Artist Review
Andrea Perry: lost or found, welcome home
Her new CD, "Four", accepts romance in all of its interchangeability
Frank Cotolo
July 10, 2013
If you have any doubt about Andrea Perry's place in the universe after listening to her new CD, "Four", you haven't been listening very closely. The 14 tracks on this release, productions funded by generous folks per Kickstarter, present a compendium of wonderment and resolve.
Musically, her steeping melodies have never serenaded with such depth, no less in league so closely with their legato movements. But beneath the satiny comfort of humble electric guitars, orchestral bass lines and string quartet counterpoint are messages of the heart; a heart either broken or salubrious from love.
"Four" delivers an effectual message with two sides to it: you are either lost or found, never en route to one state or another. The bond between the two allows life to hang in the balance and so you must act and react to embrace it. Ironically, lyrics are the vehicle to express action over words in the struggle to understand surrender is divine.
Delicately opening "Four", Andrea covers us with a lovely interpretation revealing life's unity of opposites in the gentle, classically arranged "My Lover Said". It is imperative that this message be second hand, as if she is absorbing the meaning at the same time as the listener. Her lover - not teacher or guru or parents - said, "It's all a dream ... there's nothing to hang on to..." With that, "Four" ensues with restless clutches and frustrating successes motivated by making any sense of our romantic sequences.
Next is "Spring", suddenly a waltz in the air and under "a sweet April moon", seen through a window, recognized but unable to be shared because regardless of the birds and the bees wallowing in its wake, "my heart still lay dead in the ground". This is dead-woman waltzing, so to speak, a sad soul's admission of the season's beauty while standing in the shadows.
"Another Bad Idea" follows, and "half way up the hill" she experiences a Sisyphus moment, realizing the attempt to reach the top (a solution) is part of the dream her lover mentioned, she is barreling out of control until it becomes obvious that is the natural state of things. This is a transitory tune in the stream of the general theme of "Four", providing the exposition of the heart that became "open wide" and susceptible to the lover who creeps inside.
Such is the sweet pain of "Back Before There Was You". With the baroque accompaniment strengthening the pathos of love's burdening affect, the soul is lost again and this time because of love itself. "Back before there was you, I had such better things to do", she sings of the misfortunate circumstances. Indeed, love is a thief in the night; it takes from you more than it gives, it can be crippling. That the chaos of its inception will eventually end is only part of its cloying deception.
Even tuning in with the Earth's orbit cannot avoid the crumbling, according to "While Spinning", which has a melody that in it rotates from musical phrase to phrase. "I grasp but I don't have the reach", she sings, having no strength to get in sync with whatever power can help her hold on to her lover. The Earth, of course, doesn't stop spinning and that is a force that makes her efforts futile, like she swims against the current in useless, wasted motion.
Then love is found again, just as it was thought extinct, in "Where Have You Been?" The string quartet is back as she swears, "I know that I'll never let you go..." The melody is almost an entirely simple scale that runs its course note for note and it has the soft genius of any Paul McCartney hailed ballad. Extracted from this beautiful tableau of compositions, "Where Have You Been?" should be praised vociferously as pop-romance genius in its simplicity and penetrating construct.
Andrea's sense and sensibility swings like a pendulum, spins, if you will, and she is shaken by love's arrival in practically the same manner she is when it departs. We could all sing along to "Nothing Hurts Like This," as easily as we can all claim we had "such better things to do" before love pelted us numb. And the cost is dear, in Andrea's eyes, leaving its scar. This is the cause of being in a state of "Breaking Not Broken", as the song reminds us the spring time that suddenly arrived for everyone else earlier in the show is now "nowhere near" and she must "find a way to pass the time until it makes its way around here". And come again it will, as the Earth spins and we try to hold on... again.
"Flame In My Heart" and "Not A Pretty Pair" work together to raise and defile the same emotion, once more two-sided and volatile. Andrea's love is feast or famine and is nothing like the kind Lennon said was all we need. In a solid statement of reality, the erratic changeableness in affections is as natural as the sun the flame reaches to meet.
Andrea's lightness of being shines in melody and muse in "Happier Than Ever". The very weight of this melody redefines the word "happy" and as she sings in a voice we could imagine is much like was Emily Dickinson's, hope does have wings and is that thing flying away. "Throw Me A Line", she sings next, though with no remorse, asking for divine help, for something greater than what we can ever believe to come into the warped picture.
Just as it sounds like Andrea has given up the ghost, she embraces the illusion, she seems to understand the dream her lover said set the scenes for her despair and delight. So, when the chorus of "Welcome Home" sounds we are lifted to the bravado of the journey through the strange consciousness that we barely want to believe has no true duality. In the special way that The Beatles led the masses to the realization that we will "carry that weight a long time" without ever committing to the length of the task, Andrea welcomes us all to the self-actualizing moment that always looms but never materializes.
It is no surprise to me that the contents of this CD begin with a slight drone before the first track and end with Andrea’s faded hum, like the sound of a mantra, as "Alright With Me" fades into oblivion. The full circle of enlightenment, though ineffable, is expressed in the CD's closing lyrics:
"Someday we'll slip out of our skin
and never come this way again.
It's alright with me
It's alright with me."
There is no tedious moralization in Andrea's vocal tones, lyrics or harmonious devices. "Four" in itself has no hidden meaning; it is her fourth CD. Still, her personal message, especially as a mature artist, is a product of a living language, using direct intuitive insight that trusts intuition, not faith, at its core. And four could be interpreted as two pair, one struggling to stay together and the other struggling to be together.
The result is that "Four" stands up as one of the new millennium's finest works, independent or not, and Andrea Perry is a prodigious voice of the era.
Frank Cotolo can be found hosting the talk and interview programme Cotolo Chronicles. You can send him an e-mail at this address:

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