Beverley Craven

Mixed Emotions

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    6
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Two more children kept Craven occupied for six years, and one might have imagined that, with such a long lay-off, she'd bounce back with something new to say. Mixed Emotions, however, is just more of the same. This time, Craven had built her own home studio, and this explains some of the album's shortcomings. Without the same pressures of time and budget, Craven was able to work on her songs and their arrangements unsupervised, and the results are over-baked. "I Miss You" and "Come Home to Me" are typically pretty, heartfelt ballads, buried neck-high in heavy-handed orchestration and layer upon layer of gratuitous vocals and overdubs. She does tackle more subjects and ideas than before, but not always gracefully. For example, "Tick Tock" finds her wagging her finger at women who choose careers over children; an extraordinarily antiquarian stance for a 1990s songwriter. In the end, it is her own, bitter experiences that inspire Mixed Emotions' best songs, such as "Afraid of Letting Go," a striking account of divorce and its sometimes devastating effects on children (Craven's parents divorced when she was small). The tasteless guitar solo at the end drags Craven dangerously close to Celine Dion territory, but otherwise it's a stellar moment, proving that her songwriting gifts are no less than they were before. It's just a shame that the more stripped down approach of her first album has been forsaken for the slushy, tarted-up stylings that ultimately spoil this record.

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