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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Christine Anderson

Live Summer Session

Review by Gary Hill

At first musical glance you might think that Christine Anderson is a Tori Amos clone. Indeed, much of her music shares a lot with Amos' work. But that's only a part of the picture. Anderson brings in classical music, pure pop and other elements to create a soundscape that, while seeming like it might much to Amos, is all its own. Indeed, Anderson says that she never heard Amos before writing her music. That makes the similarities uncanny. It should be noted that Anderson is an exceptionally talented individual. The music here was all recorded live and improvised on the spot. Well, that's my understanding. I'm inclined to think that some of this was at least partly worked out in advance because catchy melodies and insightful lyrics don't often come off the top of your head. Still, just the act of recording all this in one take is quite commendable. If you like musical talent with a nose for interesting melodies, this is for you. If you enjoy music that is based purely on piano and voice you should also check it out. For more information (and to check out the songs and purchase the disc) check out Anderson's website.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hollywood Trainwreck
It's amazing that Anderson can get such a cool rock and roll texture from just the piano and her voice. While much of the album reminds me of Tori Amos, this cut almost feels more like a female Elton John. It's a cool tune and a great way to lead off the disc. Mind you, the non-lyrical vocal section does seem a bit like Amos.
I'm A Defect Too
Now here the Tori Amos sounds come more fully into play. This is a playful mellow cut that still has a lot of energy. It's got a bouncing sort of melody line that's a lot of fun. The piano work has just a touch of classical music in its compositional style.
Trip Down the Drain
Starting with a dramatic, rather dissonant piano line, this moves into a balladic approach that's pretty and quite effective. The vocal performance on this one is particularly strong. When it moves out into the more energized movement that's where the Tori Amos leanings come into play. Still I hear a lot of the Boomtown Rats “I Don't Like Mondays” on this. The cut is one of the more dynamic on show here and a highlight of the disc.
Made of Stars
When this one enters the Tori Amos textures are the most complete of all we've heard. This is a pretty cut with a balladic texture. It's another highlight of the disc and has one of the most catchy choruses.
Smash It To Pieces
Anderson describes this as “an angry song about corporate America.” It has a bouncy approach to the musical structure. There is still some of that Amos leaning here. This is another highlight of the disc. There is a great instrumental segment here that calls to mind Rick Wakeman quite a bit.
Blue Days / Daze
An awesome melancholy sound pervades the first portion of this track. I still hear Amos on this, but there is also an older feel to the songwriting. This is simply incredible. It shifts out into a dramatic and playful faster transitional segment. Then the cut carries on with a renewed vitality. I might have to say that this is my favorite track on the set. That quick paced section returns later, then shifts into a silent movie type segment to take it out.
Over Now
This quiet ballad is pretty and very catchy. It's one of the most accessible pieces on the disc and a definite highlight. The chorus is great! It has a rather bluesy texture.
Hallelujah
The first instrumental of the disc, this one feels like Elton John does classical music with Rick Wakeman helping out a bit. It's a powerful cut and a great addition. The resolution segment at the end is particularly interesting.
Bobby Hunter
This might be the most blatantly Tori Amos-like cut on show here. It's a dramatic and powerful piece of music that really feels like it could have made it onto one of Amos' discs.
Thank You Doctor
Here we get a piece that has a classic rock feel to it, with some of that Tori Amos texture still hanging about. I also hear some traces of lounge jazz here. While this is a good song, it doesn't hold up to some of the other material on the set.
99 Bottles of Vicodin
“Take one down and pass it around, 98 bottles of vicodin on the wall.” OK, just kidding. Those lyrics are not in this song, but the title sure made me think of that. This is actually a slightly bluesy jam that has a bouncy texture to it. It's another good one, but another that doesn't really rise above the bulk of the stuff here.
Gothic Sunshine
Bonus points are rewarded here for the clever contradiction of the title. This is another that has a more accessible feel to it. The songwriting here is superior to some of the other stuff. It's catchy and also reminds me a bit of the aforementioned Boomtown Rats cut. This is a highlight of the disc. The reworked chorus later is especially powerful. As is the classically tinged piano melody that emerges after.
Oh Bettie
Another instrumental, this is more of a lounge jazz approach, but some of those Elton John elements appear here, too. This is another dynamic cut and is rather playful in it's approach. You might hear a bit of ragtime on this arrangement.
Winner Boy
I like the tentative, start and stop texture to this. The fast paced mostly spoken vocals take some getting used to, but have a definite charm. This one is short and that works in its favor.
Don't Lie (You're Sick of Me)
This is another that reminds me of “I Don't Like Mondays,” but it has a more playful approach and some hints of older music. While I wouldn't think of it as a standout, it is good nonetheless.
Imagine Infinity
The next instrumental on the disc, this leads off with some of the most blatantly classical sounds of the whole disc. I hear this as a combination of new age music with Beethoven and Rick Wakeman. I like this one quite a bit. It moves through a number of moods and segments bringing in varying textures and modes. You might hear some more of that silent movie type sound here and perhaps a bit of Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody.” At over eight minutes in length this is the longest and most dynamic cut on show. It's also one of my favorites. The later segments of the piece are especially powerful.
Imagine Yourself Living Your Dream
This pretty instrumental piano ballad is nice. I'm just not sure that it was the best choice for a disc closer, seeming a little too sedate for that purpose.
 
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