Dori Hartley

Blue Djinn

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Dori Hartley earned a modicum of fame inside New York City as the original and best Frank-N-Furter impersonator during the midnight showings of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Waverly Theater, even before there was such a thing as "cast" performances in front of the screen. Blue Djinn was her first, and so far only, album, created in concert with co-songwriter Pete Min. Unfortunately, the seductive, husky alto (with its eerie echoes, on "Wild Blue Heart," of Cher) that she put to such good use in her previous role as Frank manqué doesn't really have a job to perform on Blue Djinn, since it is given a series of nondescript, by-the-book melodies to sing. The songs never really seem to engage her gift for characterization, and as a result they never work either as songs worthy of being engaged. There are signs of life here and there, particularly when the band cooks up a vat of percolating white funk on "This Is Your Life" and "Swamp Thing." The former, particularly, is right up Hartley's alley with its message of geek, freak, and outsider empowerment, and the latter confirms that she is most comfortable mixing with the bohemian and outcast side of the street. Even better is "Can't Find the Way," which actually deserves to be called "lovely," its haunting dark-dream of a chorus bringing Hartley's metaphysical yearning to its most eloquent plea. But on the whole there are just too many facile ballads and equally faceless mid-tempo tracks, and the playing, while plenty professional, lacks any distinction, rarely rising above a studied indie rock jangle. You can't help wishing Hartley had injected some of the idiosyncrasies of her personality into the music itself, rather than remaining content to profess them in her lyrics.

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