Cindy Lee Berryhill's garage orchestra includes electric guitar, autoharp, timpani, toy piano, palm frond, and some of the strongest melodies in any repertoire. "Song for Brian" is a moving tribute to Brian Wilson. And, while I am skeptical of UFOs, I am a true believer in the long and complex "UFO Suite." Coupled with "Radio Astronomy," this song proves the claim of Berryhill's friend who compares her to a science fiction author. Lacking the anti-folk edge and instant appeal of her other two albums, Garage Orchestra yields its own rewards.
Hey, look at this. Someone think's Cindy is good enough for a Hall of Fame (can't argue with that!)
The Rutles, The Rutles (Rhino)
Urge Overkill, Supersonic Storybook (Touch and Go)
Patti Smith, Horses (Arista)
Van Morrison, Saint Dominic's Preview (Warner Bros.)
Roy Nathanson, Curtis Folkes & the Jazz Passengers,
--Deranged and Decomposed (Les Disques du Crepuscle)
Pavement, Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (Matador)
Richard Thompson, Rumor and Sigh (Capitol)
Sister Double Happiness, Sister Double Happiness (SST)
Lone Justice, Lone Justice (Geffen)
The Bonzo Dog Band, The History of the Bonzos (United Artists)
Sylvia Juncosa, Nature (SST)
Astrud Gilberto, Beach Samba (Verve)
13th Floor Elevators, 13th Floor Elevators (International Artists)
Sugarpie Desanto, Down In the Basment (Chess)
Redd Kross, Neurotica (Big Time)
Suzi Quatro,Quatro (Bell Records)
Jesus Christ Superstar, Soundtrack (MCA)
*** Cindy Lee Berryhill, Who's Gonna Save the World (Rhino)
Now when this record came out in 1987 I was going through my folk phase and I thought Cindy was queen. But on further listens that have commenced since my passing through that stage I realize this is just a darn good record made by a smart woman with a off-beat voice and off-center look at life. I grew up with a hippy mom and lots of drugs surrounding our humble abode and this reocrd speaks to those experiences I went through as a youth, trying to sort out what was around me. But hanging on to that egocentric confidence that I clung to as a teen. From "Who's Gonna Save the World": "If I tried and read and prayed, I'd be a genuis someday. I thought I was already." Then she throws in some politics and some humor like the wonderful "Damn, I Wish I was a Man": "Damn, wish I was a man, I'd play the field for nothing but fun. Lord, if I was a man, they'd say she'd gone bad and I'd have a good reputation."
Sonny and Cher, Greatest Hits (MCA)
Tom Waits, Heartattack and Vine (Asylum)
It's been a few years since Berryhill almost caught
the fickle public's ear with Naked Movie Star. That album deserved to make
her a household name. Instead she got loads of critical acclaim but faded
back into obscurity.
She pops up again now, with a new album on a tiny label, and this isn't going to change things very much. Critics will like her, and no one else will hear her.
Marysville has more of a folk vibe, but Berryhill still makes the coolest boho poet of our generation. "Hi Jump" sounds like an outtake from Rickie Lee Jones' debut, while "Diane" could actually break onto AAA radio with its folk rock strut. This album is worth searching out.
-- Jay S. Jacobs
Garage Orchestra (Earth
You wonder how a person with a voice situated somewhere between Cyndi Lauper and Juliana Hatfield can even get a deal. As usual, the answer is good songs. These aren't lush pop productions, but nicely understated folk-style things. That the five musicians play cello, vibraphone, autoharp and a palm frond among other things lends to a somewhat otherworldly feel.
This is about as far from straightforward as pop music can get. Berryhill has quite a way with unusual melodies (her voice helps a lot), and the lyrics are insightful in a rather non-traditional way. I've liked everything I've heard from her in the past, and this keeps that streak intact.
Straight Outta Marysville
reviewed in issue #105, 4/8/96
AAA 1/2 rating
Settling down with Cargo for the second time, Berryhill
continues to crank out perceptive folky pop tunes. And she's not about
to change for anyone.
So if you don't dig her affected singing style or poetic, yet jarring, writing style, well, then you won't like this album. And you won't like any of her stuff. So leave, then.
Many of these tunes deal directly with the usual high school angst bullshit, which, again, is something I can easily identify with. And perhaps it's that high school theme that led her to cover "Season of the Witch". Not that it's a terrible rendition or anything, but still...
In all, another solid album. Berryhill walks her own quirky path, and she has a good strut. While not winning over any new converts, this album will certainly satisfy all her fans.
AUDIO BITS Volume - II Issue - IV, Summer '89
Naked Movie Star
Naked Movie Star is Cindy Lee Berryhill's 2nd album release. Her first was 1987's Who's Gonna Save The World? which featured some poignant, straight-forward folk/rock tunes. Naked Movie Star differs from Who's... in that a lot of the tunes on the new release have more of an instrumental backing, using an organ on several tracks, giving it a warmer feel than her first recording. I prefer the more raw feel of her first album to the more produced feel of Naked Movie Star. However, Cindy seems to be an adventurous spirit here as she tries her hand at several different styles, ranging from the cool jazz feel of "12 Dollar Motel" to the homey, country-mellow feel of "Old Trombone Routine" to the rocking "Supernatural Fact". Some of this experimentation comes off really well ("12 Dollar Motel") and some of it misses the mark ("Yipee").
Artists, as well as people in general, need to stretch their limits every once in a while. Musicians have the advantage of being able to stretch their listeners' limits as well. Cindy Lee does that on "Yipee". "Yipee" is a 13+ minute track that is a mish-mash of feelings and contexts that's probably great to perform, but comes off as a being pretentious on a recorded media. Slimming down to 4 or 5 minutes would be beneficial to this track. Overall _Naked Movie Star_ is rather good. It's little experiments that hit are more frequent than the ones that miss. I'd prefer a little more starkness to the production, but if they were aiming for a warmer recording - they got it.
DEAD ANGEL 2 - the ezine that tries harder
VOL. I : NO. (2) : 7/94
Cindy Lee Berryhill: GARAGE ORCHESTRA (Cargo/Earth Music)
Highlights: "Father of the Second Son," "Gary Handeman," "I Want Stuff" Kind of a wandering beat/folk poet weaned on equal amounts of Leonard Cohen, Kerouac, free jazz, and punk, the best things about Cindy Lee Berryhill's style are probably the same things that have resulted in her putting out three albums on two different labels-- her loopy and idiosyncrastic personality, a quasi-yodeling vocal style guaranteed to charm some and drive others to contemplate murder, and a simultaneous fascination with the utterly mundane and the exceptionally weird. Remember that girl you knew in high school who had the odd haircut, strange clothes, the coolest record collection, and hung out in coffeehouse parking lots talking to the homeless instead of playing Pac-Man at the mall? Well, that was Cindy Lee... she comes across like the proverbial girl next door, assuming your next-door neighbor ever had a fondness for Ginsberg and skipping school to drive across the county on a lark.
This is probably her most solid effort yet. The band behind her is in fine form as always, providing instrmentation from the standard (electric guitar, electric and standup bass, cello) to the unusual (typmani, autoharp, mandolin), to the downright bizarre (cricket??? palm frond??? trash can and board with loose screw???). It's a tribute to the band's finesse and skill that it all comes together seamlessly; you never really notice the weird stuff until you read the liner notes and start hunting for it. Unlike previous efforts, the songs here don't wander off track very often, staying sharp and focused, making every song a winer.
"Gary Handeman" starts out with her shoes being stolen and gets weirder from there, without ever bothering to explain just who Gary Handeman is, but it's catchy and funny nonethless. It comes across like the dizzy collision between an intensely personal folk tune, a bizarre in-joke, and a full fledged Busby musical showpiece, with beautiful results. You'll never figure out what it means, but it sounds right nonetheless....
The weirdness continues with "UFO Suite," which rambles on about ufo sightings and abductions; before the song's over, it manages to drag in strings, flutes, a brief monologue from a potential abductee with his dog barking in the background, the chorus of "Buffalo Gals," and (don't ask me why) Janet Reno. (Maybe if you play this backwards, Janet gets abducted herself; I'd certainly get behind that.)
With a violin line borrowed from "Eleanor Rigby" and a plunk, plunk, plunk bass bouncing away in the background, "I Want Stuff" opens with the words "I want colors / I want at least a thousand dollars/ I want to listen to the church music play/ I want everything to be okay" and in less than four minutes manages to say everything you ever need to hear about wanting what really matters in life. Bonus points for the "ay-yay-yay" in the closing chorus!
For some inexplicable reason, this album makes me want to dance in the middle of the desert under the spotlight of UFOs passing overhead... check it out and you'll see why yourself.