From Tracy Chapman, Sarah McLachlan and Michelle Shocked to Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin, most of the female singer/songwriters who emerged in the 1980s and 1990s favored an ultra-serious tone. But with Christine Lavin, you could generally count on getting a healthy dose of wit and humor. True to form, Lavin makes sure that her humorous outlook is what defines Compass. Lavin's take on male/female relationships isn't necessarily optimistic -- tunes like "Blind Dating Fun" and "Rushcutter's Bay" don't paint a very rosy picture of relationships in the 1990s. But the songs manage to laugh just the same. "Prisoners of Their Hairdos" has at good laugh at the expense of people famous for their hair (including Crystal Gayle and Don King), while "You Think You've Got Problems" takes a pointed jab at chronic whiners, hypochondriacs and complainers who go out of their way to be miserable and make everyone around them miserable. One frequent complaint about Lavin is that she can be overly maudlin on occasion -- and, to be sure, "Replaced" and "Until Now" are on the maudlin side. But the New York resident doesn't inundate us with such songs -- so it's OK for her to include a few maudlin numbers on her albums as long as humor continues to be dominant. Lavin's fans will want this album.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson