BetteBack April 25, 1995: Old message, new bottle

Jerusalem Post
April 25, 1995 | TIRZAH AGASSI


‘WAKE up, it’s a beautiful morning.” The happy message is sung in a sweet, a cappella Beach Boys harmony. Then, in kick the drums and brass.

Wake up, it’s a beautiful morning in 1966. But then again, it isn’t.

It’s 1995, a year in which the horrors just keep coming, from Tel Aviv to Tokyo to Oklahoma City. And, oddly enough, the Boo Radleys‘ wildly derivative and determinedly retro Wake Up (NMC) may turn out to be one of the year’s definitive albums, providing good times around the world.

(If you’re wondering where the band came up with its rather fey name, Boo Radley was the misunderstood recluse in Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird. )

Armageddon may be nigh, but you too can revert to a Sixties’ youth. After all, wasn’t Armageddon about equally close when Martin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedys were assassinated?

The vibrations on this 17-track album are relentlessly good, as the band pilfers the back catalogs of everyone from the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper to Elvis Costello, Elton John and even the Carpenters. But this is more than mere money-making ear candy. Along with the prettiness there’s a solid message that boils down to something like: I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna live, dammit!

These four Liverpool lads seem to believe in the credo of doing well by doing good. And the album overflows with musical ideas and intelligent lyrics.

“You’ll never touch the magic if you don’t reach out far enough” they sing on “Charles Bukowski‘s Dead.” They may not be the Doors, but they’re saying something worth waking up to.

FOREVER LOVE 5 (Hed Arzi) is the fifth in that company’s series of romance compilations. As usual it presents a mixed bag, veering from excellence to the stuff that makes you feel sick.

It’s interesting tuning into these 16 takes on what makes the world go round. Is it love? Is it money? Or is it both? Each song here has made a bundle. Who’s to say, perhaps even plastic goddess Kylie Minogue has a soul in there somewhere?

The selection opens with the Pretenders’ great version of “I’ll Stand By You.”

Annie Lennox keeps up the high-quality pace with “Why?” lamenting her inability to “keep my big mouth shut.” Her confession is, as ever, irresistible. But the recording soon takes a qualitative dip. Peter Cetera‘s “Glory of Love” is inoffensive, if not quite believable. And Billy Ocean’s “Suddenly” is self-consciously inspirational.

Take That, the Chippendales of top-40 pop, flex their pecs and their phony smiles on “Love Ain’t Here Anymore.” You bet it ain’t! One can hear the cash registers ring as the calculation of their soft-focus smiles wings its way across the planet.

There is something for everyone. Toni Braxton, who actually won a Grammy for “Breathe Again,” threatens to hold her breath and die if the pretty boy of her dreams should leave. Kenny Rogers cranks out “You Are So Beautiful” one more time. Phil Collins filches chords from Joni Mitchell‘s mid-Seventies’ album Court and Spark on “Everyday.” And the American band Foreigner is just plain wonderful on “Waiting for a Girl Like You.”

Some brave souls come up with megahits that are both meticulously crafted and truly emotional. Somebody’s in love and wants the world to know it. A classic example is Bette Midler’s “The Rose,” which closes the collection. Midler, whose vulgarity can reach legendary proportions, shows brilliant restraint in this classic, which thoroughly deserves the reissue.

As the lyric goes, “When the night has been too lonely/And the road has been too long/And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong,” the song really is capable of reminding you that hope springs eternal. The song was recorded in 1979 and will surely be just as fresh and relevant in 1999, no matter how many terrorist attacks the world has endured by then.

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