Picks and Pans Review: Imagination
Listening to Reddy raises images of using gold to make garden shovels, turning silk into grocery bags. Her voice is such a splendid instrument—strong, beautifully pitched and with that tangy edge. Her songs, though, much too often come out commonplace, tedious and emotionally overwrought. The most glaring example on this album is Guess You Had to Be There, which is less a song than an essay about the effects of an absentee father's careless attitude toward maintaining contact with his children. Reddy makes every note a condemnation. (She and husband Jeff Wald divorced last year; they had one child.) She's annoying in a different way on a tune called Handsome Dudes. Written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who have made a career out of writing white funk and soul, it has a clever hook—"Handsome dudes—all you get is what you see/I don't want to wake up next to no one prettier than me." But Reddy trying to sound funky—even white funky—is a joke, something like Tina Turner singing Waltzing Matilda. Reddy fares much better with a couple of straightforward pop tunes by Wendy Waldman and Eric Kaz, The Way I Feel and Heartbeat. Her voice becomes brighter, the music takes on some charge and you stop wanting to say, "Relax, Helen. Just sing."