Everybody Else is Doing It,
So Why can't We?
Review by A. Colin Flood
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CD Stock Number: Island Records 1214156
Everybody else can't do it, but the Cranberries, with Delores O'Riordan's strong, lilting Irish intonations, evidently
O'Riordan is one of the indelible instruments in modern pop/rock music available today. She has one of the most unique voices. Part lilting Irish rebel yell, part countryside folksy songstress. Once you have heard her belt out a rowdy love ballad, you never forget her unique blend of songstress and rebel. Given more political lyrics, and a more poignant time, and we would be contending with another legendary Janis Joplin.
O'Riordan is actually Dolores Mary O'Riordan Burton (born 1971; astonishing vocals, electric & acoustic guitars and keyboards). Her Irish folk rock band is The Cranberries. Like the other band members, she is from Limerick, on Ireland's West Coast. The band's pop/rock sound is like its moniker - the small, red New England fruit berry. It is a tart taste, which when blended with smooth professional training, compelling simple lyrics and extraordinary vocals, provides a magically delicious drink.
Like Joplin, or her modern-day equivalent, Melissa Etheridge, O'Riordan belts out rebel ballads. Like Sarah
McLachlin, she pushes her voice high and holds her notes, though not as incomparably high or long as McLachlin does. "Do you have to, do you have to," O'Riordan sings, "let it linger." On this album she does. Her flowing notes lead the band's guitars and syncopated violins through rolling hills of classically arranged rock n' roll. Violins or guitars typically open the songs dramatically with quick rhythms, before giving way to her incomparable voice. As O'Riordan takes center stage, she carries the melody and maintains the dance-like pace of a snappy jig. The songs typically end with her lingering voice, carrying high and clear over the hills.
Unique in her own way, it is easy to say what O'Riordan is not. Her voice and presentation is not softly and dramatically mellow like Diana Krall, Patricia Barber or
k.d. lang. This is not sultry nightclub ingénue jazz. Her voice is not girl-like childish like Rickie Lee Jones or Joni Mitchell. It is not warmly solid like either Cassandra Wilson, Tracy Chapman or Joan Armatrading either. Nor is her voice is artistically poised like Norah Jones. She lifts and carries like Sarah
McLachlin, but with the lilt of Enya and Sinead O'Connor.
On this album, the enduring ten-year old hallmark of their success, and on half a dozen unique albums since, band member Noel A. Hogan and/or O'Riordan write all of the band's songs. The lyrics reflect the anguish and difficulties of love. Their Irish folk rock tunes are not as simple, nor as safe, as Sheryl Crow's enticing pop numbers. Blending the guitars, violins and vocals together showcases O'Riordan's voice. Neither instruments nor melody are as memorable as her otherworldly singing. There are no be-bopping jingoes to stick in the back of your head. Instead, there is a quick pace to the songs, but with smoothly meshing syncopation, not the distinct bass or drum beat which distinguishes hard American rock.
The Cranberries drink the same smooth Irish whisky as U2 or Mick Hucknall's English band, Simply Red. There is a similar blended efficiency to their music. There is a smooth rock acceptability, as easy as Fleetwood Mac, to their music. If you respect these artists, like Melissa' approach or somehow have not heard the rock n' roll classic "Linger," I think you will like O'Riordan and the Cranberries too. To uneducated American ears, O'Riordan's Irish accent is similar to the soulful Irish new age composer/singer
Enya. Picture U2 or Simply Red, fronted by Enya, but belting her songs like Etheridge, and holding her notes as high as
Following the Irish band U2's worldwide success with Unforgettable Fire and
Joshua Tree, doors opened for Irish music stars such as Enya, Clannad
(Enya's brothers) and Sinead O'Connor. Spurred by such successes, the band asked twelve symphonic rock questions along the lines of the classic teenager's lament, "why can't we?"
1. I Still Do
3. Sunday - "mystify me'
4. Pretty - "you're so pretty the way you are"
5. Waltzing Back
6. Not Sorry
9. Still Can't... - "you wanted it all!"
10. I Will Always
11. How - "you said you never would leave me alone"
12. Put Me Down
In 1992, they proved they could. The Cranberries released their multi-platinum debut
Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? The album is marked by O'Riordan's high and clear vocals, a booklet with nothing but typical guitar and facial close-ups … and a chart-topping chorus in the smash single, "Linger:"
But I'm in so deep
You know I'm such a fool for you
You got me wrapped around your finger
Do you have to let it linger
Do you have to, do you have to … let it linger
Although not quite as compelling, the other songs are similar to "Linger." Stand aside when O'Riordan gets to "Dreams." She lets loose at the end, blasting the room and "la de
daing" like a disciplined banshee, in a vocal
tour de force to rival McLachlin. With her long, high notes, she etches her voice indelibly into the fabric of modern pop rock.
"Linger" reached the American Top 10, with the album selling over a million copies in North America. It remains a faithful hit on classic rock stations "devoted to playing yesterday's hits" today. This radio format is rubber stamped across the nation. There is one in almost every major city in the US. Ten years later, the four friends from Limerick, who once gathered for a bit of rock n' roll in the long winter evenings, sold a staggering 33 million albums!
Foot tapping, pop rock albums with easy lyrics, like Etheridge, Crow and Paula Cole's albums, yearn to be played LOUD. This album should be too. Yet, revealing loudspeakers, such as my big old horns, make loud listening too grating for critical home use. Instead, the captivating disc is relegated to office work, where its uplifting tone, recognizable lyrics and O'Riordan's strong, lilting voice provides an easily distinguished background. It is an enduring rock classic in my cubicle.
On the Enjoy the Music.com™ report card, a grade of 50 is passing - about average for a classroom with CDs of all ages and many types. Despite an above average enjoyment mark, this decade-old disc shows the age of its sound quality. My enthusiasm for it is not enough to overcome my puritanical grades (the lowest of
Enjoy the Music.com™ writers).
Sound Quality: 50
PS: Enjoy the Music.com™ writer Dwayne Carter enthused over The Cranberries' more recent releases,
Bury the Hatchet, saying the album buries the past, while announcing their future ("they're back!").