Copyright 1996 Times Publishing Company

April 19, 1996, Friday St. Petersburg Times - Weekend; Pop Music; Pop Beat; Pg. 13

For Melanie,

finally a chance to play in her own back yard

By Eric Deggans

Before I finish a conversation with Woodstock phenom-turned-fortysomething comeback kid Melanie, she wants me to know something.

She always meant to play that 25th anniversary Woodstock gig in Tampa.

The gig that Melanie - otherwise known as Melanie Safka Schekeryk - is referring to was called Groovefest, planned as a local Woodstock celebration timed in August to coincide with the mega-commemorative concert at Saugerties, N.Y.

Judging by a review published in the Times, the home grown celebration was about as successful as the disaster in Saugerties, drawing about 600 people to the fairgrounds for a show plagued by technical difficulties and rain delays.

According to Melanie, when she flew into Tampa from an appearance at the alternative Woodstock celebration in Bethel, N.Y., a limousine whisked her to a nearby hotel - where she sat for hours, waiting for word on when she could head to the performance site.

"I know why they didn't want me at the site," adds the singer, who says concert organisers never did call her back that day. "Because every (other performer) was there demanding their money and they didn't want me to join the line. I had to pay my own hotel bill, I didn't get paid, and I missed a chance to play with Ritchie Havens (in Bethel)."

What she also missed was the chance to play in her adopted home; a resident of Clearwater for seven years, she hadn't played a proper concert in the Tampa Bay area since 1991.

All that gets rectified tonight and Sunday, when Melanie comes to the Iron Horse (166 E Tarpon Ave., Tarpon Springs). For the 49-year-old flower child, the shows mark a rare chance to play in her own back yard and show off some tunes from her 1995 overseas release, Old Bitch Warrior.

It's all made possible through a major stateside surge in interest Melanie has noticed since '80s-style techno pop made way for '90s-style modern rock. "l was a little disenchanted in the '80s...People who did acoustic music were relegated (performing) Wednesday nights at the Discos," she admits.

"Now with audiences (aged) 15 to 25, there's a whole new interest in '60s and '70S . music, the singer adds, enthusiastically, "They're tired of music where the production is more important than the artist. They want to get some message… an explanation of something."

What is apparent after one listen to Old Bitch Warrior is that Melanie's message has changed a bit since the days of sugar-sweet '60s-era hits like Brand New Key and Look What They Done To My Song. Filled with quality tracks like the country-tinged lament Freedom Knows My Name and the atmospheric rocker Rock In the Road, the album unwinds like a long campsite yam, filled with complex twists and turns.

But suggesting this complexity may be the result of the singer's own well earned experience, and you'll get a quick denial. "I don't think of myself as an older woman," she says. "Sometimes my kids (daughter Jeordie sings backup on the album and in concert) seem older than I am. Age has never really played a part in my thinking."

Assisted by capable players such as former Joe Jackson sidemen Gary Burke (drums) and Mindy Jostyn (violin/vocals), Melanie has crafted an album with the best cuts lodged near the end - veering from Kate Bush-like atmospherics to Melissa Etheridge-style swagger - including re-conceived covers of Gloria Gaynor's I will Survive and the Rolling Stones' Ruby Tuesday.

It's a combination that could bring new fans, upon the album's planned U.S. release in September. But it'll have to happen without help from a major label.

"l was on CBS, MCA and Buddha...I know the major-label game," says the singer, who has released about 30 albums in her 25-year career - many on her own record labels. "I'm independent now, and I like it that way."

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