Eva Cassidy

No Boundaries

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No Boundaries Review

by William Cooper

When Eva Cassidy passed away in 1996, she was barely known outside of the Washington, D.C., area. Raised just outside of D.C. in Bowie, MD, Cassidy gained a loyal audience in the D.C. club scene by building a reputation as a brilliant interpreter of popular songs. Whether taking on contemporary pop like Sting's "Fields of Gold" or classic standards such as "Over the Rainbow," Cassidy used her achingly beautiful voice to make seemingly hackneyed material fresh again. She did not wish to be pigeonholed into one particular style, instead choosing to sing material she loved. Eva Cassidy was blessed with musical diversity (her influences ranged from gospel to blues to folk) and a soaring, crystal-clear singing voice. Cassidy was a popular live attraction, performing in small D.C. clubs for several years, but she also participated in a number of infrequent studio sessions; after her death, both her live and studio work saw gradual release. Albums such as Time After Time and Eva By Heart finally exposed Eva Cassidy's music to a national audience, and her devoted fan base regards her as one of the finest vocalists of all time. While her place in American popular music is arguable, there's no denying the power of these recordings, and Cassidy seemed to have the magic touch to make anything she sang instantly memorable. Unfortunately, No Boundaries proves a gifted vocalist like Eva Cassidy can only do so much with bad material. The bulk of No Boundaries, a collection of previously unreleased studio recordings, was written by musicians Tony Taylor and David Christopher. The forgettable songs and producer Taylor's slick adult contemporary pop sheen mesh poorly with Cassidy's raw intensity. To make matters worse, painfully bad arrangements (the stiff drum machine synth-pop of "I've Got This Feeling" is particularly awful) make No Boundaries a frustrating listen. Since Cassidy is known and loved as an interpreter, it's not surprising that the best track on the album is the only cover; her version of Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Natural Woman" is really the only redeeming factor of No Boundaries. Whether or not the material on No Boundaries was meant to see the light of day is questionable. Consumer demand for unreleased music from late artists with endearing appeal virtually guarantees record companies' frequent "raiding of the vaults" for "new" material. It doesn't seem to matter if the material is worthwhile, or if it measures up to an artist's usual standards. There are obvious reasons why "previously unreleased" recordings aren't released during an artist's lifetime in the first place. It's frightening to think that truly insufferable material from otherwise brilliant musicians might one day be "discovered" and thrust upon the public. No Boundaries isn't very good, but that certainly isn't Eva Cassidy's fault. It's possible everything she ever recorded will be released eventually, and it's also possible future Eva Cassidy albums will be worse than this one. Her fans will certainly jump at the chance to own this, but they too will notice No Boundaries simply doesn't measure up to Songbird or Live at Blues Alley. For the casual listener, No Boundaries is a poor introduction to an artist capable of so much more. Her fans deserve better, and so does Eva Cassidy.

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