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Gather Me
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  • After the release of The Good Book in early 1971, Melanie Safka and her producer (and then husband) Peter Schekeryk left Buddah Records to form their own label, Neighborhood Records, and the new freedom seemed to do her a world of good -- Gather Me, released later the same year, is one of her most accomplished and confident albums, a set that allowed Melanie the room to indulge her lyrical obsessions while Schekeryk created superb musical accompaniment from her simple but forceful melodies. The epochal "Ring the Living Bell" is a pocket suite that takes a skeletal lyrical conceit and gives it flight through sheer belief while Schekeryk's arrangement, reinforced with gospel style vocal backing, makes this accomplishment all the more impressive. "Railroad," "Little Bit of Me," and "Steppin'" display a lyrical maturity and subtle strength that marked a real step forward for Melanie as a songwriter, and "Some Say (I Got Devil)" is an emotionally devastating tale of a pregnant teenager who clearly has no idea what she should do. Melanie's habit of overplaying her hand as a vocalist is thankfully in retreat on Gather Me, which finds her in full control of her instrument and communicating a wide palette of emotions without becoming melodramatic. And if "Brand New Key" comes across like a silly novelty tune in this context, it's a playful and engaging one, and Melanie sounds like she's having fun putting Freudian symbolism within the grasp of AM radio. Gather Me may well be Melanie's finest album, capturing her at the height of her skills as a writer and singer, and it has stood the test of time better than the majority of her work. ~ Mark Deming
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