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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming, delighful and quite wonderful
Years in the making, this epic double album finds Natalie Merchant at the very top of game. The premise of nursery rhymes and poems set to music at first seems a little underwhelming, but her music and voice bring these simple tales to life in a way that is utterly captivating. It is easily one the most impressive works by any artist in recent years.

The...
Published on 2 July 2010 by P. Barnfather

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not natalie's best
Lots of five star reviews here for this two disc collection, but not from me. There's only so much whimsy I can take.
Published 5 months ago by NEIL


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming, delighful and quite wonderful, 2 July 2010
By 
P. Barnfather (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd] (Audio CD)
Years in the making, this epic double album finds Natalie Merchant at the very top of game. The premise of nursery rhymes and poems set to music at first seems a little underwhelming, but her music and voice bring these simple tales to life in a way that is utterly captivating. It is easily one the most impressive works by any artist in recent years.

The supporting booklet is also beautifully produced. Even though this package might seem "expensive" compared to a typical CD, I highly recommend the full length edition. It's actually something of a bargain.

Highly recommended.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Natalie Merchant - Children's songs, lullabies and nursery rhymes crafted into an extraordinary musical concoction, 12 April 2010
By 
Red on Black - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd] (Audio CD)
This has been a gigantic labour of love for Natalie Merchant. "Leave Your Sleep" is the culmination of six years of research and collaboration and is, in Merchant's words, "The most elaborate project I have ever completed or even imagined" The former 10,000 Maniacs singer is a brilliant and passionate artist and her statement no idle boast since "Leave your sleep" is hugely ambitious and richly rewarding. It may turn out to the best music she has ever recorded in her long career and for Merchant's thoughts on the genesis of this album's concept check the fascinating interview given to Granta on their website.

This is a hugely accessible album and after initially downloading the 16 songs on the "Selected" version it was a joy to get a further 10 on this double album. The amount of music may appear daunting but you can almost sing the songs after one listen and this may be partially down to astonishing fact they are all reworked children's' songs, lullabies and nursery rhymes. Again a health warning this might just suggest that this is purely an album of simplicity and charm (and it has these qualities in abundance) but it is much more than that. Across these 26 songs Merchant throws in everything in terms of musical style and genres with the only notable absence being the kitchen sink. She takes the childlike themes into deeply adult territory and is backed by a dazzling array of musicians including the jazz giant Wynton Marsalis; the gospel quartet The Fairfield Four and the Memphis Boys and some members of the New York Philharmonic for good measure The key instrument here nevertheless is her voice which is warm and full of feeling throughout. Now into her late forties her singing has aged beautifully and is even richer now than she recorded "Tigerlily" in 1995.

As for the songs "you pays your money and you takes your choice" Her version of the Cornish poet Charles Causley's "Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience", is a tale of a child's fixation on a dashing pirate full of deep Celtic pipes and fiddles and repays multiple repeats. "The Peppery Man" is raw New Orleans blues with great rootsy vocals from Merchant and her backing singers. "The Dancing Bear" has a flamenco gypsy feel to it but for some reason reminds me of "Those were the days" by Mary Hopkins! "Calico Pie" is alternatively pure country, full of great fiddle work and resonant of Gillian Welch's old style Appalachian music "Breezer's Ice Cream" demands an immediate cover by Tom Waits or Ricki Lee Jones with Marsalis's playing demonstrating an easy brilliance which he reprises on "The Janitors boy" a model of sultry New Orleans jazz . "Topsy Turvy World" has a glorious Peter Tosh feel about it and the album finishes with a brilliant cumulative climax. The yearning "Autumn lullaby" has real gentility, while the closely spun harmonies on "I saw a ship a sailing" are an acoustic wonder. My favourite of the lot is the song based on Gerard Manley Hopkins' (Note Amazon not "Charles"!) "Spring and Fall: To a Young Child" which is 3.06 minutes of sheer perfection and a haunting soundscape. The orchestration is atmospheric and Merchant's luminous vocal tackles head on Hopkins themes on the understanding of a child to explain how we all feel as we deal with death in our own way with use of passing leaves as a metaphor. It is a massive highlight and followed by the tender "Indian Names" to conclude. Bearing in the source material the album never descends into the twee (although "It makes a change" with Aunty Mable's "nighty" seems a little out of place, the "King of China's Daughter" is a bit "mandarin" by numbers but I do like the recipes read out in "The Sleepy Giant")

Natalie Merchant is an outspoken and prominent social activist disliked by more zealous republicans in the US and sometimes dubbed the "poster girl of the boho intelligentsia". "Leave your Sleep" is not political in any way instead it mines a rich vein of source material and subjects it to sheer musical eclecticism in the best sense of the term drawing upon Cajun, folk, old time country, jazz, chamber music, blues and Celtic music to construct an intoxicating mix. An album which takes poetry from the golden era of children's literature from great figures such as Nathalia Crane, Robert Graves and E E Cummings does in effect use these as unique lyrical foundations to engender immense new music. This extraordinary album is packed full of consummately crafted songs, please buy it.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Songs of Childhood [Not a childrens record], 13 April 2010
By 
O. MICHAEL (UK-Peru-Japan) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd] (Audio CD)
Releases by Natalie have been few and far between since she left 10,000 Maniacs, so the release of the first new material in 7 years will be welcome news to her fans. Natalie is now signed to the Nonesuch label and this album is available in 2 different versions. A 2 disc set [the Complete Works] and Leave Your Sleep: Selections [Selections from it] . Initially Natalie wanted to release it in two separate volumes, but the record label decided it would be better to release it as a double album - as it currently sits so high in the Amazon charts the marketing men obviously got this right. I think there will be a lot of people who will turn their nose up at this because of what it is percieved to be - childrens poetry set to music. But anyone who has heard any tracks from it will be pleasantly surprised.

That music and poetry should meet at some point is not a surprise. There has over the years been a number of musical projects related to the work of different poets, I can think of the "Now & In Time to Be" project that featured the works of WB Yeats or Rufus Wainwright recent trips into Shakespeare territory. And now we have this release. An initial glimpse at the poets involved lead to the thought "who be them?" as I had never heard of many of them before, but dont let that put you off.

This is not an album for children. It is at some level an album about childhood. From Natalie's own words it features poetry "about, for or by children" and "a child's emergence into the world of language". It may well appeal to children, but it is, as far from, a kids record as you can imagine. The complexities of the arrangements and the music itself make it something far more mature, almost encyclopedic in its exploration of different musical genres. It really is an amazing record. Many of these poems, taken at face value, you think could have never made an interesting song. But how wrong you would be. All the songs seem to have a life of their own. Even when the lyrics seem throwaway, the final finished song is not, and that says so much about Natalie's skill and ability, as an arranger and vocalist.

Some of the songs that stand out for me are - "Nursery Rhyme of Innocence" a poem about a child verging on adulthood, not a kids song at all, recorded with the wonderful Irish band Lúnasa. It has a deeply celtic feel to it, and sounds like it has always been destined to be a traditional folk ballad. "Isabel" has a real rollicking old-timey stringband feel to it, with lovely fiddle, banjo and guitar playing. The song "It makes a change" almost has a late 1960 English pop feel to it. For some reason it reminds me of the Beatles. "Bleezer's ice cream" has a bouncey/jazzy setting to it, while the song "The peppery man" goes for a very deep south bluesy/jazz backing - with Waits-ian beat and brass section and gospel-like harmonies. "The King of China's daughter" takes us too a sound that seems totally Chinese, accompanied by traditional instruments and players, again with lovely harmonies. There is a very nice video of this on Natalie's website. "If no one marries me" has a very haunting acoustic sound allowing the lyrics to stand out. "Spring and fall" reminds me of something that Kate Bush might record and has a very sad orchestral sound. You almost need to keep a checklist for the genres this album delves into.

There is a very dreamy quality to much the album - the songs and lyrics have innocence to them at one level but on some levels a darkness and melancholy to them. Some of the lyrics maybe nonsense, but there are couplets from them, which make sense and strike a cord with the listener. As well as painting very vivid images in the imagination. The album covers such a wide variety of musical genres that its suprising it holds together so well as a single work, but that is down to Natalie's voice which has never sounded better. Her voice is so clear and restrained and has a beautiful vibe to it. You can almost sense that she is singing to, or with, her daughter.

Natalie's belief in this project is to be commended, she funded the project herself, in order to maintain control and retain the rights over the music. Natalie is on record as saying she actually had 50 songs prepared for the project and these are the final 26 she chose for the project. So I imagine there is a possibilty there may be a volume 2 at some point in the future, especially as this looks destined to be a great success, and I for one would be over the moon! [With or without the cow] .

The only thing that is disappointing about the album is we have to wait longer for an album of new material, written by Natalie. It really is a great album, one I have been looking forward to since seeing her appearance on Celtic Connections back in January. It has been well worth the wait. In short I would recommend this album to anyone who got as far as searching for this page on Amazon.

Highlights:
Nursery Rhyme of Innocence
The Dancing Bear
The Peppery Man
It makes a change
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Success, 19 April 2010
By 
This review is from: Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd] (Audio CD)
I have to say, from the start, that i'm a big fan of Natalie Merchant. Therefore my review is not without bias.

Saying that, i'm confident there will be few who will be able to argue that this is anything but a superb album. It is impossible to ignore the obvious quantity of work which was put in by Merchant to collate the details for the insert book alone. Every track has been carefully put together and considered. The choices of music style for each piece is almost as important as the words, both working to create a beautiful collection of musical poems fro which she should be proud and we, grateful.

As previous reviewers have mentioned this is not an easy listening album and whilst she claims to have got much inspiration from reading poems to her daughter, i'm not sure it would be well received by children. I hope i'm wrong.

Should anyone be reading this having not previously heard any of Merchant's work, i promise you won't be disappointed, however one of her earlier albums, 'Tigerlily' or 'Ophelia' may be considered an easier introduction to her more pop/folk contemporary work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leave you Sleep Natalie Merchant, 21 May 2010
By 
D. J. Haxell (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd] (Audio CD)
Since "House Carpenters Daughter" I thought Natalie had gone for good but here she is with what can only be described as an absolutely amazing piece of musical whimsy. The concept is sound; take poems from child hood and set them to music. But here is the thing, how do you do this without losing the integrity of the words whilst still attracting an adult listener? There could be a tendency to be banal with oversimplified music having that rhymatic beat that is so very prevelant in childhood songs. Merchant however avoids all of the obvious traps and has created a double CD which is varied, interesting, musically innovative, full of outstanding musicianship and quite simply glorious. Covering a variety of musical styles, Jazz, classical, traditional folk, bluegrass and more, she interweaves the words of the poems into a rich, varied tapestry of spellbinding music. Here you will find sadness, humour, nonsense, longing etc in fact nearly every human emotion relayed neatly through words and music. I defy anyone not to be moved by the sadness and loneliness conveyed in my favourite's "The Land of Nod" or "if no one ever marries me" Quite simply this is a momentous project which Natalie has undertaken and it works exceptionally well. Some of the songs I found took some listening too but when that dawning of realisation comes upon you that this CD is like a good book, full of depth, demanding respect and superbly well crafted you feel priviledged to be a part of the whole experience. I thoroughly recommend this magnificent work to you. If your serious about music and the written word you will not be disappointed. I promise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Album Of The Year, 16 Nov 2010
This review is from: Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd] (Audio CD)
I came to Nathalie Merchant quite late in life, with a mate playing me Tiger Lily a couple of years ago. I thought it was a first class album, the thing impressing me most being the quality of her voice, which is an amazing instrument. So when I read a couple of reviews of Leave Your Sleep, I was ambivalent, to say the least. Nursery Rhymes set to music ? It sounded like a self indulgent, sugary sweet, candy floss project. Anyway, what do I know ? I did buy it and I haven't stopped playing it and marvelling at its sheer musicality. The breadth of musical styles involved, the satisfying productions, coupled with NM's vocals make this my album of the year. It's been an album that took a very long time to make and you can see why. Ignore your preconceptions, just listen. You really won't be disappointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, 21 Aug 2010
This review is from: Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd] (Audio CD)
This is just an enchanting cd which cuts across a wide range of styles.If you like quirky songs well sung and well played then give this one a try.
Probably the best album I have heard this year, cannot praise it highly enough.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars leave your sleep, 10 Aug 2010
This review is from: Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd] (Audio CD)
I found Natalie Merchant late.... on a Chieftains CD
This CD is just fantastic in every way, if you like poetry given a new twist in song this one is for you.
The whole package from the music to the presentation is wonderful and no wonder it took approx six years in the making.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful trip through the world, 4 Jun 2010
By 
A. Vd Meulen - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd] (Audio CD)
Natalie Merchant made an incredible album: Leave your sleep. As a songwriter she went to work with existing poetry, which is pretty balsy for someone who is used to sing her own words. Then she put world music to the words. The result is mesmerizing. Image country, polka, folk, China, blues, Irish flutes, all of it wonderfully blended with classic words, performed by authentic musicians who are without a doubt the best in their field. That's 'Leave your sleep'.
I own over 3000 cd's (all kinds of) , but this is one of the ten albums I would safe first from the fire.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 13 April 2010
By 
Peter Thomas - See all my reviews
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Artist and art are descriptive words that often get used for personal aggrandizement or for reasons of commerce with little connection with what is meant to be conveyed.
This album is crafted not put together. All Natalie's albums feel new, as if she is an explorer of varied musical landscapes (I recommend exploring her back catalogue too, including her work in 10,000 Maniacs). Natalie could sing the phone directory and give it emotional depth. Her voice is unique, exhibiting strength and subtlety and bridging genres with ease.
I wont dissect the album track by track I'd just suggest you buy it, settle down and immerse yourself in the beauty of it.
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Leave Your Sleep [2 Cd]
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