ROLLING STONE - JANUARY 13, 1977
Atlantic SD 18190
By Billy Altman
AT HER COMMERCIAL high point, Melanie's quavering, often frenzied wailings made her the darling of some listeners and an object of scorn among others. Her best qualities were detailed in her three hits: "Brand New Key" was a delightful focal point for her childish, fun-loving side; "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" showed her tortured, naked soul; and "Look What They Done to My Song, Ma" captured the essence of her European cabaret influences. Photograph is Melanie's first album in two years and it finds her touching all bases with enough confidence and maturity to regain her old following and surprise some of her detractors. It's an uneven record, but the bright spots shine.
The best song here is "Cyclone," a tense rocker with Melanie's raw, unbridled vocal perfectly matching the angry and confused lyrics ("Found love in the music but lost in the overtones/ Sweat on the brow, blood on the lips, love for the money but gold at the fingertips"). Also impressive are some of the love songs which are incredibly more perceptive than her previous "hold me, touch me" psychodramas. On "Save Me," she successfully confronts her own former, wide-eyed self with the changes she's gone through. There's some wasted space here, notably a rather mediocre remake of the Box Tops' "The Letter" and a dull update of her own "Nickel Song." But on the whole, Melanie seems to have made the transition from flower child to woman rather nicely, and with her talents Intact.
I was taken aback by the opening electric chords of 'Photograph' (Atlantic) the return of Melanie. Never having been enamoured by her little-girl image and vocals, I was surprised by her new, bold approach, supported by the likes of Dean Parks, Louie Shelton, Dave Paich, Jerry Scheff, John Guerin, Jeff Pocaro, Jim Gordon etc.... It hasn't really converted me but could well offer a substantial appeal.
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