I first heard the music of Cindy Morgan compliments of my lovely wife Laura. I normally eschew the bubble-gum pop genre of contemporary Christian music (as a rule, almost anything played on WLAB fails to light my spark) but there was something about this music that led me to borrow the CD for a full listen. That CD was The Loving Kind, an album so phenomenally dark and beautiful that I, a lover of dark and beautiful things, fell prey to its enchantments.
When Christmas rolled around last year, Cindy Morgan's album, Elementary, appeared under the tree. Of course Laura got to hear the album first but while she was busying herself with Sara Grove's debut CD (another exception to the rule), I got acquainted with Morgan's latest. My first impression was that it was the doppleganger of her last album, light where there was dark, joy in the place of sorrow. Most of the songs are upbeat with joyous optimism replacing the dark introversion of before, the cause of which being the birth of her first child. Vocally, Cindy is a cross between Sheryl Crowe and Amy Grant, robust and emotive, and although the lyrics are more upbeat than past albums, they are rarely trite and never resort to cliché'.
While the songs are sunnier than her last album, Morgan is unable to shake her dark nature. The more I listen to this album, the more I hear the tears between the smiles, the edge of Tori Amos sandwiched between the intoxicating pop melodies and the classic songwriting know-how of Carole King. The music is stylistically all over the map, Morgan's usual bag of eclectic and sophisticated pop with Morgan penning most of her own material (a rarity in this genre). Of course there's the heavily produced pop fanfare of "The World Needs Your Love" and the dance inducing, synthy "Good Thing" but there's also her trademark sparse, moody piano ballads ("In These Rooms"), edgy Latin pop ("New World"), R&B ("Believe"), jazz combo ("I Love You"), Sesame Street ("Sunshine") and Steely Dan-classic rock ("End of the World").
Forget the latest band of the minute, Elementary is what pop music should be: artistic, instantly likable but challenging enough for multiple listens, and most of all, fun.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, March 2002.