The Purple Tape
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2008, Volume 15, #1
Written by John Metzger
Mon January 21, 2008, 04:50 PM CST
Lisa Loeb has had the sort of career about which many up-and-coming songwriters can only dream. In a sense, she has fueled the hopes of and paved the way for independent artists across America and around the globe. The story behind her ascent has become something of a legend. After her pal Ethan Hawke slipped a copy of Stay (I Missed You) to director Ben Stiller, Stiller decided to use it in his film Reality Bites. The single hit the top of Billboard’s pop charts and sold a whopping 750,000 copies. Loeb subsequently was nominated for a Grammy and was dubbed best International Newcomer by the Brit Awards. Amazingly, as all of this transpired, she wasn’t signed to a major label and had yet to issue a proper debut.
Over the course of the next decade, Loeb managed to remain in the spotlight, though this has had more to do with her creative marketing than it did with the albums that she released. Although her output has been consistent, the changing face of pop culture has left her and her peers without much support. To pick up the promotional slack, she has appeared in both television shows and movies. Most notably, she hosted a program on the Food Network with then-boyfriend Dweezil Zappa.
In an attempt to revitalize interest in her music career in anticipation of a new album that is due later this year, Loeb followed her 2006 retrospective The Very Best of Lisa Loeb by picking through her back catalogue for rarities to release. Her EP Cherries, for example, pieced together a handful of obscure bonus tracks, but it’s her latest endeavor The Purple Tape that likely will grab the most attention. For years, fans have been clamoring for the set to make its long overdue appearance on CD, and immediately upon hearing it, newcomers to the collection will understand why such a ruckus was raised.
Preceding Tails by a full three years, The Purple Tape is the album that Loeb not only sold at gigs but also used as her calling card before she was a star. Despite its stripped-down ambience, however, it hardly sounds like a demo. In fact, although she later revisited many of the collection’s tracks — Snow Day, Do You Sleep?, and Hurricane, among them — it is on The Purple Tape that she sounds most comfortable delivering the tunes. This is, after all, how they were meant to be heard. Gone are the electric guitars and crisp production techniques that increasingly have cluttered her work. Instead, Loeb presents her songs precisely as she would have done when she frequented the stages of New York City’s intimate coffeehouses and clubs during the early ’90s.
Throughout The Purple Tape, Loeb sings and performs with confidence, and her songs are filled with honest, emotional introspection. Although there is an air of sensitivity to her lyrics, some semblance of toughness also is present. While this contrast was muted, at least in part, by the fuller arrangements that were utilized on her albums, The Purple Tape, which features just Loeb and her acoustic guitar, gives it plenty of room to shine. Her voice exudes innocence, but her guitar alternates between building and dissipating the tension in her work, adding turbulence and beauty wherever they are needed most.
Initially, it might appear as if the bonus disc that accompanies The Purple Tape is geared mostly toward Loeb’s biggest fans. Containing an hour-long interview that was conducted by Andy Denemark, the program provides a wealth of biographical information as well as insight into both her career and the songs that she recorded for the endeavor. In addition, Loeb openly shares her experiences on how to make an album and survive within the music industry. When taken in full, the dialogue and performances add a lot of value to The Purple Tape by bolstering whatever appreciation one has for the set. ˝
The Purple Tape is available from
Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box