Too Much Between Us : Donna Blue

Reviewlet Larry Pennisi [USA]

Opening with a thundering, off-timed drum intro and followed by a critically gut-wrenching guitar prelude, this may not be instantly accessible to the legion of fans who are used to the lilting, acoustic perspective of this track on A Salty Dog. The guitar heralds that which is to come with deeply penetrating, dark and mournful notational bends that are somewhat reminiscent of the early Trower days. It’s a perfect way to begin this unconventional treatment, I should think. The arrangement is not dissimilar to that which Donna débuted at the LA Palers’ Convention in July 2003. A faithful reproduction had occurred in this instance.

Production note: the song has the feeling of a live recording though it was recorded in sections. The drums have no processing on them and, for personal taste, I find that a bit disconcerting. At the same time, however, this very starkness adds a perfectly descriptive nether-worldly feeling of loss and abandon that permeates the broad-spectrum sonic topography. The interpretation on a musical level is original.

Donna faithfully replicates, for most sections, the melody of the piece, as opposed to many of the other offerings on From Shadow to Shadow. On some tracks, original melodies and chords are offset in favor of a final product that is, to my ears, almost unrecognizable as being the song that is being interpreted. I prefer a more faithful melodic bent – though I can be accused of similar straying from time to time. The vocal is empowered, impassioned and brawny of breath and breadth with an Aimee Mann-like delivery. The music echoes this bare-bones attitude in complementary fashion. During the 'I could change my plea to guilty' section, Donna employs what I refer to as the Barbara Eden Effect (that’s a joke between us and it’s too much, really!). In essence, the Eden Effect consists of plosive consonants being emphasized: the L in 'plea' is time-dilated for a most pleasing rendering of the word. Again, the EFFECT.

The chorus is determined, drawn out and highly effective. I recall the live Procol version at the Fillmore East, 27 June 1969 as well as the 70s renderings of it. BJ, in true Boys' Brigade fashion, regaled all and sundry with a waltzing military backdrop, stretching out the sections and adding drama and emphasis as was his truest gift. As the chorus resolves in the present time, the vocal is drenched in an attenuated wash of studio jiggery, stretching the 'disguised' and overlapping it upon the main vocal line. I found this to be clever as well as emotionally appealing. A nasty, low-down and gritty guitar solo follows using some alternating chordal structures that, rather than distracting, add clout. Two Donnas appear after that, scatting their way to an absolutely tortured section of howls and grunts. The words are perhaps more fully realized than on the original in this take. But that is ultimately a matter of taste. This tracks tastes mighty fine.

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