Mary Black

Without the Fanfare

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Without the Fanfare finds Mary Black moving firmly into a folk-rock mode, sliding just a bit too smoothly through a program that could have been designed for Richard & Linda Thompson or maybe Clive Gregson & Christine Collister. The sound is consistently low-key and shimmery, with oh-so-tasteful synthesizers flowing silkily under trebly guitars and gently percolating percussion. As long as things remain on that more or less even keel, the results are fairly attractive, but when Black and the band try for a funky island rhythm on "Nightime," the results are downright silly. Things start to look up with the album's one traditional song, a sweet and spare arrangement of the old chestnut "The Water Is Wide" on which the drums are muted and the guitar is acoustic, and texture is provided by a subdued concertina (probably actually a synthesizer, best not to think about that) and the focus is all on Black's glorious voice. But then we're back in MOR country again and stay there for the duration (though "As I Leave Behind Neidin" offers a brief bright spot on the way out). The problem with this album isn't really its slickness; the problem is that Black sounds like she's coasting.

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