July/Aug 1973

Melanie at Carnegie Hall

album reviews

July 28, 1973. Record Mirror

A two-record set commemorating a couple of concerts in February this year, and opening with an introduction of fulsome praise, then into "Baby Guitar" and so on. Melanie wrote everything except "My Rainbow Race" (Pete Seeger") and "Pretty Boy Floyd" (Woody Guthrie), and there is a medley comprising "Hearing The News", "Seasons To Change" and "Peace Will Come".

It's a very satisfying set, though much of the material is familiar, and the overall standard of sound is good. What emerges most strongly is the quite astonishing rapport Melanie has with an audience . . . she somehow plays with them, lures them.

Maybe she's not the greatest singer, but she is a very fine performer.

4th Aug, 1973. New Musical Express. - by Nick Kent.

Here's a poser for all you avid NME album reviews readers: if the Guru Maharaji is the little Jimmy Osmond of spiritualism and Melanie is the Guru Maharaji of folk wimpishness, then what do Melanie and little Jimmy Osmond have in common? That's right. They're both fat.

That's where the likeness ends fortunately, because even that paunchy little Mormon probably couldn't stomach Melanie's brand of hippie-girl mystical precociousness.

The whole Melanie cult has always struck me as being absolutely the most offensively ludicrous outbreak of warts on the body-politic of rock. Sure, Cat Stevens and lonesome Leonard Cohen tend to bite the gristle with their self obsessed brand of melancholic oatmeal, but those bed-sitter girls who seem to constitute the majority of the later pair's victims can gain some slight comfort in the fact that there are some few shards of creativity at work there.

But Melanie is a truly grim performer, the last word in the whole brown-rice, banal spirituality and general flatulence culture - a voice which grates more than chalk against a blackboard, spastic melodies and guitar playing and a slight ability for lyric writing that is horreniously outweighed by the pretensions of its own intentions.

The show is opened first by maternal, glib Alison Steele and then by some gink called Scott Muni who sounds like he's straight from the Nehru jacket/peace medallion brigade of youth-condescension middle America/showbiz consciousness.

It's Melanie's birthday (applause) so It's going to be one of those special occasions.

And then on comes everyone's sweetheart, giggling, knocking out a quick rap about togetherness and pollution in New York City and it's off into one of a series of her braying songs.

God, it's awful - gross, wimpoid profundities, etc. You'd think she'd have the decency to add some innocuous instrumentation - maybe a pedal steel guitar just so as to cut down the staggeringly high nausea level present on his record. But there's no room for mercy here: four sides of Melanie, her guitar and her music - I'd rather go through a series of complex shocks on my genitals than sit through this album again.

I mean, really, who needs another version of "Baby Guitar" or "Beautiful People"?

I suppose one should acknowledge a slight maturing of style in the manner of Melanie's song-writing. There's a ditty called "Psychotherapy" which could be quite witty were it not so cute, while "Actress" finds her stalking into advanced Joni Mitchell territory and falling flat on her face.

In conclusion, I hate this album. I hate it for an almost godforsaken number of reasons, but most of all, perhaps, for the audience's placidly unshakeable acceptance throughout that they are being cradled within the womb of Great Art and Wondrous Simplicity while they bask under the shadow of Melanie's horrendous excesses.

Still the fact remains for me that this album's very existence is an even more depressing statement of our times than the equivalent fact that "Living In A Material World" is currently in the album charts. But then again, an old kaftan will never let you down.

Note: The 'author' is no longer with NME, who are now under the IPC umbrella.

If you take a look at their Web site (http://www.nme.com) - you'll see what kind of people they attract as readers!


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