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Michelle Young — Marked for Madness
(Naosha NACD002, 2001, CD)
by Jim Chokey, Published 2002-09-01
Michelle Young’s sophomore effort, Marked for Madness, evinces several subtle changes from 1996’s Song of the Siren. On that first album, the Tennessean songstress sang and played several different instruments, with the assistance of the guys from Glass Hammer. Here, she limits herself to vocals, turning all instrumental responsibilities over to co-producer Clive Nolan and a bunch of other Brits, including Peter Gee, Karl Groom, and (rather surprisingly) old Yes-man Peter Banks. Although Young still frequently sings in a lilting style reminiscent of Kate Bush, her delivery is now punchier, huskier, and more powerful — at times rock-operatic, like Pat Benatar in her prime, or maybe Lana Lane. Young uses her voice more theatrically as well, especially on the title track. The overall mood of the disk, though, is a bit uneven. On tunes like “Spider’s Thread” and “Hope: Encouragement,” the sound is definitely progressive — more progressive than anything she’s done before, in fact. (And no, in spite of the presence of Nolan, Gee, and Groom, it’s not neo-prog.) There are also a few intriguing keyboard instrumentals that were written by Young, but which are for some reason performed by Nolan. On the down side, “A Lively Toast” and “Melissa’s Demise” have a rather generic 80s rock sound to them, with blaring guitars that sound too close to late-period Heart for my taste. The overall sound, though, remains that of an arty prog-pop chanteuse. Those who liked Young’s first album should also enjoy this.
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