Unlike her fellow Jersey rebel, Bruce Springsteen, Phoebe Snow connected directly with her audience the first time out. Her debut recording received almost no advertising and publicity, yet it climbed, slowly but inexorably, into the Top Ten. And unlike Patti Smith, the other Jersey-bred new star of the last Jersey-dominated year, Snow made her mark without having to perform for a cult audience. In fact, she hardly performed at all. She dropped from sight after a short tour with Jackson Browne and then, while Columbia fought with Shelter, her... Read More
first record company, for exclusive rights to her future, she got married, got pregnant, had a baby and wrote most of the original songs on Second Childhood.
Will the record buyers who made Phoebe Snow a gold album, and who presumably liked its descriptions of adolescent insecurity and suburban nightmares, respond with equal enthusiasm to a more mature, less neurotic Phoebe Snow? It's almost as if the two Snows, before and after, were two different people, and the difference is reflected in the music. The first album is sparejust Snow's guitar, rhythm instruments, occasional organ and elegant obbligatos by jazzmen Zoot Sims and Teddy Wilson. Phil Ramone, who engineered the LP and was de facto producer of at least some of it, has pulled out the stops on Second Childhood, giving it a glossy patina, a full complement of session players, strings and brass. Snow's voice, with its remarkable immediacy, liquidity and control, dominated the first album. The second is more of a piece; the voice blends with Pat Williams's orchestrations into a more coherent if less striking whole.
The change is startling, but no less so than the changes in Snow's life, from unhappy suburban hopeful to pop star, bitter adolescent to wife and mother. Predictably, she has been wondering how these extraordinarily rapid transitions are going to affect her creativityeven wondering aloud, in one of the LP's most personal songs. "Inspired Insanity" is a conundrum, asking a new question for every old one it answers. The muse, half-personified, half-idealized as the inspired insanity of the title, is invited to "help yourself to my new clothes/Borrow some of my daydreams, too," to "come visit me." It changes form, from a voice on the telephone to the face in the mirror, and Snow sings sirenlike to lure it back, then shrugs her shoulders and admits, "You ain't talked to me of late/But don't you worry, I can wait again."
Inviting the crazier side of yourself to drop in and disturb your hard-won new normalcy would seem to be a difficult songwriting method at best, but apparently Snow hasn't found a better way to make something positive out of her past and present preoccupations. The most convincing and memorable of her latest batch of love songs is about the vain hope that a moment of ecstasy will last forever: "All over, all over, I hope this will never be all over." "Sweet Disposition" i