Great Expectations

Tasmin Archer

SBK Records, 1993

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Tasmin Archer's 1992 debut was prophetically named. The first release from this British artist was accompanied with huge hoopla, as EMI Records thought they had a pop cash cow on their hands. It is true, Great Expectations went platinum, the single "Sleeping Satellite" became a number one hit in six countries, and Archer recieved the 1993 BRIT award for Best New British Artist. The hype paid off, and if EMI dropped her after her second full-length CD, Bloom, in 1996, well...they'd gotten the press out of her, right?

(Anyone who noticed a parallel to our earlier October Project review, raise your hands. Yes, right, good. Now, shall we move on?)

Archer is in many ways a female Seal. Both are English, both share the experience of being a minority in Great Britain, both are shy of the spotlight in many ways, and both have their own unique, haunting voice. In Archer's case, it's a rolling, cream-over-gravel alto that's too large for her small frame, more the voice of a jazz impresario or blues diva than a pop singer. It's easily the best thing about her; it growls at times like a hunting cat, arches like water, and scalds scathingly when there's anger in it. Archer's emotions can be read in her music, transparent as glass; when she loves, she loves, and when she's bitter, she's bitter. Seal managed to get himself on a my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Batman soundtrack (and I'm not cutting down Seal; I love his work as well). Archer is still looking.

So, all the hype aside, is Great Expectations a good CD? The answer is yes; it's not brilliant; we may have to wait to see if that ever comes out of Archer, but it's good. Archer's greatest weakness seems to be her song choices; despite her writing her own material with partners John Hughes and John Beck, only about half her songs really reach out and grab you by the throat, forcing you to listen. "Sleeping Satellite" is one of them; so are "Lords Of The New Church", "The Higher You Climb", and "Halfway To Heaven".

The haunting, frightening "In Your Care", about child abuse, chills deeply, and the fire of "Somebody's Daughter" is a bright contrast. However, songs like "Arienne" and "Steeltown" fall flat; there is insufficient depth to them, insufficient complexity, and the lyrics fall short, simplistic and dull. And while the subject itself is utterly serious and worth listening to, "Ripped Inside", about rape and sexual abuse, is too nakedly painful, too imminent a subject perhaps for Archer to tackle.

Archer is supposedly working on a new CD, though I don't know what label she's writing for. I really hope she is; there's too much good in her voice and her talent to let slide. I'd also like to hear her 1996 CD, if it ever gets an American release. But as a body of work, Great Expectations leaves a bit to be desired. Let's hope that it isn't the only release, but the first of a long and creative career.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of SBK Records, and is used for informational purposes only.