Coming from a gal originally inspired by the burgeoning LA punk scene of the late ’70s, this collection of live Eleni Mandell recordings is a priceless trove of timeless gems. Stripped to bare elegance – just Eleni’s voice, clear and piercing with suggestive vulnerability, accompanied by guitar strums and Ryan Feves in support on easy-rolling bass – the tracks emphasize Mandell’s unfailingly golden vocals, which shine, regardless of the arena.
A certifiable genre-hopper, Eleni Mandell has pulled off everything from punk-rock to country…and now this: from her new album, Artificial Fire, Eleni gives us enchantingly unselfconscious tales of romance that echo innocence and the purity of untainted teen longing.
Mandell’s not in a hurry to impress us. She takes her time – which is part of what strikes her buttery allure. Her pretty voice and near-indifferent presence deliver languid yearning and reflection.
With the exception of God is Love, a repetitious, trippidelic Joan Baez-like spiritual revival, the songs quietly embody pristine, larger-than-life qualities. They place you, at times, on the bigscreen with Annette and Frankie, in a time and era when adolescent crush struck pure awe and wonder. They divulge feelings related to what might be love and they explore, from a few different, very personal angles, what love could be.
Listening to these tracks flowers visions of accidentally stumbling into Eleni’s private life as a musical production. You can easily see her in a ranch style home singing these songs to herself, just as surely as you’d find Mitzi Gaynor washing that man right out of her hair on a tropical island.
Bigger Burn conjures Sandra Dee (before she went with the Greasers) and simple, exciting rock’n'roll ala Buddy Holly.
It Wasn’t the Time, It Was the Color has me listening over and over. Mandell’s performance, always mesmerizing, beckons total sensory immersion in the flow of a plump story of underanged pubescent desire and the awkwardness of being. Lines like, “He kissed me that day by the pizza place,” command empathy and emphasize Eleni’s knack for compelling writing.
Mandell’s luscious, lilting voice will leave you hanging for every word in Personal - an inviting self-narrative that ends in a puddle of hopeful, childlike desire.
A tempered Four Seasons-ish guitar riff stretches through Just Friends like a gentle breeze while Eleni, on the imaginary set, sits on a stoop with a chiffon scarf wrapped around her neck, cooing a starry-eyed love song.
If you enjoy simple beauty or just hanker to connect with your idealistic inner teenager, download these songs and sing them to yourself.
Listen to the tracks (option/click to download):