Smoke & Mirrors - 2004

Rating: **
Best songs: Stick to You, For You
Worst songs: Private Gates, Many a Time


Singer/songwriter Jana (she's just got the one name) has a nice voice and some decent songs, but ultimately this album's success is hindered by the sterile adult-contemporary production values furnished by Jeff Tweeter. Problem one with the production is the vocals: they're always buried in the mix or double-tracked or otherwise obscured. They're never presented clearly, and a lot of the songs suffer accordingly. Problem two is the arrangements: I have nothing against synthesizers, but I don't think they should be used to simulate real instruments. The most notable example is "Private Gates", which would be an enjoyable slow bluesy number if those blaring synth horns weren't in the mix.

This isn't to say the album's a total loss, of course: "Stick to You" is a slow number that (despite more synth horns) cooks a good groove, "To Know" is a stately acoustic guitar-driven song, and the lite jazz "For You" is a pleasantly atmospheric opener. Finally, Jana takes matters into her own hands and does the keyboard work on the low-key "Darn Right", a welcome change from the rest of the record's production.

Overall, this album is kind of disappointing, but then, I didn't like Relayer either, and I seem to be the only person who holds that opinion.

To buy Jana's album, have a look at Maple Island Records.

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