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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Pretty Little Head

Nellie McKay

A review of the CD
by Larry Slade

Some months ago (promise you won't tell anybody) I downloaded the BitTorrent version of Pretty Little Head. That was when Columbia Records decided that they didn't want to release the two CD collection of new Nellie McKay songs. This all sounds a little like problems with Fiona Apple's most recent work. There must be some issue with young women singer/songwriters who play the piano. But anyway , there was also a question of NM touring to promote the CD. NM wasn't making herself available to do this, instead opting to play Polly in the current Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera (which I saw and really enjoyed). All then end with McKay and the label parted company. After all Nellie doesn't have the image of a company woman and a 16 song version of Pretty Little Head ended up as a torrent. So she left Columbia/Sony and ended up on Hungry Mouse records which is, according to what I read on the back of the CD, some sort of a part of Sony/BMG which is a different company, I guess, than Columbia/Sony. I don't know what all this means. It is no doubt all "Important Business!" way over my pretty little head, but anyway I have the 23 song two CD hard copy product now. What I do know is that I really like it. I just bought another copy this afternoon for my friend Erin as a Xmas present (don't tell her).

I've been a fan of McKay's stuff since the first CD, Get Away From Me. Pretty Little Head is a very good CD. Standouts are Cupcake, The Down Low, Long and Lazy River, Real Life, Mama & Me, and my favorite, I Am Nothing. Actually there is not a clinker in the bunch. It is all entertaining and varied so I don't get bored with he same sort of songs, one after another that some people produce. She has a pretty wide range in the type of material she does. So she is not boring. From what I read on the CD she has produced this one herself and plays a lot of the instruments. In this way she bypasses Fiona Apple who seems to be more tied to the sound molding of an outside producer. I like the arrangements, the production on the CD. I keep wanting some of my more folkie sounding musician acquaintances to make recordings with a fuller sound(yeah you KRP). This is the way to reach a wider audience. I think production really pays off. Recordings with just piano or guitar and voice just don't really work that well for me. They don't get the repeated plays that a bigger production gets, and there is really not that much of an excuses for not having more sound with the 21st Century tools of PC soft synths and multi-track recording. At any rate, Pretty Little Head is a good CD, entertaining and deep. And if you have the torrent mp3s buy the CD. It sounds a whole lot better and you get to hear Moma & Me plus other gems. I recommend checking it out. Nellie McKay is doing good work right now and has a promising career ahead of her. It will be interesting to what how it develops.

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