I've been casting a cold eye on my CD shelves with the intention or at least hope of getting rid of a few discs. There isn't enough room for all of them, and there are at least a dozen that just sort of sit around here and there. A certain number aren't even really mine, but were left behind by now-grown children who don't want them anymore. Should be easy to just toss those, right? By "toss" I mean give them to Goodwill, from where they will probably be really tossed but at less cost to my mildly neurotic conscience. And for other mildly neurotic reasons I can't even do that without being certain that I don't want them. That means, in cases where I've never heard them (too many) or maybe heard them once or twice years ago (many more) and never gave them a chance, that I have to give them a fair trial.
So: a week or two ago I pounced on this one. I don't remember buying it, but most likely I did so because it includes "Going Home," a song which I had found rather touching in the Civil War film Gods and Generals. But I'd never given it a serious listen.
Well, now I have, and unfortunately for my shelf-clearing project I like the album too much to get rid of it. It's not really, speaking broadly, the kind of music I like--it's very slick, very lavishly produced, lavishly emotional, very big. The biggest thing about it is Mary Fahl's voice, which is huge. If you know Lisa Gerrard's voice, you might agree with me that Fahl's is in the same league.
And yeah, it's a sort of mushy song and a mushy arrangement. I could do without the instrumental bridge, which pretty much screams SOUNDTRACK! But I find it moving.
Sometimes her voice threatens to run away with the material. I thought of a Honda Civic with a V8 engine (which, now that I think about it, is an argument in favor of the big production). It's not that she can't sing gently and with nuance, as parts of "Going Home" demonstrate. You just feel like she has so much power that she sometimes has to throttle it back, but doesn't really want to. She cuts loose more on the apparently Middle Eastern love song "Ben Aindi Habibi," the lyrics of which (printed in the CD booklet) are intensely passionate.
I found myself thinking that the guy to whom it's addressed might find himself thinking This woman may be too much for me. But he certainly ought to be flattered to be the object of such passion.
I don't like the whole album by any means. I'd say roughly half the songs aren't much to my taste as songs, never mind the performance. But the other half I like quite a lot. It compares favorably with dramatic female artists like Loreena McKennit and Enya. (But not Kate. Kate is too weird for that comparison.) It stays.
I always like to see what AllMusic has to say, and in this case I think their review is quite unfair. The reviewer was a fan of October Project, a band in which Fahl was the main vocalist, and apparently doesn't like the direction she takes in this album. Well, okay, I can certainly relate to that. Some people never recovered from Dylan's embrace of rock-and-roll. And I'm pretty sure I will never again listen to Nashville Skyline. But it's unfair and unkind to say that Fahl did it for commercial reasons. I'd be willing to bet she poured her heart very genuinely into it.
I'm now curious about October Project. And even more curious about another Mary Fahl project: a cover of the entire Dark Side of the Moon.