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Paula Cole


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Beautiful and fierce at her best, your choice of pops (mainstream and alternative) most of the rest of the time.

Status:

Most recent release, 7 (2015)

See also:

Paula Cole's site

Wikipedia's entry on Paula Cole

Comparisons:

Aimee Mann, Toni Childs (circa The Woman's Boat). (11/96, jjhanson@att.net)

Sometimes reminiscent of Tori Amos on a few of her piano/voice combinations. (kammerzj@peak.org)

There are a few songs where she sounds like Tori Amos and Kate Bush mixed. However, at the same time, the music doesn't sound anything like either. (Matt.Bittner)

Covers/own material:

Own material on her albums, some covers live and on soundtracks.

General comments:

Paula has a truly wonderful voice, soaring and powerful. A stunning singer in my opinion. Definitely two thumbs up from me! (1/98, nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

So anyway, my love/hate relationship with Paula Cole continues. It's the most bizarre thing I've ever experienced in all my years of music fandom. Has this happened to anyone else? You worship the music, but want to drop-kick the artist? (2/98, meth@smoe.org)

all i can say about paula is that at least she isn't singing into that silly mask of hers, nor stomping on cookie sheets. i have seen her live several times, (though never specifically for her, always as part of something, opening up for sarah mclachlan or at the lilith fair) and i thought her voice was astounding in both range and strength, but her affection and pretensions left much to be desired.
     as for both albums, i rarely listen to either of them, as i don't find them all that interesting. no staying power—i listened to them for a couple of months and then they ended up in my CD archives. and i still think that cowboy song is wretched.
     paula actually entered Berklee and was trained as jazz singer there if i am correct. early articles when Harbinger was released talked a lot about her previous vocal training, and especially about how Paula pretty much wanted to forge her own path and not sing jazz. she never liked it all that much she said, and instead wanted to become a singer/songwriter. one of her early influences was, surprisingly enough, Kate Bush. she said KATE really inspired her...though she outgrew that inspiration later on.
     i am surprised that she is going back to jazz/r&b, i would have thought she would have instead, gone a more "power rock" route, á la Melissa Ethridge or something horrid like that. i might be interested in hearing this direction, because in truth, i found This Fire pretty bland. of course i wasn't all that thrilled with Harbinger either, but i felt she had potential. she has such a powerful voice. ah well. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

I feel that Paula is a pretty amazing musician and songwriter. Perhaps those few Ectophiles who (as recently seen) are of the opinion that Paula has become pretentious and that her talents have faded since the release of Harbinger will see her contribution to the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil soundtrack as an opportunity to hear Paula dip back into her jazz background and, hopefully, see that writing her off as a self-absorbed bore is shortsighted. My opinion is that what has been deemed by some as pretentiousness is actually showmanship. (kcarpenter@THACHERPROFFITT.COM)

Paula is one of my favorite singers. She's dynamic, intelligent, and has a definite feminist leaning, in her music and her own life (check out the unshaved pits). She has a great voice and lots of musical talent. And most importantly, she puts out really really good music. I thought Harbinger and This Fire were really cohesive albums. Particularly This Fire. And that is part of its magic for me. I don't think it's a safe album. And I always found Paula very honest as an artist, which is also part of her appeal for me. Both on her albums and when I saw her at the '97 Lilith Fair in NJ.
     I love her voice, her song-writing, her albums. So this isn't an unbiased opinion. But musically...she makes intelligent music. Intelligent lyrics, powerful and soulful vocals, and a range of material from race issues, sex/uality, womanhood, love, from plaintive to pop. And she plays one hell of a piano. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Oddly, what caused my ears to spin forward and listen to her would probably be considered one of those "affected" performances that people don't like as much: her live recording of "Mississippi" that opens the first Lilith Fair disc. Stylized and overblown as it might be, I love it. (jzitt@humansystems.com)

After reading all this criticism of Paula Cole i had to respond by saying that I was one of the people who thought her second album was one of my favorites of that year. also her live performance was one of my favorites of the year. and seeing her in concert i noticed that she was very animated but i found that more charming than annoying. it seemed to me that she was excited by her new-found fame and attention. the audience loved her and i thought she was feeding off of it. it's very exciting when a person's life begins to change in a positive direction and thats all i was feeling from her. but the two albums, for me at least, that brings back that winter in my life are Fiona Apple's Tidal and Paula Cole's This Fire. (FAMarcus@aol.com)

I must say that I don't just like the understated and "unaffected". Sometimes I really do like full blown melodrama and affectation. I hope that my comments didn't seem like criticism because I do like most of what Paula does quite a bit. I just really loved and preferred the quirky, self conscious charm that she displayed when I saw her with Peter Gabriel. That charm really comes through on the Secret World Live video. (wpm@value.net)

For me, Paula Cole is one of those rare birds: someone I would much rather listen to on disc than see live. It goes back to the first time I ever saw her, back when Harbinger was new. She emoted as though she was at Carnegie Hall, not in a subterranean room holding maybe 50 people...and she just drove me NUTS. I could hardly stand to listen to the album after that. But when This Fire came out I picked it up cheap, and I LOVED it (still do—one of the many good things about not listening to commercial radio is I can avoid oversaturation when songs become as huge as the ones from that album did). I decided to go see her play when she came through town, just to see if she's calmed down a bit, and I was disappointed to find that no, she's gotten even *worse*. I found that the show was much more enjoyable if I stood behind the really tall guy in front of me so I couldn't see the stage. (meth@smoe.org)

I've managed to see some footage of Paula Cole in concert here during her Berklee College days, and what struck me the most was her jazz and r&b singing. I saw clips of her at what's called Singer Showcase, which has vocalist students trying out for a spot in this fairly prestigious concert, and in general, they can pick whatever song they want to perform, and Paula did a rather r&b vocal-inflected jazz tune on one of the clips. She had some real soul coursing through her. I guess this is coming around on the new album [Amen]. (paul2k@aol.com)

I loved her as a sweet, goofy back-up singer to Peter Gabriel. I saw her first tour alone (well, a wild three piece) touring with Sarah McLachlan before Sarah got famous famous also. She (Paula) was wild and kicky and punky, playing a cookie sheet, banging and jumping around. Next time was the first or second Lilith, where she preened, oversang, overacted, did the "Tori-humping the piano" bit and generally was so full of herself she left no room for others. But that's me. I did get the album everyone was raving about (This Fire), was sorely disappointed except for a couple tunes. (this is album of the year? ugh ugh, guess I'll give up now!) I am not surprised she is either trying out a new persona, or returning to an earlier one because she does seem in search of herself. WHY DO PEOPLE CHANGE SO MUCH WHEN THEY "MAKE IT"? (cyo@landoftheblind.com)

I remember when Paula Cole's CD Harbinger came out, and I thought it was just about the best thing that I'd heard in a long time. Not many people paid attention to her at that time. All of a sudden with This Fire, she was huge and being played every time I turned on the radio. It's such a thrill when someone you like and who you think has a lot of artistic credibility "makes it." I wish it would happen to some of my other favorite artists. (valrichardson@igc.org)

To say her music has blown me away would be something of an understatement. I was fortunate enough to latch onto Harbinger shortly after its release (though I had to get it on import at the time) and have been a great admirer of her work ever since. (maier@joynet.com.au)

Comments about live performance:

Her cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" is just way too cool. It made me think of the Resident's "The King and Eye", on which (or so they claim) they take Elvis songs and bring out the true emotions behind the songs (and it's often rather evil sounding). It's bitter and cynical and nasty and dark and...well, just way too cool. ;-) (3/95, burka@jeffrey.net)

Not to be missed live. (mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

I saw her live and she was amazingly energetic and powerful. Her cover of "Jolene" is incredible, and I'm glad that I found a copy of it on a promo single for Bethlehem. (Neile)

Thanks to the Ecto list, I had bought and loved her record before seeing her with Sarah McLachlan in Portland. But it was fun to see Paula just knock out Sarah's audience. I doubt any of them knew what to expect; Paula probably sold a lot of records as a result of that tour. (mp@moonmac.com)

I was very pleasantly surprised by her performance, which I enjoyed beyond belief. Previously, I had only heard her radio hit about the cowboys, but her set was awesome and her voice, mannerisms, and attitude was better than I ever imagined. (miazgama@pilot.msu.edu)

She rocked! Not only did she have the best sound of the evening, but she was just plain the most impressive. I've seen her before, so I knew what to expect, but the crowd really liked her too. It may have helped that it was a hometown crowd. (colford@chlotrudis.org)

I guess those of us in ecto fall into "love her" or "hate her" camps...I fall squarely into the "love her" camp. All of her onstage antics, her dancing, her amazing vocal tricks, really worked for me, as they had when I saw her at a club a few months back. She closed the show with her cover of "Jolene"...all I can say is...wow. As far as I'm concerned, she earned the standing ovation she got when she finished her set. (kamesan@geocities.com)

Another wonderful surprise—she kicks ass! (ahem) Visually the most active performer of the night, she had an amazing range. Found myself reminiscing about Tori a few times while listening to her piano/voice combinations. I actually liked her other music more than the "Cowboy" song she's well known for. I wasn't anticipating liking her as much as I did. Her cocky moves while dancing, and dynamic vocals provided much entertainment. (kammerzj@peak.org)

i saw her play live before i heard the album and her on-stage presence was a real negative factor. i never really understood why pretension could be a bad thing until seeing her play. ugh. she's gotten better, but she's still pretty affected. (10/97, woj@smoe.org)

Hm—I think just the opposite, that's she's gotten more affected. I saw her for the first time in Dec. 1994, and then again in '95, and her presentation back then was relatively simple. A little twitchy and ticky maybe (that thing with slapping her leg, etc), but it didn't strike me as pretentious. By the time Lilith Fair came around, she had this whole boring aerobic-dancing thing as part of her show, and I didn't see the point. (10/97, jwermont@sonic.net)

Since the club where I saw her was so packed, we got stuck way in the back, which meant I couldn't see, and believe it or not as far as I'm concerned that only enhanced the experience for me. Musically speaking, it was a great show. I've fonted here on several past occasions about how Paula's performance style (heck, her entire personality) *really* rubs me the wrong way, and although she has toned it down a bit since the last time I saw her, as I said I was still glad I couldn't see much. She was in great voice, and her backing band was top-notch, as always.
     The show ended with at once something really really cool and really really annoying: an obviously planned SECOND encore (after the requisite first encore of "Jolene," which I was amazed to see is still in her repertoire after all this time), which in my mind was just *too* presumptuous, even though she had definitely been called back for one. She came out in a blond wig and huge feather boa, and proceeded to do what the New Haven Advocate later called "a wigged-out, speedy '60s Euro-pop rendition of the Edith Piaf classic 'La Vie en Rose.'" (So *that's* what that was!) It ruled. I don't know if I'm going to see Paula Cole live again, at least until her star sets and she's back playing smaller places at lower ticket prices, so it was a great way to go out. (2/98)
     I managed to get a seat right up front for Paula Cole's triumpant return to live performance after 7 years out of the music business. I must say that if her set is any indication the new disc might be a pretty sappy record...but I'll probably pick it up anyway. She was in fine voice, too—maybe a bit huskier these days, but she can still belt it out and hit all the notes. The only older songs she did were "This Fire" (a curious choice ... but thematically I think it fit with her new stuff quite well) and that old standby, "Jolene", which she still can blow out of the water. Her new band is quite good too. I'd venture a guess that any Paula Cole fan will want to catch her when she goes back out on tour later on this summer. (3/07, meth@smoe.org)

I saw Paula at the '97 Lilith Fair, and she blew me away. Even though it was still light outside and it was hard to see her on stage or on the screens, she sounded incredible. Very dynamic, lots of energy. And in great voice. We ran up to the gates and got a better look at her for a while, and she was dancing around the stage and looked like she was having the time of her life. Especially on "Hitler's Brothers". The long whistle she did was amazing. I've always wanted to see her in her own concert, and as soon as I get a chance, I'll be there. I thought she was energetic, spontaneous, and seemed to feed and feed off of the audience. (6/99, JoAnn.Whetsell)

I finally got to do something I've been wanting for ten years, and saw Paula Cole perform last Sunday night at a really intimate venue in Evanston, IL.
     She played heavily from her back catalog (tons from Harbinger and This Fire especially, and two from Amen) and only one song from Courage—her voice has lost none of its power or versatility and she was wailing and rocking and raging as much as ever. Also, the two songs she played from her forthcoming Ithaca, while maybe a little bit platitude-y lyrically (a weakness she sometimes has), were pretty friggin intense. Bodes really well for the record being a return to form... I think the fire's back! (7/10, timjy@sbcglobal.net)

Recommended first album:

The majority opinion seems to be This Fire, with some strong supporters for Harbinger.

Recordings:


The Coffee House Tour (advance promo)

Release info:

1994, IM 28076-2-DJ, Imago

Availability:

Probably out of print

Ecto priority:

For fans

Comments:

Came out in advance of Harbinger. Appropriately enough, it's in a black and white cardboard sleeve displaying a heavily-shadowed portrait of a coffee cup and saucer. (rjk1@cs.wustl.edu)

Contains the tracks:

  1. I Am So Ordinary
  2. Bethlehem
  3. Chiaroscuro

Harbinger

Release info:

1994—Imago—772787-21018-2

Availability:

This was re-released by Warner Brothers, so it is widely available

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Paula Cole—vocals, keyboards, piano, mouth percussion, beat box, hands, whistle

Guest artists:

Jay Bellerose—drums, box, cocktail kit, percussion, vibraphone, milk crate, metal
Paul Bushnell—bass, piano, $4.00 worth of wind, naked bass pedals
Gerry Leonard—electric guitars, E'B3' Bow, Allen guitar, acoustic guitar, Leslie guitar, submarine guitar, E-bow, talking guitar, Der Fuhrer (on "Hitler's Brothers")
Kevin Barry—acoustic guitar, acoustic Hi string guitar, tremolo guitar, verse guitar, solo guitar, guitars
Mark Hutchins—hi hats, program, tambourine, hands, samples, toms, resonant mouth percussion, buncha low, background vocals
Jon Dryden—piano
Knox Chandler—cello Fx
Eileen Ivers—violin
Laura Seaton—violin
Mary Rowell—violin
Juliette Hafner—viola
Erik Friedlander—cello
Seamus Egan—uillean pipes

Produced, engineered, and mixed by:

Kevin Killen at Bearsville Studios

Comments:

If it's true that she had laryngitis while recording this album and thus couldn't give it her "all", her next one's gonna be a stunner. A mite overproduced, but infectiously listenable all the same. (dixon@physics.Berkeley.EDU)

I've been listening to Paula Cole's Harbinger quite a lot lately—very nice—but it still hasn't entirely grabbed me. It actually reminds me a lot of Aimee Mann—very high-quality, well-crafted songs with great lyrics and a good voice—but nothing I feel really passionate about—even though I definitely enjoy it. (jjhanson@att.net)

Newcomer of the year. Incredible voice combined with incredible songwriting make this a must-get for anyone enamoured with the female voice. (pmcohen@voicenet.com)

As far as I'm aware this is Paula's debut album and was recorded before she joined Peter Gabriel on tour. She has a great ear for melodic lines that sweep the listener along and several of the songs are quite simply beautiful. Fairly minimal production and some interesting lyrics characterise a very good showcase for her extremely pleasant voice. I find the quality of the material on Harbinger album a little variable (to me it ranges from average to outstanding) but her voice really shines throughout and she sings with impressive conviction. Her song "I am so ordinary" is one of the most affecting things I heard in '94. This album has remained a firm favourite. (1/98, nightwol@dircon.co.uk)

i've listened to it a few times now. so far, i've rather enjoyed quite a bit of it. sometimes, it seems (to my ears anyways) that paula drifts too much towards obvious musical clichés for my tastes but then she throws you a curve ball that knocks your impressions for a loop. that's a definite good thing in my book. (woj@smoe.org)

Harbinger was a little too smooth and sweet and sincere for me, I liked "Happy Home" and admired her voice but it just wasn't my style. But after seeing her live, I expect her next album will be a powerhouse. (Neile)

The songs can get incredibly depressing, so I don't listen to it for long stretches at a time, but there's something indefinable about her voice that I very much enjoy, and "I Am So Ordinary" is definitely my favorite song. (sagetodd@postoffice.ptd.net)

I liked this album quite a bit, but I didn't put it on my year's best list because of something undefinable about her voice that bugs me. I wonder if it's the same thing you enjoy. :> Even so, I do think she's got a great voice, and is a very talented performer and songwriter. She's great live too. "I Am So Ordinary" is, in my opinion, the best song on the CD. (NyxNight@aol.com)

sometimes i find bits of this to be too...hmm, polished maybe, and the lyrics seem a bit forced from time to time ("hitler's brothers" grates on me somehow), but overall i absolutely *adore* it. it's so frequently tear-jerking, though, that i think i may have to be careful not to listen to it too often.... ;) (damon)

another great one, much different than This Fire, but still great. (Matt.Bittner)

This album as a whole is softer and mellower than This Fire, but it is still a passionate album. Not in terms of musical quality, but in the level of intensity. With the exception of songs like "Hitler's Brothers" and "Saturn Girl". It doesn't hit you over the head, but it moves you in a different way, and the songs are quite lovely. I especially love "Garden of Eden". (6/99, JoAnn.Whetsell)


I Am So Ordinary (single)

Release info:

1994—Imago

Availability:

Out of print

Ecto priority:

For fans

Comments:

Contains the tracks:
  1. I Am So Ordinary
  2. Hitler's Brothers
  3. Last November (Demo)

Bethlehem (promo single)

Release info:

1995—Imago—IM 2819-2-DJ

Availability:

Hard-to-find promo release

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended if you can locate a copy

Comments:

This promo single includes two versions of Bethlehem from Harbinger, a radio edit and regular version. Both are timed on the tray card as 4:27 so I think the only real difference between the two is that it's edited for language. In any case, the treasure on this single is "Jolene", recorded live at Jackson Hall, Nashville, Tennessee, August 7, 1994. It reminds me of her incredibly dynamic performance of the song when I first saw her live opening for Sarah McLachlan. It was the highlight of the concert. (Neile)

This Fire

Release info:

1996—Warner—9 46424-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Paula Cole—vocals, piano, Juno, tube, Wurlitzer, harmonium, beat box, toy xylophone, didjeridu, and clarinet

Guest artists:

Jay Bellerose—drums, percussion
Tony Levin—bass, chapman stick
Greg Leisz—guitars, pedal and lap steel
Seamus Egan—uillean pipes and whistle
Gerry Menoard—guitar
Wenyi Shih—violin
Elizabeth Knowles—violin
Judith Insell—viola
Chase Morrison—cello
Seyi Sonuga—string arrangement
Peter Gabriel—guest vocal
Kevin Killen—shimmer

Produced by:

Paula Cole

Comments:

An album I highly recommend. It's much more immediate and accessible than Harbinger) and reminds me in both graphic design and theme of Toni Childs' wonderful album (that was heavily panned by critics), The Woman's Boat. Both albums even feature Peter Gabriel. I think it's heads and tails above Harbinger—she's really coming into her own. (11/96, jjhanson@att.net)

After hearing "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" for the first time, I wish to point out that Paula is truly a goddess, and I really love that song. Paula has blown me away with this one. (11/96, rlovejoy@comcast.net)

If you play Harbinger and This Fire back to back, it seems that in the lull in between she is saying "Well, now that I have *that* stuff off my chest, I'll tell you which relationships piss me off and which ones make my innards go 'boing!'" This Fire doesn't stab me in the head with its politics like Harbinger, which is a big disappointment, but now that I'm used to the idea, I can move on and focus more on the music. (There are no lyrics with this album, and since I'm big into topics, some of her point escapes me when I don't know what the hell she's saying.) Musically, I find it very catchy and somewhat akin to Harbinger.
     Paula produced this one on her own and I think the production sounds every bit as good as the last. Her voice once again is strong and shows a lot of emotion and control. I can't adequately express how I feel about that "throat" thing that she does on "Tiger" and "Nietzsche's Eyes" because I'm not sure what I think at this point. When I first heard it, I thought, "What the *hell* is she doing and what does her uvula look like now?" After a few listens I'm getting used to it, but it still sounds like my father when he sneezes. I like it better when she sings backwards.
     "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" is great, and there are a few others that have a similar radio feel ("Road To Dead", "I Don't Want To Wait"). I like the Sarah-esque background vocals, and wasn't sure who I was listening to the first time I heard the song on the radio. The song "Feelin' Love" really stands out like a big ol' thumb because it has this bluesy/R&B feel and it's dang nasty. I'm not 100% sure of the meaning behind "Hush, Hush, Hush", but it's nice to see the ultra-groovy Peter Gabriel stepping in for a moment as the father figure. There's some really pretty stuff, some angry stuff, and where the hell are the damn-ass lyrics?
     I don't like it nearly as much as Harbinger, but then I haven't played it 400 times. It's hard to top songs like "Happy Home", "Chiaroscuro", "Hitler's Brothers" (I could go on and on), but This Fire is still a marvelous album with solid songs. I love her voice—I love her music—she's *very* cool. If you haven't cleared out a spot in your CD rack, do it and keep looking for the album. (11/96, runly@hvi.net. )

This Fire is, in my opinion, harder-edged than Harbinger was. In fact it's harder-edged than the ectomusic I usually listen to. But I love it! Words like "gritty" and "fierce" come to mind to describe it. My personal favorites on the album include "Tiger", which I think could be taken as a sequel to "Bethlehem" from Harbinger; "Nietzsche's Eyes," "Me", and "Hush, Hush, Hush," which gets additional ecto-points for featuring Peter Gabriel on guest vocals! (10/96, ishara@blarg.net)

There are a few songs where she sounds like Tori and Kate Bush mixed. However, at the same time, the music doesn't sound anything like either. Paula has a few things to say on the album, and she gets them across. Overall, it's a great disc, probably my third or fourth favorite of the year. The best song for me was "hush, hush, hush," which has Peter Gabriel helping out on vocals. (Matt.Bittner)

I need to delve into this one more, and it does have its flaws (mostly due to Paula's solo production—sometimes it helps to have an outside ear to make suggestions like "don't you think it's way too obvious that you're ripping off Sarah McLachlan in this intro" or "maybe you only need two or three throat-scraping screeches at the end of this song, as opposed to seven"), but it does totally blow her debut away (I was never impressed by that album). While I can't really come up with concrete reasons why, whenever I listen to this disc I find myself thinking Wow, this really is a good record. Hopefully someday I'll figure out exactly why that is. :) Oh, and the Toni Childs comparison is an apt one.
     (7/00) I still pull out This Fire upon occasion, sales figures be damned. It's a fine piece of work, and I like it. (meth@smoe.org)

I liked Harbinger a lot, but this album surpasses it. I think it's Paula's willingness to experiment more with her singing and song structures that makes it more interesting. While sometimes the experiments are not completely successful, I still find myself wanting to hear this album constantly. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

Looks like the title of her debut spoke the truth. :) I could do without a couple tracks on this album ("feelin' love" is just a wee bit graphic for my taste), but "Throwing Stones," "Road to Dead," and "Carmen" really shine. (dixon@physics.berkeley.edu)

i like this fire more than harbinger, but where you see emotional intensity, i find teen-age angst which doesn't appeal to me at all. on "cowboys", though, she seems to have more neglected wife angst than teenage angst...though i suppose the two are not mutually exclusive. caveat: this fire's lyrics haven't sunk in yet, so my opinion is based primarily on the music and may change. ;) (10/97, woj@smoe.org)

I thought Harbinger was a *far* better album than This Fire. I was quite disappointed with the latter. I'm not talking about her voice now, but the quality of the songs. The songs on Harbinger are so richly emotional and exquisite. Nothing on This Fire has grabbed me at all, except I think the Cowboy song is good to dance to. Your mileage may vary, I guess.
     I'm kind of disappointed in both her musical direction and the change in her image. I loved the emotional intensity of Harbinger—and although she does yell and scream on This Fire, it's just not the same. It somehow feels forced to me. Also, she seems to have changed her image to a more TV-friendly look, or something. I really liked her nerd-girl image and am sorry to see her becoming more of a "babe." Such is the requirement of fame, I guess.
     I know what you mean about teenage angst, but This Fire seems to have a lot more of that, at least to me. All that snarling and repetitive yelling. (10/97, jwermont@sonic.net)

I like much of this disc, though it's never going to be up there with my favourites. I like her passion, but her lyrics sometimes just don't match the power of her singing (like that "bitch in heat/liar" thing repeated so many times it doesn't escalate but weakens it). I still think she's got a lot of promise but she hasn't reached it yet, for me at least. (Neile)

It took me a couple of listens but after that I had this album on repeat for quite a while. Very powerful and strong, I like it better than Harbinger. (Marion)

I had this album before "cowboys" got popular, and I was wondering why it wasn't getting air play. It was so good. Intelligent lyrics, soulful singing, powerful music. And the number of instruments she plays—including piano, clarinet, and didjeridu. I love the way she uses her voice. She can go from a whisper to a scream or anything else. Definitely one of the beautiful and fierce. I'm so glad she finally got the recognition she deserves. I love love LOVE this album, and it is certainly one of the best albums of 1996, and one of my favorite albums of all time. I find Paula's vocal delivery passionate and powerful. I love the way her voice can go from a whisper to a growl in seconds. I like the three singles, but I think the unreleased songs are even better. Occasionally she overdoes it (like the grating repetition of "Getting down this" at the end of "Nietzche's Eyes") but I can easily forgive the few mistakes she makes on this album. I love Harbinger but This Fire has so much power. An incredible album. (6/99, JoAnn Whetsell)


Amen

by The Paula Cole Band

Release info:

1999—Imago/Warner—9 47490-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Paula Cole fans

Group members:

Paula Cole—piano, Juno bass, Rhodes, Rhodes bass, Moog, low-tuned electric guitar, Wurlitzer, fingersnaps, clarinet, pie plate, wah-clavinet, vocals
Jay Bellerose—drums, tambourine, toy snare, shaker, additional hi-hat, cocktail drum, udu, fingersnaps, wah drums, scrapes, creaks n'squeaks, marching bass drum, sansamp crasher (singer-drowner-outer)
Kevin Barry—electric wah, E-bow, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, Leslie electric guitar, high-strung acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, electric sitar guitar, electric baritone, Moog guitar, Fillanoma guitar, mandolin, acoustic slide

Guest artists:

Tony Levin—upright bass, electric bass, Chapman stick
Alfredo Hidrovo—bongos, shaker
Jamshied Sharifi—orchestra, strings, wind, harp arrangements and conducting, wind-driven synthesizer
Susan Jolles—harp
D.J. Premier—scratches
Greg Leisz—pedal steel
Tionne "T-boz" Watkins—final chorus, backing vocals

Produced by:

Paula Cole

Comments:

I was hesitating for some reason, even though I *love* This Fire and Harbinger. I just had a weird feeling I wouldn't like the new one. But I bought it anyway. I've only listened to it 1-1/2 times. The first time, I hated everything except the first single, "I Believe in Love," which is nice enough in a poppy sort of way. After listening to half of the album a second time, I like it better but it's just a little too safe sounding and there are no real standout tracks for me yet. The lyrics are also a little annoying. But I haven't given up hope just yet. Still, there is nothing that instantly grabs me the way the last album did. (stuart@sph.emory.edu)

I very much enjoy this album. In it Paula continues to show that she can be very good at navigating all corners of the "style" envelope. This album is a little jazz, a little rap, a little R&B, and a little Rock-n-Roll, all folded and blended neatly into an album that showcases her voice, and the multitude of instruments which the band plays. In fact, to me this album is less pop than This Fire, and more accessible than Harbinger, placing it at the top of a triad of efforts each with its own very unique flavor. While Paula's work in this album may be considered to be far apart from the latest works by, say, Happy Rhodes, it is nonetheless ecto material all the way, in my opinion. (bill@wagill.com)

God, this is a disappointment. I've only listened to it a couple of times but the only songs that have stayed with me are the soon to be megahit "I believe in love" and "Pearl". The album has none of the urgency of This Fire. The lyrics are uniformly atrocious, she's gotten all new-agey spritual/preachy like Jewel. None of the well-written confessionals from her previous work. I'll give the album another chance, but damn, this is a shame. (nnadel@hotmail.com)

Disappointment of the year. I've listened to this exactly once, and haven't cared for a repeat performance. (yawn.) (meth@smoe.org)


Postcards From East Oceanside: Greatest Hits

Release info:

2006—Warner Bros./Rhino—R2 77616

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Paula Cole—vocals, keyboards, piano, Juno, tube, Wurlitzer, harmonium, beat box, toy xylophone, didjeridu, clarinet, Juno bass, Rhodes, wah-Clavinet

Guest artists:

Kevin Barry—acoustic guitars, electric wah, acoustic, e-bow & electric guitars
Gerry Leonard—electric, acoustic, submarine, E'B3' bow, Allen & Leslie guitars; guitar on "Carmen" and "Hush, Hush, Hush"
Paul Bushnell—bass
Jay Bellerose—drums, percussion
Mark Hutchins—tambourine, hi hats, program
Greg Leisz—guitar, pedal & lap steel guitars
Tony Levin—bass, Chapman stick
Seamus Egan—Uillean pipes & whistle
Peter Gabriel—guest vocal on "Hush, Hush, Hush"
Kevin Killen—shimmer on "Hush, Hush, Hush"
Wenyi Shih—violin on "Hush, Hush, Hush"
Elizabeth Knowles—violin on "Hush, Hush, Hush"
Judith Insell—viola on "Hush, Hush, Hush"
Chase Morrison—cello on "Hush, Hush, Hush"
Seyi Sonuga—string arrangement on "Hush, Hush, Hush"
Marc Antoine—guitar on "Autumn Leaves"
Dominic Cortese—accordion on "Autumn Leaves"
Christian McBride—bass on "Autumn Leaves"
Clarence Penn—drums on "Autumn Leaves"
Alfredo Hidrovo—bongos, shaker
Susan Jolles—harp
D.J. Premier—scratches
Mark Browne—bass on "Tomorrow I Will Be Yours"
Jamshied Sharifi—orchestra arrangement and conducting on "Postcards from East Oceanside"

Produced by:

Paula Cole, Kevin Killen, Hugh Padgham, Matt Pierson, Clint Eastwood; compilation produced by Dani Barnard

Comments:

Postcards isn't really a greatest hits album as much as a recap of the first phase of Paula Cole's career in preparation for a second. Having been out of the music scene for 7 years since Amen was released (and really out of the limelight since the height of This Fire's popularity) Postcards is, I think, meant to reintroduce Cole to audiences. In this way, it succeeds. I loved her first two albums, though I never really got into Amen. But those songs sound better in the context of Cole's other albums, more in line with her sound.
     The album doesn't offer much new stuff for fans; there's the obligatory essay on Cole's music and non-album track (the forgettable "Autumn Leaves" from the Midnight in the Garden of Evil soundtrack), but it presents the songs well, and the two new songs are promising. It makes me miss her, which I think is the intent. And it makes me hopeful about the direction her music will take her next. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Courage

Release info:

2007—Decca Records—B0008292-02

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Paula Cole—vocals, handclaps, piano

Guest artists:

Dean Parks—guitars (1, 4, 7, 10); dulcimer (3)
Jay Bellerose—drums (1, 3, 5-9, 11); percussion (10)
Billy Kilson—drums (2, 4, 10)
Tony Levin—bass (2)
Steve Khan—guitar (2)
Jamshied Sharifi—keyboards (2)
Brahim Fribgane—percussion (2)
Hassan Hakmoun—sentir (2)
Jeff Lorber—keyboards (2, 5); organ (8)
Peter Bernstein—string arrangements and conducting (3, 11)
Billy Childs—piano (3, 6, 9), Rhodes (6)
Mark Goldenberg—guitar (3, 5, 6, 9, 11); keyboards (9)
David Piltch—bass (3, 5, 6)
Gina Konstadtt, Shari Zippert, Susan Chatman, David Stenske, Caroline Buckman, Edmund Stein, Janna Jacoby, Tim Christensen, Rudolph Stein, Melissa Hasin—strings (3, 11)
Herbie Hancock—piano (4)
Ian Walker—bass (4, 10)
London Session Orchestra—strings (4, 10)
Greg Leisz—pedal steel (5, 7)
Jimmy Johnson—bass (5, 8, 9, 11)
Ivan Lins—vocals (6)
David Palmer—keyboards (7, 8, 9); piano, melodica (8)
Chris Bruce—guitar (8)
Chris Botti—trumpet (9)
David Foster—piano (10)
Paul Buchanan (The Blue Nile)—vocals (11)

Produced by:

Bobby Colomby

Comments:

I got the Borders Exclusive version last week. To be honest, I need to give it more time... but my first impression was, despite some flashes of great songs here and there it's sort of bland and defiantly mid-tempo. But some of that is probably just me missing the firey, passionate Paula Cole still.
     I will go back and listen to it in some more depth, and I hope that it reveals itself a little more and there's more to hang onto it. I just felt very detached from it on first listen. (jonwesleyhuff@gmail.com)

I didn't know what to expect from Courage, given Paula's insistence that this album represents a "new" Paula Cole. The first songs I heard off the record ("Comin' Down" and "14") were promising, and those remain my favorites, maybe because they're closest in style to the "old" Paula Cole. She's said in interviews that her recent collaborations with trumpeter Chris Botti were really inspiring, so it's not surprising that many of the songs on Courage are more jazz inflected. I'm not much of a jazz fan, preferring jazz-influenced music to actual jazz. Maybe this is part of the reason I'm pretty lukewarm about much of the album. Maybe because it's quieter, sadder, but in a way that comes off (at least to me) as subdued. Fierceness and anger replaced with sadness and contemplation. I do very much like the modern standard "Lonelytown" though.
     I think, for me, there's a certain distance to the album that contributes to what I find lacking in it. Certainly, no singer is required to stay the same, and Paula is not required to write the intimate songs of her first few albums. But given all the upheaval of the eight years since her last album (marriage, divorce, motherhood, record company woes...), there's plenty of material. And she uses it; many of the songs are about heartbreak. But somehow it still feels less personal to me than her previous work; maybe because most of the songs are co-written, maybe because she plays piano on only one song.
     It's almost like she's testing the waters, not fully putting herself out there. There are some really good songs on the album, but it isn't fully there. It's still good, though, to have Paula Cole back. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Paula Cole's Courage is too lovely and tasteful, and it's too thrilling to hear her voice again, to call it a disappointment. But it certainly doesn't hit her previous highs. (timjy@sbcglobal.net)


Ithaca

Release info:

2010—Decca Records

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Comments:

Finally getting around to listening to the newest Paula Cole (Ithaca), and it's mostly great. Some of the lyrics are cringe-worthy (she spells out prenup), but that has always been an intermittent affliction of hers (seems like she's always been somewhat lacking in judgment about what to keep and what to throw away), the important thing is that the fire is back. "Elegy" sounds just like something I would have wallowed to in high school. (timjy@sbcglobal.net)

Her strongest release in years. Yeah, "P.R.E.N.U.P." is embarrassing, and "Sex" isn't much better, but the rest of the material is quite good. Paula has gone back to intimate, beautiful & fierce songwriting, singing, and playing, fueled by her divorce and highlighted by the song "Elegy." (JoAnn Whetsell)


Further info:

Paula has two songs on the out of print Imago Traveling Road Show disc. This disc contains demo versions of "Bethlehem" and "Saturn Girl" prior to the release of Harbinger.

Compilation work includes:

  • a live version of "Happy Home"* on Live from Mountain Stage, Volume 8 (1995)
  • "Autumn Leaves"* on the Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil soundtrack (1997)
  • a live version of "Mississippi"* on Lilith Fair—A Celebration of Women in Music, Volume 1 (1998)
  • Feelin' Love" on the City of Angels soundtrack (1998)
  • "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" on 1998 Grammy Nominees (1998)
  • "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? (E-Team Drugstore Cowboy Mix)"* on Digging in the Crates: 1997, Volume 1 (2007)
*Track otherwise unavailable

Collaborations include:

  • "The Last in Love" with Jules Shear on his album Between Us (1998)
  • "What'll I Do?" and "How Love Should Be" with Chris Botti on his album When I Fall in Love (2004)
  • My One and Only Love" with Chris Botti on his albums To Love Again (2005) and Chris Botti: Live with Orchestra and Special Guests (2006)
  • "The Look of Love" with Chris Botti and Burt Bacharach on the album Chris Botti: Live with Orchestra and Special Guests (2006)
  • The Very Thought of You" by Chris Botti on the album Italia (2007)
  • "God Bless the Child" with Chris Botti on the August Rush soundtrack (2007)
Paula can be heard prominently on Peter Gabriel's Secret World Live disc, and on Jamshied Sharifi's Prayer for the Soul of Layla.

She is featured in Bill Demain's book In Their Own Words: Songwriters Talk About the Creative Process (2004). Annie Lennox and Herbie Hancock's cover of Paula's song "Hush Hush Hush" (from This Fire) appears on the album Possibilities (Herbie Hancock, 2005) and the super deluxe version of The Annie Lennox Collection (Annie Lennox, 2009).


Thanks to Neal Copperman, Bill Gill, and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2015-05-06 20:05:41.
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