0.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson
In her liner notes for her “greatest hits” CD, Linda Eder says she’s been accused of being a Barbara Streisand wannabe. In “Don’t Rain On My Parade” she’s more like a Lorna Luft wannabe. Her pipes aren’t as husky as Streisand’s but she’s got a powder keg for a voice (which often blows up). Eder can hold a note for longer than Atlas has held up the world, as exemplified by the window-breaker she lets loose at the end of the parade, but she defeats the effect by charging through the verses. Eder displays a girlish voice for “Parade,” kind of like Rachel Sweet, but Rachel was 16 in her heyday, so for a teenager, Elder’s a helluva singer. Too bad she’s an adult. Hard to believe she was on “Star Search” for twelve straight weeks and didn’t get the hook. She must be better at manipulating (or is it mutilating?) an audience than she is at altering her voice. After Eder’s vocal detonations you’ll cancel the parade.
“I Want More” was written especially for Linda! It’s second-rate “Tonight Show” fodder, like back in the day when Tommy Newsome subbed for Doc Severenson. Its stage show material performed at a breakneck speed, wordy, lung busting horn blaring hokum. You won’t want more; you’ll just want Linda to stop bellowing.
Elder says she didn’t like “Unusual Way” (From the musical “Nine”) until she did it, which is a ringing endorsement. She should trust whoever recommended she tackle this type of material more often, because it not only reigns in her excesses, you can get through this in one sitting. In the “Yeah, right” realm, Elder claims Streisand heard her version and copped it! Eder has the infuriating habit of trying to hold a note like Streisand until it cleaves your coconut like a freshly-sharpened axe. Because she’s about nine million octaves higher than Streisand, Eder’s more showy and torturous. The best part of the song is when Eder imitates a siren (the mythical kind, not an emergency siren, although she often resembles the later). In her siren mode she wails without spawning the same migraine inducing effect her singing voice does. She should lose the Kenny G sax tagalong too.
“Man of La Mancha (I Don Quixote)” has too many syllables for Eder to negotiate and too many opportunities for Eder to drive the recording levels into the red. Seriously, she hasn’t figured out that the more blustery and ear-shattering she is, the more her voice acts like an interrogator at Abu Grabe? And I take back the compliment I gave her about that mythical siren effect. Here she does it until she sounds like a four alarm blaze at a dynamite factory. I didn’t have a headache before I put this on, but I’m sure working on an aneurism or worse now. She says in the liner notes that people get upset when she doesn’t perform this song. Must be the folks from the School of the Deaf.
Stand back, Shirley Bassey. Linda blows more air than a Graf Zeppelin in “What Kind Of Fool Am I?” (from the show “Stop The World I Want To Get Off”). Linda says it feels physically good to sing it. It doesn’t feel physically good to hear it. She rumbles through the arrangement like a 1928 Porter on a flat tire. Can’t she sing one song without revving it up? Does her larynx have a speedometer that explodes if she goes below 55? If so, give me a brake – and a break.
Eder complains that her director removed “Bring On The Men,” a bawdy borscht belt belter from “Jekyll and Hyde” and replaced it with another song. Make a note – Linda’s right! Because she sings this more naturally than in her usual Speed Racer mode, this is at least passable. Linda does need to growl a little less to show her grit. Just sing, Linda. The lyrics, sung by a woman of ill-repute, are a scream: “I like to have a man for breakfast each day, I'm very social and I like it that way. By late mid-morning I need something to munch, so I ask over two men for lunch. And men are mad about my afternoon tease, they're quite informal, I just do it to please. Those triple sandwiches are my favorite ones, I'm also very partial to buns.” Some one named Leslie wrote the misogynistic lyrics. But fear not ladies, it was a man, Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newly’s writing partner who composed the words, so don’t hate Linda for being the messenger, but you can hate Leslie for the message (if you must). I know why “Bring On The Men” was dropped, it’s resemblance to Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were The Days” would bring on a lawsuit. “Bring On The Men” is the first song on the CD that justifies there being a CD.
“Anthem” (From “Chess”) follows. What, no “One Night in Bangkok?” Linda says: “I’m a big, loud belter when I’m belting, and I feel very comfortable doing that kind of music.” Too bad I don’t feel comfortable listening to it, Linda. “Anthem,” with its regal Russian soundtrack isn’t really a belter, although it has one of those hold that note for half an hour endings. Listenable, but no thanks Czarina Linda.
Judy Garland’s “Over The Rainbow” is part the fabric of millions of adult’s childhoods. We all remember her singing it in the “Wizard of Oz” just before the twister hits. It’s sanctified ground. I said to myself, if Linda screws this up, I’ll send her over the rainbow the hard way. The arrangement lacks form, just some rambling piano and Linda’s voice somewhere over the septic field. Less bombastic than her usual Def Con 3 approach (at first), Linda still hangs onto notes long enough to create shock waves that could knock the Wicked Witch off her broom. The sparseness of the arrangement drains it of all effectiveness, because all that’s left is Linda’s B-52 of a voice. Eder is proud she did this in one take. You should have tried again, Linda.
With “Havana” (From…drum roll please, the musical “Havana”) we get loud Linda with a Latin flair. Eder seems to know one gear --- Speedy Gonzales. Por favor, lose the wind up growl. The middle samba with the brief Herbie Mann-ish flute aside is a momentary respite in a song about as satisfying as Davey Crockett facing down Santa Ana at the Alamo and realizing the key to the ammo room is still in Houston. (If you’re saying, “Huh?” it’s really unpleasant, okay?)
Breathy is better than bombastic, and so what if Linda really does sound like Streisand in “A New Life” (From “Jekyll and Hyde”). She’s a much better performer at a low octane, slower speed, because she’s forced to eschew the hand drill effect of prolonged exposure to her faster gate. She manages to reach the danger zone as the song peaks. Linda’s personal aside about the song is unintentionally hilarious – she claims she’s “…Gotten letters from people who were on the verge of committing suicide and they heard this song.” Must be a typo. They came from people who were on the verge of suicide when they heard this song.
“Vienna” was written for Eder’s first album to recognize her dad’s Austrian heritage. It has a majestic “McArthur Park” score. The orchestra should have kept Frau Elder in the dungeon a while longer and just played it out. Linda continues to feed me great straight lines in her comments about “Vienna.” “…If there’s another person in the room then all I start hearing is what’s wrong with it. I’m very harsh on myself.” Linda, you can’t help but hear what’s wrong with this. It’s you, helium lungs. And please, be harder on yourself. But no more trips to “Vienna”. We’ve had a generation’s worth of peace with the Europeans, let’s not start another world war by letting you perform there.
Eder says “Someone Like You” (from “Jekyll and Hyde”) was about somebody wishing that a person they loved could love them. You can actually hear the longing in Eder’s voice for the first two verses, then she does her megaton blast for the next half hour and all the tenderness and genuine emotion is drowned out in a deafening rush of endless air. Three quarters of song does not entertain.
Get out your spinach, ‘cause you’ll need it finish “I Am What I Am” (From “La Cage Aux Folles”). I had no idea Popeye was in “La Cage Aux Folles.” (Wait minute, Robin Williams was in “Popeye” and “La Cage Aux Folles.” Six degrees of Robin Williams?)
I’ll admit it, Linda. I’ve given you more time than I’d have given any artist I obviously don’t like because I keep looking at your fetching photos from your previous albums, but also because your liner notes keep feeding my reviewer’s engine. She says of “I Am What I Am,” that it’s another leading part a woman will never get to play. “I never hear anyone sing it. I guess it takes some ‘balls’ to really pull it off.” Really, kids, she wrote this, not me. She’s nuts, no pun intended. I’ve heard of putting your foot in you mouth, but this is going too far. Please give Ms. Elder the sack.
Elder prefaces “Something To Believe In” by commenting, “I have a huge gay following, which is wonderful.” Yes, she really said this too. I bet after hearing this song Linda has a better chance of becoming a float in the gay pride parade than being mistress of ceremonies, because “Something to Believe In” is completely different from the rest of this Broadway schlock. It’s a credible shot at being mainstream instead of Auntie Mame (or in the case of the rest of the album, Auntie Maim). This is Linda Elder doing her imitation of Cher’s “Believe” minus the vocoder manipulated vocal. WHY THE HELL DIDN’T SHE DO THIS BEFORE? The disco beat is a bit old hat, but there’s no overt blast furnace notes that last for a glacial age. She’s actually subdued and sounds like a singer instead of the Queen Mary coming into New York harbor.
Imagine Shirley Bassey’s final ear piercing notes in “Goldfinger” and you’ve heard every trick in Eden’s tunes o’torture. Here’s a woman who doesn’t need mace or martial arts to defend herself. Just point her maw, cue the orchestra and turn her up to eleven. I hear the emergency sirens at the Indian Point nuclear plant are on the fritz again. I think we’ve found a replacement.