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Phoebe Snow: Live

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Album Review

Phoebe Snow is a complex legend in the history of late 20th century popular music. Her first single, "Poetry Man," was her biggest hit back in 1974, but she issued a run of critically successful albums during the rest of the decade, and has recorded quite sparsely since then. This live set on Verve, recorded over two nights in July of 2008 at the historical Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, NY, is her first major-label album in almost 20 years; it is also her very first in-concert offering. Snow refers to herself as a bit of a "kook" in accounting for her absence, but the truth is far more complex and beautiful. She spent the last 31 years caring for her daughter who was severely brain injured at birth. She passed away in March of 2008, and Snow has returned to performing to insure that her own grief doesn't claim her, too.

Snow arrived on the scene a fully developed artist after playing in Greenwich Village clubs before her first album. She shows up on this 11-song set the same as ever: vocally dynamic, with a deeply disciplined voice that can be as acrobatic as she likes, while performing an array of originals and covers that meld soul, pop, jazz, blues, and folk backed by an empathic band of longtime collaborators including guitarist Roger Butterley and bassist Bob Glaub. Her voice is as rich and varied in 2008 as it was in 1974. Her emotional commitment to the material hasn't waned a bit either. The fire is there, whether she is singing a poignant, joyful love song like "Poetry Man," a hymn of longing disguised as a poppish original like "Something Real," a stolid rhythm & blues fueled rocker like Huey "Piano" Smith's "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," or the jazz tinged standard "It's All in the Game." There are some real surprises as well, in a pair of tunes in the center of her set that come from her most recent, little-known, independently released album Natural Wonder: the tile track and the stellar, soulish "The Other Girlfriend." Snow has always been enigmatic and unafraid to take chances. That's evident in her very unique reading of the Jerry Ragavoy-penned "Piece of My Heart," so closely associated with the late Janis Joplin. If all this weren't enough, she closes with a gorgeous version of the Rodgers & Hart nugget "With a Song in My Heart." She connects with each of these songs and in her stage banter, she communicates fiercely and directly with a voice that is simply a force of nature. For those of us who admire and celebrate Snow's considerable gifts as a singer and songwriter, we can only hope this return is not an isolated incident, but an active resumption of a career steeped in artistic excellence.

Customer Reviews

Phoebe Snow: Live

Amazing performance. Ms. Snow has always been my favourite singer, but this albumn exceeds expectations. Her range and purity just keep getting better. Just wish there was a "live" version of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" on this collection.

one of the great voices

really blows me away how this voice is not more appreciated one of the really great singers

Biography

Born: July 17, 1950 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Renowned for her elastic contralto and jazz scat vocal gymnastics, singer Phoebe Snow was born Phoebe Laub on July 17, 1952, in New York City. During her childhood in Teaneck, NJ, she initially studied piano, but switched to the guitar in her teens, writing poetry that gradually mutated into her first songs. Overcoming her stage fright, Snow began playing Greenwich Village clubs in...
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Phoebe Snow: Live, Phoebe Snow
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