Which Patricia Barber album floats yer boat?

As far as my knowledge is concerned and from all the reading that I do, “Blood on the tracks” by Bob Dylan is considered to be his best album by far. For Joni Mitchell it is “Blue”. What really amazes me is that there is no general consensus on which album of Patricia Barber is the best. Some prefer “Modern Cool”, some “Companion”, some think “Nightclub” is her best album! I think it is “Café Blue” Why? Cause the two tracks numbered 9 (Too Rich for my blood), and 11 (Nardis) strike a chord in me like no other songs of her. They have the energy which seem to ooze out from the system in spades.

Which album of Patricia Barber floats yer boat and why?
Probably because she is not in the same league as Dylan or Mitchell. But these are artists that changed styles almost continually during their ongoing careers and many would argue that some of Dylan's earlier, acoustic, work is better, as some believe that Mitchell's later jazz-influenced work is far stronger than the examples that you are citing. In fact, their strength, as artists is that they continued to re-invent themselves over time and redefined the course of popular music in so doing.
I currently only own companion and spend most of the time wishing she would shut up and leave me with the band! Are they attached to her or do they float with the wind?
You know, I've got to agree with Viridian. I just don't think Ms. Barber is a particularly major artist. She seems to be a favorite of those with an audiophile mind set, but there's something about her music that seems overly self conscious and too studied in it's hip self awareness. As enjoyable as her music can be, I ultimately feel a certain lack of emotion and over reliance on the cerebral aspects of songcraft prevent her from being considered among the pantheon of musical greats.
none zero nada zip,for me the patricia barber craze fit's neatly into the audiophile approved play list of good recording's people use beacuse of the recording quality & the small demand's her music put on a system,maybee not the case here but with many it is.

to even put patricia barber in a class with the like's of dylan & mitchell as having a defining album is absurd,there are many difference's in style's with dylan & mitchell as Viridian pointed out above where as with barber it's all the same style,smooth & very un defining.
Bigjoe writes:
& the small demand's her music put on a system
Do you feel that Joni Mitchell or Bob Dylan albums place a greater demand on a system?

I've only heard maybe 3-4 Patricia Barber albums, so I'm no expert. However, I do have an opinion!

I do not care for any of the studio albums I've heard. I do like the live "Companion" CD quite a bit. Barber does not have a great voice or much vocal range, but the album works for me. I like every cut on the album and most often play it end to end.


I like Nightclub and Companion. On Nightclub, she plays a great piano, especially on Blackbird, Autumn Leaves and Yesterdays. On Companion, it's the Hammond B-3, especially on Black Magic Woman. Her voice is quirky but I've come to like it.
It's all about Split.
Metralla,nope,i surely dont believe that either of those 2 artist's music is demanding on a rig but i do believe that both dylan & mitchell had stlye's that were ever changing.

my comment was not to offend anybody or to try & tell people what type of music to listen to but to ask for a defining album from this artist & to use analogies based on artist's who have style's as wide & varying as dylan is like comparing apple's & orange's & im not a big dylan fan either .

im also not saying that the music is bad but i do question what there might be to define between the different album's.
Yawn... There are more interesting artists deserving a listen than Patricia Barber.
Some beautifully recorded albums. Ho hum voice and ho hum piano playing. McPartland, at over 80, kills her on the piano. PB be very hard to listen to for more than an hour. I do use some of her albums to show off my rig. Companion, cut 2 Use Me, when you want to see just how good your bass be. The thing is, she has some great tunes on each of her cds: some--that's all...I have all of her albums, though..I'm just a ho hum audiophool, I suppose..
I have Modern Cool and Cafe Blue. I put on her stuff to hear what my system really sounds like, since the recording quality of these CDs are top notch. I think she is a good pianist. I play professionally and don't claim to play like Herbie, but I know a thing ot two. I enjoy her voice more, and she has a great range. Her songs are interesting. Not something I would listen to if I was feeling down as most of her tunes are quite depressing if you listen to the words (and how many audiophiles really listen to the words anyway?). Her recordings float my boat as far as sound quality and musicianship go, but if you really listen to the lyrics, your boat may start to sink.
Cafe Blue
Yikes! I love Dylan and Mitchell but after reading the above posts I now feel kinda cheap and dirty, not to mention foolish, musically uneducated and just plain dumb and "undefined" 'cause I enjoy listening to all of Patricia Barber's albums. If I had to pick a favourite, Companion would be it - but please don't hold it against me, I'm just a ...yawn...ho hum audiophool, I guess.
I never asked for a comparision between Patricia Barber and the likes of Dylan or Mitchell, did I?

Thanks to those who answered in a positive way.
I read though this whole thread trying to figure out why so much negativism. I recently picked up "Cafe Blue" and love it. I was hopefull to get leads on which PB albums to buy next. I guess if we were limited to a small number of artists in our collection, then maybe she wouldn't be among them. Since noone told me I have a limit, She's worthy of space on my shelf and in the rotation. So what if she's not in the same category as Dylan, or Mitchell. She IS in the same category as all of the other artists who aren't in it either.

So my reply to the question is: I like Cafe Blue the best, because it's the only one I have so far, but I like it period because PB is a unique artist, I like her voice, her song arangements, and the quality of the recording. The song "Too Rich For My Blood" is beautiful.
I have most of her cd's, they all "float my boat" to some degree...I find here an interesting artist. None of my friends or family as far as I can recall have ever requested playback of any of her music...to quirky I guess.

So, I never use her to show off my system to anyone but myself!

Dmurfet said:

"I currently only own companion and spend most of the time wishing she would shut up"

Thats funny for some reason? I've always thought the same about Bob Dylan...he did write so good songs though.

I've got all Barber's albums, including her earliest.

"Modern Cool" does it for me, though I very much enjoy every single one of them. In particular, the title track and "Company" are superb.

As for uninvited comparisons, I never much enjoyed the music of either Bob Dylan or my compatriot, Joni Mitchell. I recognize them as major artists, but never liked 'em enough to buy any of their albums.

Anyway, if one is going to compare Barber, it makes sense to compare her, favourably or not, to other jazz composer/vocalists.

I think she's a major musical and lyric talent. Yes, she's intellectual and self-conscious and both of those are part of her artistic importance.

Happy listening all!

To elaborate on my choice of Cafe Blue, I must add not only Patricia Barber deserves the credit here. It is her band, I saw her live in Denver last year and her little quartet is awesome. Each member in her band deserves equal praise. Dylan and Mitchel are good too but then so is Peter Gabrial, Mark Knopfler, Eric Clapton...etc. No they aren't in the same catagory either but I still like and listen.
It seems, for reasons I cannot divine, that one either loves her or hates her.

My (two) favorites are "Companion" since it is recorded live and has lots of old-school ambience, and "Cafe Blue" in 45rpm vinyl where the renditions of "Too Rich for My Blood" and "Nardis" are outstanding and--for me--hair raising.

I agree that the studio recordings lack "presence" which detracts from otherwise strong performances. Also, the angst in some of her tracks (particularly Modern Cool) some regard as artificial and superficial but I accept as amusingly sardonic and ironic (whatever she were intended).
I have Modern Cool and Night Club. Great recordings but the music has no substance. Sorry.. File under Easy Listening...

I too was surprised at the negativism...as "do you think PB is overated?" wasn't the question.

Personally I have all her cds & enjoy each one. On top of her & her band's talent I think she/they have a unique sound. "Unique" is hard to find and a special joy if it trips your trigger. (Zappa comes to mind when I think unique.)


"I currently only own companion and spend most of the time wishing she would shut up"

comment was actually kind of funny as shutting up and letting the band play is one of the things I DO like about her. Norwegian Wood off Fortnight in France...if this isn't letting the band play...awesome cut.
Cafe Blue. Ms. Barber is not a Dylan or a Mitchell but then who is. I enjoy her work for what SHE is doing.
[Playing her work on either LP or SACD also makes me feel like I have even better audio systems than I do, which seems to help me minimize all of the tweeking I try to do after playing so much of the poorly engineered stuff out there (whether LP, tape, or CD).]
Quadophile, sorry if my response came off too negative. You threw out a question "what album floats yer boat" and why? When you ask a direct question like this in a public forum, we can't expect only postive responses about questions of taste, musical or otherwise. I no doubt entertain musical pleasures that will cause others to wretch and run screaming from the room. That's ok, it would be a less interesting world if we all shared the same tastes.
I have a pristine CD copy of "Modern Cool" that I'd like to trade for another recording from her catalog...perhaps "Cafe Blue".
My favorite is "Distortion of Love"
I can't articulate why,?atmospheric? all I can write is that this release still gets played completely through. The others very rarely, only choice cuts if so.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned "Verses". This was my first PB album and I was blown away even after many repeated listens. Its not easy to write good lyrics and slip in references that only a philosophy student (Phil. 101, of course) would recognize. From my understanding, this was her first album of her own compositions and she did a masterful job. Sure she may not be in the same league as Dylan or Mitchell, but I don't want to listen to Bobby D or Joni 24/7 (24/6 would be ok, but not 24/7).
I love Companion, it's live and beautifully recorded. In fact, I just used it as the principal comparison disc while choosing between an Audio Aero Prima and Resolution Audio Opus 21 in my system.

Modern Cool on vinyl. If you don't like it,You just don't like it. I find the entire record outstanding. I am like a deer in the headlights from start to finish. This is not my type of music!

Whipsaw Tony,

Which CD player did you choose?

Am I the only one who has heard Split?
I like verses best, although I think a fortnight is a great classic lp.
I think that many songs on Fortnight are among the most enjoyable, including Witchcraft which I love to listen to often.
Sogood51 - sorry - no, not funny - what I mean is I prefer her playing and that of her band, to her singing

Dmurfet, Ok...I understand, her band is first rate and I agree with you. To be honest I'm kind of an instrument type of guy anyway and find myself wishing the same for many albums.

To those of you who

a) are audiophiles and
b) found some of the more strange singing to not be your cup of tea

You should rush right out and buy "Split".

Trust me, it's all about Split.

The rest of this stuff is from her commercial and/or experimental archive.

You are not the only one praising "Split" I have heard from others as well about it. Thanks for the post which serves as a reminder.

I also noticed "Verse" being mention and agree it it another great album. Although it took a while before I stated to appreciate the contents of this album.

Again my sincere thank you to everyone who posted and expressed their views on the music of PB
Bigjoe and others

I, too, think Patricia Barber has veered into the genre of audiophile weirdo music that may be great for demonstrating tweaky gear or selling geeked out vinyl, but really doesnt rate for timeless music.

Of course, people who live in glass houses shouldnt throw stones, so I confess that I have listened to a lot worse music, just to marvel at, say, the low surface noise and thrill to the fabulous imaging.

Which is why this thread and Patricia Barber is interesting to me:

Long before she was picked up by audiophile labels, available in SACD and singing existential scat for audiophiles, I used to trek into Chicago a couple of weekends a year while still an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame.

Circa 1984 I stumbled into the teeny tiny "Gold Star Sardine Bar" on North Lake Shore Drive, where drinks were far more expensive than my budget and Patricia Barber was the house band. There, her trio would consistently mesmerize as many people who could cram into the bar ( not so many, hence the name, like sardines)

Now this had nothing to do with being an audiophile, other than audiophiles might like to listen to live music.

But let me tell you - she hypnotized the crowd - EVERY time, playing classics and standards with an eery, otherworldly presence and technical perfection every time she sat down.

So I ran right out and bought Split and was even happier to discover - as an audiophile - that is was a really good sounding recording.

So I had mixed emotions when years later, she seemed to be discovered as an audiophile artist - happy that new technically impressive recordings were available but disappointed that the content seemed more typical of audiophile labels.

But dont underestimate Patricia Barber as a musician and if the weirdo stuff leaves you cold, again, check out Split.


I agree with Maineiac - I like the Fortnight in France album - some good versions of jazz standards - as Maineiac says Witchcraft is particularly good. As an amateur jazz musician, I am not sure why some give Barber such a hard time - she seems to be considered an accomplished musician by her peers and by the critics.

Many have praised the musicians who accompany her in the band, she being the leader, if she was no good they would have surely left her and persued their careers elsewhere. Michael Arnopol the bass player is with her and playing since last 27 years or so. He once was lurking on Audiogon when I got a chance to ask him a few questions. He was kind enough to respond as well.
Then again, maybe the pay is pretty good.
My favorite category of music is female jazz vocalists and
I enjoy Patricia Barber. Her voice is unique and she has
a terrific band. I only have 2 of her albums, Modern Cool
and my favorite because it's live, A Fortnight in France.
I'll be buying more, paricularly Split based on the posts.

It's a coin toss between Modern Cool and Companion. Her recordings are wonderful. I find that I can't listen to her for as long as say: Ella, Eva, Billy, Anita and the like. Her voice begins to rub me, plus she gets a tad over dramatic or overkill in the vocal. She plays a not too bad piano, certainly better than Krall. But who doesn't play better than Krall? I have all her cds, but quite a few dogs.

Modern Cool live? Man it has been awhile, I thought Companion was her live album.
I took all the songs I like (a lot) off of the four cd's I own and put them on my hard drive...that way I skip the strange stuff that I can't seem to get into.

I did the same thing with the Doors, now they had some strange songs...I love um though!

I find Barber boring actually. I feel Barber records are for ''audiophiles and gear lovers'' mainly as the sonics are usually pretty good, and show a wide range of what audiophile tricks can be performed with most audio gear.

I for one, find her quite boring on a musical, vocal, and emotional level. Come tho think of it, Diana Krall and SNorah Jones have the same dulling effect on me. And it's not that I do not like female vocals, I do, and I enjoy a wide variety. It's like classical music, everyone starts with the Pachelbel Canon as their first taste, and the accompanying sense that ''hey, I'm an expert now! '' but when you REALLY start scratching beyond the surface, there is a World of talent out there, and you are reminded that the most famous are not necessarily the best. It's all a matter of taste of course....I wanted to respond as I for one am getting a bit tired of all the Barber discussions that come up everywhere, on the Web and in printed mags, everytime audiophilia is discussed.
You are certainly entitled to your opinion. Music appreciation is obviously a very personal phenomenon.

Personally I do not find Barber or Krall boring. I find them true artists. Jones, however, is starting to seem like a one-act performer to me although I still enjoy her work somewhat. And yes, thank goodness, there are many other wonderful female performers to tantalize our senses.

Given all of the attention each of subject artists are receiving it will be interesting to follow them and see if they fall prey to the "commercial big-buck music business art killers" (dumb phrase, I know). Or, will they remain artists. Or, will they survive the commercial music-biz pressures and stay true to their art but still burn out talent wise. I really hope they all succeed and continue making real art available for our listening pleasure.

It's a hard, hard business.

We can all name some of the true artists who have survived the BIG music business. Both Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell come to mind for me as I write this. I find performers like Morrison and Mitchell not only artists but heros.

My wife and particularly I listen to a lot of music every day. I have been in the music business (admittedly some time ago)and I worked 16 years in Manhattan advertising businesses, spending mucho time in recording studios with artists. I have approx 5000 lps/cd/tapes in my collection including many wonderful female artists. (Yea for me ... the point is I am speaking my opinion from what may be a decent reference point.)

Still, it all comes down to personal taste.
Her rendition of "Summertime" on her Distortion of Love album is haunting for a late night listen. My wife is not a fan of hers........It doesn't matter, I only have one chair in my listening room.
Sit, I do agree with you, and I am the last one to suggest that Barber and Krall are not true artists, they are. It is just that their particular art form leaves me with no emotion whatsoever, and frankly, if I was to use an example, I would say that Krall is somewhere along ''commercial'' art, where Barber in probably half way. As for Joni Mitchell, now SHE is a true definition of a true artist, and miles above Barber AND Krall. She is in a completely different league, and I doubt she would ever do a car commercial (Chrysler), like Krall did. This has no effect on her music of course and on her talent as a pianist and vocalist, but still, she bores me. While I'm on the subject of Diana Krall, I find it useless that they always try to picture her as a sexy, feminine fox, when in fact she is far removed from this herself. In this last respect, Barber imagery is much smarter, leaving us with blurry images so that we can concentrate on the music and make up our own mind about it. Still, Barber is of course very talented, if -again- boring to me. As always, a matter of taste, so I would never knocked them for trying hard at getting my attention. They already got my money, as I own cd's of both Barber and Krall - can't say I haven't tried, but they just don't do it for me musically speaking.
Every month or so I go through the music threads looking for something I may want to add to my collection...sometimes I hit the jackpot.

One thing you do notice very quickly, our musical tastes are all over the map...a good thing I'd say, something for everyone.

Joni Mitchell, nothing she has recorded flips my switch as an album buy?...Not even "Blue", she may have made a few songs that I liked over the years...I think?

none at all. I have heard three recordings and have liked 5 or 6 songs total