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AMERICA'S FINEST FEMALE SONGWRITER,
This review is from: Coming Around Again (Audio CD)
I fell in love with Carly Simon long before i fell in love with her music. As a teenager in the early 70's, her early work more or less went by me unnoticed, and it wasn't until "Your'e So Vain" hit the charts in 1972 and i first saw the cover of her third album "No Secrets" which, like so many hot-blooded teenagers back then, sent our pulses racing, that she became part of my teenage musical landscape. But it was the flip-side to that great single, "The Right Thing To Do" that made me realise that this songwriter was worth a closer listen. First there were posters,of course, but then there was the need to explore her work in more detail, to seek out her first two albums and to convinve my college friends that there were other female singers out there other than Suzie Quatro. Although that didn't work as well as i had expected, i was convinced that i had found in this seldom-seen artist something quite unique and special. And then came 1977's Bond-theme "Nobody Does It Better", penned by the late Marvin Hamlisch, which really sealed that love affair. However, it took almost another ten years and the release of this great album "Coming Around Again" that i took it upon myself to seek out her complete back catalogue (which back then wasn't as easy as it is today). Thanks to Amazon my collection is complete!
So why this album, out of all the others she has released? Firsty there's some cohesion to this album, missing in some of her previous work, and the ensemble of producers (that include Bryan Adams) and accomplished musicians bring a polished sound that sets it aside from her other work. The title track is a gem, previously featured but largely unnoticed a year before in an almost forgotten movie "Heartburn" with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. This song and the companion "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" are the key songs on the album, never big hits in their own right, but nevertheless heartfelt sentiments for discontented housewives to aspire to. "Give Me All Night" is a strong, seductive cry from a woman who doesn't do half-measures, as is the similar "All I Want Is You". Continuing in the vein of sweat-drenched seduction, there is the lyrically-rich "Two Hot Girls (on a Hot Summer Night)", a song that when seen done live betrays Carly's legendary stage fright. Another superlative track is "Do the Walls Come Down", and its search for lost love, a beautifully crafted yet underrated song that highlights Carly's superb vocal talents. Other tracks like "You Have To Hurt" and "Should Have Been Me" show the pain and suffering that can both play a part in relationships, while in "As Time Goes By" Carly showcases her fondness for covering old standards, a trend that she will continue with great success in the coming years, and complemented by Stevie Wonder's signature harmonica. "Hold On To What You Got" is disappointing and forgettable, but to make amends the album bookends the opening track with a feel-good closing one, entwining an encore of "Coming Around Again" with the old kiddies' nursery rhyme "Itsy Bitsy Spider", together with harmonies supplied by children that include her son Ben Taylor. Only Carly could pull this off, making it a perfect end to a near-perfect album.
If you like what you hear, you must check out Carly's "Greatest Hits Live" which is a hometown recording of her superb low-key Martha's Vineyard concert in 1988, in which she sings many of the album's tracks, and the companion DVD of the concert, still to be released in this country, has Carly looking fantastic with no stage-fright in sight.
Carly has had continuing sucess over the years, including an Oscar for "Let the River Run", but for many fans, including myself, this album was her at the peak of her career. As a female singer- songwriter she has few peers. True, she doesn't write all the songs on her albums, but the ones she has written or co-written are among some of the finest in an era rich for songwriters, and as an American icon she will continue to inspire for generations to come