This cover image released by BMG shows "Another Time, Another Place," by Jennifer Warnes.
A Jennifer Warnes
Another Time, Another Place
Even when major an-album-a-year bands and singers are rare, the 17 since Jennifer Warnes' last record, The Well, are far too lengthy an interval, making her return that much sweeter.
Still further back is her career peak -- her tremendous 1987 collection of Leonard Cohen songs, Famous Blue Raincoat -- and her soundtrack hits from Norma Rae, An Officer and a Gentleman and Dirty Dancing.
There are no Cohen compositions on Another Time, Another Place, but Warnes and producer-bassist Roscoe Beck have found plenty of songs worth their attention and talent, mostly covers written or made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Pearl Jam, Elvis Presley, Mickey Newbury and Dire Straits.
The opening track, Eddie Vedder's "Just Breathe," is imbued with a dose of elegance both in Warnes' vocals and in the arrangement, which chooses strings and a French horn to layer the emotional heft without mawkishness. Presley recorded Lonnie Johnson's "Tomorrow Night" already while at Sun Records and Warnes preserves its simplicity and aching uncertainty.
Greg Leisz's pedal steel and Dean Parks' mandolin help guide Newbury's "So Sad"; Ray Bonneville's "I Am the Big Easy" is like a New Orleans encyclopedia; and Warnes fully submerges herself in the soulful blues of "Back Where I Started," written by Derek Trucks and Warren Hayes.
A version of Mark Knopfler's "Why Worry" ends the album with sentiments similar to the opener's -- both champion hope and resilience amid tragedy -- fitting choices as Warnes lost her mom and several other close kin, as well as her manager, within a short span.
If it took Warnes a long time to commit to making an album again, the clarity and confidence of her performances on Another Time, Another Place validate her decision with style and grace.
Hot tracks: "Just Breathe," "Why Worry"
-- Pablo Gorondi
Love Is Dead
With their third album, Love Is Dead, the Scottish synth-pop trio Chvrches brazenly embraces its commercial pop side. Whereas previous records had mixed rousing singles such as "The Mother We Share" and "Bury It" with artsy and insular tracks that foregrounded their seriousness, Love Is Dead is full of wide-screen anthems. For the first time, the trio -- transplanted from Glasgow to Brooklyn -- brought in outside producers, most notably hit-maker Greg Kurstin (Adele, Pink), who worked on three-quarters of the album's dozen songs.
While the music is relentlessly hook-filled with reliably explosive choruses, the lyrics offer a conflicted view of love, often accusatory or questioning. "Good intentions never good enough," Lauren Mayberry sings in the seemingly chipper "Get Out." "Weren't we gonna be honest and weren't we gonna be more?" she sings on the repetitive "Never Say Die." And the National's dour Matt Berninger drops in for an argumentative duet, "My Enemy." Love Is Dead is sometimes heavy-handed in both its joyful tone and cynical sentiments, but the friction is often fascinating.
Hot tracks: "Get Out," "My Enemy"
-- Steve Klinge
The Philadephia Inquirer
A- Kelly Willis
Back Being Blue
Mainstream commercial success never came for Kelly Willis in the years following her terrific 1990 debut. Since then, however, she and her husband, the estimable Texas singer-songwriter Bruce Robison, have become one of the first couples of Americana, often performing and recording together. Back Being Blue is Willis' first solo album in more than a decade, and while Robison produced it, he does not sing or play. The focus is on the singer and her songs -- she wrote six of the 10. The result is a stirring reminder of what a talent she is.
The title song, which leads off the album, is an R&B-tinged ballad, with strings, that finds Willis wallowing in heartache: "She's back in my baby's arms, and I'm back being blue." It sets the tone thematically, as Willis dwells often on romantic tribulations of various kinds. "The heart doesn't know what the heart doesn't know," she confesses at one point, although she actually does a first-rate job of articulating emotion with simple, straightforward language.
Willis delivers all this with a commanding blend of torch and twang, spiced with a dash of Western swing on Ronnie Light's "I'm a Lover (Not a Fighter)" and a rock edge on Randy Weeks' "Don't Step Away" and her own "Modern World." That last one finds Willis pleading for relief from the temptations and distractions of contemporary life. She certainly managed to focus long enough to produce an album that sounds less of the moment and more like one that has the timeless qualities of a classic.
Hot tracks: "Back Being Blue," "I'm a Lover (Not a Fighter)"
-- Nick Cristiano
The Philadephia Inquirer
Style on 06/05/2018
Print Headline: It's been a long time coming, but Warnes' disc worth wait