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Regina Spektor

Female folk singer-songwriters that played piano as their primary or secondary instrument were few and far between (one can only think of JANIS IAN or JONI MITCHELL off-hand and one can’t count in CAROLE KING), but Russian REGINA SPEKTOR was firmly planted in the anti-folk movement. Born February 19, 1980 in Moscow, her life from the age of nine was turned upside down when she emigrated with her Jewish family to The Bronx, NY. Although for the most part fitted in to the East Coast American culture, Regina’s first love was the classical piano, which she eventually mastered at the SUNY Purchase Music Conservatory.
Inspired by blues, jazz and folk artists including Billie Holiday, JONI MITCHELL and FIONA APPLE, there was plenty of promise on two of her earliest self-financed works 11:11 (2001) {*6} and SONGS (2002) {*6}. SPEKTOR’s first big break came when THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS drummer Alan Bezozi passed on her material to STROKES producer Gordon Raphael, who, with Alan in tow, worked on her third set SOVIET KITSCH (2004) {*7}, an inspired record that found a wider global audience when it was taken under the corporate umbrella of Sire Records. While her contemporary AMY WINEHOUSE was making her charge (albeit critically at this stage), so too was Regina; songs such as the punk-y `Your Honor’ (featuring Brit band Kill Kenada), `The Flowers’, `Ode To Divorce’ and `Somedays’ found favour with a new generation of disaffected folk fans.
Follow-up proper BEGIN TO HOPE (2006) {*8} took her into the mainstream (and charts), the glossy theatrical lean was at its most whimsical and quirky on `Fidelity’ (a minor US hit), one-that-got-away `On The Radio’ and `Better’. But where or where was the folk music element?
Just when one was beginning to think she was taking a WINEHOUSE sabbatical (no offence intended), Regina returned with a vengeance on her third Sire album, the over-polished but Top 3 career-best FAR (2009) {*6}; her LIVE IN LONDON (2010) {*7} – recorded at London’s Hammersmith Apollo – was much more representative of her, er… “Soviet Kitsch”.
Album number six, WHAT WE SAW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS (2012) {*7}, once again drew on her incandescent frivolities, while her cocky quirkiness recalled the likes of RANDY NEWMAN or NILSSON. The fact that she interpolated a reinterpretation of a NINA SIMONE nugget, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, on her own `Oh Marcello’, proved she could rally withy past and present; `Ballad Of A Politician’, `Firewood’ and opener `Small Town Moon’, were trademark Regina at her most playful.
Four years in the making; probably down to the fact she’d married ONLY SON’s Jack Dishel in 2011, her fleeting hiatus was overturned by REMEMBER US TO LIFE (2016) {*7}. A modern-day LAURA NYRO and swathed with orchestral backing, there was a sense of flamboyancy and quirky theatrics; songs such as `Bleeding Heart’, `Sellers Of Flowers’, `Older And Taller’ and hip hop ballad `Small Bill$’ were all but made for some fantastical off-Broadway adaptation. More so, the darker `The Trapper And The Furrier’. Her growing legions of fans will love her tall tales of the supernatural and the distant past, while greenhorns to her strange and intimate imagination (example: Obsolete’ and `The Light’) might take longer and repeated listening to this fulfilling work.
MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Mar2013-Oct2016

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