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Ophelia's Shadow

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Album Review

Toyah Willcox (vocals) followed up the assertive and well-received Prostitute (1988) with the second entry into what she had planned as a trilogy, according to her essay in the 2003 CD reissue. The confrontational anger inherent in much of Prostitute has evolved into an even-tempered and quite possibly more feminine reflection of the artist on Ophelia's Shadow. Backing the vocalist are her co-conspirators from the criminally short-lived Sunday All Over the World: Paul Bevis (drums/percussion), Robert Fripp (guitars), Tony Geballe (guitars/computer), and Trey Gunn (stick/keyboards). They create a sonic patchwork of textures for Willcox that runs the gamut of the deliciously slinky opening title track to the nimble driving rhythm of "Homeward." The rich and visceral imagery in "The Shaman Says" foreshadows the likes of postmodern alternative singer/songwriters such as Tori Amos or Juliana Hatfield, with the theatrics of Kate Bush. The bright syncopated pop of "Brilliant Day" is a standout for the dreamy introduction and chorus that cleverly coalesces around the verses. In this context, the intricate melody is emphasized by the precision of the musicians. With an underlining techno motif, "Prospect" is a dark and slightly foreboding rocker, delivered in the spirit of Blondie's Deborah Harry. "Take What You Will" hearkens back to Prostitute with pointed lyrical objectification such as "Take what you will/Creeping 'round the hallway/Taking all the silver/Taking all my photos/Taking all the jewelry/Taking all there is of me."Fripp's fretwork punctuates the instrumental bridges and underscores the chorus as the tune moves along with a stealthy and almost anticipatory snarl. The best example of Willcox's highly underrated prose is appropriately enough on "The Woman Who Had an Affair With Herself," in which she elucidates the Shakespearian reference in the project's moniker.


Born: 18 May 1958 in Kings Heath, Birmingham, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Toyah Ann Willcox was born in Birmingham on May 18, 1958, and trained as an actress at the Old Rep Drama School. She was launched as an anti-establishment figure when she appeared in two cutting-edge films in the late '70s: Jubilee, the punk rock movie directed by Derek Jarmen in which she played a character named Mad, and the Who's mod film version of their early-'70s rock opera album Quadrophenia, in which she played the equally bizarrely named character, Monkey. She moved on to front a punk rock...
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Ophelia's Shadow, Toyah
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