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The Forgotten Arm (limited edition)
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AIMEE MANN The Forgotten Arm (2005 UK 12-track CD album - Aimees 5th solo album is a concept album a musical novella: a dozen songs that tell rather loosely the story of John and Caroline as they meet fall in love and road trip across America. Set in the 70s the music reflects this period. Housed in a deluxe digipak picture sleeve complete with a stunning illustrated picture / lyric booklet VVR1032358)
Dans l’objectif de se défaire du rôle de chanteuse folk pure et simple, Aimee Mann tente avec The Forgotten Arm un pari risqué : celui de ce qu’on appelle couramment l’album-concept.
Comme l’ont fait Lou Reed ou The Who avant elle, les morceaux ont beau se suivre et ne pas se ressembler, ils racontent néanmoins une histoire. C’est ici celle de John, un boxeur vétéran de la guerre du Vietmam, accro à la drogue, et qui tente désespérément de sauver son histoire d’amour avec la belle Caroline (tiens donc).
Ainsi, l’album présente d’abord le caractère ambivalent de John : « Dear John » et son amour pour Caroline, qui l’encourage à se désintoxiquer. Mais cela s’avère difficile et douloureux, entre les ruptures (« Goodbye Caroline », « I Can't Help You Anymore ») et le découragement (« I Can't Get My Head Around It »).
Mais la rédemption est finalement possible (« Beautiful »). Le bonheur est là où on veut bien le trouver, les épreuves sont faites pour être surmontées, et l’amour peut vaincre tous les obstacles.
Voici la morale happy end de cet album superbement orchestré, avec notamment le talentueux Jeff Trott aux cordes, et très bien interprété par Aimee Mann, qui n’a décidément plus rien à prouver de côté-là.
- Copyright 2015 Music Story
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This CD, as mentioned in other reviews, is very much akin to the novella form. Its packaging supports the comparison in all areas, including breaking the song lyrics into chapters. One page of the insert contains a "chapter" (song lyrics), and the opposite page contains the associated illustration & caption (gorgeous, by the way. Aimee Mann picked the perfect artist, Seth, for "Lost in Space," and has once again picked the perfect artist for the moody depiction of the two lost souls in "The Forgotten Arm").
While much has been made of her influences on this CD, none of the names that I've read come to mind when I listen to this CD. Aimee Mann said the setting of the "story" is the 1970s, and the music follows this theme. But, the artists that come to mind when I listen to "The Forgotten Arm" are Jackson Browne, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell - all who in the '70s hit their strides singing about impossible love affairs & the resulting heartaches. Beyond the lyrics, the musical style also seems to harken back to those three artists, too (for me, anyway).
Yet this is not just a period piece. While "I Can't Get My Mind Around It" sounds like it would be at home alongside Jackson Browne's "These Days" or "Fountain of Sorrow," "Going Through the Motions" is most definitely 21st-century Aimee Mann. "Little Bombs" sounds like high-Joni Mitchell to me (although I don't think Mann consciously borrows anything from Mitchell), and "She Really Wants You" could be the untold, true feelings of the woman who sings only her anger in "You're So Vain." But Aimee Mann stakes her own original claim to this sort of genre. "King of the Jailhouse" and "Beautiful" are true pop/rock masterpieces, sort of in the vein of Neil Young, yet remind me only of Aimee Mann and her careful, impecable perfectionism with lyrics, melodies, and arrangements.
This release is something different, something people may not be used to. Aimee Mann has achieved a unique, concept-driven, and altogether successful album here. There is not a single "skip-over" on this rich and nuanced CD. (Hit the applause button here and scream "encore" for Aimee Mann!!)
This said, anyone who'll take a close listen to her latest album "The Forgotten Arm" will know that Aimee is still one of the most arresting artists of her generation. The album loosely follows the ordeals of two lovers on their path through addiction and alienation, and the music is the key that holds it together : a straightforward, earthy production that echoes vintage rock and roll, all the while sounding totally contemporary. Aimee has stripped down some of the chubbier production tricks of her previous solo albums, and delivered an album that's both richly textured and minimalistic. Of particular interest is the fact that she has been using the piano a lot more than before, and not just on ballads, giving back this underrated instrument its rightful place.
The songs are all amazing, but some of them are of particular interest. The debut single, "Going through the motions", is a clever and catchy pop-rock affair; however the real potential smash single is "I can't get my head around it", a song that will lodge itself in your brain forever. "I can't help you anymore", "King of the jailhouse" and "I was thinking I could clean up for Christmas" are just as deserving, and the album finds its emotional core with the one-two punch of the achingly beautiful "Little bombs" and "That's how I knew this story would break my heart". "Dear John" and "Goodbye Caroline" are strong rockers and "Beautiful" concludes the album with lyrics that are both mournful and hopeful, leaving the listener to make up their own mind about the way this story ends.
Some will find that this album lacks the emotional depth and sonic adventureness of "Lost In Space", its predecessor; and while it's true that nothing here quite rivals songs like "Invisible Ink" (Aimee's crowning achievement as a songwriter), "It's Not" or "The Moth", this album succeeds exactly by NOT trying to imitate what has already been beautifully recorded. Aimee is a truly challenging artist and "The Forgotten Arm" is a great reminder of that.
There is a real sense of time and place to the sound here. The songs flow. If "I'm With Stupid" was a wintery Londonesque album this is a summertime Americana album, harking back to her Virginia roots, evoking a time and place with both the sounds and the imagery she employs right from the opening line: "Cotton candy was king on the midway that spring..."
Her voice has never been richer, delivering those trademark "low notes" right when it counts and showcasing her heavenly upper range on "Beautiful" and "That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart" - one of the most quietly tender and beautiful ballads she has written since "No One is Watching You Now" or "Ray."
Joe Henry deserves a lot of credit as well for his imagination in helping shape the sound. The injection of a little new blood makes a world of difference on "The Forgotten Arm," with great guitar work from Jeff Trott, punchy drumming at faster tempos, and a very tight core band that you can tell has been touring together for a while. The mix is fantastic with some extremely bold, shimmering, explosive sonics for a "stripped down" album.
For all the justified attention Aimee Mann's lyrics get, her music might just be even better. Nobody is writing catchier songs, and she is often at her best here. Though her songs are mostly about off-kilter relationships, even the cynical observations are wrapped in layers of humor, vivid imagery and sticky sweet music. The difference is in her cleverness and details. Nobody delivers a musical and lyrical combo punch as well as Aimee Mann.
Here's the write-up in this month's issue of Esquire (by Andy Langer):
"Concept records are like Operation- they take an awfully steady hand. And Amiee Mann's The Forgotten Arm (May 3) is actually a double concept: It's as much about a drugged-out Vietnam vet as it is about the sound of the 1970s era he's stuck in. The incredibly consistent Mann pulls it off with sharp stories, a sharper voice, and li'l bit country, li'l bit rock `n' roll landscapes that are undeniably vivid.
Don't take my word for it, or Andy Langer- listen to a few clips from the record and you'll likely want to hear more."