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Platinum Weird
Make Believe
Interscope Records
www.platinumweirdwired.com


Let me get this one out of the way right now: Erin Grace does not exist. The whole back story surrounding this album about it being a shelved Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) project from 1974, a runaway lead singer who, amazingly, later turned out to be the mentor to Stewart's new ingénue, Kara DioGuardi, all seemed to be a little too convenient when first I read about it. It simply wasn't believable, because the script was straight out of Hollywood. Yeah, I furthered the ruse by telling friends and family about the seemingly star-crossed story, but I also made sure they knew I thought it was all a bunch of bollocks.

The whole ruse has been a promotional gambit (and not a very original one as fans of Hilary Clay Hicks' The Cosmic Storyteller will tell you) of Stewart's that has generated a fair amount of buzz by enlisting rock and roll heavyweights from past and present to get in on the scam... but will listeners ultimately care? The album, while arguably ahead of its time for 1974, is merely a decent, soft-rock album. There are, however, artifacts contained within it that would destroy its legendary provenance, had Dave Stewart not let the cat out of the bag already. Namely, the music is a little too synthy/electronically enhanced for its era. Synthesizers and drum machines may have existed in a limited capacity back then, but not with this kind of fidelity. Secondly, and more convincingly, after consulting with one of Southern California's most esteemed voice coaches, Billy Purnell, it was revealed to me that a vocal trick used by DioGuardi in the recording of this album was a relatively recent technique used to ease the transition between vowel sounds in the higher notes (called "splatting" or "spreading" the vowel).

And this leads me away from the deception of the album to the very real fact that DioGuardi is no Annie Lennox. Her vocal technique leaves much to be desired, employing so many tricks to cover for her weak voice that her singing is bland and flat to the point that her enunciation (adversely) affects intelligibility. She drops so many consonants at the end of her words you'd think she was undergoing dental surgery while singing. The problem with gimmicks, whether in marketing or in performance, is that they tend to distract and detract from the substance of the album. As a pop album, the musicianship contained herein would be outside the fold for 1974, but the boundary-breakers of rock like Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and The Moody Blues were already employing some of these methods prior to 1974.

The album starts out strong with "Will You Be Around", which has a driving bassline, crisp, acoustic strumming, and a lively tempo, but the next four tracks lose quite a bit of that steam before being partially revived with "If You Believe in Love." "Love Can Kill The Blues", at five minutes, is the longest track of the album, and takes a good three minutes to reach the real meat of the song - a trippy, Gilmour-esque guitar solo interleaved with DioGuardi's wavy vocals. Now, despite my possibly unfair carping, this album is still worth a listen. Over-hyping tends to make me overly critical, and while the faults I've found are valid ones, I think that on the whole, they can be mostly overlooked. However, I maintain that Dave Stewart has shown here that he still has enough gas left in the tank that he shouldn't be wasting his time with a singer whose ability is not on par with his musicianship.

-JD

Track Listing:
1. Will You Be Around
2. Lonely Eyes
3. Happiness
4. Make Believe
5. Picture Perfect
6. If You Believe In Love
7. Love Can Kill The Blues
8. I Pray
9. Piccadilly Lane
10. Goodbye My Love


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Mike Doughty



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