In a related critique, I noted not being very satisfied with Penelope Houston's presence in the punk group Avengers (here), and, well, what a difference a decade (or three) doesn't make. The founding band issued its first EP in 1977, it's 35 years and seven solo studio CDs later now, and, with On Market Street, Houston's sounding better than her Avengers days but, on evidence, may not have made the wisest choice in largely forsaking her one-time folkie ways for a try at a dominantly mainstream sound.
Houston isn't inhabited by the widest range, little more than a kinda sprechestimmed version of Pat Benatar vocally. While the mostly flat-ish musical bedrock, not to mention the hideously obvious lyrics, do little to hide the problem, one has to question what her and co-producer Jeffrey Wood had in mind as a game plan before they entered the vaunted Fantasy Studios. The title cut, however, may provide the otherwise undiscovered clue: Houston really is, after all's said and done and the ego lays quiet for a moment or two, a folker. On Market Street sees her suddenly coming alive amid a laconically semi-classical pretty arrangement, actually singing with conviction and sonorous intent, not just a recitation of bad junior high school poesy. This repeats again in Winter Coats, Dead Girl, and Meet Me in France, the only four worthwhile cuts of the CD. Otherwise, it's back to vapidity-as-usual.
If nothing else, Market Street serves as case in point that artists are most often their own worst critics (Houston is main producer here) and probably should check in for a psychiatric eval any time they feel they might wanna produce or even co-produce their own work. Yeah, you can get eaten alive by a hired jefe as well, but at least then you can blame someone else for…well, your own lack of discernment anyway, actually. Still, pay attention, musos, that the most critical aspect of music-making just might be all the stuff not related to your immediate creativty: label choice, engineering, mastering, arrangements, PR, and the dawg ya cite as hetman. And, hey, beware just as much of yourself as anyone else.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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