by Carl Dallas.
You can't be neutral about Melanie, she's one of those people who come along and creates new dividing lines in the scene. Setting people at each others' throats, who normally see eye to eye on good and bad.
On first hearing everyone feels they have to stand up and be counted. So I'll own up and here and now I think Melanie Safka is going to be a star. Even though she has not yet achieved consistency.
Her first album for Buddah has some nice things on it. Like the song they made a single of "Bo Bo's Party" some of them like her arch interpretation of A.A. Milne's "Christopher Robin" made me want to upchuck.
I've heard her be brilliant in London, she silenced a crowded room of tough record executives at last years MIDEM. But by all accounts her reception in Paris last month was rather less than luke warm.
I can quite believe it, quite apart from the fact that the Olympia's probably the second toughest gig in the world (absolute toughest being Harlem's Apollo) the audience, that goes for Gilbert Becaud as top of the bill, isn't exactly ready for what Melanie has to say to them. And I could imagine her getting up-tight with them, very badly on a bad night. Not that I have ever heard her sing badly, I have seen her sing one line and get slugged on the back of the head by a piece of stage scenery that came adrift and fell on her, she staggered, shook her head, settled herself down and started over.
She finished to cheers and it wasn't merely approval for the continuance of the old show must go on tradition. She is certainly a pro. Every inch of this rather hung up, slightly over weight New York girl of Ukrainian* parents, but she is not hipped on the old trooper show-biz is show-biz nonsense.
I have seen her come out on stage and triumph over her sound system that howled feedback as soon as she opened her throat. I watched her recording one cut for her forthcoming album at a London studio. The first take knocked me out but it didn't satisfy Melanie. In fact as I left a couple of hours later she was discussing a completely new approach with MD John Cameron.
This is the sort of attitude that can turn record producers white overnight. I know, but such perfectionism is all too rare in this business. This isn't the core of her star quality however. Though it is the sort of application that should put her pretty quickly at the top of whatever tree it is she is climbing. I don't know what sort of tree it is, and I suspect that she doesn't either.
At present she is easily classifiable as one of those urban American kids. Who are externalising their adolescents, in the semi-folk/semi-rock bag along with, who shall we say? Paul Simon perhaps.
Some of her harsher American critics have pointed out that she is a little old at 22 to come on like a confused teenager coming to grips with a brutal and cynical world. Never the less the world is like that. And she has not yet grown a hard shell to protect her innocence from the most brutal, most cynical part of it, all the world of show business.
Perhaps she never will, but by judging by some of the material on her forthcoming album she's going to document what happens to her pretty completely and pretty honestly I'd say.
She has a song about her new life, about the people around her, the way she used to sing just for fun, and the people behind the curtain now hoping she'll be a star. Telling her to sell but selling's not her aim. They're going to have to wait says the song because she's tuning her guitar.
This is what will really make her into a star. As she moves from the little girl lost posture to the tough defiance of the girl who may not be the world's most raving beauty, her voice may not be anything fancy on a stick, her guitar may indeed need tuning, but she has her own songs to sing, her own life style to work out. In the crossing categories again this is becoming pop criticisms tireless cliché.
They are no doubt working out bags to put Melanie in. I can foresee comparisons with Barbara Streisand, Edith Piaf, Janis Joplin or if you prefer Judy Garland. They're all wrong. Melanie's bag is going to be her own
* Ukrainian Father, Fred and Italian Mother, Polly - DJB
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