Maria review

Rolling Stone - Issue 717 - 21 September 21 1995 - page 84
by Chuck Dean

No doubt: Jane Siberry's seventh album will make fans all gooey and rubber-bandy inside. If you remember, Siberry worried us on her last outing, 1993's "When I Was A Boy" (co-produced with Brian Eno and Michael Brook). Homeboy Eno muffled Sweet Jane, put sinkers on those pipes and didn't let her color outside the lines. Each time Siberry wanted to go outside and play, it seemed like she was made to come in and park it on the sofa. And as all hard-core Siberrians know, Jane was born to wander. It's what she does best.

But, hot damn, the girl's back in the driver's seat with "Maria", turning the knobs herself, not giving a rip about the rules of the road. This is vintage Siberry: scissor-kicking around the soul's messiest spots in search of anything hinting toward redemption. Why? Because it has to be there. If not, life is dumber than we and she think it is. That's exactly what this album's about: the pull of life. Not specifically the good or the bad or the ugly but just the pull and the subsequent release. "No one in the village will leave these shores until the child is safe once more/So if you see that child in someone's eyes, bring us home," Siberry sings preciously on "See the Child."

As far-out as it may sound, "Maria" has Siberry exploring the same latchkey world that Michael Jackson cradles, but her sub rosa landscapes aren't as coy as Jackson's, and the children certainly aren't politically correct pawns. They're mere humans. While Jackson narcissistically queries about his childhood, Siberry is knee-deep in hers. On "Begat Begat" she murmurs with beautiful reserve, "Spring is in the air, singing the same song, oh/beautiful, there is much ahead...there is much joy." Her voice sounds of warning more than of exaltation, and unlike Jackson's, Siberry's message doesn't seem forced or calculated. You believe her.

"Maria" ends with "Oh My My," a toppling 20 minute-plus self-actualizationfest in which the singer cribs from "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Puff the Magic Dragon" while reciting spacey self-helpisms like "You will give up your backbone to the TV and accept a value system" or "You will rush headlong toward your bottom line in an instinctive attempt to heal." And somewhere in this heap of Siberjazz you realize that everything that has arisen on "Maria" has indeed converged and that you've actually been led on an unforgettable walk in a garden facing fall with a tour guide who's sure-footed in her wobbly pace. Awesome.