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Life on a String

43 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 21, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

No Description Available.
Genre: Popular Music
Media Format: Compact Disk
Release Date: 21-AUG-2001

A new Laurie Anderson album is usually a thing to welcome. Often less a performance artist than point person for global-village storytelling--as on 1995's The Ugly One with the Jewels--she's also demonstrated a high level of musical savvy. Life on a String's meld of Biblical references, New York wanderings, world rhythms, and chamber music doesn't cohere like it should, though. Caught between bemusement and empathy, Anderson's knack for nailing oddball details can lift her work beyond mere wit, but not here. On "Dark Angel," she damns consumerism with lines that would've been laughable even at the outset of her career in the '70s: "Look at all the things I bought / I'm feeling kind of lost." Her quoting "I'm a Little Teapot" on "One Beautiful Evening" sounds like self-parody, or the result of a lost dare with another artsy type. And is the observation that it's a small world but she wouldn't want to paint it supposed to sound fresh? For true Anderson wigginess and smarts, try Ugly One, or for that matter, her classic debut, Big Science. --Rickey Wright

Listen to Samples and Buy MP3s

Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
  1. One White Whale 2:02$0.99  Buy MP3 
  2. The Island Where I Come from 4:07$0.99  Buy MP3 
  3. Pieces and Parts 3:34$0.99  Buy MP3 
  4. Here With You 2:22$0.99  Buy MP3 
  5. Slip Away 5:50$0.99  Buy MP3 
  6. My Compensation 2:28$0.99  Buy MP3 
  7. Dark Angel 3:23$0.99  Buy MP3 
  8. Broken 3:19$0.99  Buy MP3 
  9. Washington Street 4:40$0.99  Buy MP3 
10. Statue of Liberty 4:24$0.99  Buy MP3 
11. One Beautiful Evening 5:05$0.99  Buy MP3 
12. Life on a String 2:57$0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 21, 2001)
  • Original Release Date: 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000050K9A
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,353 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I couldn't disagree with the Amazon reviewer more. This is a beautiful sonically textured and highly intimate work that reveals a more personal side of Laurie Anderson. While there is still humor and social commentary to be found, the music and lyrics don't hide behind glib irony, as some of her other work has. However you'd like to categorize it, this is pure and emotional music. And her violin playing is gorgeous. This is an album that will continue to reveal its colors as time passes, and won't date itself from trendy production.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By William Merrill VINE VOICE on August 22, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Listening to Laurie Anderson's new disc, it's easy to remember her roots as an avant garde performance artist. Unfortunately "avant garde" often means challenging, intriguing music that you listen to only once. "Life on a String" has really cool packaging, marvelous sound quality, a top drawer collection of backing musicians, and a lot of interesting ideas. What it does NOT have is an album's worth of "Excellent Birds" kind of melodies you'll want to hear again in the future. The 21st Century Laurie Anderson seems to be interested in trying an even wider palette of song concepts and arrangements than usual, including a decreased emphasis on synthesizers and more on strings, vocals, and other sources. I thought I was missing the synths, but when they showed up on track six, "My Compensation," I wished they had stayed away. Besides the random electronic blips and blurps, the only character the song has is in Laurie's bland cadence of a vocal. One of the many impressive collaborators is Van Dyke Parks, but he and Laurie brought out the worst in eachother -- Parks contributing one of his generic "zipidee-doo-dah" orchestral arrangements to go with Anderson's wandering narrative on "Dark Angel." Terminally un-memorable. Then, FINALLY, things come to life on the last 4 or 5 cuts. For example, "Statue of Liberty" is a powerful meditation on a citizen's responsibility to speak out, made strong by a haunting melody, Ms. A.'s sorrowful violin, and subtle yet effective swashes of keyboard effects. If only the whole disc were made up of songs like those in the last third of the CD, this might have been a keeper.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jason Stein VINE VOICE on September 9, 2001
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Laurie Anderson's first proper cd since 1994's "Bright Red" continues the same half-spoken, half-sung stories she's been making since 1982's "Big Science". This time out the stories aren't as interesting, and the music doesn't grab you like her other efforts do. My bias in Anderson's catalogue is towards "Strange Angels" and "Bright Red". "Life On A String" seems somewhere between those other discs. This is not to say that this cd doesn't have its share of interesting tracks like "Slip Away", "Pieces And Parts", "The Island Where I Come From" and "One White Whale". Overall, it just felt like Laurie is sitting on the sidelines instead of being the innovator she usually is. However, any Laurie Anderson cd, including this one, is far more interesting than what's on the radio!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Nixon on August 27, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Being serious fan of the artist since 1984, I hold all of her albums in revered esteem. What I forget, though, is that in almost all cases I was initially "disappointed" on the first couple listens. Mr. Heartbreak didn't have that hypnotic feel of Big Science. Strange Angels was too "pop" and not avante garde enough. Now that I have had time to digest these albums, I find that I still come back to them frequently and they are all "desert island discs". I still have reservations about much of Bright Red. I thought that the Eno pairing would be magical all the way through. The title song still blows me away, though. I think that Life On A String will be the same. The sound palette, which is very orchestral, is so lush and warm, in sharp contrast to the purposely alienating textures of her earlier work. Her voice would pull you in even as the background music was spare and neutral. Here, the music invites you in, and the difference in mood is noticeable. I really believe that in the years to come, I'll cherish One White Whale, Pieces and Parts, Slip Away, Washington Street, and many others on the album, as I do her previous material. I do agree that some of the lyrical originality that draws me to Laurie Anderson is a bit lacking here - I believe that Steven Wright coined the "it's a small world but I wouldn't want to paint it" line - but her rhyme in the text with "Wright" may be a subtle bow to him (or not..). Also, for a more rocking "I love your brain", try Frank Black. I've come to realize that Ms. Anderson is just ahead of me. I need to catch up, and that takes time. Once this album clicks in, as most all of hers do, I'll wear it out. We'll see how the songs stack up in concert (At the El Rey in LA on Sept. 9th).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andy Niable on August 30, 2001
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
There's that adage, "you had to be there," and maybe that is why she chose to only use three songs from Moby Dick for Life on a String. Unfortunately, the other works are only pale imitations of her earlier stronger work on United States 1-4, Big Science, Mister Heartbreak, and The Ugly One With The Jewels. Sure, this is a more musical album, and I enjoy listening to the often-knocked-as-too-"pop" album, Strange Angels. It soars musically, where Life on a String just plucks around. Perhaps in her desire to keep us all guessing and always remain faithful to her avant guard roots, Laurie has simply strayed out of the familiar territory that I personally have enjoyed as a fan. Or perhaps she really has exhausted her themes and abilities. I doubt that, as the opening song from Moby still moves me after several listenings. There's more there, but it's not here on this disk. I hope we don't have to wait as long for another album from her, but on the other hand, if she needs time to recharge so she can put out a more interesting and musically interesting work, I can wait.
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