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Vonda Shepard


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Pop/rock

Status:

Most recent release, Rookie (2015)

See also:

Vonda Shepard's site

Wikipedia's page for Vonda Shepard

Vonda Shepard's Facebook page

Covers/own material:

Own and co-written material on albums. Covers on Songs From Ally McBeal

General comments:

Vonda Shepard is probably best known now as the voice behind the music for the TV show, Ally McBeal. In fact, her first album was released in 1989. Her music is generally softer/mellow piano-based pop/rock, and would also appeal to folk and acoustic fans. I find her original material much stronger than the covers she does for Ally McBeal, so even if you don't like her work on the show (which is mostly covers), you might still enjoy her own music. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Recommended first album:

It's Good, Eve

Recordings:


Vonda Shepard

Release info:

1989—Reprise—9 25718-1 (vinyl); Vesperalley Records—VRA 85004 (cd)

Availability:

Wider now due to re-release

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans only

Group members:

Vonda Shepard—vocals, piano, keyboards, drum programming, drum

Guest artists:

Armand Grimaldi—drums
Jimmy Haslip—bass
James Harrah—guitar
Michael Ruff—keyboards, backing vocals
Luis Conte—percussion
Michael Paulo—saxophone
James Newton Howard—drum programming, piano, synthesizers, synth bass
Neil Stubenhaus—bass
Michael Landau—guitars
Davey Johnstone—guitars
Jeff Porcaro—drums, synthesizers
Michael Mason—synclavier
Freddy Washington—bass
David Paich—piano, B3, synthesizers, backing vocals
Gardner Cole—drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Dean Parks—guitar
Steve Croes—synclavier
John Robinson—drums
James Harrah—guitars
Art Munson—drum programming, additional keyboards
Adie Gray, Leslie Smith, Eddie Lehman, David Pack, Charles Frichtel, Phillip Ingram, Alex Brown, Phil Perry, Armina Shepard, Brianna Shepard—backing vocals

Produced by:

James Newton Howard, Robert Kraft, Vonda Shepard, Gardner Cole, Art Munson

Comments:

The first was just re-released in the last six months or so. The first album has the one (good) song I associated with Vonda Shepard several years ago, but the rest of that album doesn't do much for me. (Greg.Jumper@Eng.Sun.COM)

I went looking for her music as soon as I found out that Shepard did the music for Ally McBeal. This is pretty much well-finished, no-rough-edges pop, with a little electric thrown in, and some extended R&B/soul touches. For me, it's like having an Ally McBeal soundtrack playing in the background. And, like most soundtracks (for me, at least) not much of it sticks. The exception is one cut, "A New Marilyn," which satirizes (I think) Madonna's posturing.
     In short, it's nice, it's smooth, it has no hooks to snag my attention ("A New Marilyn" excepted). But all of this may be me—I tend to zone out on R&B/soul style stuff pretty quickly. (rstarr@eskimo.com)


The Radical Light

Release info:

1992—Reprise—9 26688-2 (cd); 1996—VesperAlley Inc.—VRA 85005

Availability:

Wider now on re-release

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans only

Group members:

Vonda Shepard—vocals, piano
Jeff Porcero—drums
Jimmy Johnson—bass
Michael Landau—acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin

Guest artists:

Matthew Wilder—drum & percussion program, synth bass
Jimmy Haslip—bass
Jim Keltner—drums
Jerry Scheff—bass
Michael Froom—B3
Benmont Tench—B3
Khris Kellow—string synth
David Peck—synths, guitar
James Newton Howard—synclavier strings
Randy Waldman—additional synths
Lenny Castro—percussion
Pauliho da Costa—percussion
JayDee Mannes—steel guitar
Suzie Katayama—cello
Larry Corbett—cello
David Campbell—viola, mellotron
Jan McLain, Portia Griffin, Arno Lucas, Raymone Carter, Matthew Wilder, Joseph Williams, Arnold McCuller, David Lasley, David Pack, Lana Williams, Leslie Smith, Mark Smith, Cal David—background vocals

Produced by:

Vonda Shepard, Richard Perry, Don Was, Matthew Wilder, David Pack, Michael Landau

Comments:

Well, I found a copy of Vonda's The Radical Light from 1992, and the first song on it is the theme from Ally McBeal. Other songs were used in the show. I like it, but I think if I had heard this before seeing her, I would have thought "nothing spectacular." I like her more because of the visual performances on the show, and I think she would be fantastic in person. Hope she tours for her next record, whenever that is. I'd like to see an all-ballad release. (mp@moonmac.com)

It's Good, Eve

Release info:

1996—VesperAlley Records—VRA85003

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Vonda Shepard—vocals, piano, acoustic guitar on "Grain of Sand"

Guest artists:

Michael Landau—all guitars, mandolin, electric sitar, background vocals on "Naiveté"
John (Jack) Pierce—bass
Vinnie Colaiuta—drums
Martin Tillmann—cello, string arrangements
Lili Haydn—violin
Greg Leisz—pedal steel guitar
Jeff Young—organ, background vocals on "Lucky Life"
Lenny Castro—percussion
Van Dyke Parks—accordion
Oneida James—bass
Gary Mallaber—drums
Carlos Vega—drums
Terry Glenny—violin
Cameron Patrick—violin
Darrin McCann—viola
John Keane—additional drums on "The Wildest Times of the World"
Jean McClain, Lynn Davis—background vocals on "The Wildest Times of the World"
Jackson Browne—background vocals on "Steady Train"
Prettie, Leno, Punchy, and Kelward—fingersnapping on "Maryland"

Produced by:

Vonda Shepard and Michael Landau

Comments:

This is one of my favorite albums ever. The songs seem simple and spare in their arrangements, which really showcases Vonda's piano playing, her strength. And yet there can be a lushness in the music too, especially in the songs with string arrangements. The individual songs are good, but it's also one of those rare albums that works well as an album, as a whole that you enjoy from start to finish. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I highly recommend this album—it is a much better effort overall. (Greg.Jumper@Eng.Sun.COM)

This one, It's Good, Eve, sounds the most like she sings on Ally McBeal. I also like it a lot more than the other two albums. (mp@moonmac.com)


Songs From Ally McBeal

Release info:

1998—Sony Music

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Vonda Shepard or Ally McBeal fans only.

Group members:

Vonda Shepard—vocals, piano, keyboards

Guest artists:

Val McCallum—guitars, mandolin, background vocals
Jim Hanson—bass
Jeff Young—Hammond B-3, piano, background vocals
Andy Kamman—drums, percussion
Michael Landau—guitars
David Ravin—drums
Greg Leisz—pedal steel guitar
Martin Tillmann—cello
Lili Haydn—violin on "The Wildest Times of the World"
Jean McClain, Lynn Davis—background vocals on "The Wildest Times of the World"
John Pierce—bass
Vinnie Colaiuta—drums
Rob Ladd—drums on "Someone You Use"
Sy Smith, Vatrena King, Renee Goldsberry—background vocals on "Someone You Use"
Neal Larson—piano on "The End of the World"
Suzie Katayama—string arrangement on "The End of the World"
Larry Corbett—cello on "The End of the World"
Michelle Richards—violin on "The End of the World"
Peter Kent—violin on "The End of the World"
Robert L. Becker—viola on "The End of the World"
Paul Bushnell—bass on "Will You Marry Me?"
Jebin Bruni—chamberlain on "Will You Marry Me?"
Brian McCleod—drum loop on "Will You Marry Me?" Lenny Castro—percussion on "Maryland"
John Keane—additional drums on "Maryland"

Produced by:

Vonda Shepard

Comments:

Of the 14 songs, 4 are from previous albums, and the rest are covers. Some of the covers don't really work ("It's In His Kiss") but others are quite beautiful ("Neighborhood," "The End of the World," "You Belong To Me"). I prefer the slower, laid-back songs here. I guess that's most of the difference on which covers work better. It's a fun album, one that I don't listen to often, but that I enjoy when I do. (JoAnn Whetsell)

By 7:30

Release info:

1999—Jacket Records—JAC 222-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Vonda Shepard—vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, electric acoustic guitar, Wurlitzer, drum program on "By 7:30"

Guest artists:

Mitchell Froom—keyboards, string arrangements, claviola, moog bass, Indian harmonium, harmonium, portative organ, Hammond B-3, Penny Owsley, optigon, piano on "Sail On By," backwards piano on "Newspaper Wife," ensemble arrangement on "Souvenir"
Val McCallum—acoustic guitar, 12 string guitar, guitars, electric guitars, balalika
Pete Thomas—drums, percussion, drum loop on "Clear"
Tony Levin—rubberband bass, bass
Leland Sklar—bass
Garo Yellin—cello
Jerry Marotta—drums, percussion
Andy Kamman—drums, percussion
Davey Faragher—bass
Jim Hanson—bass
Jane Scarpantoni—cello
Mark Feldman—violin
Lorenza Ponce—violin
Matthew Pierce—viola
David Gold—viola
Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)—vocals on "Baby, Don't You Break My Heart Slow"
Greg Leisz—pedal steel guitar
Michael Landau—guitars
Charlie Guardino—accordion
Aaron Heick—clarinet

Produced by:

Mitchell Froom and Vonda Shepard

Comments:

You can see that her gig on Ally McBeal has brought her attention. The packaging on this album is slicker, there are more pictures. There's more production on the album and more instrumentation, both by Vonda (who plays more guitars on this album) and others. The good news is that it's still a good album. I think the best song on here is "Cross To Bear," which just has Vonda's piano accompaniment. This album has more energy, more playfulness than It's Good, Eve. (JoAnn Whetsell)

I've always considered Shepard to be one of the most overrated singer-songwriters in Los Angeles. And even though by 7:30 is her most ambitious album to date, she still leaves me saying why couldn't David E. Kelley have stumbled into one of Aimee Mann's Largo shows? Shepard does come out of her Carole King mold a bit with songs like "Sail On By," "Cross To Bear," "This Is Crazy Now," and "Baby, Don't You Break My Heart Slow," a lovely duet with the Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers. by 7:30 is undoubtedly Shepard's best studio work, guided nicely by the sure hands of Mitchell Froom and Bob Clearmountain. (thecritics@earthlink.net)


Chinatown

Release info:

2002—Jacket Records—JAC-3333

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Vonda Shepard—vocals, piano

Guest artists:

Val McCallum—electric guitar, acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, dobro, background vocals
Pete Thomas—drums, percussion
Davey Faragher—bass
Mitchell Froom—gem organ, Hammond B3, minimoog, Wurlitzer, pipe organ, orchestron, marxophone, harmonium, chord organ, clavinet, vox organ, glockenspiel, claviola, accordion, chamberlin, string arrangements
Jerry Marotta—drums, percussion
Tony Levin—bass banjo, bass, stick
Charlie Bisharat, Mario De Leon—violin
Matt Funes, Maria Newman—viola
Larry Corbett—lead cello
Dan Smith—cello

Produced by:

Mitchell Froom and Vonda Shepard

Comments:

Not quite as good as By 7:30 and not nearly as good as It's Good, Eve, but still a solid album. If you like Vonda, you'll find enough here to enjoy; if you don't like her already, this won't make you a fan. There are some catchy tunes, like "Rainy Days," but generally the lyrics are sub-par. And while I can understand and admire her desire to trying new things, songs like "Gyroscope" and the minimoog-bogged "My Whole World" stray too far from her core piano-based ballads that I love so much. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Live: A Retrospective

Release info:

2004—Three Roads Inc.—JAC 4444

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans

Group members:

Vonda Shepard—piano, vocals, keyboards, guitar, percussion
Jim Hanson—bass, vocals
James Ralston—guitars, vocals

Guest artists:

Mitchell Froom—Hammond B-3, accordion
Val McCallum—acoustic guitar, background vocals
Sy Smith—background vocals
Neil Larsen—keyboards
Pete Thomas—drums
Davey Faragher—bass
Catherine Russell—background vocals
Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)—vocals (5)

Guest artists on DVD

James Ralston—guitars
Jim Hanson—bass
Sy Smith—background vocals
Mitchell Froom—Hammond B-3
Val McCallum—guitar
Jeff Young—background vocals
Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)—vocals

Produced by:

Vonda Shepard

Comments:

Great songs and Vonda in great voice, but unfortunately poor sound quality (it's really cloudy, or muddy, or something) really detracts from what otherwise would have been a really good disc. This is less of a problem on the DVD, either because the sound is better or because the images make the problems less noticeable. I do like the way the DVD intersperses concert footage with backstage footage and interviews (though the ones with musician friends are somewhat self-indulgent). Overall, despite some disappointments, the package is probably still worth fans picking up. (JoAnn Whetsell)

From the Sun

Release info:

2008—Redeye—6 34457 50072 3

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Vonda Shepard—piano, vocals

Guest artists:

James Ralston—guitars, background vocals
Jim Hanson—bass, background vocals
Matt Chamberlain—drums, percussion
Mitchell Froom—additional keyboards; accordion (10)
Greg Leisz—pedal steel (10)
Suzie Katayama—cello (10)

Produced by:

Mitchell Froom

Comments:

A nice surprise as I didn't know she was releasing a new album, and better yet, it's a good one. She goes for some of the same funkiness she went for on Chinatown, but she pulls it off better here. The simply orchestrated piano ballads reminiscent of By 7:30 shine. Her usual vocal affectations probably won't win her any new fans, but this album might just win back old ones. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Vonda's song "Maryland" appears on the Putomayo compilation Women's Work. "Crazy Hair Day," a duet with Barney Saltzberg, appears on the 2007 charity album of the same name. She can be heard (and sometimes seen) singing regularly on the 1997–2002 Fox television series Ally McBeal.


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2016-04-23 22:58:29.
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