Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Annie Lennox, Songs of Mass Destruction

The popular response to female vocalists is a mystery to me.  People went wild over Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” which showcased a singer of great potential but somewhat limited range smdwho has yet to decide what kind of singer she wants to be and has only begun to understand the strengths and weaknesses of her voice.  An unending stream of limited talent, big hair, bad behavior bimbos pours from the record companies fronting by-the-numbers, mass produced music and propelled by slick marketing campaigns and people eat it up.  Then along comes Annie Lennox with “Songs of Mass Destruction” a flat out terrific album by an immensly talented singer and it gets labeled as “adult contemporary” and largely ignored.  Are people listening to the hype machines or the music?  I don’t get it.

I’m also one of the people I’m ranting about.  Like most everyone else I knew that Lennox was the vocalist in the Eurythmics but I had not paid attention to her solo career.  Based on “Songs of Mass Destruction” that was a big mistake.  Lennox’s voice is extraordinary.  Her tone is clear and pure with hardly a hint of smoke and her vocal range is wide.  More importantly, she fully understand her voice and wields it with absolute conviction and pinpoint control.  She can sing quietly, she can sing with exhilarating power and in either mode she can invest a song which such deep emotion that it stops you dead in your tracks.  She really is a remarkable singer.

But that’s not the end of the story.  Lennox wrote all the songs on the CD and she’s a talented songwriter.  She has a talent for hooks, ballads and power and composes a wide range of music that takes full advantage of her strong and flexible voice.  I tend to initially prefer the up tempo numbers like “Love is Blind”, “Womankind” and “Ghosts in My Machine” but with repeated listenings many of the ballads like “Through the Glass Darkly” and “Lost” are becoming favorites.  Album opener “Dark Road” is arresting and immediately lets the listener know that this is an album you’re going to want to sit down and listen to.  One track, “Sing” is a story in and of itself.  The song is a woman empowerment anthem that is fairly typical of the genre.  All of the proceeds realized from the song are being given to the Treatment Action Campaign, an organization that is devoted to combating the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Africa.  The song features a choir composed of Bonnie Raitt, Beth Orton, Celine Dion, Shakira, K.D. Lang, Madonna, Faith Hill, Gladys Knight, Pink, Beth Gibbons, K.T. Tunstall, Melissa Etheridge, Sarah McLachlin and many others.  Wow.

To top it all off, the CD is very well recorded.  Lennox’s voice is so clean that it demands a very clean recording and that’s what it gets here.  Voices and instruments occupy clear and distinct places in the soundstage.  The mix also makes nice use of subsonics in several places.  This is an album that will lose a lot in lossy formats like mp3.

For much of Annie Lennox’s career I was deeply immersed in jazz and wasn’t paying attention to what was going on in any of the many varieties of popular music.  An album like “Songs of Mass Destruction” shows just how limiting that kind of narrow-eared approach to music can be.  “Songs of Mass Destruction” is a terrific album and is highly recommended to listeners who like powerful songs and powerful voices.

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02/28/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews |

3 Comments »

  1. Have come to the conclusion that people are often about style/genre first; and actual music second. Even though they say the contrary. So many great vocalists go nearly un-noticed because of this. I remember listening to Annie Lennox during her Diva era. Her rendition of “Why” via MTV Unplugged was stunning.

    Comment by Chano Santamaria | 02/28/2008 | Reply

  2. […] in music are more or less in agreement with mine, especially with regard to female vocalists like Annie Lennox, Alice Smith, Sharon Jones, or Amy Winehouse, avoid “The Real […]

    Pingback by Review: The Real Thing Words and Sounds Vol. 3 « Tuned In To Music | 04/15/2008 | Reply

  3. […] Annie Lennox fans will almost certainly enjoy Live in Central Park and have probably already seen it.  It is also recommended to listeners who may not be as familiar with Lennox but who enjoy powerful talented female vocalists who can bring it live.  If you’re in the latter group, also consider Lennox’s terrific current album Songs of Mass Destruction. […]

    Pingback by Review: Annie Lennox - Live in Central Park « Tuned In To Music | 05/15/2008 | Reply


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