k.d. lang and the Reclines / k.d. lang

Angel with a Lariat

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k.d. lang's first major-label album (and debut American release) was a bit of a switch from the polished retro-country of her best-known work; with Dave Edmunds in the producer's chair, Angel with a Lariat often sounds more like rockabilly or roots rock than classic C&W, with a big, snappy drum sound, plenty of guitars mixed upfront, and lots of slapback of lang's vocals (a production decision lang mentioned with little enthusiasm several years after the album came out). "Turn Me Around" and "High Time for a Detour" rock significantly harder than most of lang's body of work, and "Watch Your Step Polka," "Diet of Strange Places," and "Tune Into My Wave" find lang and her band (who are in fine form throughout) indulging her sly sense of humor, which tended to get lost in the shuffle on later albums such as Ingénue. While the production and arrangements tend not to focus on the subtleties of lang's voice (with the exception of the weepy closer, "Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray"), she's one heck of a belter on this set, with a set of pipes as big as all outdoors. And the cover of the old Lynn Anderson chestnut "Rose Garden" actually tops the original. Fast, fresh, and funny, Angel with a Lariat may not be k.d. lang's best album, but it's probably the best one to put on at a party -- it's got a good beat, and you can dance to it.

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