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Album Review

** EMMA TOWNSHEND "Winterland" EastWest

March 22, 1998|Natalie Nichols

Townshend's eccentric pop debut comes on like Tori Amos without the histrionics, or perhaps a less dramatic Kate Bush. The faintest traces of her dad's vocal timbre and musical phrasing are the only clues that she's Who guitarist Pete Townshend's daughter.

Co-producers Dylan Rippon and Ross Cullum slick up Townshend's piano-driven vignettes with synthesizers, but "Winterland" is crafted to sound casual, which probably saves it from full-blown pretentiousness.

You half-expect wood sprites to be frolicking through this collection of brief sketches and elaborate portraits with dark themes of jealousy, sociopaths and heartbreak. But where Amos and Bush can be both fanciful and affecting by pushing the emotional envelope, Townshend doesn't delve deeply enough to draw in the listener.

She does connect with the odd chamber-folk ballad "Wish Finger" and the charming cautionary nursery rhyme "How Gardens Grow." But a couple of good songs don't justify a whole album, which raises the question of whether any record company would have bothered with her if she weren't the child of a rock legend.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

Hear the Music

* Excerpts from "Winterland" and other recent releases are available on The Times' World Wide Web site. Point your browser to: http://www.latimes.com/soundclips

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