Maria review

Knoxville News-Sentinel - September 22, 1995 - page 6
Chuck Campbell

That Jane Siberry would release an album that's merely good is amazing. But 'Maria' is no better than good.

The Canadian singer/songwriter's 'When I Was A Boy' (1993) and 'The Walking' (1988) were arguably the best albums of their respective years. And 'Bound by the Beauty' was a top 10 for 1989.

Siberry poured such thought and talent into those three albums (and, to some extent, the previous two - 'No Borders Here' and 'The Speckless Sky'), that she spawned a slavish following.

'Maria' seems lazy by comparison: For this one Siberry assembled a group of skillful musicians and recorded their fluid jams for a few days. Then she took the music, edited it and added vocals. The result is an almost-boring feel of consistency totally out of character for Siberry.

Worst of all, there are no unforgettable tracks. Considering the breathtaking highlights from past albums, that's unbelievable.

Launching with some jazzy songs, 'Maria' doesn't really make impact until the happy fifth track, 'Lovin' Cup,' and the joyful sixth track, 'Begat Begat.' Siberry then breaks from the jazz for a little dark balladeering ('Goodbye Sweet Pumpkinhead').

She closes the album with the 20-minute epic, 'Oh My My.' Long storytelling isn't new for Siberry, who let loose with the image-rich 'The White Tent The Raft' and the engrossingly enigmatic 'The Bird in the Gravel' (both on 'The Walking') as well as the heartbreaking death song 'The Vigil' (on 'When I Was A Boy').

But unlike those, 'Oh My My' doesn't quite justify its length. Starting with a mystical Mideastern intro and taking listeners on a dark journey to self-discovery, 'Oh My My' features vintage Siberry lyrics ('You will give yourself permission to cry/And you will cry and cry and cry/And your friends will move away nervously, and you'll feel like a fool.') Yet 'Oh My My' doesn't shift through musical spectrums to reflect changing moods or perspectives the way 'The White Tent the Raft' and 'The Bird in the Gravel' do, nor does it hold the emotional intensity of 'The Vigil'.

Meanwhile, 'Maria's' shorter tracks are no match for the stunning beauty of such previous songs as 'Sail Across the Water,' 'The Walking (and Constantly)' or 'The Life is a Red Wagon.'

So despite Siberry's charm and the album's smooth arrangements, 'Maria' is a disappointment.