The Fifth Element #4 Page 3

Elemental Recordings
Continuing with the list of recordings I use to evaluate new equipment, here are the ladies—other than Ella Fitzgerald, whose previously mentioned (March 2001) "Easy to Love," from her The Cole Porter Songbook, is indispensable.

The following pop recordings use varying degrees of processing and are, in general, miked rather closely. But each presents a strongly distinctive, richly nuanced voice in better-than-average sound, which in my experience is much more useful than a so-what voice in superb sound.

Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark (Asylum 61001-2). The occasional master-tape engineering flaws—usually saturation from too much overdubbing—are only on the surface, and do not obscure the depths explored by Mitchell's wry wit and engaged soul. Mitchell's is a complex voice singing about complex emotions. If you do not know this album, you really should. (The DCC 24K gold remastering is the digital version to have, but it is apparently out of print.)

Jennifer Warnes: Famous Blue Raincoat (Attic ACD-1227). A small picture of this CD's cover is in the margin of the dictionary page beside the definition for "audio show demo disc," and with good reason. But it is Warnes' own chastened and wistful "Song of Bernadette" that I use as a touchstone, not Leonard Cohen's enigmatic title track.

Julia Fordham: Porcelain (Virgin 91325-2). Most people seem not to have heard or even heard of Julia Fordham, an Englishwoman who hasn't caught on here. Fordham's voice is rich and powerful, with impressive range. I've found Porcelain to be as valuable a vocal evaluation disc as the two above-mentioned famous old standbys. A little less artsy, perhaps, than Raincoat, but not a jarring contrast. An undiscovered gem.

Mary Black: No Frontiers (Gift Horse G2-10002). Fordham's voice is of the nightclub or bedroom, while Mary Black's is more of the pub and country lanes. Still, Black's voice is hauntingly evocative, and her material is at times superb. The commendably ungimmicky production job is true to Black's Celtic folk-music roots.

Whirligig: Spin (Prime CD PCD70). Lisa Moscatiello's traversal of the old ballad "The Constant Lovers" displays her creamy but plangent voice, with phrasing you'd be tempted to call "elegant" were it not so (deceptively) "natural." Another ungimmicky, nearly 100% acoustic-instruments recording. Highly recommended.

Anita Baker: Rapture (Elektra 60444). Anita Baker's voice has that slightly woodsy-nasal quality of the best French-made oboes. Track 5, "Mystery," despite its studio-pop production values, shows Baker's seemingly effortless command of a variety of opulent tone colors. What a delectable voice!

Questions or comments.