11/7/15

Melanie - Phonogenic (Not Just Another Pretty Face) LP (1978)



Sorry I've been away for some time but I come stronger than ever tonight with 3 re-ups from Melanie. The 1978-83 period, not a bad one contrary to what many may imagine. First, the weakest of the 3, but with one of the greatest cover ever recorded: "California Dreaming". Don't miss this gem. More details below. Catch the re-up here. Hope one day there'll be a regular CD release of this material as the one Cherry Red did for the 72-75 period.

1978 is a strange year for Melanie. A strange and difficult one. After her excellent Photograph LP failed surprisingly to put her again in the front of the spotlights, we found her musically and physically changed with this album, sometimes considered by her fans as one of her worst, but I think it's too severe. Actually, the music here is quite different from the folky (although often pop and rough) side she was known for. This is rock with a white funky atmosphere, targeting the US market. In TV shows, Melanie does not appear with her guitar anymore but as a singer, and worst of it, no more as a composer since all the singles she will release this same year, and all the songs she will sing on TV, will be covers. Only 4 from the 10 songs of the album are her owns. Physically, she has changed a lot too, with these curled haircut and more strikingly, her new silhouette, having apparently lost quite a lot of weight (that she would have partly took 3 years later judging by the videos we can see). When I asked her why she did that changes (musical and physical), she told me that she was unhappy at the time. And it's true that she seemed quite out of her universe in this new role of variety singer. And all this will be ineffective, the album and the single (a cover of "Oh Boy" of Buddy Holly, strangely not included in the album, and that I've never found in vinyl, CD or MP3 format, so I post a german TV excerpt below of her prestation, you'll be surprised of how she moves and looks although here she has her guitar) failed to make any impact in the charts. Germany only was kind with her (and still is). She also appeared in a Beatles tribute show where she interpreted 3 songs ("Rocky Raccoon", "The Long And Winding Road" and "We Can Work It Out"), but unfortunately only the latter featured in the album. Thus, Phonogenic could have been a 13 song album, and maybe this would have helped its commercial career. Another miss was the cover sleeve. In UK, they put a picture of Melanie who seem to mimic Bonnie Parker but in a more romantic pose, and this is in no way appropriate to the content. Disliking this sleeve, she asked for a black cover with only her name and the title (ironic since for the first time she tried to fit with the physical rules of her times) on it for the US market. No need to say that it was still worst commercially speaking. The highlights of the album are the Beatles cover ("We Can Work It Out") that she sings divinely and the Mama's & Papa's rendition of "California Dreaming", one of the peak of her career, an interpretation that makes me shiver. Tears are not far. Melanie has this talent to reveal the underlying emotive part of pop song lyrics, that the tunes and the poppy arrangements had buried. This is this latter song I put in streaming. In the file, you'll find all the lyrics and some informations about musicians. David Sanborn played on some songs and it's quite obvious when you hear it. All in all, a good album that, excepted for some really weak songs (such as the 3 first ones of side 2) would have merited a CD edition. 


California Dreaming. All the leaves are brown And the sky is grey I was takin’ a little walk On a winter's day I’d be safe and warm If I was in L.A. I’m California dreamin’ On such a winter's day I stopped into a church I passed along the way And I got down on my knees And I pretended to pray You know the preacher like the cold He knows we're gonna stay I'm California dreamin’ On such a winter's day I’d be safe and warm If I was in L.A. I'm California dreamin’ On such a winter's day All the leaves are brown And the sky is grey I went out takin’ a little walk On a winter's day I'd be safe and warm If I was in L.A. I'm California dreamin’ On such a winter's day

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