The fertile rock-'n'-roll shores between the Delaware, the Hudson and the Jersey coast have spawned Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, George Thorogood and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. And now Philadelphia's Nan Mancini and Brooklyn's Ellen Shipley, two new products of the region, are proving that the women are not afraid to rock.
Their lyrics justify living together to parents, reminisce about schoolday lovers, cry out for recognition, scorn authority and warn against "hit-and-run" lovers and married men. To men they offer help, laughs and sex laced with affection.
Ellen Shipley fell in love with the music of the early '60s that celebrated the "revolution" with heavey-metal guitars and 15-minute riffs aimed at listeners with dfrug-induced highs. But while the rock world forgot about women, Shipley remembered. Now, in her first album "Ellen Shipley," she is a rocker herself, returning to the old to embellish the new. Her music is a synthesis of the girls' chorus cadences from the Chiffons, Shirelles and the Crystals, with the pounding complaining, often atonal sound of New Wave.
Her anger and dissatisfaction are tempered with the hopefulness and sweet sound of Motown. Her plaintive cries have the rough voice of a street kid, sometime reaching too low for notes, or too nigh with a nasal sound.
The themes of Shipley's songs, like Bob Seger's and Springsteen's reminisce about urban school days, cruising, feeling out of place and budding sexuality. Going all the way is given the female perspective in "Over the Edge." "Heroes of Yesterday" sounds so much like Springsteen, right down to the sax solo, that it seems as if he wrote it. It's powerful but we've heard it before. "I'm Jumping Out of My Skin" and "Good Thing Goin'" exhibit Shipley's own talent for arranging rockers that propel listeners out of their chairs. She invents a fusion of Abba-esque Europop and hard rock in "Catch the Cobra." Rick Deringer's guitar highlights a back-up band featuring electronics, saxophone and sound effects that fly with vocals from the past.
The harsh images of pain Shipley paints soften with the la-la's of the chorus. These recurring choir sounds and a ballad with a tender touch, "Last Tears," hint that this toughie is, at heart, a softie.
Nan Mancini combines pop showmanship and driving rock and roll, provided by Johnny's Dance Band, to wail about her frustrations, joke about sex and seduce in rhyme. She sings with versatility of range, voice and dialect, turning her soft voice raspy as the mood turns raunchy.
Tight R&B-influenced rock and roll, amplified by sophisticated overtones of New Wave plus a pinch of punk come together in JDB's third album, "It's a Man's World." Dueling bass and lead guitars, hard drumming and boogie keyboards sustain rhythm, tension and energy.
"Teen-Age Love Affair" and "Talk of the Town" offer a driving beat and an R&B thread guaranteed to push the most immovable listener to toe-tapping and shoulder-shaking. "Help Is on the Way" offers singing guitars recalling the early Allman Brothers. "Midnight Show" stands out with a touch of electronics to a disco beat.
Mancini's lyrics in the album's title cut describe the hard work, disappointments and compromises required for a woman to make it in rock or any other field. She offers a ralying cry: "Is this a man's world/What's your plan girl/Are you gonna take it/Do you wanna make a stand girl?"
But she adds: "You've got to want it bad."