Over the past two years, the prospects for Lesley Gore’s return to musical prominence have seemed increasingly good. Back in 1974, Bryan Ferry acknowledged the singer’s heyday by including a version of her vintage right-to-weep ditty, “It’s My Party,” in his interpretive collection of pop classics. More recently, Gore’s own club dates have been drawing enthusiastic write-ups, some of which have noted that her “You Don’t Own Me” will stand as one of rock’s first women’s lib anthems. Then, some months ago, came word that she had signed with A&M and that Quincy Jones, the producer of her early hits on Mercury, would be producing her label debut.
Primed by such news for Gore’s re-emergence and still enamored of her mid-60s pop tunes, I find the new Love Me By Name to be particularly disappointing. Certainly the disc evidences her continued vocal potential and constitutes her most ambitious and technically proficient outing to date; but in terms of sheer listenability, it doesn’t hold a candle to her 11-year-old Golden Hits release.
Though Gore and Ellen Weston, her current songwriting partner, have their moments, the weakness of most of these tunes suggests that the singer sorely needs better material. Weston’s lyrics variously offer interesting but underdeveloped ideas (“Love Me By Name,” “Don’t Stop Me”) and insipid, soporific exercises (“Paranoia,” “Other Lady”). Gore’s equally uninventive music, which frequently drips with pretentiousness, suffers from a dearth of memorable hooks and melodies.
While Quincy Jones’s elaborate production proves wholly professional, moreover, it only intensifies Gore’s dilemma. By surrounding her with a plethora of backup vocalists and florid instrumentation, he further distances the listener from the crop of already remote and superficial material.
Whether Gore can effect a comeback still remains to be seen, I think. To write her off after her first new album in several years would clearly be premature. Until she comes up with something better than this, though, my allegiance will remain with the Golden Hits.