Harriet Schock

American Romance

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American Romance was Harriet Schock's return to recording after two decades of behind-the-scenes songwriting. It was also her first collaboration with producer Nik Venet, and appeared as a cassette-only release in the early '90s, and then as a CD in 2000. It's an incredibly consistent effort, even by Schock's standards, and -- for an album comprised of just keyboards and vocals -- its sound is remarkably rich and detailed, with some particularly lovely vocal arrangements. Schock's skills are, as always, to be found in her ability to put new spins on old subject matters. The title track takes a clear-eyed look at real relationships, free from the fanciful melodrama with which so many lesser songwriters imbue their compositions. Living, breathing relationships are explored on this album, and there is no attempt to gloss over such everyday realities as spite, jealousy, ardor, and regret. Schock never patronizes her audience like that, and it pays off.

A high point is the reworking of her classic "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady." What was passingly enjoyable easy listening in the hands of Helen Reddy is a work of great maturity here. Schock splices the track with a new composition, "One-Time Lover," resulting in a song-suite that has a strong narrative quality, almost like a mini-novel. Every other track would be worth analyzing (particularly the sublime "For What It's Worth"); suffice to say that all have naggingly good melodies, scalpel-sharp lyrics, and fluid electric piano accompaniment. One final note -- there are only eight tracks on American Romance. This is not a bad thing; in the midst of the CD era, with most artists cramming their albums with upwards of 16 tracks (not to mention shovelfuls of hubris, and those irritating "hidden" cuts), it makes this a remarkably palatable work.

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