Issue 605 / 29 September - 5 October 2005


The ultimate 'me, me, me' song has to be 'At Seventeen' by Janis Ian. This is the universal anthem for desperate stay-at-homes with 'ravaged faces', and 'those of us who knew the pain of Valentines that never came'. A more indulgent orgy of self-pity is hard to imagine. Incredibly, Liane Carroll turns this gruesome song into the definitive text of the human condition on her new album, Standard Issue (Splash Point Records).

Passionate tantrum turns into wistfulness at the line 'long ago and faraway'. Lovely piano chords cushion the abrupt shift of gears. The great self-accompanists, of course, are known for terrorising their audiences with dramatic mood swings. Nina Simone was the supreme example, but Laura Nyro had the same ability. (Nyro, incidentally, shared an era and an idiom with Janis Ian and is as profound as the latter is shallow). She is represented by two songs on Standard Issue - 'California Shoeshine Boys' and 'He's A Runner' both come from Nyro's girlish days.

Other transformations include a stormy, vigorous 'Eleanor Rigby'. 'How Insensitive' (with a lovely tenor sax solo by Bobby Wellins) is honoured by the definitive interpretation, but then Carroll is capable of defining any song she so desires. When Ian Shaw drops by to contribute a guest vocal on 'You've Got A Friend', his breathy loveliness is overwhelmed by her earthy power.                                                                                   

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