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Nan Vernon


Country of origin:

Born in Canada and has lived in both the U.S. and England

Type of music generally:

Mainstream pop/alternapop

Status:

Most recent release, Manta Ray (1994)

See also:

The Land of Manta Ray, a fan page

Comparisons:

Sarah McLachlan, Kate Bush, Margot Smith, Tori Amos

Covers/own material:

Mostly own, but frequently co-writes songs, occasional covers

General comments:

I think Nan Vernon is absolutely the best new artist since Sarah McLachlan. Sorry folks; as much as I enjoy Jewel Kilcher's music, I have to say that Nan Vernon's musical impression and lulling quality is markedly more inspiring. Intelligently well-written lyrics and a stunningly powerful, yet gentle voice create a very pleasant, harmonious, and tantalizing music of exquisite texture.
     I was all-encompassingly impressed by Manta Ray after the first few songs and the rest of the album kept me enthralled throughout. I've only come across a very small handful of artists (Sarah McLachlan being one of them) whom I can boast the same about. I like to consider Nan Vernon's music as emotionally charged as Sarah McLachlan's music, but with a slightly different feel; while Sarah's music can be draining, Nan's is energizing. Both may take you on a magical trip of ecstasy, leaving you on an intangible plane of sheer indulgence. (eabu499@ea.oac.uci.edu)

i think she sounds like Kate Bush, and thus like Tori Amos when Tori is trying to sound like Kate.... ;) which means: contrasting breathy whispers with desperate, oddly tentative wails (which means lots of compression), lots of vibrato on the quiet bits (a classic Kate technique, and opposite the usual tendency to put vibrato on the louder extended notes. also takes some real singing chops...), and a faked british accent (well, not faked in Kate's case, but in Tori's and Nan's...). Toss in the nautically Ninth-Wavy [referring to the second half of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love] bits of "Fisherman" and "Manta Ray", and, well, there it is. (bossert@suddensound.com)

I purchased Manta Ray when it first came out mainly because I had collected Eurythmics since the early '80s. I knew she'd played with Dave Stewart and the Spiritual Cowboys, so I took a chance on her cd. It was interesting enough and I really didn't think it compared at all to Tori Amos, Happy, Sarah McLachlan, etc. To me, it has a bit more of a pop sound than the above. I even managed to pick up 2 UK cd singles to accompany Manta Ray, one of which includes an interesting cover of the Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday." (LynnGarret@aol.com)

Recommended first album:

Manta Ray only album to date

Recordings:

Manta Ray

Manta Ray

Release info:

1994—East/West (Warner)—61763-2

Availability:

Wide on release

Ecto priority:

Recommended for pop fans

Group members:

Nan Vernon—vocals, guitar, spacey strings, harmonium, casio, piano

Guest artists:

B.B. Watkins—guitar, crazy lead guitar
Andy Ross—guitar
Chris Sheehan—guitar
Jimmy Taylor—guitar
Neil Taylor—guitar
Nick Pyall—guitar, atmosphere, programming, bass
Matthew Seligman—moog, bass, weather
Alex Gifford—sax
Jonathan Perkins—piano, organ, keyboards, casio, backing vocals, special effects
Martin Chambers—drums, backing vocals, percussion
John Reynolds—drum programming
Olle Romo—keyboards, drum programming, backing vocals
Darren Galea—drum programming
Chris Bell—drums, percussion
Ian Stanley—sound effects, additional programming, keyboards, programming
James Hallawell—keyboards, slide guitar, atmosphere, strings, sound effects
Simon Stewart—slide guitar
Max Pickard—bass
Stefan Raoul—drums
Andy Wright—additional keyboards, programming
Nick Hunt—drum programming, keyboards, backing vocals

Produced by:

B.B. Watkins, Nan Vernon, Olle Romo, Ian Stanley, Jonathan Perkins, Phill Brown, Chris Sheehan, Clive Martin, Matthew Seligman

Comments:

strange, moody pop—the quirky funky feel does recall Sarah McLachlan's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. but Nan's voice reminds me of no other than (please, goddess, don't let them hurt me!) Kate Bush, from The Sensual World or so: a wavering low soprano with an eerie gaspy edge and great control of her vibrato at low volumes. i am sitting here going in loops over this. anyway, um, don't hurt me, but i think it's farking brilliant.
     over the last few weeks i've been listening to a lot of descended-from-Kate-Bush style albums (i.e. grand production, dramatic presentation, use of odd musical techniques without sounding 'progressive', use of odd musical instruments without sounding 'world beat'). i'd put Manta Ray firmly in this category, and one of my favorites among recent releases.
     i still think she (Nan) sounds like Kate Bush, and thus like Tori Amos when Tori is trying to sound like Kate... ;) which means: contrasting breathy whispers with desperate, oddly tentative wails (which means lots of compression), lots of vibrato on the quiet bits (a classic Kate technique, and opposite the usual tendency to put vibrato on the louder extended notes. also takes some real singing chops...), and a faked british accent (well, not faked in Kate BushTori's and Nan's...). Toss in the nautically Ninth-Wavy bits of "Fisherman" and "Manta Ray", and, well, there it is. (bossert@suddensound.com)

The album starts off on a slow note, nothing special, but it improves greatly after the first two songs or so. I don't think it's as brilliant as others do, nor do I think she sounds *anything* like Kate Bush (if anything, I'd say she sounds like Margot Smith). It's an interesting album, but overall I don't know what it is, but I just don't like it. I remain puzzled at the large number of ectophiles who have gone nuts over it. It's okay, but hasn't inspired me to listen to it since a few days after we got it. (meth@smoe.org)

A big Big BIG Thank You to the gentlefolk who recommended Nan Vernon's Manta Ray. Two words: ding ding! The first track seemed kind of conventional, but the weird-o-meter kept getting fuzzier and fuzzier.... The cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" works, which was a major surprise. It's updated just *enough* from the original to give it some fresh air, without trying to redirect it. Fantastic! I'm planning to spend an evening under headphones this week, so I can pay as much attention to Manta Ray as it deserves. *This* is why I read Ecto (after Happy news, of course). (mjstevens@mindspring.com)

I personally wouldn't call it outstanding, but so far I've found it interesting and at least solid, and I think it could still grow on me more. I also think some on this group would really like it. She has a sweet voice, the CD is mid-tempo and moody, with extensive vocal harmony, keyboards and drum machine á la Sarah McLachlan. The songs on the album are all originals with the exception of a very good cover of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." (carnivore@bigfoot.com)

For a debut album to be as good as Manta Ray there must have been more than a little talent and an abundance of genius engineering. Nan Vernon worked with talented musicians such as Matthew Seligman, Jonathan Perkins, and James Hallawell to build the music for the lyrics she had created. All of the lyrics are hers except for those on "Tattoo Tears," in which Dave Stewart (former half of Eurythmics) wrote the lyrics.
     If there is any new musician worth chancing on, it is definitely Nan Vernon. Take my word for it, it's a great album and well worth getting. I must've listened to it at least a half a dozen times the first night I got it. There are very few CDs I'd recommend as strongly as Manta Ray. Yes, it is one of those "MUST BUY" albums!
     Lots more can be said, but I'll refrain, so that you can discover the intricacies of her music for yourself.
     I tried to find a few tracks that I'd especially mention atop of the others, but I find that task too difficult since the whole album is just amazing. It is solid from beginning to end. (eabu499@ea.oac.uci.edu)

Good happy music. The first song is great. Nice, quick and "bouncy". Her voice has a lot of training. Not as great as a range as Happy Rhodes's—or Kate Bush's—but she does really well. Past posts referred to Kate and Sarah McLachlan. She doesn't sound like any of them—well, maybe a little like "early" Kate—but there is a larger Kate-ness. Her vocal arrangements are very Kate-like. Different ranges coming in and out, excellent harmony, and an occasional "ohh-ohh". Quite nice. The only Sarah-ness I can fathom is with the "upbeat"-ness. This is a CD that will make one happy. I don't have a favorite song yet but I'm not sure if I will. Granted, "motorcycle" is very upbeat, "bouncy", and rhythmic, but time will tell if I decide to make this my favorite. This is definitely a good disc.
     However, the more I listen to it, the less I like it. Part of the problem with this one, though, is that when I first got it I listened to it so much, I think I got myself sick of it. Maybe after I let it sit and collect dust for awhile, it will move towards the top again. (Matt.Bittner)

After seeing all the great reviews, I picked up Manta Ray...at first I was really bothered by the mediocre (in my opinion) lyrics (anyone else have this problem?), but as soon as Nan's voice and music hit me, I was sold! Her stylistic range is very impressive...I also loved the George Harrison cover. (cmont@rci.rutgers.edu)

Dreamy, well-orchestrated, good intensity. Listen to the song "Fisherman" and tell me this is not a dead-ringer for Tori Amos. (mjmjminla@yahoo.com)

one song does not a fair comparison make, though i grant you that she does sing like tori amos on this song. she doesn't have the same, um, oomph that tori has though.
     just noticed that matthew seligman—bassist extraordinaire—is all over this record. he also played on a couple songs from little earthquakes.
     unfortunately, neither point means that i dislike this album any less that i already do. manta ray didn't jump out at me on the first listen, but it has found its way into the disc player a couple more times. (woj@smoe.org)

I wish someone had warned me that Nan Vernon's lyrics are so mediocre; I'd've never bought the album. I never listen to it. There's something about Nan Vernon's work that seriously irritates me. Which is a shame, but I tend to be kind of picky. (nyxnight@aol.com)

A must, in my opinion, for all Ectophiles. I'm *damned* impressed! Who *is* this woman? Any accolades though, aren't anywhere *near* strong enough. This is *GREAT*! (vickie@enteract.com)

This is one of those albums that frequently get a split vote on ecto. Some people really like it while others found it too pop. I myself am split on it—I like some of the songs but could easily skip other parts of the album, and in fact usually do—it doesn't get much play at my house. In all honesty the last time I played it, it was to decide whether to sell it or not. I decided not to, but it was touch and go for a while. I think I like the end of the album better than the beginning. (Neile)

I purchased Manta Ray when it first came out mainly because I had collected Eurythmics since the early 80's. I knew she played with Dave Stewart and the Spirtual Cowboys, so I took a chance on her cd. It was interesting enough and I really didn't think it compared at all to Tori, Happy, Sarah, etc. To me, it has a bit more of a pop sound than the above. I even managed to pick up 2 UK cd singles to accompany Manta Ray. She covers Ruby Tuesday (written by Jagger and Richards) on one of the singles in case that info is of interest. (LynnGarret@aol.com)


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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2007-11-21 21:32:12.
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