Urban Noise 2013
Review by David Bowling
Ellen Foley has been missing from the American music scene and especially the recording studio for a long time. Some may remember her as Meat Loaf’s female foil on “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” Television fans may remember her as public defender Billie Young on the second season of the sitcom Night Court. Music fans in the know will remember her for three fine solo albums; Night Out (1979), Spirit Of St. Louis (1981), and Another Breath (1983). Produced by the likes of Ian Hunter, Mark Ronson, Mick Jones, and Joe Strummer, they were the equal of any female rock albums issued during that era.
Foley is alive and well and living in New York City; married, raising a family, acting on Broadway, and working as a vocal teacher. Now three decades after Another Breath, she has returned with her fourth studio album, appropriately titled About Time.
Her big booming voice remains intact and is still a formidable instrument. She is also very much still a rock and roll woman. While some of the tracks may veer in a blues direction, rock remains the foundation of who she is as an artist.
About Time can be divided between up-tempo rock songs fueled by her over-the-top vocals and slower stripped-down bluesy tunes.
While I have fond memories of Foley’s earlier rock material, I find myself constantly hitting the back button on the slower blues-type songs. “Guilty,” “Madness,” and “Any Fool Can See” have a late at night, smoke-filled lounge feel. Her voice reaches out and grabs your attention as she spins her tales.
She can still rock, which is represented by such tracks as “If You Can’t be Good,” and “Nobody Ever Died from Crying.” “I’ve Been Around the Block and Back” covers the middle ground between the two styles.
The lyrics tend to travel a reflective and sometimes darker route, which reflect her having aged three decades since her last release. Getting older and looking back on life can be heard on “If You Had a Heart” and “Worried Woman.” There is always hope as evidenced in the album-closing “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”
Three decades after her last release, Ellen Foley has returned with a mature, personal, and powerful album. Hopefully her old fans will embrace this next chapter in her life. She may find a few new fans to journey with her as well.