BetteBack 1976: Songs For The New Depression

Lawrence Journal World
Women sparkle on new releases
February 21, 1976

International Women’s Year may be a memory, but the women of rock and roll are still making themselves heard, and loudly.

A spate of new albums by important women writers and singers has recently hit the stores, including new works by Phoebe Snow, Bette Midler and Joan Baez.

Neither Phoebe Snow nor Bette Midler has released albums since 1974. For Ms. Snow, whose first record was one of the finest of that year, the interim has seen a lawsuit over her recording contract, a shift to a new label, marriage and the birth of her first child.

Her sophomore effort, SECOND CHILDHOOD (Columbia PC 33952), is a sparkling two sides of music, featuring more of the impressive vocal and writing style which made her first album a hit.

SHE WROTE all but three of the tunes on the new work, and sings them all with power and grace. Her voice spans four octaves; her slow-motion vibrato is dazzling on numbers like the Holland-Dozier-Hplland tune, “Going Down for the Third Time”; George and Ira Gershwin’s “There’s a Boat That’s Leaving New York Soon”; and particularly the old Billie Holliday number, “No Regrets,” which she performed in her Kansas University appearance last spring.

Her style is smouldering and bluesy, with jazz inflections and improvisation. She can be lovingly awed, as in her own “Two Fisted Love” or scathingly sardonic, as on another of her compositions, “Cash In.”

“Second Childhood” is an exceptional second album, one which should establish Phoebe Snow as a major singer-songwriter of depth, perception and sensitivity.

BETTE MIDLER, after a flashy, brassy 1973 debut and a disappointing second album, took a two-year recording vacation to recover from the rigors of an overnight success that was seven years in the making.

Her third album, SONGS FOR THE NEW DEPRESSION (Atlantic SD 18155), is an improvement over her second effort; although fragmented in style, it gives her an opportunity to work out in a number of different modes, behind the lush production of Moogy Klingman.

She sings an oddly refreshing disco version of “Strangers in the Night,” only to moan a long, langurous rendition of Phoebe Snow’s “I Don’t Want the Night to End,” which falls short of Ms. Snow’s crisp original.

Her double-tracked vocals on the Patti Page tune, “Old Cape Cod,” are stylized and interesting, as are her perkier efforts on her own “Mr. Rockefeller” and Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain.”

The latter features Dylan in a duet with the Divine Miss M; the result is a rocking, rollicking version that cuts Dylan’s original for sheer energy and feeling.

JOAN BAEZ recorded her 1975 hit album “Diamonds and Rust,” in an effort to recoup the losses her less commercial efforts had run up. The album, and single of the same name, were big sellers, prompting her solo tour at year’s end, before she linked up with Dylan and his Rolling Thunder Revue.

FROM EVERY STAGE (A&M SP-3704) is a recreation of her joyous return to the concert arena. Backed by an excellent quartet, she shines on old and new material.

Her voice, as always, is her finest instrument. She has a high, clean soprano, tineed with vibrato, that draws all the emotion from a lyric. Her a capella rendition of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” is breathtaking on this double album.

She sings standards (“Joe Hill,” “Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word,” “Blowin In the Wind”), newer numbers (Dylan’s “Forever Young”) and songs she had not previously recorded, such as Dylan’s “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” Kenny Loggins’ “Please Come to Boston,” and Emmylou Harris’ “Boulder to Birmingham.”

It is a comprehensive work, featuring all facets of Ms. Baez’ long, full career and is a must for her fans, both old and new.

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2 thoughts on “BetteBack 1976: Songs For The New Depression

  1. Sure wish the album was released as represented on the “Now Playing” list. Wasn’t there a petition going around for release of the extra tracks? Makes me long for a box set. That would be a wonderful Christmas present….

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