of popularity. I cant judge DioGuardis songwriting range, because I lack the masochistic will to listen to her words as sung by the likes of Ashlee Simpson, Christina Aguilera, and similar bint-du-jour fluff. The lyrics on Platinum Weird range from arresting to tediously cliché, so the partnerships evidently not found its perfect balance yet, and where its arresting (for me anyway, and that may be a relevant caveat) is in Eurythmics territory: the recognized dark side to any joy and the light shining out of blackest despair.
Performance and lyric dont always coincide on that point, but where they do, on this album, is unquestionably the opening track, Happiness. And that is one mighty solid piece of work. Lyrically its nearly pure Eurythmics, with a little hyperbole from a different land, and I can see Annie singing this one pretty much as written. Which is NOT to say that DioGuardi doesnt do it well enough on her own: au contraire, she delivers an absolute smackdown performance here that ranges from weary voice to direct-current wail. She unexpectedly builds to heights I didnt think she could even approach, and she fucking SLAM-DUNKS them. Im still shaking my head in amazement at the stuff she pulls out of nowhere to turn this track into a volcano although in hindsight her descant vocal track on the chorus gives ample notice of her range if not the intensity and power to come. The version on the 1974 album provides an interesting alternative perspective, but there is simply no comparison on the question of performance and impact. Lovely lyrics aplenty, an early example being this: my greatest gift / is falling down and taking it / cause everything is better when it hurts . You know theres never pleasure without the pain / here it comes again!
I have VERY mixed feelings about the Here Comes the Rain Again quotation in Taking Chances. Especially (as of July 2008) now that Celine Dion has recorded a cover version of Taking Chances, so the lyric is getting another trotting-out from a bigger name is that good? I suppose so its keeping the original song in some of the public consciousness, and after all it does have some nice lines to run through your fingers.
Rain is conspicuously present in the lyrics on this album so much so that Im inclined to view mentions of it as being lyrical gimmickry rather than heartfelt and immediate artistry. For that matter, I confess I consider the use of the phrase here it comes again in Happiness to be a direct reference itself to Here Comes the Rain Again, but then its not as though Eurythmics themselves havent tapped that same phrase for the allusion (in Cool Blue on Touch and Here Comes that Sinking Feeling on Be Yourself Tonight for example).
Im afraid no track on Platinum Weird holds for me quite the same impact the opening track does, although Will You Be Around has promise and might grow on me, but Crying at the Disco is getting more enjoyable. It certainly benefits from a fine opening line: Everyone thinks that I am who I am but I think my dance has just begun. On top of that, Stewart finally gets to let rip with his electric guitar (though its only a hint of whats to follow on Avalanche).
AvalancheYEAH!! Thats an opening like I love to hear. :^) Pity the songs lyrics arent quite clear enough to be sure of throughout. Still, its a nice strong rocker with dark connotations, and Im fond of those.
Overall however the album sounds like a superbly-rocked-up Sheryl Crow onetwangy rhythms and lightly gritty vocal edge throughoutexcept for the tracks Ive noted here. Not that its bad its just not clearly unique overall. Im delighted to hear what Daves been up to, and this introduction to DioGuardis unexpected voice is emphatically welcome.
The strange flaw to this album, as far as Ive found upon repeated listenings, is uncharacteristic of Dave Stewarts work: it works extremely well on headphones but not on stereo speakers or radio. Stewarts touting of DioGuardis voice is mostly justified by what I hear here, although her range seems to be strident above and husky below on the whole, disguising a not-especially-broad gamut when it comes to actual octaves. Its showcased pretty well, but I get the impression that thats production rather than basis. It works well for ballad-y tracks such as Nobody Sees, but Taking Chances exposes the voices limitations: strong on high wails amid bombastic power chords and gritty/weary up-close confessional stuff but without much shown elsewhere. I get the impression that DioGuardis capable of rectifying that impressionturning the tables to give the upper zones more body and the lower ones greater range of expressionbut on this first outing she doesnt quite seem to get there. The electrifying work she does show here, especially on Happiness, confirms for me what Dave enthused before the Platinum Weird records were released, that DioGuardi has a mighty voice, so I hope to hear it continue to find its full form.
Comments © 2006 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.