Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk is an American singer-songwriter. Known professionally as Melanie, she is best known for her hit “What Have They Done to My Song, Ma”, and her song about performing at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”.
From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanie_Safka Melanie was born and raised in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York City. Her father, Fred, was of a Ukrainian ethnic background and her jazz singer mother, Pauline “Polly” Altomare Safka-Bertolo (1926-2003), was of Italian heritage. Melanie made her first public singing appearance at age four on the radio show Live Like A Millionaire, performing the song “Gimme a Little Kiss”. She attended Red Bank High School in Red Bank, New Jersey, after transferring from Long Branch High School, graduating in 1964.
In the 1960s, when she was starting out, Melanie performed at The Inkwell, a coffee house in the West End section of Long Branch, New Jersey. After school, her parents insisted that she go to college, so she studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, where she began singing in the folk clubs of Greenwich Village and signed her first recording contract.
Initially signed to Columbia Records in the United States, Melanie released two singles on the label. Subsequently she signed with Buddah Records and first found chart success in Europe in 1969 with “Bobo’s Party” which reached Number 1 in France. Her debut album received positive reviews from Billboard which heralded her voice as “wise beyond her years. Her non-conformist approach to the selections on this LP make her a new talent to be reckoned with.” Later in 1969, Melanie had a hit in the Netherlands with “Beautiful People”. She also performed at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the inspiration for her signature song, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”, apparently arose from the Woodstock audience lighting candles during her set (although most of the “candles” were actually matches or lighters). In 1970, Melanie was the only artist to ignore the court injunction banning the Powder Ridge Rock Festival, playing for the crowd on a homemade stage powered by Mister Softee trucks. Shortly following this performance, she played at the Strawberry Fields Festival held from August 7 to 9, 1970, at Mosport Park, Ontario. She also performed at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 where she was introduced by Keith Moon and received four standing ovations (she also appeared at the 2010 Isle of Wight festival). She was also the artist who sang to herald in the summer solstice at Glastonbury Fayre (later the Glastonbury Festival) in England in June 1971. She performed again at Glastonbury in 2011, the 40th anniversary of the original festival.
This was a hard double LP to listen to. The sound quality in the technical aspects was fine as was the backing music, it was the vocals that wore thin quickly. In fact, to be honest, this is the first record I could not finish listening to.
As for sound quality, I found it fairly well done, the only negative thing I noted was some occasional distortion in the vocals once in a blue moon.
Musically, the backing music was done well, but the vocals sorry to say, left me sour.
I’ll describe what I heard and as always, it is just my opinion.
The two LP set starts with a short opener with just acoustic guitar and raw vocals. It gives one pause as to what to expect from the rest of the LP. The second song unfortunately only confirms suspicion. Melanie’s voice is not a golden throat to be sure. She also sounds a bit tone challenged. While the song arrangements are interesting her voice sounds like a cross between Adel, Janis Joplin and Bojork.
Not able to make it all the way through side one, we jump straight to the cover tunes. Starting out with Bob Dylan’s Mr. tambourine Man we are presented with….well, all I can say is that it’s interesting and that’s about all. It is probably the worst rendition I have heard mostly due to the vocals.
The way I can describe the rendition on James Taylor’s “Carolina On My Mind” would be with one word, “irritating”.
The Rolling Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday” – This should be good in a sarcastic way, here we go. While Mick Jagger is not known to be a crooner, this rendition is just awful. The chorus is weird with a sped up final four words in the lyrics and too loud. It is almost like she is yelling in the chorus.
We get to Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay only to find it destroyed. Yup I was right, it sounds like a drunk Janis Joplin having a slow fit of some sort.
I could not get past this side and ended the listening session there. I will not subject you to any samples or anything. If you are that curious I recommend just hitting up Spotify or something for a listen if they have her.
What I find amazing is the number of albums she put out. The description of the sides of this double LP gave me a hope, but it turned out to be false. I’m glad I only paid $1 for it.