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Over time most people’s flaws do not magically go away. In life everybody tends to play to their strengths and try and downplay or ignore their weaknesses, but of course that only ensures the majority of society never improves all that much.

Ideally everybody should be brutally honest with themselves, able to look in the mirror and objectively assess their shortcomings and rather than make excuses for these faults they should instead look to eliminate them over time.

Failing that someone close to them has to be the one to gently point these things out, praising other attributes they have while suggesting ways to better themselves through hard work and discipline.

Unfortunately few people feel secure enough in their relationship to the person in question to take it upon themselves to do so, even when – as with Savoy Records whose job it was to get the best performances out of their artists – they were costing themselves potential hits by avoiding broaching the subject when it came to Linda Hopkins tendency to oversing everything.


Seems The World Is Down On Me
Because we’ll be meeting many artists dozens of times over the years it stands to reason that we’d like to be able to shift our focus slightly with each review.

Obviously each new song presents a different subject, but ideally there should be other aspects of every record – or at least every recording session – to talk about. New sidemen, a different songwriter or producer or record label that give us something new to consider. If all else fails there’s always the surrounding landscape in rock at any given time and how the artist is adapting to fit into it with the inevitable changes in the market.

But with Linda Hopkins we’re stuck talking about the one overriding attribute all of her releases share, something that is technically impressive but has the potential to leave discerning listeners cold.

Determined above all else to be revered for her chrome plated vocal pipes, Hopkins sang each line of every song as if trying to be heard three continents away. Naturally this did not do most songs a lot of good, robbing them of emotional depth, destroying the sonic balance and allowing herself to be pegged as a grandstanding showman of the highest order. It’s been her Achilles heel each time out.

Here on Sad And Lonely she tries her best to modulate her attack, working hard to build gradually so the climax will be all the more impressive, but once again when that red light is on in the studio she just can’t help herself and as a result it’s not long before she’s out of control again.

We can fault her all we want – and we have and will continue to do so until she quiets down – but surely somebody in the control booth who had cotton stuffed in their ears and was grabbing fistfuls of aspirin to ward off the headache brought about by her wailing banshee routine has to take some of the blame for not insisting she do re-take after re-take until she learns the value of moderation.


You Better Watch Your Step
This starts of well… not to mention fairly interesting… and mercifully restrained.

The trombone of bandleader Ray Preasley is not a sound heard so upfront very often and surrounded by the other horns gives this a slightly New Orleans feel, but while it’s hardly an invigorating introduction, there’s a certain leisurely elegance to it that is charming.

Of course all of that could be flipped on its head the second Linda Hopkins comes in, determined to upstage them, but thankfully she has dialed things down comparatively speaking… at least to start with.

Now that doesn’t mean she’s not trying to figure out OTHER ways to turn your head, starting with the wavering note she holds to the breaking point during the first line of Sad And Lonely, but at least that’s done at something less than full volume for a change.

But fear not all of you out there who use Hopkins’ records to test your hearing aid batteries, for the next line finds her soaring once again even though she puts a cap on it so she can draw out the next words in a fashion similar to the one she began with.

And so it goes.

Is any of this necessary to put this story over? No, of course not, but at least in this case her emotional swings are tangibly connected to the words she wrote, even if she’s already at risk for exaggerating them beyond our ability to tolerate such effects.

Still, if she IS going to remind us of her golden vocal chords there are worse ways to do so than what she shows here, as the rise and fall at least gives us extended passages when we can appreciate the “fall” while bracing ourselves for the next rising.

Once again the biggest victim in her performance Hopkins the songwriter, for while this composition is relatively simplistic the words she came up with would connect better if she’d show more restraint.

Did I say “words she wrote”? Well, I should add an addendum to it to inform you that this applies for “WHEN she wrote words”, because at one point she moans in tune for the longest stretch, another example of her being so desperate for attention that she’s now searching for what else what might impress you.

Okay, so it IS fairly impressive, but it’s also a little artificial because we know her modus operandi too well by now and when she does this routine rather than allow those horns to get their own standalone moment, we can’t help but shake our heads in frustration.

When she comes exploding out of that passage we’re ready for it and while she does handle it with a fair amount of grace, the reaction she’s looking for – and may even earn if you were judging this strictly by her ability to hit and hold notes – is not going to be forthcoming.

Better than the top side for sure, but still not all it could be if she’d just learn some self-control.


Didn’t Even Tell Me The Reason Why… Well Let’s Change That
Whenever someone cries out “Look at me”, society has a tendency to look away instead.

People better appreciate things that seem to catch them off guard. The natural expressions of joy and pain move us, while the stilted declarations of being Sad And Lonely leave us unmoved.

But with each new record it’s becoming clear that Linda Hopkins just can’t help herself. Unlike singers who receive applause with a barely discernable smile or nod of the head, Hopkins is constantly in search of a standing ovation for merely stepping to the microphone.

Maybe your tolerance for this kind of thing depends on your past history with Hopkins. If this was your first time encountering her, the technical bravado might be enough… it may even be more than enough and will have you raving about her skills.

But when you’ve been asked to come to your feet for her time and time again you become a little bit weary of the routine. There’s absolutely no question she’s got great voice but she remains a subpar singer who can’t seem to understand it’s not always how powerful the car’s engine is that matters most, but rather how it handles.

Until she figures this part out it’ll always be a bumpy ride.


(Visit the Artist page of Linda Hopkins for the complete archive of he records reviewed to date)