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Lilith Fair collections feature varied sounds

by Larry Nager

from The Cincinnati Enquirer


    As Sarah Mclachlan prepares to roll out her latest- and she says, probably the last - Lilith Fair, here's a two-CD look back at last year.

    Unlike Vol.1 a 25 track, double-CD set culled from the 1997 Lilith tour, the 1998 edition is recalled in individually packaged, 14-song discs. Both discs are equally diverse, rather than organized by style (e.g. acoustic and electric)

    The cast prominently includes perennial Lilith fave the Indigo Girls, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Lisa Loeb and of course, McLachlan.

    Vol 2. is arranged in three parts. The first has an urban hip-hop edge, opening with Sinead O'Connor's slamming "Fire On Babylon," moving to the supple Afro-pop beats of Angelique Kidjo's "Never Know" and then going full rap with Queen Latifah's "Life."

    Then it's on to the sound that seems to personify the Liliths, gentle, folk-pop singer/songwriters like Heather Nova and Colvin. A real highlight of this section is McLachlan's "Angel" for which she's joined by Harris.

    Natalie Merchant assays Elvis'   "In the Ghetto" in her usual, detached style and it's as coldly unsatisfying as the rest of her stuff.

    Then the disc starts rocking, with the Cowboy Junkies' remarkably lively "Miles From OUr Home." Then often-anemic Junkies get a huge kixk from Over The Rhine members Karin Bergquist and Terri Templeton on background vocals. The three-part harmonies really shine and the addition of OTR's Linford Detweiler on organ and G. Jack Henderson on guitar gives the group added heft. "Miles" and "Angel" are the two best reasons to pick up Vol. 2.

    At first, Vol. 3 seems to be following the same formula, opening with "Soul Record," Me'Shell Nedgeocello's funky reminiscence of the days when James Brown mixed unstoppable grooves and positive African-American messages. Luscious Jackson's spunky hip-hop follows on "Naked Eye."

    Then it's time for more standard Lilith fare, Liz Phair, Holly Cole, newcomers Sixpence None the Richer, Suzanne Vega's still compelling "Lukea," McLachlan's "Black and White."

    The Indigo Girls' mainstay "Get Out the Map" gets a bluegrass flavor form the madolin and bajo plunking of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.

    Both discs showcase the varied sounds of today's female musicians. But they don't go quite far enough. Cassandra Wilson is missing in action here, and there are other jazz muscians, both singers and instrumentalists, who could add another dimension to the festival.

    And that's only one genre. Many of today's best blues, country, soul, Brazilian and Celtic artists are female.

    It's a shame that McLachlan is talking of abandoning the Lilith concept when her women's music festival has barely scratched the surface.