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JANET GARDNER Janet Gardner

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Wednesday, August 30, 2017 @ 7:07 AM


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JANET GARDNER
Janet Gardner

Pavement Entertainment - 2017
http://www.janetgardnerrocks.com




Back in 1988 when Janet Gardner was singing about being on that broken heart's edge, I was 17 years old. So it will likely come as no surprise that I had a wee bit of a thing for her at the time. Time moves inexorably on, but certain things stick with you. So when I saw that she was coming out with a solo album, I was rather interested in hearing it.

Now that I have, I find myself with mixed feelings. While the music of the album is undoubtedly rocking and raging for the most part, I found myself more than a little bit disappointed with some of the vocal choices made for the individual songs. This is pretty distressing because the album was written, performed and produced by both Gardner and her husband Justin James.

The first three songs on the album ("Rat Hole", "Hippycrite" and "If You Want Me") left me thinking that this album was going to turn out to be as bad as that Lita Ford Wicked Wonderland album. You remember that don't you? It's where everything on the album was more important than the vocal from the name on the disc itself. On "Rat Hole", the music is fast paced and gripping, but the vocals are completely overwhelmed by needless production affectations which in turn ruins the song. The intro on "Hippycrite" is absymal until the heavy pounding of the drums kicks in. There's a little less of the overproduction on the vocals but the chorus is trite and just a little insipid. As for "If You Want Me", well by this point I was in danger of zoning out and had to think about the track for a bit. It just sits there flat and uninteresting for the most part.

Gardner takes a socially conscious tact in the lyrics for "Let It Be Over". It's a really minimalist backing track for the main portion of the song until the music fully kicks in once the main lyrics are completed. "Your Problem Now" works great in the chorus, less so in the main verses.

The one straight up ballad on the album is "Best Friend". It's got a winning simply backing arrangment but the soft sell on chorus vocal delivery undermines what would otherwise be an amazing "love" song. "The Grind" would've been a fantastically strong rip-roaring number if it hadn't been for the nearly unintelligible chorus. It borders on the criminal.

I know that reading my negative thoughts about the album up front is likely to make you decide to not buy the disc, but before you make that final decisions let's go through the rest of the album, because there are some smartly executed songs here and once Gardner is "allowed" to sound more like herself without the assistance of computers or whatever on her vocal tracks, she sounds more like a breakout rocker than what you might ever have thought.

The fourth track on the album is a song called "Candle", and this is where the album gets its first big kick in the pants. It's a tad bit slower to start than the first three songs but the tempo does pick up over the course of the song. It's funny how a clear vocal can help make a song more interesting. The lyrics almost seem like a ballad trapped inside of a mid range rocker track, but it actually works. The solo towards the end of the song is a real ripper.

Gardner's voice shines through on "Lost", another rocking romp and in a case of saving the best for last, the album closes on the stunningly fantastic rocker "The Good Or The Bye". On this balls-to-the-wall manic track, which I can only hope she is doing in her solo dates, Gardner rips through the killer set of teeth-gnashing lyrics with a fiery delivery that will leave you breathless and wanting a whole hell of a lot more songs like this one.

I had high hopes for this album, which sadly I found to be underwhelming instead. I just think that when you have your name on the album, there should be far more of a focus on the artist making a clear throated statement of their own. Or perhaps I should say clear singing voice. There are some grand high points on this Janet Gardner album, but if there had been less of a reliance on gussying up her vocals early on in the track listing, I would've been far more interested and complimentary towards the disc as a whole.

2.3 Out Of 5.0

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