Country of origin:
Type of music generally:
Ethereal alternative pop
Most recent release, Winter Songs and Carols (seasonal, 2019); most recent release of original material, Love and Gravity (2014)
Mary Fahl's site; Redeye Distribution
Wikipedia's entry on Mary Fahl
The Ectophiles' Guide entry for October Project her former band
Mary Fahl's astonishing voice is unlike anyone else's, but since comparisons are often helpful, you might say that she sounds a little like Annie Haslam (formerly of Renaissance) mixed with Sloan Wainwright and Pamela Morgan (formerly of Figgy Duff). (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Own and co-written, occasional covers
Previously, she was the lead singer for October Project, which disbanded after being dropped by Sony Records, and which reemerged (without Mary Fahl) as November Project and has recently reformed again as October Project. There are extensive comments in the Ectophile's Guide to Good Music about October Project, but suffice it to say that October Project was a brilliant band, and the decision by Sony to drop them should be at the top of the list of mistakes made by music executives.
There's a purity and evocativeness in Mary Fahl's voice that simply can't be compared to anyone else's. It is the quintessence of beautifully haunting. Her voice is an instrument unto itself(it's lush and sensual. Hearing Mary Fahl sing for the first time is like stepping outside just after dusk and seeing the Aurora Borealis shimmering in the sky. Her singing enthralls you willingly.
You have to hear Mary Fahl's voice to appreciate it. (email@example.com)
I've now got all three of the successor oeuvres to the last October Project (plus the
three originals.) Mary Fahl's is easily the best. Hers stands a head
above. Mary's career appears to be the only one that has any prospects without the others. I wish her well, and would happily support her by buying any new release. I listen to them all. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Comments about live performance:
Mary Fahl was backed by a five-piece band, consisting of keyboards, drums, bass, electric guitar and a female backup singer who also played acoustic guitar and additional keyboards. I'd seen October Project twice before, but somehow all I managed to retain from that experience was the recollection that I was amazed at how accurately they managed to recreate the lush live sound of their albums.
Well, what I will remember from this show was that Mary Fahl is a magnificent and riveting performer. Definitely leaning towards the flamboyant side, but perfectly in line with the range and sound of her voice. The band was both rockier and jazzier than October Project, and the variety of music was sometimes surprising. Fantastic covers included Tom Waits' Strange Weather, something by Judy Collins, a 14th Century Moorish song (in Arabic!), and 3 recorded and 1 unrecorded October Project songs. Not to be missed. (5/01, neal)
Mary Fahl was as magnificent as ever! She seemed less inaccessible dark goddess high above and more approachable but VERY gifted down-to-earth woman. :-) Her explanations of various songs and other patter on-stage accomplished this. I don't remember her *ever* talking on-stage at October Project concerts.
She did most of the songs off her new CD, The Other Side Of Time; two October Project songs ("Bury My Lovely" and "Deep As You Go", the second she said she appreciates even more, now that she has taken up deep-water diving); and one song that I asked her about afterwards (she was signing CDs in the back of the theatre). It is called "Ghost of Me" and will be on the next CD, she said. Very powerful!
The crowd was very appreciative; and at the end of the concert gave her a standing ovation, bringing her back out for an encore. :-) She performed "Una furtiva lagrima" (from the opera The Elixir of Love...this song is on her new CD also).
As always, her voice was as strong and moving at the end of the concert as it was in the beginning. Oh! We arrived early enough that we overheard her vocal exercises/warmups floating down from somewhere upstairs. :-)
Little odds and ends I don't want to forget (and hope I am not already misremembering):
"Into the Great Unknown"—a parable for all the struggle and pathway leading to getting this CD out, getting to this point in her musical career.
"Going Home"—theme song "for a film that tanked" :-P She wrote it from the perspective of the soldier going home...making it a timeless sort of song.
"Ben Aindi Habibi"—a sensual song about a girl waiting/hoping for her lover to return, in an old language that is a mix of Arabic and Spanish. She got it off an album she bought in Spain and was entranced by it.
"Paolo"—about a beautiful person, almost too good for this world. His English was not good; but it was so poetic, even when "wrong", that no one corrected him. He would sometimes be found on hands and knees trying to find his "lenses of contact". :-)
"Annie, Roll Down Your Window"—about her sister and about their travels together ("and it's ALL true!"). She said they always have such fun together. :-)
"Kindness Can Be Cruel"—I cannot remember who the person was that inspired this...but she intended it to have an operatic flair/feel to it.
"Dream of You"—she said she is often inspired by cinema. One night late she was watching the Hitchcock movie (she loves Hitchcock) Vertigo on TV and wondered what a theme song for that would sound like...and that's how this song was born.
P.S. Her band was GREAT! I don't remember any of their names, but the sound problems of the opening act were not there at ALL. Everything was lovely, perfect, atmospheric, rocking (when it rocked out—and it DID!), absolutely wonderful! :-)
If you get a chance to see Mary in concert, GO! Be enthralled and come away happy. :-) And buy her new CD. :-) (fleur)
Recommended first album:
Lenses of Contact ep
Widely available, especially through the usual online sources.
Scott Healy—music direction, piano
Glenn Alexander—acoustic and electric guitar
Larry Saltzman—electric guitar
Lenses of Contact is a four-song EP. A full-length CD is in the works. While Lenses of Contact is Mary Fahl's first solo album, if you like this CD you should immediately purchase the two October Project CDs, October Project and Falling Further In.
There are four general components to a successful CD: lyrics, music, vocals and production. Each element has not only to be good in its own right, but they must be well-balanced. And the components are in Lenses of Contact. But even if the lyrics, music and production were weak (which they're not), Mary Fahl's strong, haunting voice would carry this CD. While the comparisons to October Project, Mary Fahl's previous band, are inevitable, this CD has a unique sound and style. Lenses of Contact is stunning. While there are only four songs on this EP, it holds great promise for the full-length CD.
If you are looking for another October Project CD, Lenses of Contact will either greatly disappoint or please you. Perhaps both. In Lenses of Contact Mary Fahl shows that her singing is as extraordinary as ever—perhaps even better than with October Project, because it's more seasoned—but I found the lyrics wanting. The songs on Lenses of Contact are heartfelt, poignant and occasionally melancholy, but the lyrics fall short of the brilliance of October Project. My favorite song on this all-too-short CD is "Meant to Say," about mistakes and regrets in relationships.
Oddly, the premier EP-CD doesn't come with printed lyrics, but I'm sure that it will with the final regular-length CD. (email@example.com)
2003—Sony Music Entertainment—SK 89892
John Lissauer—orchestral arranger and conductor, keyboards (harmonium, guitar, bass, choir, srudi box), percussion (dholak, talking drum, tambourine), clock shaker, shakers
Shawn Pelton—drums, drum loops
Scott Healy—keyboards, piano
Glenn Alexander—guitar, acoustic and electric guitars
Glenn Patscha—piano, keyboards, background vocals
Byron Isaacs—guitar, bass, background vocals
Fiona McBain—background vocals
Jeffrey Lesser—background vocals, percussion (14)
Alan Hewitt—keyboards, percussion
Iki Levy—drum loops, percussion
Mark O'Connor—violin solo (2)
David Berger—drums (3, 10), cymbals (11)
Oren Bloedow—guitar (3, 10)
Jimmy Zhivago—electric guitar (3)
Paul Cremo—electric guitar (3)
Kevin Kuhn—guitars (4, 7, 11)
Larry Saltzman—electric guitar (5, 6, 9)
Henry Aronson—piano (7)
Richard Locker—cello solo (8)
Mark Egan—electric bass (8), bass (11)
Jan Folkson—metal shaker (8)
Dennis McDermott—drums (12)
Alvin Young—bass (12)
Ramsey McLean—guitar (12)
Lawrence Sieberth—piano, keyboards (12)
Pamelia Kurstin—theremin solo (13)
Mychael Danna—keyboards, piano (14)
Rob Mathes—keyboards, piano, electric guitar (14)
Kirk Worthington—cello (14)
Paul Intson—upright bass (14)
James McCollum—guitar (14)
Sarah Adams, Martin Agee, Dennis Anderson, Randall Andos, Joseph Bongiorno, Kenneth Breward-Hoy, Robert Bush, Helen Campo, H. Robert Carlisle, Richard Clark, Natalie Cummins, Lawrence DiBello, Rick Dolan, Barry Finclair, Adam Grabois, Joyce Hamann, Shelly Holland-Moritz, Karl Kawahara, Jeanne LeBlanc, Elizabeth Lim-Dutton, Richard Locker, Donald McGeen, John Miller, Karen Milne, John Moses, Laura Oatts, Leise Paer, Caryl Paisner, Joseph Passaro, Sue Pray, Maxine Roach, James Saporito, Laura Seaton-Finn, Stacey Shames, Mark Sherman, Dale Stuckenbruck, David Taylor, Belinda Whitney, Xin Zhao—orchestra
I don't think anyone has posted about Mary Fahl's new album, The Other Side of Time, yet. I have it and have only listened to it about 2 1/2 times so far, so I'm still forming my opinions. Everything below is subject to change, but...
I think it's a good album but not the stunning album I was expecting/hoping for. I absolutely love the first track "The Great Unknown." And I still love the songs from the Lenses of Contact ep, though I prefer the original versions. The new ones seem a bit faster to me and have some unnecessary background vocals and other stuff (electronic noodling"). I love the world influences on the album, Celtic mostly if I remember properly. And track 4, "Ben Aindi Habibi", which I think is in Hebrew, is another outstanding track. I'm not sure of the choice of the aria "Una furtiva lagrima" in the middle of the disc. Is that because Mary's on Sony's classical label? It's a decent track, even a good track, as far as songs go, but it seems out of place on a largely better-than-pop pop album. My only other quibble is that some of the string arrangements seem melodramatic, but this is most noticeable on songs like "Going Home", which was, after all, used in a film soundtrack.
These are all minor complaints, and if I emphasize the negative, it's only because when something is so good, you tend to see the flaws more (I do at least). Or perhaps I am better able to articulate the few things I don't like more than the many things I do.
So here's what I do like: Mary's voice. Still gorgeous. She could sing the alphabet, and I would probably sit and listen, mesmerized. It has this ability to transport me. That's been the case from the first October Project disc and everything she's done since. The musicianship. (I'm not qualified to comment further.) The songs are mostly strong, and they range in style as well as language. "Annie, Roll Down Your Window" sounds like an old traditional even though it's a new song. "Kindness Can Be Cruel" alternates a seductive dark side with a driving pop part. There is a lingering October Project feel, but more in that the music invokes memory of October Project; it's not mimicry or October Project redux.
So overall it's a good album. I'm interested to hear what other people think of it, and I think if you've enjoyed Mary's previous work you'll be pleased with it.
For the record, the cd is still growing on me, but it's not because it's a solo project. I wasn't expecting a cd with the October Project sound, but something more along the lines of Lenses of Contact, which I personally found stunning. That ep, to me, really showcased Mary as a solo talent. I don't miss October Project at all when listening to it. I haven't listened to the 2 albums together yet either, but I'm pretty sure they were rerecorded and changed for the album.
As Bill said, there are positives and negatives about having such a range of styles on one album. While it can make an album less cohesive, it can also make an album more interesting and highlight Mary's voice in different ranges. I just haven't quite figured out how it all adds up for ME, but I know there's plenty that I do like, more than enough to recommend it to other people. (JoAnn Whetsell)
2014—8 88295 00018 5
Mary Fahl—vocals; acoustic guitar (4, 9); electric guitar (6)
John Lissauer—piano (1, 3, 10); keyboards (1, 5–9); drum programming (1); percussion, bass clarinet (3)
Sean Pelton—drums (2–5, 7)
Glenn Patscha—piano (2, 4); keyboards (3); background vocals (3, 7, 8); harmonium (8, 9)
Byron Isaacs—bass (2–5, 8, 10); background vocals (3, 4, 7, 8)
Chris Bruce—electric guitar (2, 4, 6, 9); acoustic guitar (3–5)
Vaneese Thomas—background vocals (3, 4, 6)
Fiona McBain—background vocals (3, 4, 6–8)
Cranston Clements—acoustic guitar (7)
Kevin Kuhn—acoustic guitar (8, 10)
This album was long delayed, but fortunately it is finally available and, more importantly, was worth the wait. It is a beautiful album, stronger than The Other Side of Time, which was a bit uneven. This one stays solidly in the folk/pop vein, with a Joni Mitchell cover and two songs that sound like traditionals (one, a new recording of "The Dawning of the Day," is based on a traditional song). Mary's gorgeous voice is accompanied by light instrumentation, giving the album a very intimate feel. Thoroughly lovely! (JoAnn Whetsell)
2015—Rimar Records—8 88295 15104 7
Mary Fahl—vocals, acoustic guitar
Josh Dekaney—drums and percussion
Mark Doyle—music direction, acoustic and electric guitars, piano
An intimate 2-disc set, showcasing Mary's gorgeous voice. There are some October Project songs, as well as stuff from her solo albums and a few covers. Musically it reminds me of the concert I went to a few years ago, but it doesn't have any of the between-song stories that made that concert special. Still, this is a really lovely treat for fans. (JoAnn Whetsell)
Mary Fahl's work appears on the Gods and Generals soundtrack.
Thanks to Bill Adler and JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.