See: 35-31, 30-26
Cindy Kallet - 2
Cindy's debut album is higher up on this list; this is her sophomore release. This woman, a soccer mom originally from Martha's Vineyard and the coast of Maine, is a damn fine guitarist with a captivating baritone voice. The album contains nothing else, nothing but a singer and her instrument. What makes this album so special is the relentlessly good guitar, voice, tunes, and writing: fisherman's music on the rocky coast of Maine so evocative that you can smell the tangy spray and hear the seagulls.
Cindy's lyrics are heartfelt, playful, strong, and full of a yearning for the simple joys of walking on a seashore or watching clouds drift by. She throws in a few complaints about war, sexism, and the absence of a lover; just the kind of talk you'd expect from a good friend on a quiet, contemplative day.
The album has only a single filler song; the rest are either very good (4 stars) or essential (5 stars).
5 star songs: Listen I Think the Rain's Come, Trying Times, Steamboat to the Mainland, Marblehead Neck, If I Sing, Mountains Range, I Don't Have To
The Cranberries - Everyone Else is Doing It So Why Can't We?
The Cranberries were a kick in the pants to alternative music with their breathy vocal murmurings and airy and evocative guitar and keyboards. Their debut album captures a magical misty mood that lingers long after the music ends.
It's not exactly hard, or soft, or casual, or serious, or angry, or wistful, or even alternative. It's a world out of focus, like somewhere in the middle of a David Lynch film. Whatever. This album packs a great bunch of tunes.
Other good albums are No Need to Argue and To the Faithful Departed (although the latter gets a bit heavy-handed with politics).
5 star songs: Dreams, Sunday, Pretty, Linger, Wanted, Put Me Down
Lynn Miles - Chalk This One Up to the Moon
Lynn's second album was, like her self-titled cassette, not released in widespread circulation, and is now extremely rare (the above copy on Amazon will run you $200).
It's filled with beautiful, evocative songs sung with naked simplicity. It's nearly as good as her wide-release "debut" album (her third, which is higher on this list). She plays well and she sings with an angst like heartbreak. This is folk music with a gorgeous voice, mesmerizing guitar, elegant tunes, and poignant lyrics. Listening to this album is like listening to a really good coffee house singer with a warm cup of coffee in your hands. The album has a few filler songs, but the best songs are worth repeated listens.
5 star songs: All I Ever Wanted, It's Gone, I Can't Tell You Why, Nobody's Angel, A Little Rain, Never Again
Carole King - Tapestry
Carole has the familiar, languorous voice of your sister lounging around, drinking iced tea on a hot summer Sunday afternoon in a Brooklyn brownstone (just like on the album cover). Maybe the vocal familiarity is specific to me, since I grew around that kind of voice in that kind of environment (actually I lived in the suburbs, but I visited Brooklyn often enough, and my relatives sounded like her).
Carole was already famous for her songwriting, and this album proved that she was just as good doing her own interpretations. Her post-liberated, early-seventies soul-infused lyrics and jazzy voice blend with the understated rhythmic piano to create songs that are cool, intimate, casual, and earthy. She sounds as good today as she did back then. The fabulous Rickie Lee Jones and Beth Orton are her direct descendants.
5 star songs: I Feel the Earth Move, It's Too Late, You've Got a Friend, Where You Lead, Will You Love Me Tomorrow?, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Donovan - Fairy Tale
Donovan's second album is his strongest, and an astounding work from a 19 year old runaway doped-up beach bum. No one inhabited the hippie dippie flower child image like Donovan. By the late seventies, everyone was making fun of him, but he was the real deal.
He writes and sings like he means it, and he really does mean it. Bob Dylan was jealous of him; they both had some catchy melodies, but Donovan could actually sing. Dylan's grittiness and anger is more powerful, and his poetry more cutting; Donovan's is more genteel, uses more allusions. Dylan sings about physical pain and politics, while Donovan sings about spiritual ache and love as allegories for physical pain and politics (except for some songs in which he is more direct, like Universal Soldier). It's the difference between America and Britain in a nutshell. Both are awesome. Do you want to feel enraged and bitter or wistful and moved?
After this album, Donovan's next albums pretty much led everyone else in the transition to psychedelia and electronic instruments. I've never been stoned, but I suspect that listening to Barabajagal is about the same experience.
5 star songs: Colours, To Try For The Sun, Sunny Goodge Street, Oh Deed I Do, Circus Of Sour, Candy Man, The Ballad Of A Crystal Man, The Balland of Geraldine, Universal Soldier [on some versions]