Guest Author - Lisa Shea
According to her RoseCoraPerry.com website, Rose Cora Perry got her start in 2001 when, joining with her high school friends, she formed the band HER "with the intention of demonstrating that 'chicks can rock just as hard as boys'." Now, ten years later, Rose Cora Perry is still heavily in the music scene.
HER was the first step in Rose's musical career. She then worked with the band ANTI-HERO; her tasks there included songwriting, rhythm guitar, lead vocals, and management. This band again aimed for the rock genre, explaining in their press kit that their focus was on "hard-hitting catchy rock-infused anthems."
Rose's next move was to celebrate her unique talents as an artist and to go out on her own. "Off of the Pages" (2010) heads in a direction of Alanis Morissette - guitar underlying an incisive, sharp edged look at life. It was a promising combination for me to listen to and examine.
I have mixed feelings about "Mad World." I really wanted to love it. Again, this is the style of music, in general, that I adore. However, my first problem was that the uneven mixing of the song caused the harmonies and secondary lines to drown out the main lyrics. It took several listenings of the song before I could reliably make out what it was saying.
Next, once I had, the words did not have the insightful power that I had been hoping for. I run a literary magazine and am reminded daily of the powerful thrall a well written sequence of words can have on a listener. I'm sure we can all quote lyrics from Alanis, or Simon and Garfunkel, or other talented wordsmiths which bring shivers to our spine with their astute observations. In comparison, in Rose's "Mad World" we parse statements such as "when did gratuitous violence become a subject we daily discuss?" There was meaning in there, but I am not sure it was released with the polished level I would have expected from a woman who has over ten years in the industry.
I also have to comment that I simply do not agree with some of the statements in the song. Rose posits, for example, that "The world seems like it's ended ... when fathers subjected kids to their abuse." Certainly I would be in full agreement that any abuse is a crime and should be stopped. However, when you look at the statistics from the late 1800s, when alcoholism's prevalence spurred many countries into enacting prohibition, and when children were often seen as no more than small workers to beat and send into the fields, you realize just how far we have come. To imply this is a new issue, which is pervasive now but was far better in the "good old days" seems to not tally with the history records. Similarly, worrying about our modern world where "whores earn more than an honest day's work" seems to forget that prostitution is called the world's oldest profession and that, if anything, prostitutes were often far more revered and better rewarded then than now.
Perhaps it's because these are the types of issues I debate often with family and friends, but the Mad World take on the issues seems to have an oddly rosy-eyed view of the past, one where apparently role models were perfect. Could it be that we simply do not remember their faults when looking back through the haze of time?
These same types of issues seemed to occur in all the songs I listened to. For example, "For Those Who Have Departed" brings to mind several Celtic artists who I am fond of. I feel an alluring calling within me to become seduced by it - but the mix muddles the voice beneath the instruments. It interferes with the music wiggling its way into your brain's inner sanctum.
The lyrics are about a topic I feel is critical for artists to explore - domestic abuse. This is an issue I absolutely want more attention to be brought to. However, the lyrics we hear are "She tried yes she tried she tried so damn hard / but nothing could ever please him." When poems of this nature are submitted to Mused, we typically write the author back and gently ask them to work some more on the polishing effort. We see hundreds of poems a month with this type of generic phrasing. There needs to be that spark, that turn of a phrase which stands out and elevates the message to one that really resonates.
Another example. I was caught quickly by the catchy guitar work in "Don't" - but almost as quickly I was innerly sighing at lyrics such as "I will not hurt you - my intentions are pure." Then the music swells and it's a stew of sound surrounding the repetitive "I know" statements. I don't feel drawn to connect with the storyteller; the phrasing of "I know" and the omniscient "I know what's best for you" presentation creates a barrier.
Then - very incongruously - Rose segues directly into the exact words and melody from one of my favorite songs, Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters". The very first thing that came to mind was the big brouhaha which erupted when Vanilla Ice came out with "Ice Ice Baby" and sampled the memorable bassline from Queen's "Under Pressure" song. Vanilla Ice first denied the sampling, then admitted to it, and subsequently gave both songwriting credits and royalty money to Queen and David Bowie.
So every time I listen to "Don't", when it hits that section, I am immediately distracted from the song itself and its merits and lyrics, and am now thinking about issues of using other peoples' material. Also, because I love "Nothing Else Matters" so much, it stands out in my mind how fond I am of that song, and in comparison this song suffers. I am not sure why any artist would want to invite that sort of situation, to distract her readers from what she is presenting in her own authentic voice.
I realize this is a multi-layered discussion, and it is one I have been having with several of my friends. What if your dream is to write a modern romance novel in the style of Pride and Prejudice? What if you want to put Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn to music and make a song out of it? What if your intention is to pay homage to something you love?
The consensus seems to be that, if your desire is to present your own, authentic voice and have your listeners participate in that journey, that there is a delicate balancing act. You can provide subtle clues to them to draw them into the imagery. So, for example, Simon and Garfunkel's classic "Bridge over Troubled Water" pays a gentle homage to Claude Jeter's song "Mary Don't You Weep". You hear those echoes, and your mind makes the soft connections without interfering with the current song's impact.
If I was told that this collection of songs was written by a younger artist, who had not yet perfected moving beyond the common phrasing to a higher level of wordsmithing, I would have called this an admirable first CD and that the artist was someone to watch going forward. I did enjoy many of the guitar pieces. I appreciated the general message of some of the songs.
But with the muddy quality of several of the songs, the issues of harmonies drowning out the lyrics, the wording being cliche at times and convoluted at others, and the too-strong callouts to external songs which distract, and with the knowledge that this artist has been working on her craft for a solid ten years, it makes it more challenging for me to recommend this release when there are so many other exceptional ones available for purchase.
Of course, my hope springs eternal, and I am always willing to give a future release a try, to see if a fresh round of polishing has moved the result from 'typical' to 'stunning.' As with Mused, there are many times that a poet submits a so-so poem the first time, and with more time to dedicate to the project, returns a year later with a finished work which knocks our socks off and gets top billing. That could always happen here. Only time will tell.
IMPORTANT NOTE: the original version of this article contained quotes from an interview BellaOnline did with Rose Cora Perry. Once we posted the article, Riley Allen from Rose's label, HER Records, wrote us several strongly worded messages insisting we remove the quotes from the interview from the site. In accordance with Ms. Allen's wishes, we have removed those quotes and the interview portion of this review and reworked the review to stand alone without those quotes.