Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sophie On the Verge Of Perfection: Timbre Still Resonates!

The Good: Wonderful, eclectic mix of songs! Great lyrics, voice, production
The Bad: Minutia, mostly having one real weak track, some of the bonus cd songs
The Basics: A definite buy! Excellent artistic album for an adult audience. Great lyrics! Wonderful voice!

When Sophie B. Hawkins released Timbre into the marketplace in 1999, it sold as many copies as the market would bare. That is to say, it was a commercial flop. The problematic aspect of Timbre is that it is an album that is nearly impossible to classify. It defies genre and spits in the face of convention. Timbre has now been re-released as a two-c.d. set. The bonus c.d. contains two demo tracks, then acoustic versions of Timbre tracks and a few re-edits of other Timbre songs.

Timbre opens with two powerful tracks, "Walking In My Blue Jeans" (which I preferred under its original name "Strange Thing") and "No Connection." They are better than the pop-rock garbage that frequents today's airwaves simply by doing what successful pop songs do, but with intelligence, deep lyrics and an unparalleled voice. The album is a surreal experience, then, taking the listener from a sort of SuperPop-rock through ballads ("Bare the Weight of Me"), darkness ("The Darkest Childe"), passion ("Your Tongue Like the Sun In My Mouth") and sorrow. All the while, it sounds like no other collection of music. From the noticeable percussion of "Walking In My Blue Jeans" to the banjo on "Lose Your Way" to the music-box sound of "I Walk Alone" such diversity of sound is rare in today's marketplace.

Moreover, the benefits of artistic control that Sophie utilizes are evidenced in the lyrics and musical abilities presented here. The album is a spectrum of experiences, often personal and disturbing, but always expressing a deeper sense of self and understanding of the human condition. Superior to her first two outings, Timbre is the closest Sophie has yet come to perfection.

One of the few things that keeps her from reaching it is the decidedly weak track "Mmmm My Best Friend." While most of the rest of the tracks on the album could be target marketed to various demographics and have broader artistic merit, "Mmmm My Best Friend" seems both out of place, pointless, and simple. It doesn't even fit with the quality level of the remainder of the album.

The bonus album - something I fought vigorously against on the Sophie B. Hawkins Message Board as a capitalistic attempt to fleece her fans - has several enhancements that make it not so bad. In fact, that the reissue cost the same amount as the original (instead of charging more, like most double albums) leaves me with little to argue about. The highlight of the bonus album is not the two new tracks ("You Turn Me On" & "Traveling Light" - the latter of which fits wonderfully!), nor the slew of videos on the album, but the demo version of "I Walk Alone." It is soulful, lonely, and depressing; everything the song ought to be. It is sung with such passion it is enough to make one cry listening to it. The downside of the second c.d., which keeps the overall album from remaining outside the perfection it sought, is a pointless spanish version of "Lose Your Way." Ick. No reason whatsoever for it. It doesn't even sound good translated. I'm not terribly fond of the butchered radio edit of "Walking In My Blue Jeans" and I thank Sophie profusely for relegating it to the bonus album and not replacing the album version of it with the new mix.

The strongest tracks are "Walking In My Blue Jeans" and "Nocturne", the
weakest link, "Mmmm My Best Friend". It's refreshing to find someone making great music for an adult audience!

For other works by Sophie B. Hawkins, please check out my reviews of:
Tongues And Tails
"Right Beside You" (single)
Live! Bad Kitty Board Mix


 For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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