Phoebe Snow

I Can't Complain

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The record business being, if possible, even harder on women over 30 than the movie business is, I Can't Complain was 45-year-old Phoebe Snow's first album in nine years and only her second in 17 years. It was also her first to present her solely as an interpretive singer, not including any of her own compositions. Maybe for these reasons, producers Joel Moss and Jimmy Vivino had her swing for the fences: it took a lot of confidence to cover songs associated with such vocal powerhouses as Van Morrison ("Madame George"), Janis Joplin ("Piece of My Heart"), and Mary Martin ("Never Never Land") among others. Of course, Snow's own voice was so distinctive that she had no trouble making such material her own. In truth, the challenge with Snow is not so much finding songs as excluding them; it's hard to think of a song to which she couldn't bring a new and valuable interpretation. Her "Piece of My Heart" is just as impassioned as Joplin's, but comes from a different universe of feeling. She fully understands Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" (one of two duets with Michael McDonald) and suggests a few other meanings. Her "Baby, Work Out" is just as joyous as Jackie Wilson's, with some added emotions as well. Her "A Case of You" is just a vulnerable as Joni Mitchell's, and somewhat more knowing. And so on. The only thing wrong with this album is that it is such a rarity. A singer of Snow's quality should have been documented much more extensively over the last two decades.

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