Consider if you will the striking nature of the photograph of Carly Simon on the jacket of her second album, Anticipation, and you will have a clue to the equally striking nature of the music. There she stands in one of Hyde Park’s gates, leonine and regal in her characteristic, spreadout stance, looking tall and powerful in her well-heeled boots and diaphanous dress–the epitome of what some people like to think of as the New Woman. But because of the widespread success last summer of her single, “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be,” this New Woman image can prove to be a difficult burden for an artist to carry around. On one hand the New York Times evokes The New Woman in an inane excuse to print a fatuous article about Carly in their women’s page ghetto (which dutifully includes a couple of recipes) and on the other angry feminists decry her “That’s the Way” as a lame statement of resignation of the female plight rather than the sarcastic and ironic condemnation that it was.
If there are traces of an emerging, strong female consciousness on this new album, they appear as much in Carly’s attitude to her role as a musician and singer as in the music itself. The music of Anticipation consists of starkly frank and carefully manicured songs about the vagaries of the male/female saga. They are a strange set of love songs, more like a cycle of the wide range of the emotional pulls and tugs that love connotes. She sings sometimes as an acute observer of the life conditions of a fellow human, sometimes as an equal partner in a shattered affair, sometimes as a bemused annotator of losing battles and the highly-charged moment flying away.
The title song is the first cut. “Anticipation” is a spirited examination of the tensions involved in a burgeoning romantic situation in which nobody has any idea of what’s going on or what’s going to happen. The song is as much a vehicle for Carly’s fine band, which she assembled after her first album (recorded entirely with studio musicians) was released and kept with her through these sessions in London, which were produced by Paul Samwell-Smith, ex-Yardbird and also Cat Stevens’ producer. Carly’s fine, aggressive vocal is complemented by Paul Glanz’ lyrical piano comping, and drummer Andy Newmark’s rhythms are to the point. The cut winds up with a surprising coda crescendo that pithily wraps up the premise of the message about anticipating things to come–”Stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.”
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“Legend in Your Own Time” is about anyone who has achieved a measure of fame and has been working at it since their youth. That the most famous folks are often the loneliest is one of the tiredest truisms in show-biz, but Carly convinces the listener that her story is a personal one rather than a generalization. Our First Day Together” is a re-creation of just that. It’s a quiet song, lovely and quite enigmatic, with a trace of the minor chord influence of Joni Mitchell and ending with a bizarre question: “Knowing me the way you do/Then why did you just say/That our first day together/Was today?
The following cut is the first of several with lyrics by Jacob Brack-man. “The Girl You Think You See” starts out slowly and after a tasteful acoustic guitar break by Jim Ryun (a fine musician and a former member of the immortal Critters) turns into a music hall belter, Carly carrying both moods expertly. One line she coyly croons, the next she plays out in a controlled yell. The side ends with a light bossa number, “Summer’s Coming Around Again,” that’s notable chiefly for another fine piano break by Paul Glanz.
Side two opens with another Simon/Blackman tune, “Share The End,” a potent, intelligent song about humanity instinctually gathering to comprehend the Apocalypse. Certain of Brackman’s lyrics are as astute as they are laconic. As The End approaches, “Here comes the kings. Let’s dispense with their apologizing. Just bring on the acrobats and clowns.” The powerful, prayerful chorus is marred somewhat by a falsetto, choir-like vocal arrangement that sounds rather implausible, even in this dada-song. I would have preferred to hear Carly do it alone.
“The Garden” and “Three Days” are a pair of disparate love songs, the first an image-filled idealization, the second a lovely, wistful realization of a pair of musicians in love, people who have to travel away from each other after three shared days of intensity. “The Garden” is a large production number, with a dose of strings and overtones of operetta. It’s a little predictable and slightly schmaltzy, more in tune with Carly’s first album than this one. “Three Days” is the opposite, a simple number whose arrangement fits the song’s tone of soulful bewilderment.
But the absolute clincher to this album is the last song, Kris Kris-tofferson’s “I’ve Got to Have You,” an awesome description of the psychic ravages of gone-nuts, know-nothing love. This song is about being gripped and out of control, and as Carly performs it, it becomes a tour de force, and a stern reminder to those of us who might have forgotten that passion is the ruler of man, not reason. When Carly moans “I can’t help it … I’ve got to have you,” we’re being shown something so primal and so private that it takes your breath away. The song also features Jim Ryun’s only electric guitar break, a searing, tumbling solo that sparks the song perfectly, and producer Samwell-Smith adds a couple of subtle touches, like occasionally double-tracking the vocal on a certain word to create the desired dramatic effect. Like any good producer, he knows better than to over-use this device, and when we hear Carly turn into two harmonizing voices on just one word, it’s a pleasure and a surprise every time.
I don’t think Carly Simon wants anything to do with her image as the Woman of the Future. All she is really is a maturing musician who is a woman and who is making excellent music, and that should be enough for anyone, Forget the labels, listen to the music.