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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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Be Not Nobody CD Cover
Image © A&M Records 2002

Vanessa Carlton
Image © A&M Records 2002

(20 August 2002) 21 year old Vanessa Carlton is currently the darling of the US and UK charts, with her debut album Be Not Nobody (A&M Records 0694944074, 2002). Her feminine, exotic beauty and undoubted talent have made stardom almost inevitable. As a result, visitors of this website may have an obvious antipathy to such an obvious pop star. However, at last I can announce that the adulation is truly warranted!

Under the guidance of Producer Ron Fair, many of Vanessa’s songs, influenced both by singer songwriters such as Tori Amos and the classic rock she listened to as a child, have been nurtured into mini masterpieces. Instrumentally, bass and drums are mixed high, alongside Vanessa’s superb, rhythmic piano playing. However, it is the addition of a full orchestra on each of the 11 tracks, which is "symphonic" feel, while replacing the need for further keyboards, and allowing piano to take centre stage. Vanessa’s voice is distinctive, if girlish, with a surprisingly bluesy rasp to it when required.

"Ordinary Day" is very much a scene-setter, a mid-paced song with orchestra and piano dueting effectively, while "Unsung" is a full-paced R & B workout with Vanessa bashing the keys like Little Richard! The superb hit single "A Thousand Miles" follows, with piano carrying the melody and Vanessa’s singing at its sensitive best, while the orchestra, cheekily, borrows a riff from Western film The Magnificent Seven alongside some excellent slide guitar from John Goux.

Ballad "Pretty Baby," though by no means a bad song, is a little syrupy for my taste, however the next two songs "Rinse" and "Sway" are both astonishing pieces of work. The former is full of unresolved tension, a genuine taste of Tori Amos style angst with piano and guitar sharing a dramatic riff, while the latter is dominated by piano and Charles Bisharat’s wonderful electric violin, which makes the song reminiscent of American progressive hard rockers Kansas.

"Paradise" is more sinister, with an infectious hook, while "Prince" gives drummer Abe Laboriel and bassist, the legendary Leland Sklar the chance to lay down a complex rhythm on which to build the song, before a bluesy mid section, which builds to an explosive climax. A routine (and unnecessary) cover of the Rolling Stone’s "Paint it Black" follows, while "Wanted" features with some splendid classical piano, and "Twilight" is the obligatory dramatic ballad to finish.

This is an album of great maturity, and it is good to see a talented artist being nurtured patiently by a major record label. hough the album is not faultless--it peters out a little after "Prince," it is more than worth a trip to the "chart" section of your local record store, and it will be interesting to see where Vanessa takes her undoubted ability from here.--Stephen Lambe

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here.Worth a journey, this incredible album by an up and coming vocalist is a very nice listen!

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