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Carolyne Mas: Music

Boss Ladies? Three Women Who Don't Bruce Easily

(ROLLING STONE - Debra Rae Cohen)
November 15, 1979
From ROLLING STONE magazine.
Nightout
Ellen Foley
Epic/Cleveland International

Ellen Shipley
New York International

Carolyne Mas
Mercury

By Debra Rae Cohen

"For female rock and rollers, this year's model would seem to be Springsteenette. Sure, the tough-but-tender, late-hours urban romantic is already a hackneyed stereotype, but femininity adds one more neat marketing formula. After all, 'streetwise,' with its glib good/bad-girl overtones, is a sexier catch-word than 'independent.' Whatever the rationale, the specter of Bruce Springsteen haunts each of these debut albums like a nagging refrain. Summoned up by the primarily black-and-white hot-child-in-the-city cover designs, it emerges in the interplay of guitars and sax, in the recurrent images of rebellious night and in the evocation of lion-hearted adolesecent yearning. For Ellen Foley, Ellen Shipley and Carolyne Mas--three undeniably talented New York vocalists--such packaging exacerbates the already complex problem of establishing a singular identity.

(Ellen Foley 'Nightout' LP review.)

(Ellen Shipley 'Ellen Shipley' LP review.)

Carolyne Mas doesn't take herself quite that seriously. Instead, she sings with a loopy, self-mocking good humor that lends her vocals a cabaret tang. A step beyond trumpeting her iconoclasm, Mas accepts her own flapper-meets-bohemian eccentricity as old hat: a precondition for new, quirky problems and observations. She can see the hero-worshiping devotion that's the flip side of rebellion ('Sadie Says') and be simultaneously appalled and amused by a lover's peremptory dismissal ('Quote Goodbye Quote'), yet she takes the time to celebrate her own extraordinary survival: 'Still sane/You may think you're crossing the line/Still sane/You may think you're losing your mind/And you stare in their faces.../Still sane.'

There's a sameness to Mas' easygoing Springsteen-type tunes, but they're unfailingly catchy and sculpted into full, compact arrangements. Simple hooks tied to vocal phrases are laid out, traded off, repeated and built up by David Landau's guitar, Robbie Kondor's piano and Crispin Cioe's succinct sax. Producer Steve Burgh, whose restraint helped make Steve Forbert's debut album a delight, favors Carolyne Mas with a similar hands-off delicacy. The result is a likable, unpretentious, adult LP that, in its cohesive musicianship and telling detail, comes close to capturing some of Bruce Springsteen's spirit instead of merely his stance. 'We both like the same things/But we don't go about them the same way,' Mas sings simply, puzzling through the problem of lovers at odds. It's a reminder that the first step toward street smarts is just learning to look both ways."