Top positive review
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the muse returns (corrected version)
on 14 May 2004
I suggest that people who appreciate Chapin's art look for several things in the very best of its expression. First there's a lyricism that finds her using words economically but with great affect. Second there's an ear for great melody. Third there is the voice that John Jennings has described as 'an invitation to intimacy' and finally this is all informed by a deep appreciation of human dignity expressed in a way that universalises it for the listener. These qualities have never been better expressed than in the one true masterpiece of this album, 'Grand Central Station'. I have been suspicious of songs alluding to the terrible events of 9/11 but this tale of a worker at Ground Zero banishes all that. It is wonderful, profoundly moving and beautifully realised. The same can be said for most of this album. It is easy to get carried away with praising the latest offering from any artist as a new record needs to find its place in the overall body of work. But 'Beyond Here and Gone' is a beautiful record with the strongest set of songs since 'Come On Come On'. However, the feel of the album is more like 'State of Heart' with many of the songs having the same emotional clout as 'This Shirt' and 'Goodbye Again'. There are two songs here that are obviously influenced by Alice Sebold's 'The Lovely Bones', 'In my Heaven' and the title track with its line, 'Could I have felt the brush of a soul that's passing on'.The same song also has the beautiful lines, 'Yeah I'm just wondering how we know where we belong. Is it in the arc of the moon leaving shadows on the lawn. In the path of fireflies and a single bird at dawn. Singing in between here and gone.' This is Chapin at her very best as is 'Goodnight America'; another classic. One could mention many other great lines, which illustrate the brilliance of her writing. Some reviews have mistaken the great production of this album, thanks particularly to Matt Rollings, for undemanding blandness. This, I think, completely misses the mark. Sure the playing is great, especially the strings and Rolling's piano. But this is an album that requires listening to. It's a deep and moving album that deserves the highest praise and attention.