Vonda Shepard

By 7:30

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Vonda Shepard is a perfect example of how radically one's luck can change for the better. Given the boot by Reprise in 1992, the singer/songwriter lacked either a record deal or a manager for several years -- from 1992 to 1996, the last thing one expected from her was a platinum album. But in the late 1990s, Shepard's frequent appearances on Fox-TV's hit program Ally McBeal gave her a major boost, and 1998's Songs from Ally McBeal went platinum in the U.S. thanks to sales exceeding one million units. Shepard's follow-up to Songs from Ally McBeal was By 7:30, a good-to-excellent collection of pop and pop-rock that often draws on Joni Mitchell's influence without obscuring Shepard's own identity. A few of the tunes venture into glossy, slick adult contemporary territory -- most notably, "Baby, Don't You Break My Heart Slow," a duet with Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls -- but for the most part, Shepard favors a more organic and introspective approach that should appeal to the Lillith Fair audience. Indeed, those who have appreciated the emotional complexity and depth of Mitchell and Sarah McLachlan will find a lot to admire in cuts like "Venus Is Breaking," "Cross to Bear," and "Clear." These aren't songs that go for immediacy; even though parts of the album are commercial, 7:30 is, on the whole, an album that has to be accepted on Shepard's own creative terms.

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