synapse: a publication by women
Winter 1998, Issue 17
A CD Review by Synapse Collective
Member LL Richards
© synapse/LL Richards
No reproduction or publishing of this document in any media form is allowed without prior consent of the copyright holders.
The Lovemongers first gig was on Feb. 22, 1991-the day the ground war broke out in Iraq. The concert, ironically, was a benefit to raise money for Red Cross efforts in the Persian Gulf. Ann and Nancy were billed as headliners and decided to bring along two friends they'd been playing with casually in their homes from time to time, Frank Cox and Sue Ennis. They introduced themselves to Seattle that night as The Lovemongers.
They had so much fun they decided to keep gigging and soon became Seattle's favorite living room band. They performed for Vice President Gore (he's a big fan!) at least twice during democratic rallies in downtown Seattle and were once asked to play by President Clinton himself. With few exceptions, the Lovemongers have played all benefit shows, raising thousands for local and national organizations. Beneficiaries include AIDS organizations, environmental causes, medical research, equal rights, hunger relief, homelessness, women rights, self defense and children in need.
During the early days of Lovemongers concerts the band would perform mostly covers, some Heart tunes and a few originals. Eventually, to the delight of their hometown fans, the Lovemongers, with the recent addition of full time drummer, Ben Smith, decided to record a full-length CD of all original material.
Whirlygig was recorded and produced on the Lovemongers' own dime. They took the final product to local indie record labels shopping for the right partnership for distribution. They decided on Will Records, a small company co-owned by Don Was. The CD hit the streets December 9th following an eleven city West Coast tour. I was lucky enough to attend six of the concerts and believe me-the relaxed atmosphere, humor, camaraderie and comfort level between band members, accompanied with the best music they've played in years, won over every crowd. Whirlygig may sound a bit odd, or maybe a bit mellow at first, but in time I think you'll agree-it is fantastic!
If you are expecting Heart-Whirlygig is not that. Yes, the same voices are heard, but with the added dimension of a male vocalist; and the acoustic work is familiar, but the similarities stop there. What distinguishes the Lovemongers sound from Heart is the rich vocal harmonies and the moodsetting keyboard work of Sue Ennis. Pull out any Heart album from 1978's Dog & Butterfly on and you'll see the name Sue Ennis all over the liner notes. She was and is a huge part of Heart in the non-performing, song-writing sense. Ann and Nancy eventually convinced Sue to join them onstage for the Lovemongers' Red Cross benefit and she's never looked back. She really likes that big synth chord sound (as do I) and brings in a heavy Beatles influence. All that aside, Ennis is an absolutely brilliant lyricist. "No School Today" is a classic and my favorite on the new CD. I highly recommend playing this one full throttle.
Nancy Wilson sings lead vocals on three of the ten songs, and shines on the guitar, reminding us that she is one of the best players around, right up there with Clapton. She also plays incredible mandolin, dulcimer, even a toy piano. Nancy sings my second favorite track, "Elysian." A song of encouragement to a friend, sister, lover perhaps? Either way it's obvious her "Elysian" is someone she cares deeply for. Another tune she takes lead on, "Miracle Girl," is a song that imitates, in a way of tribute, music from the chorus of Abba's hit "SOS." "Miracle Girl" describes the struggle today's girls face in keeping up on the latest fashions and the pressures involved to constantly look young, thin and gorgeous.
Nancy's sister Ann, lead singer of Heart and in my opinion-the greatest rock-n-roll singer of all time, wrote some of her most personal songs ever for Whirlygig. "Two Black Lambs" is a fine example describing the connection between two beings-the joining of two souls. The chorus includes the words, "I breath you in, I breathe you out" and begins with the intake of a deep breath, very effective. While she is best known for her powerful voice, Ann Wilson is also an accomplished flutist, pianist, guitarist and wow does she ever play killer bass! Perhaps the song with the most impact is the last track on the CD, "Sand." Ann's voice, her bass and approach used in this particular cut just floors me. It's one of those songs that once finished instead of instantly reaching for the repeat, rewind or eject button you are stunned. A moment of silence seems appropriate. Set to music Frank had written fifteen years before, the foursome penned the lyrics after losing a close friend who died at a far too young an age, his body not strong enough to fight off pneumonia. A work of pure musical and lyrical genius. "I watched him go to the wind I closed my eyes / Goodbye, goodbye my friend." "Sand" starts out slow, builds to an emotional climax and enters into an all out jam before bringing it all back down to the original acoustic guitar riff. Then the silence...
"You are just a traveler passing through..."
The Wilson sisters are literally passing through-to another stage of their musical career. They no longer need to cater to big time corporate record company's demands. Capitol released a greatest hits package last March and with that, Heart's contract obligation was fulfilled. At last they are free.
Whirlygig includes songs about domestic violence, death, sexual tension, drug addition, drug experimentation, motherhood, love, rejection and a little silliness. There is certain vibe that runs through the entire CD that connects the songs, despite their differences. This "vibe" allows the listener to enjoy every song in its entirety without skipping a track because of odd mixing or lack of cohesiveness. The arrangement and production are superb. If there is one flaw, it lies with the unevenness of the recording levels, although not noticeable unless you have a high-quality, loud-rocking stereo. Could be because not all the songs were mixed at the same studio. But if I have to tweak a few knobs to achieve the best possible sound from Whirlygig, that's fine by me-it's certainly worth the effort.
The Lovemongers will perform a live worldwide cybercast concert on Valentine's Day over www.Annandnancy.com. Please visit the official website for details. Audio will simultaneously broadcast over local FM radio station KZOK.
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