Penny Nichols

Penny's Arcade

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Penny Nichols's debut album is not a major singer/songwriter statement, but neither is it as mundane as many such also-ran LPs of the late '60s. She has a nice, pleasant strong voice, if not one of great distinction. There might be more folk-rock than anything else to her songs, but there are also a good amount of pop smarts to her melodies. There's also a fair amount of pop acumen to the modest but effective production, including contributions from guitar aces Vincent Bell, Bruce Langhorne, and Al Gorgoni. The tunes have a little bit of an airy hippie wistfulness, very slightly reminiscent of some of Joni Mitchell's early fantasy-fueled lyrics, though without Mitchell's gravity. There's a tinge of country and pop vaudeville in "Games," with some nicely baroque arrangements (by Artie Butler) to amplify the period sense of wonder and expansion. "Look Around Rock" gets into some almost entrancing jazz-folk-psychedelic wooziness, and is the highlight of the record, though the slightly eerie melancholy of the closer "Farina" is also worth noting. It's a bit of a frustrating album to reassess, though, as it can't be wholeheartedly recommended as an exciting discovery, nor can it be dismissed as dull or unexceptional. It's worth picking up, ultimately, if you're heavily into early rock singer/songwriters, though it might not be easy to find cheap due to its rarity.

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