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Amanda Leigh

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Album Review

Amanda Leigh is Mandy Moore's full given name, so it stands to reason that this, her sixth album, finds the pop starlet turned singer/songwriter getting real — not necessarily confessional, but intimate, a record that follows the form and feel of her AAA makeover, Wild Hope. Amanda Leigh improves on that mannered, earnest record not by abandoning or heavily reworking the template (one that has essentially been in place ever since Mandy discovered '70s singer/songwriters on her 2003 covers album, Coverage), but by strengthening its foundation through working with sympathetic collaborators, chiefly Mike Viola, the singer/songwriter behind the Candy Butchers who has also written period-specific pastiches for the films Walk Hard and That Thing You Do. Viola works on all but one song here — Lori McKenna, a Wild Hope veteran, is responsible for "Every Blue" — and Inara George, half of the Bird and the Bee, contributes to three tunes, and their work helps steer Moore toward the neo-classicist pop she's been striving to create for the better part of a decade now. Echoes of her oft-cited '70s pop inspirations abound — particularly Joni Mitchell, but also Harry Nilsson on the tinkling pianos of "Pocket Philosopher" and Todd Rundgren, whose influence reverberates on "I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week," the liveliest thing here — but emphasizing these influences too strongly is misleading, suggesting Amanda Leigh is a funky hippie throwback when it's very much a product of its upscale tasteful times, a clean, classy collection of AAA pop recalling a user-friendly Fiona Apple or friendlier Jenny Lewis as much, if not more, than a '70s canyon lady. Everything about Amanda Leigh is just a shade too precise — the production too transparent, the singing too on the nose, the mood too subdued — to achieve the homespun quality Moore so cherishes, but a large part of Mandy's appeal is her good taste and her clean way with a song, something that is readily apparent and often winning on Amanda Leigh. She'll never be a child of nature or a pop auteur — she's still too much a showbiz kid for that — but she has successfully dropped all the tacky accoutrements of her past and turned into a sweet, classy singer/songwriter whose charms are readily apparent here, her best adult pop record yet.

Customer Reviews

Moore's best adult pop offering yet...

If one were to relate 90’s teen pop to tour bus status Britney drove, Christina rode shotgun, Jessica was just along for the ride, & Mandy was ditched at the snack bar. Yes, Moore never quite reached the heights of her pop peers back in the new millennium but she’s shifted gears since then, hoping to create something more admirable. Mandy’s aware her past recordings weren’t excellent (the exception being her self-titled album) and she’s worked hard to garner more credibility. The trend began with 2003’s Coverage, a solid attempt at establishing Mandy as a serious artist, and continued 4 years later with Wild Hope, Moore’s first full co-written album. This transition went along much more smoothly than say Jessica’s move to country (to Simpson’s credit, at least she didn’t dabble in rap) and allowed Moore to grow considerably as an artist. With her sixth studio album Amanda Leigh, Mandy covers more areas than her previous record. Wild Hope was largely a relationship album while Amanda Leigh is slightly more varied and experimental. This isn’t to say the album avoids associating with love (a good portion of the album pertains to the subject, including the lively first single “I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week”) but there’s more to be found on this record, both lyrically and musically. First impressions are addressed in “Fern Dell”, starting a new friendship is reflected on the piano driven “Pocket Philosopher”, and making contact with someone you once knew seems to be the foundation for “Indian Summer”. Best of all, this batch of songs is more distinctive and the tracks don’t blend into one another as much as the ones in Moore’s last musical outing did. “Merrimack River” and its reprise have a lullaby feel to them while “Pocket Philosopher” & “Love to Love Me Back” give off a 70’s vibe that’s rather appealing. “Indian Summer” & “Song About Home” are the classiest tunes Moore’s ever written and recorded and may be blueprints for future excursions. But the best tracks here are the up-tempo numbers. “Fern Dell” and “I Could Break Your Heart…” are catchy little ditties that warrant multiple listens, giving the record more replay value than its predecessor. Two of the albums most introspective moments, the subdued “Everblue” and melancholy “Bug”, allow Mandy to touch on some subjects heavy on her heart, but the earnest vocal delivery and arrangements keeps things from becoming overly gloomy. “Nothing Everything” is the only track that needs a little refining, especially near its ending, where Moore continuously sings “uh-uh-uh” & “la-la-la” until the song fades out. (This is understandable though. On Mandy’s website, it was stated this was the final song recorded and took a mere 15 minutes to be completed) With this collection of original songs, Mandy reconfirms that she’s matured since her hey day as a pop tart. Moore’s now in a league with more respected musical artists and if she can combine the hooks that made Coverage memorable, the soulful vocals of Wild Hope, and match the quality of lyrics found on Amanda Leigh’s best tracks, she could churn out a truly remarkable record. Although Mandy might not meet the commercial success of those she was once compared to, this release proves she has staying power that surpasses any pop princess of her generation. Recommendations: *Fern Dell *I Could Break Your Heart Any Day of the Week (if this version’s too poppy for your tastes, give the Living Room Demo a listen) *Love to Love Me Back *Bug

She does it again...

Have you heard of Mandy's cover of Doris Day's "Secret Love" (a style that Mrs. Moore hopefully ventures into in the future) on her Greatest Hits release? "Amanda Leigh" lies within the same vein - theatrical but made for easy listening. I think that's why I enjoy Mandy Moore so much... it's the surprise factor and CONSISTENCY. Hell, I thought the Wild Hope effort was great but Amanda Leigh delivers, and does it with ease. With great mesmerizing melodies like "Merrimack River" and moody and haunting numbers such as the profound "Everblue"... she could have done NO wrong. Two songs that I found extremely nostalgic are "Indian Summer" (the piano introduction gives me chills) and "Bug" (an acoustic delight). Just INCREDIBLE. Mandy has done a fine, fine job. I say to her keep up the great work... don't take the easy way out and spill out pop garbage (i.e. kelly clarkson) just to pay the bills. This has been my favorite release so far this year.

Heart Like A Wheel ... Redux

A tasteful, well-sung pop record just like Linda Ronstadt used to make back in the day. Nice to hear something so organic in the Auto-Tune Era of Pre-Fab Pop.

Biography

Born: April 10, 1984 in Nashua, NH

Genre: Pop

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

Although she never reached the commercial heights of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore proved to be one of the more resilient members of the late-'90s teen pop explosion. Making her studio debut at the age of 15, Moore initially modeled her music after her teenaged contemporaries, a formula that yielded moderate chart success but little credibility. She widened her range at an early age, however, outshining her pop peers' acting ability with a confident performance in A Walk to Remember...
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Amanda Leigh, Mandy Moore
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