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HAZEL O'CONNOR (Buy CDs by this artist)
Breaking Glass (A&M) 1980
Sons and Lovers (A&M) 1980
Cover Plus (UK Albion) 1981
Smile (UK RCA) 1984
Compact Hits EP (UK A&M) 1988

Something of a jane-of-all-trades (including, during one dog-days period, a soft-core porn flick), Coventry-born O'Connor first came to prominence as the tormented protagonist of the film Breaking Glass, a British new wave variation on A Star Is Born, and on the soundtrack LP, which consists wholly of her songs. O'Connor tailored them to the plot — to a frustrating extent, their "onstage" performance by O'Connor's rock heroine was the plot — and they are stagey, overstated, even cornball. Her few savvy lyrics are buried amid exhortatory sloganeering, almost hippieish (rather than punky) in its fuzzy mystical tinge. The backing is dominated by sax supported by keyboards with muted guitar and assorted psychedelic touches.

This set the stage for the style O'Connor sought on Sons and Lovers; released from theatrical demands and having accrued her own ongoing band, she still honed the same musical style (and kept the soapbox handy when her store of failed romance lyrics ran down). Sons and Lovers marches along (literally) at an even headier and less varied pace; her vocal style nearly caricatures itself, not unlike Siouxsie Sioux doing an endless, mechanical stutter. Underneath this, the credible band (including her guitar-playing brother Neil, formerly of the Flys, and saxman Wesley Magoogan, later of the Beat) struggles to enhance her promising melodies even as it runs roughshod over them.

Tony Visconti, who'd surrendered the producer's chair to Nigel Gray for Sons and Lovers, returned for Cover Plus, on which he successfully moderates O'Connor's more extreme tendencies. At long last, not every song is an anthem; the title track became a UK hit by virtue of a good melody given the poppier treatment it merited. Strangely though, O'Connor seems a little lost, as if excessive idiosyncrasy were essential to her identity.

Long after O'Connor made an unsuccessful comeback attempt on a new label, A&M repackaged four UK chart hits as a CD EP.

[Jim Green]