Maria review

from the Dallas Morning News - October 22, 1995, p. 5C
by Catherine Cuellar

Jane Siberry sings like an angel, more ethereal than fellow Canadian k.d. lang and more intelligible than the Cocteau Twins. And while she's earned a cult following that includes collaborators such as Brian Eno and Ms. lang, her chameleonlike approach to pop music has prevented her from reaching a mainstream audience.

Earlier songs such as "Calling All Angels" (from the Until the End of the World soundtrack) and "The Gospel According to Darkness" (from her last CD, When I Was A Boy) addressed spirituality from a pop-culture perspective. Her sophisticated new album, Maria, delves even deeper into religious themes, incorporating a 12-step program into the story of Jesus' life, with lyrics that are soul-searching, prophetic and hypnotic.

"Honey Bee" updates Eden as a "garden of love". "Caravan" describes a winter desert crossing guided by starlight. The most accessible tracks include "Lovin' Cup (Song to Life)", which revises lyrics from the Christmas hymn "We Three Kings", and "Begat Begat (Spring Is Coming)", in which Ms. Siberry chants biblical references, including Hebrew names and places.

Her production recalls the meditative, mantralike quality of Philip Glass's more accessible work. The haunting arrangements -- accented by jazzy textures including piano, acoustic bass and trumpet (not to mention her introduction of band members during "Mary Had...") -- give the disc a live-in-concert feel.

And though some of the tracks lose their focus -- especially the rambling 20-minute "Oh My My" -- Ms. Siberry's beautiful voice lends a consistent thread to songs that sometimes work better as elements of the whole story than as separate tracks.