Melanie album-by-album

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by jarrod76, Feb 16, 2022.

  1. jarrod76

    jarrod76 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Melanie Safka (1947 -) is one of the most prolific, misunderstood/mischaracterised and criminally underrated songwriters of her generation.


    She experienced a flux of commercial success from 1969-1974 but has continued to record and perform to this day. Mostly known for her #1 single 'Brand New Key' in addition to other self-penned hits such as 'Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)', 'What Have They Done To My Song, Ma?', 'Beautiful People', 'Nickel Song', 'Peace Will Come (According to Plan) and 'Ring the Living Bell' in addition to her cover of the Rolling Stone's 'Ruby Tuesday'.

    One of the few female singers to perform at Woodstock, the #1 female performer of 1972 according to both Billboard and Cash Box magazines, an Emmy award winner and apparently the first rock performer to hold concerts at the Metropolitan Opera House in NYC, London's Royal Albert Hall, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

    Somewhat stereotyped as a hippy-dippy lightweight, much of her work is darker and more introspective than cynics realise. She's been cited as an influence by a few key artists, covered by plenty of big names (Bjork, Ray Charles, Nina Simone) and even sampled by the Wu-Tang Clan and Kanye West.

    The sheer output of her work in her first decade is super impressive. I’m going to explore her 60's and 70's back catalogue chronologically - including some live albums and compilations - highlighting some key songs along the way:
    • Born to Be (1968)
    • Melanie aka Affectionately Melanie (1969)
    • Candles in the Rain (1970)
    • Leftover Wine (1970)
    • Please Love Me (1971)
    • The Good Book (1971)
    • Gather Me (1971)
    • Garden in the City (1971)
    • Four Sides of Melanie (1972)
    • Stoneground Words (1972)
    • Melanie at Carnegie Hall (1973)
    • Madrugada (1974)
    • As I See It Now (1974)
    • Sunset and Other Beginnings (1975)
    • Photograph (1976)
    • Phonogenic – Not Just Another Pretty Face (1978)
    • Ballroom Streets (1979)

    I'm not as well-versed in her material from the 1980's onwards (other than 2004's Paled By Dimmer Light) so we'll see how we go. Her career gets tricky from this point, several old songs were re-recorded and re-issued and many albums were released and repackaged in different territories under different titles.

    Come with me on this journey - I'd be curious to know your thoughts, your favourites, your memories - even your fairly considered critiques as we appreciate Melanie together...
  2. jarrod76

    jarrod76 Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Born to Be (1968)


    1. In The Hour (Safka)
    2. I'm Back In Town (Safka)
    3. Bo Bo's Party (Safka)
    4. Mr. Tambourine Man (Dylan)
    5. Momma Momma (Safka)
    6. I Really Loved Harold (Safka)
    7. Animal Crackers (Safka)
    8. Cristopher Robin (Is Saying His Prayer) (A.A. Milne / Safka)
    9. Close To It All (Safka)
    10. Merry Christmas (Safka)
    Melanie's debut album (she was just 21 years old) was produced by her husband Peter Schekeryk (who would go on to produce all of her albums). I think this record is pretty great introduction to Melanie. Certainly a product of its time (including the cover - which I happen to love) and a few songs pitched at kids (or sung in a childish voice) that didn't help her to be taken seriously. Yet I happen to love both 'Animal Crackers' and 'Christopher Robin' (I think we could all do without the closing song here).

    There's already a touch of the more tortured songwriter here in songs like 'Momma Momma' or 'Bobo's Party'. The lyrics to 'I Really Loved Harold' are brilliant, touching on how women are judged for promiscuity ("I loved them so easy and I loved them so free / So I don't think that heaven will wanna love me"). 'Close To It All' is great too and her Dylan cover is restrained for Melanie and quite lovely. Her influences were obviously the U.S. singer-songwriters of the time but there's a European sensibility here - a touch of Lotte Lenya and Edith Piaf in how she belts a number of these songs.


  3. Alan2

    Alan2 Forum Resident

    Bump. I can't think of much to say except I like Melanie. The best album I've heard is Photograph, but we haven't got there yet.
  4. Hey Vinyl Man

    Hey Vinyl Man Another bloody Yank down under...

    Don't really know any of her stuff except "Lay Down" and "Brand New Key", looking forward to learning more.
  5. urasam2

    urasam2 A Famous Potato

    I first fell in love with Melanie after hearing Lay Down on RNI in 1970. Saw her in concert a few times in the early 70s. My favourite albums are Lay Down and Gather Me. Most of her albums had a few great tracks on, but a lot of forgettable ones too.
  6. lennonfan1

    lennonfan1 Senior Member

    baltimore maryland
    her best tracks are really good, often her albums were loaded with filler however. I was definitely a fan back in the day.
  7. flaxton

    flaxton Forum Resident

    I am a big fan of her early albums. First took notice of her in the Glastonbury Fabre film.
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  8. unclefred

    unclefred Coastie with the Moastie

    Oregon Coast
    She and Merilee Rush were very hot.
  9. bRETT

    bRETT Senior Member

    Boston MA
    My collection of early Melanie is pretty much confined to the Four Sides of Melanie vinyl compilation. I think it probably presents that material in a better light than the original albums do.

    Also have "Merry Christmas': on a seasonal compilation. She's rather intensely urgent about whether we have a merry Christmas or not, isn't she?
  10. willy

    willy hooga hagga hooga

    Looking forward to this thread. I've loved Melanie since around 1971-72.
  11. pghmusiclover

    pghmusiclover Senior Member

    I discovered Melanie with "Candles In The Rain", but I probably didn't go back to buy this (and her sophomore album) until after I got the live album "Leftover Wine". Hearing some of the songs with so much production after hearing them on the live album with just her voice and guitar was somewhat jarring. Hearing the albums after that as they were released, I got used to the big productions! I especially love her albums "Gather Me", "Stoneground Words", "Madrugada", "Photograph" and "Phonogenic Not Just Another Pretty Face".
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  12. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears

    Melanie > Joni Mitchell

    If this thread didn't happen I was about to go there myself. One of the great joys of a musician not being seen for their true worth is that you can acquire the albums for next to nothing. As such I have purchased all of her main albums on vinyl up to 1978 except a couple here and there. I don't actually own her debut, but I am familiar with most of the songs. Melanie has a penchant for those novelty songs where she often sings from a child-like perspective, and she does that here on Christopher Robin and sort of Animal Crackers. These 2 are better examples of these songs but IMO her best albums come after she decided to do without these children's songs. Now for the cream:

    Melanie is unfortunately saddled with a hippie dippie personality but at the heart she wrote songs that were pretty friggin' dark and desperately sexual. Look no further than Bobo's Party where she uses alcohol as a symbol of female promiscuity, and would do again later with Leftover Wine. Curious references to an impotent husband (was she married by this point?) A moody reverbed vibe, I can totally see why it was her first European chart appearance.

    Once I bought a curious bottle,
    Once I bought a bottle for fun.
    Tell me what you gonna do with the bottle
    When the curiousity's done.
    Well I brought it out to the Bo Bo's party
    Then I got it in to the company,
    Then I brought it up to the boys in the backroom,
    They got the knack to tune in on me,
    Then I brought it up to the boys in the backyard.
    I find it hard to hold on me,

    You know, I've been bad, but
    I would be good instead.
    Ah, if my man did half of the things that he said,
    I wouldn't have to go to the Bo Bo's party
    I wouldn't have to go to the company,
    I wouldn't have to go to the boys in the backroom,
    With their knack to tune in on me,
    I wouldn't have to go to the boys in the backyard.
    I find it hard to hold on me
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  13. JDeanB

    JDeanB Senior Member

    Newton, NC USA
    I am surprised (and pleased) to see this thread. Melanie was and is an amazing songwriter and singer. In addition to her own writing, she is an incredible interpreter (Dylan, John Phillips, Jesse Winchester, and more).
    Born To Be (later reissued as My First Album) certainly had the influences of Edith Piaf and Lotte Lenya on display. Honestly, I prefer Melanie a little more stripped down than this album, but I do appreciate Roger Kellaway's arrangements. (He went on to work with Joni Mitchell as well.) For a first album, she came up with some terrific material such as "Momma Momma" (or "Mama Mama"), "In The Hour", "I Really Loved Harold", and "Close To It All". My first exposure to some of these songs was the live versions on Leftover Wine, and those performance are, for me, more powerful, with just Melanie and her guitar. However, from this album, "Bobo's Party" was a hit in France and Melanie tells some funny tales about her time working there.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2022
  14. JDeanB

    JDeanB Senior Member

    Newton, NC USA
    Melanie and Peter Schekeryk married in 1968 and were together until he died in 2010. Having spent a little time around Peter, I can say he was quite a character, and he adored Melanie. I don't think anyone could ever be a bigger ran of Melanie than he was. I remember seeing her perform a new song, "Extraordinary", and saw Peter watching the audience in anticipation of a rapturous response, which she got. I won't get a head of myself since that song is on Paled By Dimmer Light.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2022
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  15. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member

    Cambridge, MA
    Peter Schekeryk was both the greatest and worst thing to happen to Melanie.

    He was her greatest fan and greatest supporter. Both forever true.

    But he was also nearly impossible to deal with. So he destroyed a lot of important relationships over the years. One of the biggest being her deal with Atlantic Records. She released perhaps her best album for them, but they dropped it (and her) within weeks of release because Peter was impossible. Anyway, that gets ahead of the story. But, in the end, once her career took off, she probably would have been better off with a different manager.

    A second problem: Her early albums were released for Buddah, who was not known for artistic nurturing. Neil Bogart was a throw it all against the wall kind of guy, not an artist development person.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2022
  16. pghmusiclover

    pghmusiclover Senior Member

    After leaving Buddah it seems that Peter and Melanie were forward thinking by starting their own label. It just seems they didn’t always have great distribution to get the albums into stores… but they always issued pretty lavishly produced and packaged albums! In particular, “Stoneground Words” was a beautifully orchestrated album with gorgeous photos!
  17. bRETT

    bRETT Senior Member

    Boston MA
    And yet the biggest hit of Melanie's career happened during that time.

    I do think that Brand New Key wouldn't have been the end of the story (in terms of hit singles) if smarter management was in place.
  18. bluemooze

    bluemooze Senior Member

    Frenchtown NJ USA
    One of my favorite albums. And great sound quality if you can find one mint/nm. Was also available on CD.
  19. pghmusiclover

    pghmusiclover Senior Member

    Definitely agree with you — that hit single was such a fluke! But I think Buddah muddied the waters by releasing new product to undercut the new releases and confusing consumers!
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  20. finslaw

    finslaw muzak to my ears

    Melanie has one of the most confusing discographies of any artist who hit #1 on the singles chart. Her 80's and onwards are such a mess of labels and albums that I wish someone would release a box set of that era. But even before that you had soundtrack albums and "other label" cash-ins. Then there are a few that don't quite feel like legit "just been recorded" main albums (As I See it Now and Sunset.) Hopefully this thread will answer some questions.
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  21. pghmusiclover

    pghmusiclover Senior Member

    You can say that again about her discography being a disaster!

    The re-re-re-recordings of her catalogue are particularly a nightmare!
    JDeanB likes this.
  22. Cryptical17

    Cryptical17 Forum Resident

    New York
    The Woodstock set from the recent mega box is great listening! Her first major performance.

    She did many festivals in 1969 to 1971, most notably Isle of Wight in 1970. There’s a picture of her backstage having fun with Townshend, Daltrey and Moon before her set.
  23. JDeanB

    JDeanB Senior Member

    Newton, NC USA
    Her catalog really gets confusing after Ballroom Streets. Making sense of the albums of the 80s and beyond is not easy. Albums would get released in different countries with various track listings and titles. As I See It Now and Sunset & Other Beginnings are legit releases, and both were distributed by Bell/Arista. During the time, she had her daughters which may have played a part in the albums having a lot of covers. And many recordings from the era float among fans that never saw an official release. "Dream Seller" on Sunset always seemed like the kind of song Clive Davis, head of Arista by this time, would "encourage" his artists to record.

    And many famous musicians were 'musical directors' on her albums--David Paich (Toto), Ron Frangipane, and Paul Harris (Manassas). George Terry (Clapton) worked on an album that never saw an official release, but is "out there" known as The Lost 1979 Album.
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  24. bRETT

    bRETT Senior Member

    Boston MA
    Even before that, when she released two consecutive albums with nearly the same title!

    After the mini-comeback of "Photograph," anyone who saw "Photogenic" in a store had to wonder what it was, with that awful cover..A reissue? A comp? Sure didn't look like a high-profile, new-label debut.
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  25. JDeanB

    JDeanB Senior Member

    Newton, NC USA
    Those remakes are a nightmare, but some of them are good. I really like the remake of "Together Alone".
    It was a strange move. I remember seeing the album in the stores at the time and scratching my head. The little note on the back of Phonogenic seemed a little desperate. I don't know if you've seen the CD reissues, but the cover is now a 'glamour' shot of Melanie.

    And I forgot about all those cash-ins Buddah released like Garden In The City, Please Love Me, and Four Sides Of Melanie.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2022
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