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A Name to Remember: Linda Perry
on October 25, 2002
First of all, the 4 Non Blondes are no more, which is difficult to understand, given the success this album enjoyed. The San Francisco based quartet signed with Interscope Records in the early `90s, and their debut effort in 1992, "Bigger, Better, Faster, More!" was their first and last recording together, but it produced one mega-hit, "What's Up," which sold more singles than any song in warner history. Still, they were destined to join the roster of the music scene's One-hit Wonders; but anyone who listens to this album isn't going to forget it any time soon.
The band produced an alternative rock/coffee house blues sound with a penetrating presentation that would give your coffee the jitters, and it's that sound that is captured on this CD. From the opening bars of "Train," to the final refrain of "No Place Like Home," the Non Blondes come at you with a vengeance, and they give no quarter. This is raw, edgy stuff that will get your attention with the first cut, and by the time you reach the end of the album the first time through, you're hooked. They get you and they get you good.
To give credit where it's due, the 4 Non Blondes are: Christa Hillhouse, base; Roger Rocha, guitar; Dawn Richardson, drums; and last but not least, singer/songwriter (and consummate artist) Linda Perry on vocals. And referencing Perry as such is not to be taken as a mere platitude; because talented as Hillhouse, Rocha and Richardson are, it is Perry who is the real story here.
Without question, Linda Perry is the driving force behind the band. She has a strong, distinctive voice and she knows how to use it. And the term "subtle" is not in her vocabulary. She gives you everything she's got on every song, and she has quite a bit to give. Think Taylor Dane meets Tina Turner and you'll have an idea. Perry is definitely not a gentle breeze blowing across the landscape; she's a gale force wind reducing everything in her path to rubble. And she does it SO well.
Perry is something of an enigma, as well. Her sound is hard and fast, but her lyrics tend to be introspective, even wistful, and range from the musings of a dreamer to a `60s kind of social consciousness, all delivered with a spine-shattering effectiveness more evocative of an Ani DeFranco or Michelle Shocked than a Joni Mitchell or Jewel. Consider the soul searching words with which she begins "What's Up": "25 years of my life and still/ I'm trying to get up that great big hill of hope/ for a destination--" It's a rocker's contemplation of life, which she seems to answer with the acquiescent "Morphine & Chocolate," in which she strives to "Substitute my enemies with real good friends/ Morphine & Chocolate are my/ Substitute, substitutes--"
Then on to the words of the daydreamer, "So I'll reach up to the sky/ And pretend that I'm a Spaceman/ in another place and time," in "Spaceman," which then continues on with the thought that "I guess I'm lookin' for a brand new place/ I remember living in a different life--" And "Dear Mr. President," a commentary on society and the state of the world in which we're living: "It's such a wonderful country/ but the man is burning it down--"
Like Jim Morrison and Springsteen before her, Perry is a hard blues/rocker with a poet's soul. But more than that she's got "attitude"-- the right kind and plenty of it. And she knows how to deliver the goods, which she so aptly demonstrates on "Bigger, Better, Faster, More!" with a little help from her friends. In the final analysis, however, 4 Non Blondes is a band destined to be a footnote in music history. Linda Perry, on the other hand, is going to be remembered, and she is happening now. Linda Perry is forever. And so is her music.