Friday, February 19, 2010

Michelle Shocked - Soul of My Soul (2009)

The always controversial Michelle Shocked is back. After fighting a losing battle for artistic freedom with Mercury Records in the early 90s (a result that left her without a label for seven years) the singer-songwriter's releases have been uneven. However, when Shocked is "on" she is so good her talent can not be denied. Such is the case with one of her harder rocking CDs, Soul of my Soul. It favors mainstream rock more than most of her albums do and that accounts for much of its artistic success. In Shocked's case "mainstream" is not synonymous with sellout.

Despite the overall feel of the album Shocked still hits hard with her liberal to left leaning politics. If that's a problem then she is an artist who is clearly not for you. Three of the ten tracks blast the former George W. Bush Administration. "Ballad of the Battle of the Ballot and the Bullet, Pt. 1: Ugly Americans" is the most pointed example. Worried about her rights Shocked rants, "I'm singing this while I still can." Another of the political songs, "Other People" is a reminder of the melodic folk-pop of her Mercury years. It's a lot more subtle and therefore ultimately more successful. The rest of the disc is very tame by comparison. There are love songs ("Waterproof" and "Love's Song") and tunes you can almost dance to. "Liquid Prayer" is an excursian into R&B territory.

Shocked may never again achieve the excellence of her major label debut, Short Sharp Shocked, a CD that includes the outstanding "Anchorage." Many people consider it among the greatest singer-songwriter albums ever recorded. While Soul of my Soul doesn't quite reach those heights it contains the same vibe and that's all we can ask for from someone of Shocked's stature.

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