As she has become both indie icon and industry force, Ani DiFranco has grown more unpredictable, savvy, and restless with every release. On this sumptuously packaged double set, DiFranco often pours her brutally persona... more »l and political images into summery, horn-based jazz arrangements--Maceo Parker even takes one gorgeously funky sax solo--and yet somehow still keeps the focus on her own minimalist guitar and vulnerable, emotionally strung-out voice. Her jittery, jazzy phrasing deconstructs the pleasure and poison of her lyrics, so that even vicious lines like "our culture is just a roughneck / teenage jerk / with a bottle of pills / and a bottle of booze" resonate beyond easy condemnation. This is a dark, brooding, but ultimately cathartic work of confessional art. On nearly every track, DiFranco pursues the kind of defenseless honesty and personal vision that few other performers today would dare. --Roy Kasten« less
As she has become both indie icon and industry force, Ani DiFranco has grown more unpredictable, savvy, and restless with every release. On this sumptuously packaged double set, DiFranco often pours her brutally personal and political images into summery, horn-based jazz arrangements--Maceo Parker even takes one gorgeously funky sax solo--and yet somehow still keeps the focus on her own minimalist guitar and vulnerable, emotionally strung-out voice. Her jittery, jazzy phrasing deconstructs the pleasure and poison of her lyrics, so that even vicious lines like "our culture is just a roughneck / teenage jerk / with a bottle of pills / and a bottle of booze" resonate beyond easy condemnation. This is a dark, brooding, but ultimately cathartic work of confessional art. On nearly every track, DiFranco pursues the kind of defenseless honesty and personal vision that few other performers today would dare. --Roy Kasten
"I knew it was a good sign when I had problems getting into this CD on first listen. All of my most favorite music ("desert island" CDs) were difficult at first. The first thing I thought upon listening to the first track off of "Revelling" was "ooh, her old fans are going to HATE this!" Very few tracks on the whole double album sound anything like "Out of Range" or "Imperfectly" or any of her more purely folk albums. And although I love all her music, this new direction is, IMHO, a good thing. Revelling has some wonderful music moments with insightful and flowing lyrics, but Reckoning is the deeper and more ultimately satisfying of the two discs.Like Ani, I have been married for about 2 years and can appreciate a lot of the angst, confusion, joy, and bewilderment at being joined with another human being in such a "legal" way. Probably my favorite song is "School Night" (although the critic from Spin cited this as one of the songs she should have left off). For me the song explores the idea that "your one true love" is a farce. There is not just one person in the world that you can love enough to marry, but in the song, she grapples with the fact that she intends to honor her committment even though she also loves this other person. It struck home with me, especially the lines "and you'll never know, dear/just how much I loved you/you probably think this was/just my big excuse/but I stand committed/to a love that came before you/and the fact that I adore you/is just one of my truths/so I/I'm going home/to please the one I so love pleasing/and I don't expect/he'll have much sympathy for my grieving/but I guess that this is the price/that we pay for the privilege/of living for even a day/in a world with so many things/worth believing in".For those of her previous fans that are put off by her new direction, well too bad. She is a human who is changing like we all are. She still does things her own way "on her own" and without bowing to any corporate interest/label. I suppose I can even more fully relate to her because she is grown up now (and so am I...we are about the same age). She is quite simply the most honest and genuine artist I know about."
Richard Flood | Somewhere in America | 10/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album is one of several examples I own that show just what happens when the wrong artist makes a great album at the wrong time and in the wrong way.Allow me a moment to explain myself. This album is, in my humble opinion, one of the 20 greatest albums I have ever heard. I've not heard 5% of the music out there, I'm sure, but I've heard enough that to be in my top 20 is no small feat. But it is an extreme growth and change for Ani, and it shows the downside to having the kind of fevered, intense fanbase that she does. They fell in love with a young girl singing songs that spoke to them, or that stated their own political views with passion, and many are having a hard time accepting that there might be more to Difranco than that. A good number have already jumped ship. It's as silly an argument now as it was when Dylan went electric, but a lot of her fans are just mad that she's not making Dilate 2, or that she's trying new things. Go figure. Reviewers haven't been much kinder, because many of them too fell in love with Difranco in the mid-90's, and they haven't like anything since. So, you see, Ani's majestic, sweeping, devestating Revelling/Reckoning, her best work to date, is coming at a terrible time for her. If it came 10 years from now, it would be hailed, and if it had come out in 1994 it would have blown people away. If some unknown artist had made it, critics would line up to rave. But now it's just the prettiest pink stone you've ever seen, sinking in a sea that is grey.I could spend all day rambling about the implications, hints, and outright statements in the lyrics. But that would be stupid of me. I could go on and on about the incredible arrangements, or how the horns add to her sound, or the differences between the two discs, or the album art. Instead, just let me say this:Ani Difranco made one of the most beautiful, powerful albums of all time, and it's destroying her career."
Nasser Alqatami | 01/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Coming of age during the plague of Reagan and Bush / Watching capitalism gun down democracy / It had this funny effect on me" exclaims Ani DiFranco on her new record. "Reckoning/Revelling" is DiFranco's 15th album to date. This time around, DiFranco pleases her fans with an extra dosage by releasing a double album of completely new material. DiFranco pioneered her way through the music world without the assistance of any big time music label. She did not follow the predictable route to success. Instead, DiFranco started her own indie label "Righteous Babe," and started releasing her own material on it.Cut: 12 years later, DiFranco is signing up-and-coming bands on her label and selling out stadiums. She's earning a loyal growing fanbase and the critics' utmost respect. When the bigwigs of the record industry came knocking, she gave them nothing but the middle finger. Not bad for a little folksinger who started out touring in coffee shops in her hometown of Buffalo, New York. The righteous babe's debut album was a simple collection of queer feminist folk songs. Nothing more, nothing less: just DiFranco, her pick, her acoustic guitar and a mouthful of words to sing. As she released more albums, she evolved into different genres of music, ranging from big band, to punk, to rap and now to funk. Adding more flavors to her palette did not disturb her politically aware lyrics. When she was the giddy folkster, she sang about cultural no-no's and their superficiality in "Pick Yer Nose" singing: "How come I can pick my ears but not my nose?" Undoubtedly, DiFranco is not one to compromise her honesty for any reason whatsoever.Being a DIY girl hasn't been easy, though. Radio stations overlooked her records and MTV denied her any air time. Being the underdog that she was, and in many ways still is, she felt every bump in the road to success.But with her determination and love for music, DiFranco worked her way up with the college crowds and the gay community. DiFranco was praised by publications such as The Village Voice and Ms. long before Rolling Stone and Spin decided to follow the hype. Still, radio and TV stations would rather promote the Mickey Mouse Club than DiFranco.At the same time DiFranco was rising in popularity, Lilith Fair was at its peak. Although DiFranco was not a Lilith performer, many were misguided into believing that she was "just another one of those angry girl-with-a-guitar types." This comes as a surprise, because, contrary to the media's perception of DiFranco, she is not a post-Alanis phenomenon. In 1991, when Alanis Morrisette was singing her bubblegum pop Canadian hit "Too Hot" and Natalie Imbruglia was a star on an Australian soap opera called "Neighbors," DiFranco was hard at work singing anthems on womyn's rights and talking about queer politics. Today, DiFranco is still alive and kicking with truckloads of songs, not surprising since she started her first album with a 100-something catalogue of songs. This time DiFranco makes up for her absence with a double. The first CD, "Revelling," is a very experimental collection of tracks. Heavily funk-influenced, the album opens with "Ain't That The Way," a Macy Gray-like gospel-tinted song. The album seems to follow the funk mood with "OK," "Fierce Flawless" and "Heartbreak Even."On a darker note are tracks like the heartbreaking poem "Tamburitza Lingua" and the wordplay-catchy "Marrow." Moreover, the spotlight shines on "Kazoointoit," which starts with a mysterious message on an answering machine. The first CD also contains some ani-trademark ballads. "Garden Of Simple" is both a love song and a political tune while "Rock Paper Scissors" sounds like a sappy romantic song but has a late-show big band sound."Revelling" ends with an instrumental track, a first for DiFranco. In fact, seven tracks from the 29 on the album are instrumental, ranging from the tabla-charged "Beautiful Night" to the sordid "Prison Prism." Although they are not as enthralling as the tracks with DiFranco's remarkable lyrics, they serve as satisfying fillers.Disc two, "Reckoning," is mellow. The opener, "Your Next Bold Move," sounds like a dreary "To The Teeth," but without the pizazz, and "Grey" makes you wonder if DiFranco is on a permanent writer's block.Ironically, both tracks "Reckoning" and the "Revelling" are on the "Reckoning" CD. "Reckoning" is the standard ballad while "Revelling" is a bluesy lullaby.Many of the songs on this disc were heavily played during her tours, including the theme of sorrow "So What" and DiFranco's dissection of racial separation, "Subdivision."Furthermore, "Imagine That" is folk song that stands out like a sore thumb because it has, by far, the best melodic arrangement.Another song that might sound familiar if you've seen DiFranco perform live is the swaying "Sick Of Me." The collection is unlike any other DiFranco record. This album definitely depicts DiFranco in the middle of a musical transformation. Although it does not have the political prowess of "Imperfectly" or the frank rigor of "Not A Pretty Girl," it still is a masterpiece of melodic craftswomanship and sonical change."
The kerouac of music
morningthunder | 04/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"i've heard various people compare ani difranco to jack kerouac. both wrote intensly autobiographical works, both produced a seemingly endless supply of creations, both were unique in their styles. but when jack was forty, he was still surrounded by people who assumed he was really "26 years old and on the road all the time hitch hiking". i think ani is in the same situation. i'm a big fan of her early stuff (ani difranco, not so soft, etc) but she isn't a 19 year old girl anymore. revelling and reckoning reflects the woman she's become. her music and lyrics have matured over the past ten years and now her sound is more refined, her lyrics even more eloquent. every time she comes out with a new album, people accuse her of "selling out" because her sound changes. selling out would be if she didn't change, if she was still trying to hang onto the sound she had ten years ago even though it is apparent that her life has changed a lot since then. i highly reccomend this album to everyone who listens to ani because she somehow manages to vocalize thier emotions. it's a multi-faceted collection of some of her most personal and possibly best work to date."
Poetic and mellow - but she's done better
sierramary | 04/20/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Ani DiFranco's poetry is always beautiful and insightful. What is lacking in this CD is her charismatic energy and variation of music within a collection. The songs are uncharacteristically similar and many of the soft beats are uninspiring. Each of Ani's albums are different and wonderful in their own right, but this fan expected something else and something more - not 2 CDs worth of music to fall asleep by."