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BARBIE AGLIO "Stories of My Life" One Up (**)

August 20, 1996|MIKE BOEHM

Aglio has been singing in Orange County clubs, churches and coffeehouses since the late '60s, when she was a regular at the Four Muses, long-ago hub of the South County folk scene. The story of her debut CD is that Aglio has an unerring voice--warm, sweet, deep and full, formal but not mannered--and a very confused record producer who doesn't know what to do with it.

A number of the 14 tracks are weighed down with superfluous, phony-sounding insta-shmaltz string synthesizers and programmed drums. One misbegotten song attempts to recreate an '80s arena-rock sound a la Starship.

Aglio covers the Beatles and the Eagles, singing them well, but defeating one of the main purposes of a coffeehouse singer doing her own album, which is to not have to sing "Desperado."

Her unadorned, voice-and-guitar performances work best until finally, near the end, Aglio and producer Hugh Ferguson find her right niche with a folk-country-bluegrass reprise of "Stories of Your Life," which earlier had received the synth-larded treatment.

The album should have been based principally on that earthy style, which highlights all the best qualities of this excellent singer.

Aglio's writing is simple and direct, tending toward homilies about family life. "Help Me to Take It Slow," a dark-hued prayer with a touch of Loreena McKennitt in it, is her best original; she also excels with "Leaning Back and Laughing," a rich evocation of the freedom and enjoyment that come with acceptance, written by the '60s O.C. folkie Steve Noonan.

"Story of My Life" could have been much more than it is, but it will be worthwhile if its trials and errors lead Aglio to a firmer future path. Her voice is a gem that deserves a proper setting.

(Available from Barbie Aglio, P.O. Box 3325, San Clemente, CA 92674.)

*

Ratings range from * (poor) to **** (excellent), with *** denoting a solid recommendation.

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