Friday, November 4, 2011

Arguably One Of The Worst Pop Albums Ever, Shania Twain's Early The Complete Limelight Sessions Bombs!

The Good: Some catchy pop beats.
The Bad: Overproduced, Musically derivative, Vocally underwhelming, Lyrically idiotic, Short
The Basics: A terrible recording which seems to mostly be exploiting Shania Twain's first recordings, The Complete Limelight Sessions disappoints.

I will be the first one to admit that I am a big proponent of artist's rights. I loathe copyright infringement and I am a champion for the rights of the artists in cases of digital medium infractions (pirated music from on-line sources). So, when I come across an album like The Complete Limelight Sessions by Eilleen Shania Twain, I have some real issues. The content of the album is enough to "not recommend" it, but when reading through the liner notes, I became positively queasy and actually pleased that I had not paid money for this (I borrowed it from a library as part of my monthlong study of Shania Twain).

Yes, Eilleen Shania Twain is THE Shania Twain and The Complete Limelight Sessions is a recording, released in 2001 of Twain's original pop recordings from before she even had her studio debut Shania Twain. The Complete Limelight Sessions is a collection of Twain's pop songs released to the market after Twain had become an international success by producer Harry Hinde and Limelight Records, which owned the rights to the recording. One of the most troubling aspects of this album, though, is the apparent lack of participation that Twain actually had in producing or releasing this album. Indeed, as a writer on this album, Shania Twain is credited as "Eilleen Regina Lange," which is a designation I've not seen in any other notation for the artist . . . anywhere.

Of course, if Twain wanted to distance herself from this material, it is perfectly understandable. With seventeen songs clocking out at 59:21, The Complete Limelight Sessions is just terrible and hardly indicative of the talents of Shania Twain. Twain sings all seventeen songs as the primary vocalist, though she has some serious help on "Rhythm Made Me Do It." Rather oddly, Twain is credited as the co-writer of all but three songs with guitarist Paul Sabu in the liner notes. I write "rather oddly" because one of the songs, "Half Breed" is not one of the three songs Twain is not credited with writing, despite the fact that it was popularized by Cher probably before Twain was born (other recordings have it properly credited to other writers). "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore," "The Heart Is Blind," and "It's Alright" are credited to other writers, but most of this is Twain (or, as she is credited, Lange) and Sabu's writing.

While Twain provides all of the lead vocals, she does not play any instruments on the album. Nor does she have any production credit on the album and the liner notes do credit Harry Hinde with the production, though Milan Bogdan completely remixed the album. The point in addressing all of these production irregularities is that it seems this recording is very much away from the control - and probably musical vision - of artist Shania Twain.

It would be no surprise for the Country-pop artist Shania Twain to want to distance herself from this work. The word "terrible" cannot be used too frequently to describe this generic, overproduced pop-rock which could have been made by virtually any female artist who went into the studio in the late 1980s. The Complete Limelight Sessions has Twain backed by guitars, bass, keyboards and drums on virtually every track and the sound is busy and overproduced. Rather obnoxiously, almost every track ends with the same style fade out as Twain renews the song's refrain.

Vocally, Shania Twain is almost unrecognizable here. Twain, in her raw form on songs like "From This Moment On" or "You're Still The One," has a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice that is distinct, perfect in pitch and requires no remastering. One wonders either what Hinde got in the studio or what kind of producer he is to so mangle Twain's voice on this recording. On "Two Hearts One Love," Twain's vocals are robotic at best, on "LUV Eyes," she sounds positively hypnotized. "Half Breed" lacks the spark of vocals, like Cher was able to bring out and the song dies without vocal passion to it. Moreover, there is no fun or spontaneity to Twain's vocals on songs like "Wild And Wicked."

Largely, though, Twain does not have much to sing about, so it is unsurprising that the vocals are so lackluster or produced to be drown out by the instrumental accompaniment. After all, the best track on the album has Twain singing "Kickstart the rhythm pull out on the road / Relyin' on an overload / I need some baby blues reflectin' in the mirror / Tellin' me all the things I wanna hear / Loved and lost / I paid a painful cost / Feel my love / I've reached the point of no return / I'm wild and wicked / Wild and wicked for love" ("Wild And Wicked"). But even though the poetry might not be terrible, it is not the most complicated or smart song going.

But some of the songs are just inane. Indeed, the Shania Twain who had a sense of fun to write and sing "That Don't Impress Me Much" must cringe to be associated with a stupid musical storysong like "Rhythm Made Me Do It." Another song where her natural voice is almost completely mangled by production elements has her delivering the lines "Got the wind in my face and I'm ready to take on the night / Not a worry in sight the DJ is rockin' me wild / Things are startin' to shake so hold on 'cause I ain't gonna break / Red light in the rear view mirror / (Well hey you pull it over here) / He says miss just step away from the car / (Hands on your head move and you're dead) / But officer / The rhythm made me do it / The rhythm got me high" ("Rhythm Made Me Do It").

It might be tempting for fans of Shania Twain's works to look up The Complete Limelight Sessions, but the Twain many people like or love is completely absent from this recording. There is no evidence of the talented singer songwriter who later emerged and more than enough to suggest her early works are just being exploited.

None of the tracks are worth crediting as worst or best.

For other Shania Twain album reviews, please visit my reviews of:
Beginnings (1989 - 1990)
Shania Twain
The Woman In Me
Come On Over
Up! (Country mixes)
Up! (Pop Mixes)
Greatest Hits


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

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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