Born to Be is the singer Melanie’s debut album, released on Buddah Records in 1968.
Following Melanie’s success at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 Buddha repackaged and reissued the album as My First Album.
Born to Be, Melanie Safka’s 1969 debut, is an intriguing curate’s egg. Neither Melanie, nor her producer-husband Peter Schekeryk, seem sure exactly where her strengths lie, so she is cast in a number of roles: Piaf-imitating chanteuse (“In the Hour”), soul-searching, angst-heavy troubadour (“Momma Momma”), giggling novelty figure (“Animal Crackers”) and children’s entertainer (“Christopher Robin Is Saying His Prayers”). Stranger still, half the time the experiment works; the small ensemble, led by her own enthusiastic (if thoroughly inexpert) guitar playing creates an arty, coffeehouse ambience in which Melanie’s idiot-savant act flourishes. But the less said about her attack at “Merry Christmas” the better. (by Charles Donovan)
It’s hard to believe this album was released almost 37 years ago. Listening to it on today, I was struck by how fresh and challenging the performances are: “Born To Be” is really an inspired debut album. Those unfamiliar with Melanie’s work except for her hits are in for a real surprise with this album. Most of the arrangements are orchestral, and her youthful sounding voice paints a stark contrast with the complexity of her songwriting (as in “I Really Loved Harold,” “Momma Momma,” and “I’m Back In Town”).
Significantly, Melanie delivers a definitive cover version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Dylan wrote in the first installment of his autobiography, “Chronicles,” that seeing the Brecht/Weill show “The Threepenny Opera” (as presented by the Theatre de Lys in New York City) helped to bring about the expanded vision needed to write “Mr. Tambourine Man,” as well as other songs. Hearing Melanie’s rendition, I think that she unconsciously tapped into that same thought process that produced such a striking performance, which sounds as if it came out of “The Threepenny Opera.” For those of you who are lucky enough to find this disc, it is well worth buying. You get a glimpse of an artist introducing herself and her work to the world: “Born to Be…Melanie.” (by Charles)
Melanie (guitar, vocals)
a bunch of unknown studio musicians
01. In the Hour (Safka) 3.12
02. I’m Back in Town (Safka) 2.23
03. Bobo’s Party (Safka) 3.52
04. Mr. Tambourine Man (Dylan) 4.28
05. Momma, Momma (Safka) 3.48
06. I Really Loved Harold (Safka) 4.14
07. Animal Crackers (Safka) 2.17
08. Christopher Robin Is Saying His Prayers (Fraser/Milne/Safka) 2.37
09. Close To It All (Safka) 3.24
10. Merry Christmas (Traditional/Safka) 2.49