Copyright 1985 Chicago -Tribune Company

Chicago Tribune

November 14, 1985 Thursday, Sports Final Edition

Section: Chicagoland; Pg. 9; ZONE: C

Melanie's Long Hair Gone But Not Her '60s Spirit

By Lynn Van Matre, Pop music critic.

With her long hair, flowing dresses, earthy voice and ingenuous lyrics about peace and love, Melanie Safka--better known simply as Melanie--carved out a small but well-defined niche for herself in the late 1960s and early 1970s as the reigning female flower-child folk singer of the Woodstock Generation. She is one of those performers whom people seem to either adore or abhor, with her sugary sincerity repelling some while attracting others. Though her time in pop's spotlight was relatively brief, she is still remembered for two major hits, Lay Down (Candies in the Rain)" and "Brand New Key " and her devoted cult following.

These days the long hair is gone, and while Melanie still does her old hits, she also does a humorous song in which an '80s kid (perhaps one of Melanie's daughters) complains that "Mom's a throwback to the'60s generation." And Wednesday night at Holsteins, where she opened an engagement that winds up with two shows Thursday, the singer fairly bubbled over with enthusiasm for her new single, "Rock and Roll Heart," and talked of her hopes of hitting the charts again.

Whether or not Melanie can stage an '80s comeback remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure: In concert, anyway, nobody can accuse her of trying to scramble aboard any contemporary music bandwagons. Her amiable pop/folk sound is about as low-tech as you can get--just her and her acoustic guitar, with another guitarist occasionally helping out on background vocals.

While she does plenty of new songs, much of Melanie's appeal for the opening night audience clearly was rooted in nostalgia, a fact that she repeatedly acknowledged. "Sometimes when you were a household name a long time ago, people come see you for all different reasons," she said. "Sometimes they want to see if you can still hit the high notes.

... But I don't get that feeling about you all. I think you want me." This kind of emotional openness has long been Melanie's trademark, and it still strikes a receptive chord in fans, who weren't shy about calling out song requests (most of which she cheerfully fulfilled) or about telling the singer how much they had missed her. Now Melanie's back, and if you liked her back then, chances are you'll like her now.

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