Friday, August 3, 2012

Live From The Heart Of The Nova: Wonderlust Succeeds!

The Good: Awesome lyrics, Great Voice, Nice arrangement
The Bad: Nothing definitively new, almost no audience interaction
The Basics: Heather Nova's third live album provides the best tracks from Siren and Oyster without much new material.

One of the weaknesses of Heather Nova's two previous live albums Bare and Live From The Milky Way was that the albums 1. Did not have much material to draw from and 2. There were not enough tracks, respectively. Heather's third live album, Wonderlust, which was not released in the United States had the potential to solve the first problem and completely eliminated the second problem. One of the treats of Bare was that for fans of Heather Nova, despite the fact that she had only released two albums at the time of Bare's release, the live album had live versions of tracks from her third album, giving fans a nice preview.

Wonderlust, comes at a point in Heather Nova's career where she had released four studio albums and was hard at work on a fifth. However, there are no previews of South on Wonderlust, it is all songs from Oyster and Siren. So, while Bare did not have the repertoire to draw from and ended up sounding mostly like a live version of Glowstars with an additional track, Wonderlust is like a "Best of Heather Nova's Oyster and Siren" sampler. In short, when Wonderlust was released, she had the body of work, she just did not use it.

That said, this is finally a worthy live album for fans of Heather Nova's music. While Heather's voice is one of the premiere instruments on all of her albums, there is nothing that beats her at a live performance. Wonderlust comes closer to that experience than Bare or Live From The Milky Way did. Indeed, without production and minimal instruments, Heather's voice shines and is powerfully musical. Songs like "Paper Cup" are more hauntingly lonely and songs like "Doubled Up" are more intimate.

And this album does carry many of Heather Nova's best songs, including "Truth And Bone," "Walk This World" (her most successful single thus far in the U.S.), "London Rain," and "I'm The Girl." The nice thing here is that, like many of the best live albums, Nova reinterprets some of the songs or provides new lines. Notably, in "I'm The Girl," Heather adds some lines about channeling Frida Kahlo that provides a strong, distinct feminine link to the general lines about the soul of women.

As always, Nova's lyrics are awesome. She sings of melancholy ("Winterblue"), longing ("Walk This World"), support ("Heart And Shoulder") and the efforts to get over unbearable pain ("Heal" and "Island"). Nova is an adult singing to other adults, not some cotton candy fluff chick with romanticized notions of love. There's nothing flirtatious in the lyrics of Heather Nova on Wonderlust, it's hard work love and pain and yearning and it works.

Indeed, the moment of flirtatious singing on Wonderlust comes in Nova's sorrowful, longing cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire." She slows the song down and makes it a song of yearning and smoldering, reinventing the lyrics of Springsteen with a feminine power that breathes soul into the song. It is awesome.

By contrast, there is almost no audience interaction on the album. Yes, there are the obligatory hoots and hollers from the audience to Heather, but she does not tell any stories about the songs, like Dar Williams did on Out There Live (reviewed here!). At best, we learn "This is a song I wrote in an airplane" ("Doubled Up") or "I'm going to mess with someone else's song" ("I'm On Fire").

Still, it's excusable. With fourteen tracks of rock and roll (one or two are admittedly pop), Wonderlust is a strong album. It's a great album for those who are unfamiliar with the works of Heather Nova as she presents live versions of many of her most gripping songs. For those not in Europe, it is certainly worth the investment to find this import.

The best track is "Truth And Bone," the weakest link is her live rendition of "Winterblue." The cover of "I'm On Fire" is worth the price of the disc alone!

For other Heather Nova album reviews, please be sure to check out:
Live From The Milky Way
The Jasmine Flower
300 Days At Sea


For other music reviews, be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the music reviews I have written!

© 2012, 2007, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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