k.d. lang's new album, All You Can Eat, is a feast of ten tasty tracks for the heart, mind and soul. She ponders love, lust, longing and a few other thoughts on what may be her sexiest album to date. The songs range from upbeat and fun ("if i were you," "world of love," "get some," "maybe") to personal and political ("sexuality," "acquiesce") to sweet and slow ("this," "infinite and unforeseen.")
If you were to hear this latest recording without prior knowledge that k.d. lang used to be a country/western singer, you really won't suspect she had done that. (She did, however, win a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocalist with her 1989 album, Absolute Torch and Twang.) You can still find many of her previous albums in the country section at music stores, but with her new album, it takes a strained ear to find a twang or a bit of banjo. They're there, but the more noticeable aspects of the album are a clear, crisp recording style (unlike her previous effort, Ingénue), and a sense of freedom.
Ever since the cosmicly successful Ingénue came out in 1992, k.d. lang no longer fit into any musical category, which is probably for the best. Perhaps it is the freeness of expression that best categorizes this latest album. The songs require an interesting array of instruments, from a ukelin to an organ to keyboards, a cello and something called an urhu. Ms. Lang and her band get a little funky on a few of the songs, such as "sexuality," "get some" and "i want it all." She strikes a perfect balance between quiet, delicate, controlled vocals and boldly, loudly letting loose. She's even rather playful; k.d. sounds as if she might be winking and smirking at us between the lines of some of the songs.
Some of the lyrics are tender or funny or demanding, but they are all finely crafted and acute with meaning. If you've ever torn the petals off a daisy, you'll appreciate the words to "maybe," in which k.d. gives us an optimistic recollection of what it is like to be at that moment of most anxiety and hope. "Maybe I am crazy / maybe I am confused / maybe I've misconstrued / maybe I love you / maybe I am dreaming / maybe I am doomed / maybe I'm destitute / maybe I love you / maybe I'll ask - no maybe I won't ..." she sings.
Not surprisingly, k.d. sounds most playful on "sexuality." She starts the song teasingly, "come on, come on / shed the skin that's held you in, held you for too long / how bad could it be if you should fall in love with me / how bad could it be - sexuality?" And then she gives out what ought to be a homework assignment for anyone who lets the conservative right bug them too much. She sings, "kiss away the ones who say the lust you feel is wrong." Aren't you glad she's so out?
Obviously, people of every sexual orientation can enjoy this album because of its indisputable quality and beauty, but k.d. lang addresses the queer issue more than once. "These immoral questions ... this trial of faith that we go through / fuel of our oppression is the fuel of freedom too - these immoral questions ... what are we to do? offer our confessions? offer ourselves to you?" she broods on the sixth track. As the song develops she answers her own questions with a striking, one-word demand, the song's title, "acquiesce ... acquiesce all in us."
Two lovely ballads, "this" and "infinite and unforeseen" add their share of grace and romance amidst the more upbeat tunes. Both are highly recommended for sharing with a special someone at the right moment.
For her final song on the album, "i want it all," k.d. appears to be using the same strategy as on Ingénue (the last song on which was "Constant Craving," her huge hit single) - go out with a bang, a grand finale. She sums up the general theme of desire and love with soft seductive lines and a bold refrain, both of which could melt the stoniest of hearts. By departing with one of the strongest songs on the album, one with a gorgeously triumphant tone, she leaves us wanting more, which is the mark of a truly great performer, or of a great chef. We are left wanting more, yet feeling quite pleased with what we're just received.
General information: Jeff Walsh
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