Bridget St. John

Take the 5ifth

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Fans of Bridget St. John's very acoustic albums will be a little nonplussed by this collection of tracks, recorded between 1975 and 1982, many of them in America, after she took up residence in New York. Even more disconcerting for purists is the fact that six of the 17 songs find her accompanied by ace session band Stuff. Get past those mental barriers, however, and it's the same old St. John, whether on the rustic simplicity of the lovely "Maybe If I Write a Letter" or the uptempo "Crazy Heart." There are oblique references to heroes on the album, from Dylan on "Chamille" and "Safe Place" to Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" on "Make-Me-Whole." It's a bit of a patchwork quilt of a record, as is inevitably the case in sessions recorded over multiple years, but the songs stand up to anything from her earlier incarnation, especially the heartfelt "Song for John," a tribute to Lennon, whose lyrics place it firmly in America. There's even a take at late-'70s quality MOR pop with the perky "You Make It All Right," female backing vocals and all -- a long way from the early, trembling John Peel favorite perhaps, but still good. Her version of "Catch a Falling Star" could almost have come from that novice period, though, with its disingenuous charm. And closing with a song from the Stuff sessions finds her looking firmly ahead, rather than behind.

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