k.d. lang: Ingénue: 25th Anniversary Edition (Nonesuch Records)

k.d. lang
Ingénue: 25th Anniversary Edition
Nonesuch Records

By 1992, mainstream success was all but promised for Canadian country crooner k.d. lang. For nearly a decade, she’d made a name for herself; she first came to the world’s notice with her band The Reclines. She had released her solo debut, Shadowland, a gorgeous, lushly produced album of country ballads produced by the country legend Owen Bradley, which came on the heels of a Grammy-award winning duet with the late Roy Orbison on his song “Crying.” In 1989, Absolute Torch and Twang, her third album with The Reclines, earned her a Grammy for Best Female Vocal Performance.

So when Ingénue arrived, expectations were high; thankfully, lang didn’t disappoint. The ten-song album offered lang exploring more contemporary, mainstream pop sounds; sure, the country twang was still there on album openers “Save Me” and “The Mind Of Love,” but the feel is subdued. Instead, she was more interested in exploring contemporary pop production with torch song flare, which resulted in wonderful numbers “Outside Myself” and “Tears of Love’s Recall.” The big, over-the-top “Ballad of Hollow Soul” is one of lang’s finest performances, as is the light and breezy “Miss Chatelaine,” an upbeat jazz-pop number that feels as if it was performed in a Parisian nightclub circa 1948.

But the album’s highlight is “Constant Craving;” closing the album might seem a peculiar location for the album’s lead single; unlike the rest of the album, it’s a straightforward contemporary pop number, and would become her most successful number to date. Furthermore, it would help define the sound for 90s female pop crossovers such as Melissa Etheridge, Shawn Colvin to Paula Cole—and in fact, it’s not hard to hear it in Cole’s own hit song, “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” “Constant Craving” would take her to number two on the pop charts, would earn her heavy rotation on MTV, would help make Ingénue a double-platinum success, and gave her the crossover that she so rightly deserved.

While Ingénue is a solid album that still delights a quarter century later, this deluxe edition of the album disappoints slightly. Instead of demos, b-sides, or unreleased numbers, the bonus disc offered here is merely drawn from her superb MTV Unplugged performance, which featured her fronting a full orchestra. Frustratingly, it’s not even the full performance; instead, we’re offered just the Ingénue tracks she performed that evening. Thus, this reissue feels skimpy in terms of the album it is representing; at the very least, the entire performance would have been nice to have, as her versions of “Black Coffee” and “Crying” are superb and worthy of inclusion, even if they weren’t taken from Ingénue. (Her MTV Unplugged performance is deserving of release, as it was one of the series’ finest concerts; watch it here in its entirety.)

Still, a minor quibble. lang’s subsequent career hasn’t reached the same mainstream success as it did with Ingénue, but perhaps that’s to be expected after hitting such a grand slam of an album. Her follow-ups have been equally delightful, helping to give lang a discography full of delightful, diverse, and critically acclaimed works.

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