I would give anything to you if you held out your hand
ue clichéd opening sentence.)
Once in a blue moon, an album arrives on the shelves that literally defies all categorization. I genuinely prize such works when they come my way. Most often I have found that these albums are produced by those of the female persuasion. Such items that come to mind are Area’s Fragments of the Morning and Milla’s The Divine Comedy. Well it’s time for another spectacular addition to the list. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Patti Rothberg’s Candelabra Cadabra.
You may recall that Rothberg had a debut on the EMI America label back in 1996 called Between the 1 and 9 that received numerous raves. Unfortunately, Patti’s big label folded shortly after her release, leaving her to her own devices for a short time. Now she’s back on Cropduster (home of True Love) with a new set of material that for all intents and purposes is strictly magical. And that’s not really an adjective that I’d ever dreamed of using in a record review before now.
Hearing Rothberg’s music is like opening a giant story book filled with enormous, colorful illustrations and diving in head first. Or maybe it’s like an old lost book of spells that is at once enchanting and ominous. Either way, this is the stuff dreams are made of. The dreams you have when you’re deep asleep in the dark late at night. The dreams that sparkle and fade, gently pulling you awake in the morning. With Patti, everything is very grand. She paints minutiae with wide brush strokes that color your own imagination and keep you seeking more within her melodies.
Opening with the outstanding “Nothing I Can Say”, with its powerful and crunchy guitars and hand claps, Candelabra Cadabra begins its journey on a somewhat familiar love-inspired tale. But from there, things turn a bit strange. The title track is downright spellbinding with its otherworldly flavors and heightened sense of drama, and in “Delicate Matters” Rothberg pays tribute to the Doors via “The End”. But where Jim Morrison always had to push things over with his bravado and ultimately send his band into faux and often embarrassing noir territory, Patti’s chorus for the song manages to scale even higher mountains than the ones created by the already lofty verses. It’s intense and strangely beautiful.
Eastern influences paint the travelogue from the pillow, “Shadows of Me”, and in “You Killed My Time” Rothberg sits quietly with her guitar, finally bringing the larger-than-life atmosphere of the album down to earth. But just as she does that, she splits the sky wide open with her coda that sends shimmering waves of electric guitars over the listener, bathing the eardrums once again with her stylized psychedelia. Where does this stuff come from? How can mere words do it justice?
“Preyed Upon” is so adamantly intense that its grandeur almost swallows it up. “Eggshells” defies lyrical convention with its odd array of storytelling and details. I get images of the movie Blow-Up in my head when I hear it, if that tells you anything. But the most precious gem Rothberg offers here is undoubtedly “To a Muse”. If ever there was a great lost power pop/new wave tune, then this is it. Filled with ungodly amazing hooks, Patti’s beautiful voice and even some funky Moog lines, “To a Muse” is worth the price of admission alone. You miss out on this one song, I guarantee you’ve missed out on one of the best songs that are going to be released this year. And if that’s not enough, then dig the funky pumps of “Dish It Out”, which sounds more than radio ready.
I can’t give all of the fantastic tales of Candelabra Cadabra away. So I will leave it up to you to seek Patti Rothberg out and immerse yourself in the final tracks of the album (“Moonage Daydream,” “Suffocator”, “The Late Late Show”, and “Wry It Girl”). This album is already tagged for inclusion on my Best of 2001 list, so great it is that I am often rendered speechless after hearing it. Amazing that I managed to get this much out about it already. Thank Cropduster for giving us another amazing album. Thank Patti Rothberg for being so amazingly talented. Forget Tori Amos and her faerie land. Rothberg is the real deal.