After debuting with a savvy mix of samples and bubblegum pop with 1999's Vitamin C, former Eve's Plum leader Colleen Fitzpatrick returns with another set of sugar-coated, techno-augmented pop songs on the appropriately titled More.
While Vitamin C relied on samples of other artist's songs for its highest impact tracks (Santana's "No One to Depend On (I Ain't Got Nobody)" and Digital Underground's "Doowutchalike" underpinned "Me, Myself and I" and "Do What You Want to Do" respectively), More stands more solidly on its own. The result is a less instantly familiar-sounding effort, but Fitzpatrick's way with a hook is undiminished. As on her debut, which revamped Split Enz's "I Got You," she updates an '80s hit on More. This time around, she ups the tease factor of The Waitresses' cheeky "I Know What Boys Like," to create one of the disc's sharpest tracks. And the S.E. Hinton-titled "That Was Then, This Is Now" provides a lyrical followup to her late-breaking high school circuit hit of last year, "Graduation Day (Friends Forever)."
Thanks, no doubt, to the video success of "Smile" and "Me, Myself and I" from her debut, Fitzpatrick is now working on a multimedia career. She wrote and recorded More in between acting gigs on Wes Craven's Dracula 2000 and Getting Over Allison with collaborators who've worked with Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, Cover Girls and Christina Aguilera.
The result is a snappy disc that doesn't top her debut, but does put Vitamin C squarely between Britney Spears and Madonna in sound and audience appeal.
Most of More deals with the sort of themes that late teens and early twentysomethings should find familiar. "Where's the Party" is self explanatory; "I Can't Say No" talks of the temptations of lust and alcohol, and "Busted" sounds like it was built with the help of a pong game and Kraftwerk, as she talks of catching a boyfriend in infidelity.
In "Sex Has Come Between Us," she sings of a good friendship that has somehow slipped into newly dangerous, physical territory, while "Dangerous Girl," one of the disc's catchier tracks, reflects sadly on the loss of a lover: "You were my hip hopper, you were my heart stopper... you made me feel like a dangerous girl."
The album opens with its most Spears-like track, the punchy single "The Itch" (summed up in the line: "you can reach where I need scratching").
There are no brilliant insights or new musical trends begun on More. But there are a dozen sexy, savvy pieces of pop that, like eating an orange, just have to be healthy. A solid dose of More Vitamin C leaves you feeling good.
Painting of a Painting
Rachel Sage is a singer-songwriter in the Lisa Loeb/Paula Cole vein. Her third album on MPress is a collage of poetry and piano that celebrates both personal pain and victory, while at the same time painting character portraits that span the world.
Painting of a Painting's best, most radio-ready track is "Satellite,"a delicately catchy character portrait of an old woman who sees the world leaving her behind, but is not yet ready to go quietly:
"I am old and I do not know the ways of you young women
with your black clothes and your blue nails and your sarcasm
what do I have to say to you to gain your slow respect?
I am old, you've forgotten me, but I'm useful yet."
The trials of age turn up repeatedly in Sage's work, strange for such a young artist. In one of the other key tracks, "Seraphim Smile," she asks herself with Tori Amos-influenced drama: "Why am I so afraid of getting older/I'm only 27 and seven long months?" before also dealing with another basic issue of self-racial pride: "why am I afraid of my own language/I'll never get to heaven holding my tongue."
Sage is a quirky, passionate performer of the Lilith Fair school whose voice defines both strength and vulnerability in its lilting quavers and trembles. Her definitive vocal style can be both a blessing and a curse. It gives her a distinctive, often emotionally moving sound, but at the same time, 13 tracks of this "precious-ness" can sometimes get a bit old.
But thankfully, with Painting of a Painting, Sage doesn't just rely on the power of her lyrics and the charisma of her vocals. With the help of a number of other musicians, she creates a rich tapestry of music to support her lyrical musings, filling out her piano melodies with guitars, bass, drums and often organ, cello, violin and even a flute on one song.
The result is an album of varied depth and beauty, sometimes pop inspirational, sometimes coffeehouse recital.
For more information, check her web site at www.rachaelsage.com.