Sunday, November 6, 2011

If You're Thinking You Need To Go Back To This For Shania's Beginnings, Don't!

The Good: Production. . . I suppose
The Bad: Bland pop-rock, Some truly terrible lyrics, Short, There is a version with more songs.
The Basics: Terrible and less material than the (slightly) less exploitative Jomato Records release by the same name, Beginnings exploits early Shania Twain pop recordings with little value for fans.

For those who follow my many reviews, it might seem like I have already reviewed Eilleen Shania Twain's Beginnings. In a way, I have. I've reviewed Beginnings (1989 - 1990) here! That album was a twelve-track album by Jomato Records that exploited the early Shania Twain recordings from her earliest works at Limelight Records. It is, rather ridiculously, a different exploitative album than the Eilleen Shania Twain album Beginnings released by BCI Music four years later.

The fundamental difference between the two albums is simple: Beginnings, the BCI Music release has only ten songs and has no charitable benefits. The Jomato Records release was, at least in its own claim, a charity album designed to exploit Shania Twain's celebrity with her embarrassing early recordings to make money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Kid's Cafe/Second Harvest. BCI Music, like the producers of The Complete Limelight Sessions (reviewed here!) is simply out to make a buck off of dust-covered recordings of Shania Twain's initial pop attempt that did not sell in the late 1980s because by the early part of the new millennium, Twain was a hot property.

So, if one feels the need to support a company in exploiting the limited talents of a young woman, I'd recommend picking up the Jomato Records release; it has two more tracks (albeit the same song done twice) and it might be helping two charities. Buying this recording, in addition to being an auditory nightmare that makes the works of Milli Vanilli look like Mozart, helps encourage those who have access to early materials to lease them out without the consent of the artist at the time of their release. As it stands, Beginnings is one of the most generic pop-rock albums I have heard in some time and it is not recognizable as the works of Shania Twain for those who are simply looking for more by her. Her Country music fans especially will be deeply disappointed by how this work is such a departure from all that came after. As an unknown, Eilleen Shania Twain was looking to become the next Pat Benatar or one-woman version of The Bangles. She failed and went a different route to superstardom.

With only ten tracks Beginnings occupies less than forty minutes on compact disc and is a very bland, overproduced pop-rock album that illustrates some early talent from Eilleen Twain. Twain wrote all but one of the songs; a cover of "Half Breed," which was popularized by Cher. To her credit, Twain performs all of the lead vocals and most of the backing vocals. She does not, however, play any of the instruments and she was not at all involved in the production of the album.

Beginnings is pure pop-rock without any real hint of Country or even the pop-Country that Twain later became associated with. "Wild And Wicked" opens with almost the identical instrumental riffs as Melissa Etheridge's "Bring Me Some Water" and "(Don't Gimme That) Once Over" borrows instrumental and vocal bits from the Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks duet "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," down to the fact that Paul Sabu backs her with his clearly male vocals to support her! The derivative quality continues on "Hate To Love," which sounds like a plausible late-80's era Madonna impersonation.

But this is pretty generic guitar and keyboard-driven pop-rock with no real spark. So, for example, on "Half Breed," there is no character, no sense of the wrenching pain caused by the type of racism the musical protagonist sings about. And instrumentally, it does not hold a candle to Cher's version which had a force to it this version lacks. The generic and unmemorable becomes unfortunately laughable when Twain presents her song "LUV Eyes," though, which promotes dumbspeak and is so sugary-pop that it is likely to make fans of decent music anywhere cringe. The overall sound of Beginnings is very '80's pop and Twain actually nails the sound spot-on.

Twain hints at her range on Beginnings, though she seems much more committed to sounding tough than sounding good. As a result, she works in the lower range of her ability, seldom venturing into her soprano range. Instead, she keeps her notes generally short and low, like on "Send It With Love," where the Madonna analogy holds vocally as well as with her instrumental backing.

But Twain's writing abilities make it clear why she was not a success at this point in her career. Songs like "Rhythm Made Me Do It" are so bad that one imagines a teenage girl scrawling the poetry in the margins of her spiral-bound notebooks at school. Indeed, it is hard to believe that such a powerful adult sex symbol emerged when she used to write lines like "I am the taker you are the chance / This is the rule of romance / I am the seeker you are the find / Together we are two of a kind . . . / I can be happy you can be sad / Together things aren't so bad / You are the sailor I am the sea / The treasure of eternity" ("Two Hearts One Love"). One wonders what Lange saw in lines like that that made him say "yeah, I'd love to work with her!"

I suppose some of the lyrics are more mature, though most do focus on nervous, young ideas of love. Twain is plagued by a very basic sense of rhyming, which comes across in virtually all of her songs. While she has a sense of fun when she is being ridiculous on songs like "Rhythm Made Me Do It," even that song is painful to listen to. Indeed, even the thought of Twain today cannot sell listeners on the value of her rhymes "He's walkin' real slow and I know he's checkin' me out / Officer please can you tell me what this is about / You're doin' 105 and I'm lucky that you're still alive / He says baby get behind the wheel / I wanna make your tires squeal / Hey baby like to make some noise / Turn it on, turn it up" ("Rhythm Made Me Do It").

I suppose the best track is the straightforward rock of "Wild And Wicked," but the low point is such a tough call between so many of the remaining tracks.

For other Shania Twain album reviews, please visit my reviews of:
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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