September 12, 2002

So Much Ani

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Ani’s back with a new collection titled So Much Shouting So Much Laughter, featuring 24 live tracks on two CDs. The first CD, entitled Stray Cats, is organized as a group of concert “set list standards,” whereas the second CD, Girls Singing Night, contains “Ani’s most explicitly female songs.”

Stray Cats has a diverse collection of songs written throughout DiFranco’s lengthy career, including such tracks as “Swan Dive,” “Cradle and All,” and “Letter to a John.” Although the selections are well performed and skillfully altered from the studio versions, the CD as a whole is difficult to get through because of its overuse of drawn-out instrument solos found throughout several pieces.

Girls is a more impressive assortment of tracks. Highlights include the song “Gratitude,” with its clever lyrics and arrangement that create a powerful and compelling live version. An excerpt of the song conveys themes of gender relations and self-respect, “We can sleep here like brother and sister you said. But you changed the rules in an hour or two, and I don’t know what you and your sisters do … What does my body have to do with my gratitude?”

Also found on the CD is one of DiFranco’s best known recordings, 32 Flavors. Unfortunately the version found on Girls is not as powerful as the one on Living in Clip. Ani’s funkier instrumentation and edgier lyrical style distracts from some of the emotion provoking elements of her other versions. However, the message of the song remains a unique celebration of the diverse qualities of individuals.

Other staple DiFranco songs found on So Much include “Napoleon,” a song dedicated to scolding those who sell out in hopes of fame and fortune, and “Not a Pretty Girl,” a ballad that celebrates individuality and personal strength. These two tracks are satisfactory in performance, but still fall short of the excellence found on previous recordings.

“Self Evident,” an extremely controversial song found on So Much, is a radical and in-your-face look at issues that negatively impact the United States. DiFranco attacks a long strain of topics, including the bombing in Oklahoma City, the overuse of fossil fuels, and the right to abortion. DiFranco also slams Bush and questions whether America is a ‘true’ democracy. The song’s core, however, deals with the World Trade Center attacks, which Ani labels as “the day America fell to its knees, after strutting around for a century without saying thank you, and please,”while conveying how “it’s your job and it’s my job