The Great Albums, vol 2: k.d. lang – Ingenue
As a guy that considers The Beatles to be the single greatest thing to ever happen to popular music – and who also despises 99% of Country music – I find it a bit odd that an album by a Canadian country singer is firmly entrenched in my all-time Top 10 list. But it’s true. Not only is k.d. lang’s album Ingenue a terrific showcase for Ms. lang’s vocal talents, it’s also one of the truly great romantic albums, setting a delicious mood of sexiness and longing.
The album was released by lang (by the way, the spelling of her name in lower case letters is her idea, not mine) in 1992. It was her first foray into “popular” music after making a name for herself with her alt-country albums. k.d. has always been an outsider; though her early music was very well received by critics, her androgynous appearance and edginess confused her core audience. Perhaps that’s why she crossed over into pop music, or perhaps she just naturally went that way. Whatever the reason, the result, Ingenue, is a real treat to romantics like myself.
The mood of the album is very serene and almost dreamlike. The songs are not overdone in their instrumentation. Instead they rely on Ms. lang’s voice to project their meaning. And what a job she does. Lang is a powerhouse vocalist, able to go from a whispery tone of regret to soaring tones of anger and righteousness. It’s a remarkably pure voice that could easily be overpowering, but lang does an admirable job of restraining herself, never showing off simply for the sake of it. When she lets loose, it’s because that is what the song calls for. And it can send shivers down your spine.
The songs themselves are excellent. They run the gamut of emotions that one faces in relationships. From songs of pure longing (“Save Me”, “So It Shall Be”) to those of temptation (“The Mind Of Love”) or wanting what you know is wrong (“Still Thrives This Love”), each is exquisite and a grand statement on affairs of the heart. There is truly not a weak track on the album. The most recognized song from Ingenue, “Constant Craving” is truly a wonder. It’s lyrics are heartfelt and fit very neatly into the tone of the entire record. But it’s lang’s sublime vocals that stand out, evoking a lifetime of longing. The harmonizing is unforgettable. “Constant Craving” closes the album in a pitch-perfect manner and is the final frosting on one hell of a delicious cake.
Ingenue is the rare album that gets it all right. It’s also one of the sexiest recordings you will hear, though it pulls that off in a very sedate and mellow way. Lang’s next album, All You Can Eat would up the ante by being more brazen. It’s a very fine record in it’s own right. But Ingenue seduces you a bit more sweetly and makes sure you love every single minute of it.