A entirely Canadian production, Women & Songs — a compilation of tracks by female artists — is a succession of albums released over several years. The first album, simply titled Women & Songs, was issued in December 9, 1997.
While ripping my entire CD collection on to my new laptop, I came across my own set of Women & Songs and instantly recalled my absolute delight at discovering these treasures while out trolling through the bins at the record store many years ago. (yes…. a record store…. I even worked in a couple in a previous life)
The third album, Women & Songs 3 was released simultaneously with a special, complimentary CD called Women & Songs Beginnings, the first two-disk CD in the franchise.
Beginnings is a collection of some of the most celebrated and renowned female voices in music — past and present. Judy Garland, Mary Wells, Billie Holiday, Dina Washington, Peggy Lee, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Janis Joplin, Bette Midler, Etta James…. Thirty-one songs present the listener with a historical snapshot of some of the most powerful and haunting voices in music, showcasing some of the songs that launched their careers.
(Janis is always worth a double-take)
There is nothing that compares to the power and gut-wrenching passion of a woman belting out a song at full throttle. It gives me such a visceral feeling.
Nine more CDs were added to the series, plus four special releases — each building on the success and popularity of the previous recordings. Countless talented voices, many now silenced, are part of the anthology. The final album, Women & Songs 12, was released in 2008 and includes Amy Winehouse, Nelly Furtado, Divine Brown and Katie Perry.
I began listening to the songs again and wondered why some of the voices had gone suddenly quiet. The answers are obvious for some, but for others, well, they seem to have silently faded into the background.
Following is Part One of a three part series, the beginning of my search for some of these women in music. Although not an official part of the Women & Songs collection, Part Three will be dedicated to those women who rock.
Where Are They Now?
Amanda Marshall, Paula Cole, Suzanne Vega, Jewel, Natalie Imbruglia, Tracy Chapman, Alanis Morrisette, Maria Muldaur…. this is just a miniscule taste of the incredible voices that contribute to this wonderful collection of music.
Amanda Marshall — I first heard Amanda perform in the concert bowl at the top of Whistler Mountain in B.C. back in the mid 90’s. She was, in one word, FANTASTIC! You couldn’t have wished for a more perfect day for an outdoor concert — blue skies, a few puffy white clouds, hanging with one of my best friends, laying back on bales of hay (no smoking allowed). The music just floated out over the crowd.
Marshall’s voice just seeped into your soul. She had such passion and I fell in love.
After a hiatus of 10 years, during which Marshall was involved in a protracted legal battle with her former management, she has recently come out the other side and began recording her fourth studio album — her first since 2001 — in 2012. As of this writing the album has not yet been released. According to Marshall “I’m just taking it day by day, and when the record will be done, it’ll be done.”
Amanda Marshall – Birmingham (Live)
Paula Cole — A Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, Cole won the award in 1998 for Best New Artist. Her song “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone” reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 1997. Cole released her last album, Raven, in 2013. A gifted writer and keyboard player, she has been referred to as “a feisty poet with a soaring voice and a funky groove”. Cole is currently on the voice faculty of Berklee College of Music while continuing to perform and record.
Suzanne Vega — Originally from California, Vega grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side in New York. A writer of poems, lyrics, essays and journalistic pieces, Avon Books published a book of her compilations called “The Passionate Eye: The Collected Works of Suzanne Vega” in 1995. Recently, in November 2014 Vega completed four sold-out shows at Joe’s Pub in New York City. The highlight — performing with her daughter Ruby. Present and accounted for, Vega is still performing and recording. She released her eighth studio album, “Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles” in 2014.
Jewel — Wikipedia calls Jewel a singer/songwriter, guitarist, producer, actress, and author/poet. Her debut album Pieces of You was one of the best-selling debut albums of all time. Using her extraordinary vocal range — a “lyric soprano” — she majored in operatic voice at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. Jewel’s music has ranged from folk to country to pop, eventually returning to her folk roots. According to my research, Jewel began work on her latest album in February, 2014. As of this writing, it has not yet been released. Jewel has confirmed she will be producing it herself and it will have a sound similar to Pieces of You.
Natalie Imbruglia — Model, actress, singer and songwriter, appearing in television, film and theatre, Aussie Natalie Imbruglia’s biggest hit Torn, was released in 1997 after she relocated to London, England. The single was wildly and unexpectedly successful and spent 14 weeks a number one, selling over one million copies, breaking the record for the most airplay in U.K. history. Umbruglia then retreated from the music scene for four years, battling writers block. In 2001 she recorded her first album in four years, White Lillies Island. Unfortunately, Imbruglia’s ensuing recordings have been unable to match Torn’s success. In 2009 she recorded her last album, Come to Life. Released in Australia and Europe the album was cancelled in England.
Tracy Chapman — An American singer/songwriter, Chapman started playing ukule at the age of three, graduated to the guitar and began writing songs at the age of eight. With a total of 13 Grammy wins under her belt, Chapman’s last album, Our Bright Future, was released in 2008 with limited success. Chapman is very socially and politically active but since her last album release has remained out of the spotlight. In 2014, she was appointed a member of the Sundance Film Festival U.S. Documentary jury
Alanis Morrisette — Truly Canadian, from Ottawa, Canada, she found international fame with her 1995 album Jagged Little Pill after moving from Ottawa to Toronto and then relocating to Los Angeles. The single, You Oughta Know, struck a chord with listeners, particularly teenagers, all over the world. The album remained in the Top 20 Billboard 200 for over a year and both the single and album went on to win several Grammy awards, including best rock song and best album of the year. Selling 33 million copies worldwide, it was the second biggest selling debut album by a female artist behind Shania Twain’s Come On Over.
A singer/songwriter/actor, Morrissette’s last album, Havoc and Bright Lights, was released in 2012. She continues to write and perform, and involves herself in a number of charities. Her last tour, Intimate and Accoustic, was in 2014.
Maria Muldaur — Best known for her 1974 hit, Midnight at the Oasis, Muldaur is a folk/blues singer and was a part of the American folk music revival in the 1960’s. Singing with John Sebastian, David Grisman and Stefan Grossman as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band, Muldaur was involved in the Greenwich Village scene which, at the same time, also included Bob Dylan. Some of her recollections of that period are part of Martin Scorcese’s documentary film No Direction Home.
Muldaur has been nominated for a Blues Music Award twice — the first time in 2005 for her release of Sweet Lovin’ O’l Soul and again in 2013 in the Traditional Blues Female category.
In 2011, Muldaur released her 40th album, a tribute to the late Memphis Minnie (more on Minnie in a later posting), one of the first blues artists (male or female) to take up the electric guitar. The album includes many guest artists including Phoebe Snow and Bonnie Raitt.
Muldaur continues to perform with her bands — Maria Muldaur & Her Red Hot Bluesiana Band — playing New Orleans flavoured Blues R&B and Swamp Funk, and her jazz quartet.
Sources include Wikipedia, Entertainment Weekly, MTV.com, various biographies and the ubiquitous YouTube.
In “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The Picture Taker©, who shot much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts (The Cars, Santana, Burton Cummings, Long John Baldry….). Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance….