Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Carlene Carter - C'est C Bon

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release of C’est C Bon, the fifth studio album from Carlene Carter. She is the daughter of June Carter and her first husband Carl Smith. This was the last of her pop albums before she transitioned to mainstream country music in 1990.

The musicians who joined her on the 1983 album included: Roger Bechirian (keyboards, percussion and vocals), Paul Cobbold (cello and bass), James Eller (bass, guitar and keyboards), Andy Howell (bass, guitar and keyboards), Pete Marsh (guitar, keyboards and vocals), and Terry Williams (drums). Also appearing on the album were the Bat Horns: Gary Barnacle (saxophone), Luke Turney (trumpet), and Annie Whitehead (trombone).

Side one begins with up-tempo “Meant It for a Minute”; it has a solid guitar rhythm and drumbeat. While not spelled out exactly in the lyrics, I think the implication is that she told the guy she was with that she loved him - but she only meant it temporarily. I am kind of surprised this one was not chosen as a single as it is a solid opener.

“Heart to Heart” was the first single from the album. It was written by UK songwriter Simon Climie who would team up with Rob Fisher in the late 80’s to record his own material. The song has a bit of a sweeping orchestration in the background.

The synthesizer keyboards are up front and prominent on “Third Time Charm”, a song about how sometimes love takes a bit more than first blush to take hold.

“Heart’s in Traction” continues with the 80’s synth sound with this tale about a broken heart. I could see this one being mixed by deejays in clubs between big hits, just for a little variety. Carter doesn’t have the vocal power of someone like Bonnie Tyler, but the song moves well enough.

The playful “I’m the Kinda Sugar Daddy Likes” is next and features the Bat Horns prominently. The title throws me slightly, though, because proper grammar would be “…Kind of…” rather than “…Kinda…”

“Breathless” was first recorded by Jerry Lee Lewis in 1958. Carter totally re-imagines it for her cover, updating it for a modern generation of music listeners. I compared the two in my library; they are day and night.

Side two starts with “Love Like a Glove”. Here, Carter sings about keeping her heart close at hand, guarded and protected.

Things slow down a bit with “Cool Reaction”, one about dealing with the sometimes distant and aloof responses from her boyfriend.

“Don’t Give My Heart a Break” was penned by Nick Lowe and Paul Carrack, appearing on Carrack‘s 1982 album Suburban Voodoo (click here for that review). Having worked with both songwriters on her previous album in 1981, it is not surprising to see her covering it here. Again, she puts a different spin on the song.

The tempo picks up with “That Boy”, a song has elements to it that could have easily been tweaked slightly (playing up the bass and percussion) to make a disco hit in the late 70’s.

The final track “One Way Ticket” was the B-side to the first single. With the horns and the quick-step rhythm, I could see someone like Tom Jones having recorded it. It has the big, brash Vegas show vibe to it.

While I certainly knew who Carlene Carter was, her music was not so known in my listening experience over the years. As such, C’est C Bon was a brand new album for me. Upon first listen, I thought it was okay. Each of the tracks had a pleasant melody and none of them turned me off in the slightest. I think they could grow on me more with additional listens.

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