Savoy – Mary Is Coming

   1996 Warner Bros.

Gotta give my ex-wife credit for introducing me to this gem, she being the eternal a-Ha fan.  Yes, a-Ha…forever remembered for the at-the-time groundbreaking video for “Take On Me.”  Truth be told, the guys in a-Ha were quite the talented lot though their albums tend to be very uneven.

I have to think that this at-the-time uncool 80’s connection is part of the reason Warner Bros. didn’t give this album the promotional push it deserved to become a massive hit in the wide-open alternative climate of the mid-90’s.  For the music itself is not at all what you would expect, given that this is the work of a-Ha member Pal Waaktaar.

The overall mood of the disc is brooding and melancholy, even the more light-hearted moments saturated with Waaktaar’s wistful, longing vocals.  Don’t even look for poppy keyboards (or, really, ANY keyboards) as this is very much a guitar album.  Simply put, it’s great.

“Daylight’s Wasting” is probably my favorite track here, but even though it’s the leadoff track there’s no real letdown as the disc plays on.  “Tears From A Stone,” “Velvet,” “Underground” and the title track salt the disc with memorable high points and there’s a real intimacy to all of the songs brought to the fore by the clear, yet just-garagey-enough production.

I’m not normally drawn into this kind of music that seems to live and breathe melancholy, but the dominance of guitar really caught my attention and the songs here are just so good!  It really sounds like the work of a really good songwriter who had time to play around in his basement studio in between doses of Prozac.

Rating:  4 out of 5