Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kanary: "Haunted" (2002) CD Review

This excellent six-song EP from Los Angeles band Kanary features Leslie Knauer's incredible vocals.

Kanary is a straight-ahead, hard rockin' power trio with energy and talent to spare. Leslie Knauer is on lead vocals and guitar. Mary Kay is on bass and backing vocals. Tony Matteucci is on drums.

"Bad Luck"

The album kicks off with "Bad Luck." And right away the listener gets a sense of what this band is about. Leslie's shredding vocals can't help but impress anyone who hears this song. She sings, "Being Polly Anna positive/Hasn't done a thing for me/All my dreams did not come true."

Leslie has one of those incredibly powerful and raw voices that betrays emotion even in a scream or a yell. It's also a controlled voice, and when she does her rare acoustic concerts, the voice is just as powerful, just as raw, even as the volume is much lower, the songs quieter. It's a hard rock voice that works equally well on acoustic numbers.

As great as her voice is, her guitar playing is also pretty wild - listen to the solo in this song.

"Don't Be Scared"

"Don't Be Scared" is a bit more positive in its tone and lyrics, and shows a bit of the band's sense of humor too, with lines like "Beer can be inspiring so can Jesus." The chorus is "Around the world, around our town/around your finger/I'm your girl let's live for love/& dream forever/Oh don't be scared."

"Haunted" Title Track

"Haunted," the title track of this EP, slows things down a bit, with a seriously cool groove by Mary on bass and Tony on drums. Leslie sings, "She's following footsteps,/losing track of her needs."

"Something Beautiful"

"Something Beautiful" has Leslie at her rawest, baring all in her voice. She sings (nearly screams), "Got this tribal love affair/A connection with God/and something good and something loud/and something beautiful." The band just totally rocks on this song. It's fast, it's fun, and it may be the best song on the album.


"Kookaboo" (originally titled "Kookaboo Zoo") is the album's most playful and fun song, musically, vocally and lyrically. It's a phenomenal song, and one that is always appreciated at their concerts. The chorus is, "Be a friend to me/I need someone spinning free/In this zoo gone kookaboo/A friend to all humanity/I need someone spinning free/Like a rare blood red stone, stoned."

"Woke Me Up"

"Woke Me Up" is perhaps the most interesting song on this EP. It has a really cool bass line by Mary Kay, who also provides wonderful backing vocals. And the instrumental section is excellent, with some great drumming by Tony Matteucci. It's a shame this section isn't extended, because it feels like the song ends too soon. When Leslie's guitar kicks into higher gear, it practically sings, and Leslie and Mary sing the refrain, "So glad that you woke me up."

Original Songs

All of the songs on this EP are originals. Leslie Knauer wrote "Don't Be Scared" and "Something Beautiful." Leslie and Mary co-wrote "Kookaboo." "Back Luck," "Haunted" and "Woke Me Up" were written by all three band members. As Leslie often notes at concerts, she writes mostly from her life, so these songs really are pieces of her life - honest, open, sometimes pained, sometimes joyous, but always real.

Leslie Knauer Fronted Promises And Precious Metal

Leslie Knauer has been making music since her teen years. She had a hit with her first band, Promises, titled "Baby It's You." That's a song that Kanary has also performed, and it's included on their CD Only Dead Fish Go With The Current. She was also the lead singer of the 1980s all-girl rock band Precious Metal.

The Dogs

Mary Kay and Tony Matteucci are also in the band The Dogs, which was formed in Michigan in 1969. Tony joined in the 1980s, filling in for original drummer Ron Wood. (Leslie Knauer sings backing vocals on "Spooky Tricks" off The Dogs 2003 release, Suburban Nightmare.)

CD Track List
  1. Bad Luck
  2. Don't Be Scared
  3. Haunted
  4. Something Beautiful
  5. Kookaboo
  6. Woke Me Up

Kanary is based in Los Angeles. Besides "Haunted," they've released several other albums, including Bundle Of Hiss (2001) and Only Dead Fish Go With The Current (2005).

(Note: I originally posted this review on April 16, 2010.)

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