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Carolyne Mas: Music


August 26, 1979

By Jim Bohen

Mercury SRM-1-3783

"Last spring I was tuning across late-night radio when I stumbled on an interview with Carolyne Mas, someone I'd never heard of. It developed that she'd been performing at the Other End in New York and was becoming known in Greenwich Village folk circles. The announcer put on a tape of her music and I settled back, expecting some acoustic guitar sounds suitable to a 2 a.m. radio show.

Instead the tape turned out to be loud, raucous rock 'n' roll. Mas was singing in front of a huge, blaring band, with a honking, sneezing saxophone player sharing the front line with her. There were three songs on the tape, and when it was over both the announcer and, I would imagine, late-night audiences were wiped out.

That was March. Mas went on and signed a record contract, did some local concerts that got her a lot of good press, toured the Northeast, and finally recorded this album. The best parts of it are as exciting as that tape was.

Comparisons to Bruce Springsteen are appropriate. Not only does saxophonist Crispin Cioe drive the uptempo songs in the manner of Springsteen's Clarence Clemons, but David Landau, brother of Springsteen's producer-manager Jon Landau, is on hand as lead guitarist and co-writer of three songs.

Furthermore, producer Steve Burgh (in a radical departure from his work on Steve Forbert's album) uses the Phil Spector kitchen-sink style that Springsteen brought into the '70s on 'Born To Run.' Burgh makes Mas's six-piece band sound two or three times that size, emphasizing the beat with massed percussion instruments and handclapping (hear the chorus of 'Quote Goodbye Quote') and turning background voices into a dimly heard whine in the general storm.

The technique works wonderfully on rockers like 'Quote Goodbye Quote,' and 'Stillsane.' Mas rises to each occasion by taming the arrangements with her strident voice, and by throwing in semi-humorous or ironic lyrics that deflate the pretensions of the whole production. But her ballads don't fare as well. On 'Snow,' for example, she sounds more like Melissa Manchester than Bruce Springsteen, and both that song and 'Call Me' are much too serious for their own good. On neither does she sound as though she's having any fun.

But that's only because that is the way she sounds on everything else. My absolute favorite is 'Sadie Says,' which is tender, loving, funny and rocking, and has a great instrumental hook as well. Sadie, who 'is older and knows more than I do,' assures the singer not to worry about trouble at home, trouble in school, and other adolescent miseries. 'I believe what Sadie says is right,' concludes Mas on the chorus, sounding like the ghost of the Shangri-las, or some other '60s girl group.

I'm told that this record only approximates Mas' live show. Those interested can see her at the Fast Lane in Asbury Park tonight. But if you can't have Carolyne Mas in person, her record's a fine company on its own."