Jason Thompson Reviews:
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 usually
products 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 to add 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
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 and colorful illustrations and diving in head first. Or maybe
it's like an old lost book of spells that is at once both 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 other-worldly
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
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
story telling 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
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 (the cover of Bowie's "Moonage
Daydream", "Suffocator", "The Late Late Show", and "The 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.
Interview with Patti Rothberg
Rumour has it that you were "discovered" in a New York Subway playing your
guitar for money. Did the A&R gut drop you some change first or did he walk
over and offer you a deal?
That's pretty funny!!! What really happened is, I was playing for spare change
AROUND THE TIME that I was approached by my (now former) manager. That was
1994, the year I graduated Parsons School of Design. Neither she nor the A&R
people threw me any change, but they sure threw my life for a loop!
What song were you playing at the time?
Who knows!!? But it's a good bet that I may have even been playing a cover,
like "Hot Legs". Something light and amusing.
What did you feel like at the end of that day? Did you have stars in your eyes?
I didn't have stars in my eyes until the day I went up to visit Sony's offices. They
had two or three grand pianos, just in the waiting rooms there. I remember
thinking "Oh, s^&, now we're serious here". The funniest part was when I was
introduced to the head of A&R, and I greeted him "Nice to meet you, Mr Vitolla!!"
That's how clueless I was of the true inner workings of the business side of
music. Luckilly, I don't think he heard me! (For those of you like I was, it's
Matolla, not VItolla!)
When did you start to play guitar? What motivated you to play?
I started playing guitar about age 11 or twelve. It was 1982, and new wave was
all the rage. My sister took guitar lessons from a guy who reminded me of Mark
Knopfler (spelling help please) of Dire Straits) and I peeked in on their lessons,
wanting to do everything they were doing. I also remember, our house was down
the street from the Junior High School. There would be school dances where the
band would actually play Freebird without an audience request for it, and also U2
and the police. You could hear the music wafting onto the porch. I loved that
sound. I wanted to be a part of it all, alas I was too young...
What is the title of the first song your wrote and what was it about?
My first official song (on the guitar) was called "Steal My Heart". Kind of a pop
country song, believe it or not. I wrote it with the few chords I knew, age 14 or 15
to WOO my latest crush at that time. Naturally, he never did get to hear it, and
neither did anyone else!!(whew!)
Have you been involved in bands in the past or have you always been solo?
I was asked to join my friend Adam's band when I was a sophomore in High
School. They were a retro 60's cover band, doing such hits as OHIO (Neil Young)
and White Rabbit. I was useful for such Grace Slick (female) vocals. I also played
electric guitar in that band. We had several really silly names, "Incense and the
Peppermint Patties" and "Clockwork Orange Juice"
How would you describe the music you make?
I would say that it is a Rock n Roll Smorgasbord. First of all, because my
mother's side of the family is Swedish..and because the influences are open
faced, clearly a mix of all the music of mixed genres that have influenced my
playing and songwriting style. I love the simplicity of The Ramones, and also the
complexity of, Frank Zappa we'll say. And so many other things that turn me on
inbetween! So put that between your bread and bite down! (I mean that with
respect of course) I'd say that there are dark elements to it, but also it's sweet..
very melodic and easy to sink your teeth into.
Has there been a difference in the songwriting process since your first album,
"Between One and Nine" and the latest "Candleabra Cadabra"?
The main difference between the songwriting styles of the two albums is, the first
album's worth of material is written for solo guitar, without thought to future
arrangement for a band to play on. I also just wrote them to be played to myself
in my room, I had no clear plan of sharing them with an audience. With
Candelabra, I'd already had the experience of touring. I fronted a band and
learned what ARRANGEMENT even means. This inevitably changed my writing
style, I think for the better...The lyrics are just as personal, perhaps they just
rhyme better this time...
Where did you come up with the title "Candleabra Cadabra"?
There is a painting by John Waterhouse, of The Lady Of Shallot. This has been
my favorite painting since I saw it, about 10 years ago for the first time. Freddie
Katz (my guitar player) photographed me as though I were the Lady in the
painting. That photo is the cover of my record. In the boat with me is a little
candelabra that signifies to me a mystical (if final) journey by oneself to discover
one's destiny. Also, I had a friend who told me he had a 12 tier candelabra that
he was lighting while speaking to me on the phone. He told me he had gone in a
rowboat (after we graduated school) "to confront his mortality". He said the water
beneath the boat was a perfectly still reflection of the stars in the sky,..the
image I got was like a million oreo cookies above and below. VERY psychadelic.
this was the birth of that song "candelabra Cadabra". The ABRA CADABRA in it
shows the magic that lies within, that you reveal and appreciate for yourself in
your own imaginative way!Wooh, what a mouthfull (of oreos!!?)
Can you tell us about your band members? What qualities do they contribute to
your artistic vision?
I'm in the process of rebuilding a band for the new tour..So I'll get back to you
on them. As for now, I'll say that the members of the band that played on the
record add their own individual sparkles that shine all over the record.
Specifically, Freddie Katz is multitalented, offering years worth of rock fandom
making for official SOUNDS to reminisce all of our musical youths (producer). He
does the same with his rhythm and lead guitar playing, adding texture and retro
glamorous solos. Lori Adams played bass on the record and has a unique style
and melody. This she reflects in her personal style on stage, the way she playes
and appears. Yves Gerard was the drummer and percussionist of the recording.
He effortlessly crossed over many styles while keeping a strong steady beat all
the while). His drumming has made many a friend of mine WISHing to play
drums see red with awe and even jealous amazement!(true!!)
When did you get involved with drawing caricatures?
I always drew caricatures for fun, often when I was in art school (B.U.)1991 that
was looked upon as frivolous, so I only did them for entertaining my friends and
myself until 1994, when I worked for Bloomingdales, Woodstock 94, Business
dinner parties etc.. I still do caricatures, and you can get one right now! (see
PattiRothberg.com). Average +$75:)
What does the future hold for you?
The future holds many days of challenging, exciting music projects, including a
tour this summer supporting Candelabra Cadabra, A new album, for which many
of the songs are ALREADY finished and "in the can", musical collaborations, and
lots of fun and exciting new merchandise!!
Where can fans find out more about your music?
GOTO either wwwPattirothberg.com, or www.cropduster.com for the new record..
also it never hurts to do a SEARCH, I hear there's a bunch of stuff out there!
Patti Rothberg - Candelabra Cadabra (Cropduster)
Millennium New Wave. Psychedelic extravaganzas. Sensual grooves. Power rock. Acoustic ballads. Electric-sexual melodies. Bowie covers. What can't Patti Rothberg do? The above list is merely the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to plunging headlong into her
latest release Candelabra Cadabra. After a hiatus pressed upon Rothberg when her previous label folded, Patti is back with a stunning set of thirteen songs that prove her to be a skilled songwriter with a ton of ideas on the various napkins she uses to jot her musings.
She became a musician early on as a child, playing both piano and guitar. When college rolled around, Rothberg took to graphic design. In the meantime, she was carrying her guitar down to the subways in New York City to sing along with the other musicians who would gather
there. It was around this time that a deal was scored with EMI America and Patti's first album Between The 1 & 9 was recorded and released to much critical acclaim.
The label folded shortly thereafter and pulled up its stakes from our shores. Patti continued to concentrate on her art and music and recently decided to go to the independents when it came to working on a new album. Apparently the majors were saying that her music was not commercially viable at this point in time or some such bullshit that often gets bandied about when genuinely talented musicians come calling. So she signed up with the great Cropduster label and offered up Candelabra Cadabra to the public.
If Patti doesn't impress you straight out of the gate with the rock punch and snap of "Nothing I Can Say" then where are your ears? The first time I heard the song, I was immediately impressed. Who else was doing this sound in the female rock genre? No one that I could think of. The sound of the song's guitars, the beats, the handclaps, breakdowns, and Patti's voice (which sounds gleefully young but has a piss and broken glass edge to it that contains more attitude than any popular "diva" you'd care to name) sounded like they were coming from some other time. Namely a time when music like this was quite popular only a decade or so ago.
But the radio is fickle. You need to dance, you need to show some tit, you need to have a disposable song. Well, no one can ever say that Rothberg isn't inherently sexy with the tracks on this album. Fuck the dancing and strap on headset microphones. This chick can play some goddamn righteous guitar! She can play the heartbreak to the hilt in "You Killed My Time" or turn around and spit in your face like a punk bitch in "Dish It Out." She weaves lyrical and musical spells as solid as any of Stevie Nicks' in the title track, and creates her own Wall of Sound in "Delicate Matters." Simply put, this is gorgeous music.
And when she covers David Bowie's own "Moonage Daydream", she takes eveything that was great about the original, puts a different shade of lipstick on it and makes it her own. When she sings "I'll be a rock and roll bitch for you!" you really believe it. And you want it.
My favorite track though is the New Wave sound of "To A Muse" that feature some killer power chords, a groovy dose of synth and just enough tongue in cheek to keep the whole damn thing fun. And Patti Rothberg is insanely fun to listen to.
Patti may be echoing the sound of years past while injecting her own beautiful updated styles into the mix, but it's brilliant and there isn't anyone out there covering the spectrum that she and her songs do here. In a class by herself with an intensely imaginative muse, Patti Rothberg's Candelabra Cadabra is as close to real tangible magic as one can get. And that's pretty damn impressive.