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The Record Collector album review: Natalie Merchant Live In Concert

Marking her 60th birthday, a throwback I’ve dug up from the print archives of Record Collector: my review of a fin de siècle Natalie Merchant live album, recorded at New York‘s Neil Simon Theater in 1999.

After joining alternative folk-rockers 10,000 Maniacs as a teenager, Merchant quickly asserted herself with a suitcase full of songs and her sultry highly inflected alto, and a palette of lush instrumentation and layered harmonies. Six from her debut, Tigerlily, are here, as well as a reprise of Dust Bowl from those Maniac days. Here we go then

Natalie Merchant
Live In Concert
Elektra (60:09)

Recorded in New York last June, the thirty-something singer serenades us with intimate renditions of favourites from her 10,000 Maniacs days and material from her two solo albums – though with last year’s under-performing Ophelia represented only by its title track, as opposed to five cuts from the three million-selling Tigerlily, commercial considerations obviously prey on the mind of the most plaintive performers.

It is, though, a remarkably faithful acoustic take of Bowie’s Space Oddity that steals the show: instrumentally impeccable and suitably sombre, it would make an excellent end of the millennium single. Are you listening, Elektra?

Steve Pafford

Originally published in Record Collector magazine, December 1999

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