Five For Fighting - America Town Five For Fighting
America Town
(Aware/Columbia)


Hidden behind the FFF name (a reference to a hockey penalty) is singer-songwriter John Ondrasik, an instrospective guy who crafts earthy, catchy American tunes. At the center of America Town is John and his piano, but layered around them are the bash and pound of guitar (which he also plays) and bass and drums.

It all comes back to Ondrasikís Counting Crows-esque falsettos and thoughtful musings. The disc is flying high at radio now based on its first track and single "Easy Now," a song about a lover who takes her life that hits hard on the dichotomies and finalities of love and death ("you were wrong/you were right/you are gone/tonight") before kicking into a power chorus about the pain of being left behind: "Sheís in. Over my head...and itís not easy, itís not easy tonight."

Another powerful track comes in the quieter admissions of mortal weakness in "Superman" where he sings:

"Iím more than a bird...Iím more than a plane
more than some pretty face beside a train
itís not easy to be me...Iím only a man in a silly red sheet
digging for kryptonite on this one-way street
only a man in a funny red sheet
looking for special things inside of me
itís not easy to be me."

America Town is filled with powerful songs of love and pain and self affirmment and self doubt. Itís an album about all of us, told with a hypnotic voice. Itís a great album.

 

Jane Wiedlin - Kissproof World Jane Wiedlin
Kissproof World
(Painful Discs)
½


Arguably the most talented member of The Go-Goís, Jane Wiedlin has had a spotty solo career, reaching her peak with 1988ís "Rush Hour," a top 10 single from the album of the same name. Subsequent efforts havenít fared as well; her last disc, under the monicker FroSTed, hit the water in 1995 without leaving a ripple. Still, she has consistently churned out catchy ditties bouyed by the unabated energy of her pixie-ish voice. And Kissproof World, released this fall on her own label, is no different.

After writing songs for a variety of other artists who passed on recording them, she decided to commit them to compact disc herself. The title track is a very "us against the world" rocker thatís instantly catchy, and filled with big bold background vocals and "Icicle," the opener, is another song about the walls between us and the world - itís an indictment of people who use emotional coldness to shield themselves from the pain of life:"Clear as glass/twice as weak/cold is not enough to shelter me/I am an icicle donít watch me fall."

Wiedlin steps back from her usual powerhouse jangle guitars on "The Good Wife" to pen a truly instrospective song about the breakup of her marriage noting of herself: "Iím sweet on the outside, rotten within/polite on the edges and mean in between and the harder I try, the lower I go, you donít know." If thereís one theme to Kissproof World, itís that you canít shield yourself from the chaos of life. Marriages break up, bands fail, life moves on. In "Messy," atop a bashy rhythm bed, she encapsulates this thought, singing "nobody is ever satisfied with the things they have/life is messy."

She pulls in Matthew Sweet to sing along on the albumís melancholy closing ballad about the silence in a failing relationship, "Heís Not Talking." Kissproof World contains some of Wiedlinís sharpest, catchiest solo work. For more info, check out her web site at www.janewiedlin.com.

 

Dio - Magica Dio
Magica
(Spitfire)


Dio is one of the great voices in hard rock, having fronted Rainbow and Black Sabbath at different points, before forming his own successful powerhouse namesake band Dio. While the band hasnít been in the limelight of late as they were in the Ď80s, they were just in town for two nights at Chicago's House of Blues promoting a greatest hits collection and this new independent disc, a concept album about an alien race that discovers a lost world of magic and finds the book recounting the ultimate fight of good vs. evil that occurred there. While the songs donít seem to have a direct lyrical tie to the concept, the album is interspersed with robotic dialogue from aliens who sound like the Cylons of "Battlestar Galactica." The robots should have stayed on the cutting room floor...more interesting is Dioís 18-minute reading of the "Magica Story" at the end of the disc which fans will either find laughable, or rivetting, depending on their interest in fantasy "good vs. evil" stories.

The "Magica Theme" opens the musical portion of the disc, pairing grandiose strings with the powerhouse Dio band for a theatrical instrumental opening before the band launches into the more traditional Dio slow metal stomp of "Lord of the Last Day."

"Fever Dreams," the albumís strongest track appears early, pairing a shuffling guitar riff with classic dramatic Dio/Black Sabbath-era vocals.There are a couple of throwaway tracks on Magica, but with crash and burn grabbers like "Fever Dreams,""Turn To Stone" and the "Feed My Frankenstein" stomp of "Feed My Head," as well as the power ballad "As Long As Itís Not About Love," and "Losing My Insanity," the latter rocker bookended by some beautiful Renaissance-style guitar work,this is a worthy addition to the Dio canon - and to any metal loverís library.