Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Getting Personal: Lisa Marie Presley’s Storm & Grace

Storm & Grace (Universal, 2012) is Lisa Marie Presley’s third album and her first in seven years. At age 44, she seems to be coming to terms with her illustrious father and the weight of perpetual celebrity that was foisted upon her from the time she was born. Common fodder with the tabloids, Presley also seems to be coming to terms with her past, or at least, appears to be in the process of doing so. Thanks to the earthy tones surrounding the songs, led by producer T-Bone Burnett, Storm & Grace weighs heavy on the ears. The solid, upright bass of Dennis Crouch is right up front pulsing every musical nuance while driving the songs forward. Presley seems to be able to bear a heavy load and open up about her past. Music as therapy? Indeed.
Considering the very public life Lisa Marie Presley has lived, it's very difficult to consider her music on its own terms. For Storm & Grace is a very personal record; one that offers us some insight into the singer that no tabloid could ever express. It's an unforced album to be sure, but one that is quietly passionate and easy to access. Her singing is actually quite restrained where she uses a limited range of notes within a song. This selective phrasing is best heard on "Heartless," one of many confessionals heard on the album. "How Do You Fly this Plane?" offers the best example of her inner, emotional struggles ("If words could make it better, I'd say them everyday. I'd flash bright lights upon them and neon lights that say, You can live, You will be okay..."). It's one of the more emotionally rich cuts on the album, and tastefully arranged by Burnett.

The most up-tempo selection on the record is "So Long" supposedly a kiss-off song to the Church of Scientology. If that's the case, Presley holds nothing back: "Churches they don't have a soul...religion so corrupt and running lives...I can't say I'll miss you in the end." The most revealing lyric on the album is found on a song called, "Un-Break." Presley gets right to the point: "I've got run over by my own parade. I've suffocated in the beds I've made. I've cut my feet on all the glass that I break, still trying to find a way to get what's broken to un-break."

I understand that Presley is living on a large estate in England giving her and her family some important geographic distance from the superficial culture of L.A. Two years in the making, Presley spent most of that time writing for an album that became Storm & Grace. Judging from the results, it was time well spent.

John Corcelli is a musician and broadcaster. He's currently working on a radio documentary, with Kevin Courrier, for CBC Radio's Inside the Music called The Other Me: The Avant-Garde Music of Paul McCartney.

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