Carol Kleyn - "Blackbird" (Love Has Made Me Stronger)
She’s pretty, she lives west of the continental divide, her voice maneuvers comfortably in pitches your dog will notice before you do, and she records for Drag City. No, she’s not Joanna Newsom; we’re talking about Carol Kleyn. Between the late ’60s and early ’80s, Kleyn was a flower child who played more Renaissance faires than rock stages. Although she secured an opening spot on a Gregg Allman solo tour and had the sponsorship of an enthusiastic doctor who introduced her to Irving Azoff, Liza Minelli, and Phil Spector, Kleyn never secured a record deal. So, she recorded some songs and pressed up three LPs herself, of which Love Has Made Me Stronger is the first. Thirty-five years after its first release, it joins Drag City’s growing shelf of exhumed private-press folk records.
Just what Ms. Kleyn thinks of sharing a label with Crisis Of Conformity, The Fucking Champs, and Venom P. Stinger remains a matter of conjecture, but it’s safe to say she’s made of different stuff. This is very much a record of its time and place; put plainly, it’s a total hippy trip. Kleyn sings with total sincerity about a blackbird singing a love song to the world, and does so whilst slinging her voice around with such unabashed feyness that she makes the young Kate Bush sound badass by comparison. “Mountain Child” is a back-to-nature ode of similar earnestness, with a rolling grand piano figure and vocal as light and frothy as white water glimpsed through a tent flap. Are you man enough to savor a celebration of butterflies? Here’s your chance to prove it.
But don’t equate this music’s softness with weakness. Kleyn’s singing has a sing-along-leading heartiness that betrays a lot of experience getting peoples’ attention in parking lots, and a surety of pitch that most people rely on computers to achieve nowadays; if she’d gotten the right break, she could well have had an LP on Asylum and a down payment on a Laurel Canyon pad. But more resources would not have made Love Has Made Me Stronger any better. Kleyn sounds just fine accompanying herself with adept piano and efflorescent harp flourishes, her music FX-free except for a little echo, and I can imagine a less skyclad presentation simply gumming things up with New Age goo. Sometimes you want black coffee, sometimes you want neat whiskey; this is for those times when herbal tea with one lump of sugar is just right.