Kate & Anna McGarrigle
A folky apotheosis -- dry and droll, tender, sweetly mocking its own sentiment, unfailingly intelligent. With melodies that are fetching rather than pretty (cf. Jean Ritchie) and lyrics that are not above a certain charming, even calculating, vulgarity (cf. Loudon Wainwright III). A
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
This album was chosen the best of its year by Melody Maker, and critics retain their affection for it. The Canadian sisters delivered a dozen songs displaying their diverse musical influences. "Complainte Pour Ste-Catherine" reflects formative years spent in French-speaking Quebec.
In 1987, Kate & Anna McGarrigle was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #46 rock album of all time.
- Paul Gambaccini, The Top 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.
This album was Melody Maker's pick for Best Record of 1975, and it's hard to argue with that choice when you listen to the tart harmonies and solo singing on one of the best songwriting collections ever. From Anna's famous "Heart Like a Wheel" to Kate's bouncy "Kiss and Say Goodbye," the songs paint a deeply felt, highly detailed portrait of life and romance. A revelation when it was released and a classic today. * * * * *
- William Ruhlmann, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Kate & Anna McGarrigle got rave reviews upon its release, but its songs don't have the timeless ring that the material on their 1977 followup Dancer with Bruised Knees does. But it's a startling record for its time, featuring "Heart Like a Wheel" and a lively take of Loudon Wainwright III's hilarious "Swimming Song" (Kate was married to Wainwright). * * * 1/2
- Gil Asakawa, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
Have you ever heard better harmonies than on this phenomenal debut from the talented Canadian sisters whose loyal fan base bespeaks their enduring appeal? Pairing fresh, pithy folk instrumentation with quirky, emotional lyrics told from a woman's point of view, like "Heart Like a Wheel," the single Linda Ronstadt covered a few years earlier, they create haunting, wispy songs made for listening -- this is intelligent music that stays with you. * * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
The key, though, is the songwriting. There's true daring, and a willfull eccentricity, driving these explorations of modern love's minefields and barren ruins. Anna's haiku "Heart like a Wheel" belongs among the great metaphors about romance and devotion; Kate's "(Talk to Me of) Mendicino" catches a yearning for place that's as profound, and vividly sketched, as the yearning for love. The quaint, old-timey sounds (fiddle, accordion, banjo) aren't there to take listeners back to another era; instead, they provide contrast and color, framing the porcelain-pure harmonies. Swirled together, these elements combine for oddly revelatory folk music that registers as a wrenching feeling in the gut even before you're able to appreciate it intellectually.
- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.
(2011 Deluxe 3-CD Edition) Kate & Anna McGarrigle, from 1975, is a singer-songwriter session up there with Joni Mitchell's Blue and Neil Young's Harvest, though unlike either in style (or sales). Funny and heartbreaking, informed by French-Canadian parlor songs and delicious harmonies, it's idiosyncratically perfect. This reissue pairs it with 1977's nearly-as-great Dance With Bruised Knees, adding a beautiful disc of demos and other flotsam. "Skidmore girls come back to town/All the freaks head underground," sings the late Kate on the unreleased "Saratoga Summer Song," a slice of life from a woman who saw the sublime and the absurd as kissing cousins. * * * * 1/2
- Will Hermes, Rolling Stone, 5/12/11.
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