Out On My Own
Originally released in 1984, Out On My Own was Sheila Chandra’s first solo album after she had left the East Indian-influenced pop band, Monsoon. With this album, Chandra began to take her first tentative steps into the astoundingly expressive and original vocal territory that she was to claim for herself on her 1990s albums for Real World, while still keeping a foot firmly planted in the Asian fusion pop sound that had made Monsoon such a success.
Not surprisingly, the most interesting tracks on Out are the ones that showcase Chandra’s vocal experimentation. “From a Whisper…To a Scream” could almost fit on one of Chandra’s Real World albums, with its layered vocal drones at the start and the vocal percussion later on, which rises from a whisper to a strong vocal statement (if not quite a scream) over the course of the track. As on much of this album, though, the synths on “Whisper” are just too damned loud and overpowering for my taste. “Prema, Shanti, Dharma, Satya” suffers from some of the same synth distractions, but Chandra’s layered voice chanting the words of the song’s title more than makes up for this, and the various percussives and bells work well, too.
Overall, I enjoyed the “Asian fusion pop” sound of the album; the sitars and tablas, for instance, are very well done, and often work amazingly well with the Western instruments, as with the tabla and guitar combinations on “Fly to Me” and “Songbird.” But sometimes the ’80s pop stuff just makes me gag, as on “Village Girl,” whose vocals are so blandly sugary that pretty much any female pop singer could have delivered them; there even came a couple moments in the song when Chandra’s voice began to sound uncomfortably like Madonna’s to me. And “Unchanging Malady” has some of the most pretentious anti-religious-establishment lyrics I have heard in quite a while (thankfully, Chandra didn’t write them).
All in all, Out On My Own is essential listening for Chandra fanatics, but is probably not the best place to start for those interested in exploring her unique brand of vocal wizardry – I’d recommend the Moonsung sampler of her Real World albums to newcomers, instead.
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