Sandy Dillon

Nobody's Sweetheart

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Twenty years on from the unreleased LP that should have established her as a superstar-in-waiting, the mid-'80s set recorded with Mick Ronson, New York singer/songwriter Sandy Dillon finally landed her U.S. debut album in 2004, a raw and thoughtful collection that pairs her so-distinctive vocal with 13 new songs and some truly dramatic arrangements.

That the Dillon voice -- a strangled little-girl-lost -- is not to everybody's taste is a matter of record, and the opening "Feel the Way I Do" exercises it to the full extent, for better or worse. But a dramatic band led by Dillon's longtime collaborator Ray Majors kicks in for the following "It Must Be Love" and, within those full-bloodied surroundings, the timbre shifts considerably. Haunted by a well-snatched sample from Love's "Red Telephone," the song sets the remainder of the album up in startling fashion.

The creeping "The Stain," the eerie "The Shoreline," and the supremely sultry title track can all be hauled out as superbly textured highlights; and, if thoughts of PJ Harvey occasionally drift across your ears ("A Girl Like Me" comes to mind), the comparisons exist less in terms of sonics than in delivery and intent. Dark and surprising, eclectic and ecstatic, Nobody's Sweetheart is one of those albums that could lay undiscovered for years. But it will thrill and enthrall everybody who does chance across it.

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