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You wouldn't know it by looking at her, but Pat Benatar - who stood at a miniature 5' 0'' and looked like a character from Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas - had a guttural voice so powerful it could blast through brick walls.

Like a lot of pop/rock icons, Benatar had a formal musical education in Classical music, but ended up devoting her skills to rock, and this album doesn't beat about the bush, opening right away with instantly recognizable big hit “Heartbreaker”.

That's one of Benatar's most iconic tunes, because it gave her the perfect showcase for her 'flashy tough girl' chops. Instrumentally, it's pretty obviously dated to the late-70's, what with its New Wave rhythms and textures, and the lyrics are often described as 'women-empowering', though I seem to get a more deviant message from them, as a celebration of the sorts of men who are prone to breaking women's hearts. I'm probably completely wrong about that of course - that's what I get for trying to interpret the lyrics of pop songs!

Surprisingly, the only other song on the album that projects Benatar's tough-girl image is “No You Don't”. Everything else is essentially tame pop music - nothing wrong with that of course - I wouldn't want every track to sound the same. And besides, Benatar's vocals are so versatile they could handle pretty much anything.

“We Live for Love” for example, is a soaring power ballad that puts Benatar's sweet soprano voice to great use. That's an original song by Giraldo, which shows that Benatar was really lucky to have landed a lead guitarist who knew how to write catchy songs (the two would later tie the knot).

Benatar also took a crack at songwriting, co-writing two songs with her bassist Roger Chapps, called “My Clone Sleeps Alone” and “So Sincere”, and they're not half-bad either. Even though I wouldn't call the melodies 'inspired', they're strong enough that I can recall them.

Three tracks originated with Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, the latter also co-producing the album. Anyone into cheesy 70's music from Great Britain would recognize those names from The Sweet, of “Ballroom Blitz” fame, and whilst “No You Don't” has an obvious glam-vibe, they also contributed the slow-paced title track, and the extraordinarily dull “If You Think You Know How to Love Me”.

There's also a lot of covers here. The cover of John Cougar Mellencamp's “I Need a Lover” for some reason gets a lot praise from some critics. Sure, it's something you can bop your head to rather pleasantly, but its melody is even simpler and dumber than the Benatar originals! Hasn't Mellencamp ever heard of a chorus?

Then there's an unexpected cover of the Alan Parsons Projects' “Don't Let it Show”, a brilliantly catchy pop ballad. My only complaint about that is that the instrumentation is wussy ... I mean, it's even wussier than the original, which is really saying something. There's also a song called “Rated X” by a singer/songwriter called Nick Gilder who I've never heard of. That's a pretty dippy song though.

Of course, the whole point of this album was not so much the music than as a means to showcase Benatar's singing, and in that respect it served its purpose very well, as Benatar's voice is a comfortable constant throughout. Her backing band weren't extraordinarily talented, but along the same lines they were humble and never seemed to overdo things. If anything, they under-did it, as though they were averse to stealing the spotlight from the star.

I do wish though, that they'd arranged the songs a little better, since many of them don't seem very 'well driven'. There again, my impression is that it was recorded rather quickly and on a low budget, so it's understandable.

[Footnote: Don Ignacio's Blog supplements this Review with a bonus track-by-track commentary]

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio

Posted: Monday 21st May 2018 10:13 AM
Recent album review
Septober Energy was a massive project, a double-album with a 50 member jazz/rock orchestra performing a work by pianist Keith Tippett.

Fripp produced, but Tippett organized everything, and the line-up featured most of his band, along with old King Crimson hands McDonald and Burrell, Soft Machinists, violins, cellos, more horns, and Brian Godding (brother of Tippett's wife Julie Driscoll) as the sole guitarist.

Despite the impressive lineup, Septober Energy is a bloated mess. There are good passages (buried alive) here and there, and Fripp may've saved some ideas for his Larks' Tongue-era (the opening noises, the mostly instrumental approach). Yet the album commits almost every musical sin ... overlong jams, avant-noise, section wank episodes, no apparent order to the way pieces approach and retreat, and wordless vocals occasionally deviating into hippie babble lyrics - all dumped into one track carved up over four LP sides.

Maybe Tippett was trying to create an early 1970's equivalent to Big Band jazz. Maybe he was trying to merge experimental hippie stuff like Joseph Byrd with contemporary jazz. Maybe he was trying to further explore the symphony / rock band sound which had proven commercially successful for Atom Heart Mother and Deep Purple's Concerto.

Whatever he was trying to do, listening to Septober Energy is like watching a peacock preen itself and prance about before a mirror: there's the odd moment of beauty, but even Narcissus would've drowned himself well before the start of Side Three.

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by Reviewer: Obscurity

Posted: Monday 21st May 2018 10:26 AM
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