Music Reviews

Rachael Sage

Public Record


Though Rachael Sage’s credentials are in order – two-time winner of the ASCAP Pop Songwriting Contest and a winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest – she doesn’t quite go beyond the horizon, at least to my eyes and ears.

The chief problem Sage has to overcome is the sound-alike factor; she’s impressively good but not immediately distinguishable from the Colvins and the Cruises and so on. Circular drum patterns on the intros to one or two songs and an occasional tendency to sing like a stuck CD act as a novelty that turns the head, but they aren’t the point of the thing.

Sage says (quoting from the press notes), “My goal from the outset was to make a record that relied more on spirit and poetry than on vocal or piano technique.” And on this level Public Record does succeed, at least half the time. There is a definite spirit here, like a trip to the park in winter.

As for poetry, Sage’s lyrics are not exactly pretentious, but a bit affected, like a person playing games with words rather than really open their heart.

“So tired from the wrong kind of rest…and restlessness.”

Still and all, it’s nice to see a woman like Rachel Sage get a look in. Better someone like her than a dozen Hilary Duffs. I guess there’s just a side of me which longs for a little more technique, not to say flash, from my tunesmiths, though Sage is clearly a performer and writer of quality.

And I should probably mention, she makes my heart beat faster. I’m sorry, you can report me to Gloria Steinem or whomever if you want to, but Rachel Sage is a fox. With any luck there’s a photo somewhere around here so you can see what I mean. I certainly wouldn’t want you to think I was saying that’s all she has to offer, but I’m happy to say she does have a lot to offer in that department.

What I regret to say is that for all the obvious care Sage takes with her work, I don’t find nearly as much of it truly memorable as I should like. That care is obvious; even the press notes are unusually evocative, quoting Sage as wanting parts of this album to communicate her sense of “a place you keep sacred and apart from anyone… even when you are the most in love you’ve ever been. Sometimes it’s subconscious, but that place is where you really are at peace and know when to say yes and when to just let go.”

But what this album doesn’t do, or at least hasn’t so far, is nestle in the crevices of my brain the way the best music does. I’m left with a feeling of respect and admiration which stops short of splitting my face into a grin of enthusiastic ecstasy. And I don’t think I’m asking too much to want that from a record if it’s going to get my unreserved recommendation. A greater diversity of ideas (and a little more life in the arrangements) would add to Public Record’s sparkle, but sweet, dulcet (and sexually ambiguous) songs like “Chasing the Girl” would still be more than respectable. Sage’s piano playing is mellow – and her mellotron playing pianissimo – and the songs are tastefully if not impeccably arranged. Beautiful vocals on a few, (“Back To Freedom” for example), but the songs themselves have the kind of meandering structure which can be charming in small doses but a bit wearying one right after the other.

Rachael Sage:

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