December 1997

Lisa Loeb - Firecracker
Geffen GEFD 25141
Released: 1997
HDCD encoding

by Jay Piriz

Musical Performance **1/2
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment **1/2

[Reviewed on CD]Firecracker is Lisa Loeb's second solo commercial release. Loeb is a Dallas girl and a graduate of Brown University. During college, she was part of a band known as Liz and Lisa. The guitarist for the group was Duncan Sheik (yes, it's his real name). Loeb was trained in classical piano and guitar. During her brief career, Loeb has shared the stage with such prominent musicians as Lyle Lovett, Sara McLachlan, Counting Crows, Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, and the Indigo Girls. Her first performance was an acoustic version of "Stairway to Heaven" during summer camp. Loeb has been writing songs since age 15. Her influences have been the Cure, Brian Eno, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix.

Although not noted on the cover art or liner notes, Firecracker lit up the HDCD light on my DAC like a christmas tree. If you have HDCD capability on your front-end equipment, you will really enjoy the sound of this recording. The HDCD impact on this recording is much better than many I have heard. Early HDCD-encoded CDs sounded overly plump in the bass. Even some of the more recent ones have not impressed me. The result on Firecracker, however, is very natural. The bass is articulate and tight. Strings are smooth and vocals are free of sibilance. Clarity, detail and hang-time for the notes is very good.

The overall character of this pop effort by Loeb is melancholy and dark. The songs are a collection of stories which appear to be close to the heart. It is musically interesting with fine string arrangements on selected cuts. Throughout the 12 songs on this CD, Loeb lays it all out in her lyrics. "Wishing Heart" and "This" are songs dealing with human inspiration and one's direction in life. On "Falling in Love," a beautifully arranged ballad, Loeb imparts a dark loneliness--a broken heart perhaps. Lyrics like these must be based on experience: "...the time between meeting and finally leaving is sometimes called falling in love." Shawn Colvin joins Loeb on this one for back-up harmonies, and it's one of the best cuts on the album. "Furious Rose" is an orchestral song with a musical and lyrical urgency in the chorus that evokes the vision of a mad woman running through the darkness of a nightime forest. The vibes on "Dance with the Angels" is a nice touch, although a bit overdone with reverb.

This CD is a credible effort by Loeb. It has some very enjoyable and involving songs. However, it has many cuts that are a bit too far in the top-forty, mainstream direction for my taste. If you have a predeliction for pop music, this Loeb CD may tickle your fancy. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be doing much chronic listening to this one.