For a lesson in how to make music successfully outside of the mainstream music industry take note of Aimee Mann. On her latest CD, Mann has crafted a fine pop album that sounds similar to her past efforts, but still shows Mann evolving from her pop roots and stretching out into new territory. Boxing is seeing a small resurgence this year with films like Million Dollar Baby and Cinderella Man, and Mann follows suit with a concept album, her first, based entirely on boxing. Similar to other concept albums, the plot of The Forgotten Arm is thin, although not necessarily to its detriment. The loose story which connects the songs together focuses on a boxer, John, who meets a girl (Caroline), and goes on the road to fight. Once they've hit the road their relationship crumbles and stumbles into drug addiction and worse. Songs like "King of The Jailhouse" and "She Really Wants You" shows Aimee Mann in great form, evolving from the sound that made her popular but still writing great bittersweet understated pop songs. I first heard Aimee Mann in the film, Magnolia (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson), where her songs are featured throughout, and I've since heard most of her recording output. For those who are not familiar with Mann's music, but have seen Magnolia and, like me, couldn't get the music out of your head, give this album a listen. I think it may be a pleasant surprise. The Forgotten Arm is a positive step forward for Mann, as she continues to try and balance her own unique songwriting with mainstream success.
Personnel: Aimee Mann (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Jeff Trott (electric guitar, baritone guitar, mandolin); Julian Coryell (slide guitar, keyboards, background vocals); Jebin Bruni (keyboards); Paul Bryan (bass instrument, background vocals); Victor Indrizzo (drums, cowbells, percussion); Jay Bellerose (drums, percussion); West End Horns.