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Naked & Sacred
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In the late 1980s, Phillips formed the trio Wilson Phillips with her childhood friends Carnie and Wendy Wilson. The group released their self-titled debut album in 1990. The album would go on to sell eight million copies. The group's second album, Shadows and Light, released in 1992, was a commercial failure despite being certified platinum. After the failure of that project, Phillips left the group, citing exhaustion. In 1995, Phillips released her debut solo album, Naked and Sacred.
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Perhaps the fact that the album was so well made was its undoing. It is not extreme in any way. Not too rock-oriented, not drenched in syrupy ballads, not draggy with songs that all sound alike, not overwhelmed by techno. The project works. As mainstream pop goes, it is really in the "Goldilocks zone", as they say on the Science Channel. Just right. The title song, "Naked And Sacred", opens the album with a strong driving beat and the first on a tracklist of songs with good pop/rock structure. Chynna's appeal is both sensual and naïve as her girlish voice asks big questions and expresses serious desire ("I wanna hold you naked and sacred/Till I grow old/What does love mean? Can love last?/Your hand's healin' me, your love's filling me"). "I Live For You" and "Till The End" are also strong upbeat selections, with the latter being a little darker, a bit on the bluesy side ("Did you think that we would just go on & on...I need more than just one man/I was never one to see love through till the end"). "Turn Around" sounds like a Spice Girls track with its mid-tempo beat and a message that seems totally straightforward but is delivered in a playful, self-assured tone. (And remember that in 1995, The Spice Girls had not yet had a hit.) One noteworthy ballad on the album is "Just To Hear You Say That You Love Me", a Diane Warren composition which has, right from the start, a melodic arrangement, interesting chord changes and lyrics Celine Dion would have loved ("If I could win your heart...I'd climb right up to the sky/Take down the stars...I'd go and capture the moon"). "Will You" is a very moving production, piano-based with a beautiful, restrained string arrangement. Chynna sings with regret "Will you come back to me?/'Cause I'd walk a million miles to be with you". In this varied material, Chynna's vocal talent shines more than on Wilson Phillips tracks, and I imagine that is partly because she wrote or co-wrote 9 of the 11 songs. She reaches some very high notes at times, and drops down uncharacteristically low at other times, depending on what she is trying to project. In the power ballad "This Close", she demonstrates excellent control of her voice. She is a bit hard-edged in "When 2000 Comes" ("When 2000 comes I'll be ready then for you...I don't need to hear no new age crap about love...we're better off for now, just let go"), and pleads her case emotionally in "I Live For You" ("I won't deny you anything...You're the one I cry to...Talk to me/Tell me all your fears...And tell me I'm your life").
I have enjoyed and reviewed pop music for years, including the work of many female artists. I can't see any reason for this album's dismal sales. It is certainly not worse than many things that have chart success. If anyone has an opinion on this, I'm all ears.
Chynna possesses so-so range yet her compelling voice demands your constant attention. Her tonal qualities vary song to song providing pleasing variances. These works clearly show what a talent she truly is as a singer and writer. The background voices work perfectly enhancing her as the main focus.
It has been 17 years since the album was released and one wonders why it never became popular. I know very little about music, but know what I like. And, I love this CD!
The title track has a sound that should be familiar to 80's music fans, as the song was co-written by Rick Nowels and Billy Steinberg. characteristic rhythm guitar of Belinda Carlisle's music.
"When 2000 Comes" isn't too exceptional, although hearing her say that "I don't need to hear no new age cr-p about love" reminds me that she's not in WP anymore.
"Remember Me", for exes now under a different oath, is another Rick Nowels production, with haunting synths like Chris DeBurgh's "The Lady In Red." Nowels' good songwriting is still in evidence: "Remember me, because this highway is long, and who knows what will come in years/Remember me, because you can't forget your past/I'm the doorway flooded with tears/The doorways were flooded."
If "I Live For You" sounds like it belonged on a Jennifer Rush album, that's because it was produced by Desmond Child. However, her voice reaches shrillness in trying to get that high note, something not to be heard on a Jennifer Rush album. She does better on another Child production, the ballad "This Close."
The mid-paced "Turn Around" is the closest to a Wilson Phillips song on this album, along with the backing vocalists.
"Just To Hear You Say That You Love Me" wins from Diane Warren's penmanship, Desmond Child's production, and the string arrangement.
I wonder what got into Glen Ballard, as "Follow You Down" is more the stuff Wilson Phillips should've had on Shadows And Light rather than the overproduced vocals on that album. However, Chynna's trying to get a higher range isn't too successful.
The Desmond Child-produced ballad "Jewel In My Crown" is more like it, although these lyrics range from amusing/trite to nice: "You held me high up on a throne/you made a queen out of a clown."
The final melancholy separation ballad is the Patrick Leonard-produced "Will You" with its piano and strings. She asks well-tried questions such as "Why have we separated again?" and "Am I too late?/Has heaven already closed the gate?"
Chynna's vocal talent is laudable, but it only shows that her voice worked better in unison with les soeurs Wilsons, as the accompanying and backing vocalists Chynna uses don't compare. She does best on the ballads, not much on the engaging numbers.
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Sadly all this can't make it the album of the year 1995 (some hope when you're up against the twin-attack of Sandra's "Fading Shades" and Ace Of Base's masterpiece "The Bridge", and Big Country's 'Why The Long Face'-and if Voice Of The Beehive's last and best album was released when it was supposed to be, that would have knocked this even down further. But considering both Kim Wilde and Duran rather underwhelmed with their 1995 releases not being up to their usual standard exactly, though still ownable) Chynna manages to compare favourably with both atcs normally way out of her reach. It's not quite as good all-round as one-album nobody dance-hick Paula Abdul's "Forever Your Girl" from 1988, but the singing's so far removed, I shouldn't compare them, not least cos the whiny anorexic squeal Abdul has needed masses of studio wizardry to even make palatable and discernable and even then it struggled like a salmon against a tsunami. Chynna has no such problems. Granted she can sound terribly petulant and a little whiny-certainly on the first WP album, but here her voice takes on a new direction. In fact it finds layers.
On second single 'I Live For You' it becomes an aggressive and challenging, alomst predtaory cat-call. It'll shred a wooden board, and it'll startle 'Hold On' fans, but once you relax, you get into it, and this funky in-yer-face soul-bearing is a bang-on single choice, as is 'Naked And Sacred' itself, a catchy bouncy radio-friendly charmer. Both songs, in fact many on here portray the middle-8 and bridge sections in the middle that are rather lacking since the 80s disappeared. Unfortunately there's a bubbling treacle show wreathed through the album, and titles like 'This Close' and 'Jewel In My Crown' conjure up innate fears of typical American AOR sugar attack, and worst of all, one appalling tune in the says-it-all- warning title of the gushing 'Just To Hear You Say That You Love Me'-I can hear a full scale vomit inducement shaking my bones already. That Diane Warren-she needs bloody immersion in her own vat of sickly sap. I've seen kebabs with less dripping.
That abomination aside, the soppier ones are sung with a heartfelt honesty over a musical backdrop so honeyed, you can forgive the bits you don't jerk with embarrasment too much-I felt the R&B dance-pop of 'Turn Around' with its weird Texan drawl on the chorus the very protoype of the dreadful 90s bimbo barbies from Eternal onwards, and it's also something the likes of Paula Abdul would have done for her 1991 embarrassing attempt to be an actual albums artist beyond a lucky first strike. But Chynna just about gets away with it, and back the cons, 'Follow Love Down' is an excellent floor grabbing all-attitude roaring number that should have not be relegated to B-side status (speaking of which, I'm wondering if the three non-album B-sides two of the singles have are worth owning?), but 'Remember Me' is the album's gold and silver, a spellbinding ballad of astounding beauty Chynna should be given award for penning completely on her own-and another for arranging the music with Glen Ballard. It's the equivalent to the best Wilson Phillips singles ('Release Me', 'Don't Take Me Down' for example) and it's full of aching sadness, honest emotion, rawness, and a certain glimpse of positivity. Her constant refrains of 'Remember' as the songs fades will do just exactly that. And curses to both EMI and the radio stations that did not utilise the promos of this tune into a crossover commercial release. What's the rule here-if it's a Diane Warren horror, it's only acceptable. Surely UNacceptable would be the way to go with that.
Chynna, even if you never do another album, and it's not quite up there with the first two Wislon Phillips releases-though no doubt better than anything they've done since coming back together, your Naked Sacredness is, in its best moments, truly compelling and a tiny bit Sacred.