Before listening to Lesley Gore’s eighth studio album, Someplace Else Now, I’d only heard her 1960s hits. I remember singing along to “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” as a child, not fully understanding the lyrical content but reveling in the upbeat melodies. As I grew older, the brassy and brazen “You Don’t Own Me” became somewhat of a musical mantra for me.
There was another side to Lesley Gore, however, that is often overlooked; the same woman who sang these plucky tunes recorded an album of tender blue-eyed soul ballads in 1972. Recorded under Berry Gordy’s label MoWest, Gore has writing credit on every song, solidifying her position as not only a singer, but a songwriter in her own right. But this side of Lesley didn’t sell as well; the album didn’t make much of an impact commercially, and only one single was released. It is, though, a beautifully crafted album that showcases both Gore’s talent as a vocalist and her heartfelt, honest approach to songwriting. And now, after years of being buried deep in Lesley’s discography, Someplace Else Now is available for the first time in CD format, thanks to the folks at Real Gone Music.
The album begins with “For Me,” a somber soundscape set by dreamy piano, subtle horns, and sweeping strings more akin to a soundtrack to a drama than what you’d expect from a typical Lesley Gore record. But then again, this is no ordinary Lesley Gore record. The structure of the song is not verse-chorus-verse, but almost improvisational timing; it’s impossible to tell whether Gore is following the music or the music is following her voice.
Immediately the listener is enraptured by the second track, “The Road I Walk,” a passionate ballad that begins with unembellished piano and vocals, building to include a swelling background of percussion, strings, and backup singing. About a minute in, Gore is fully undertaking her role as soul singer, giving a fervent performance that makes you believe that she believes in what she’s singing.
Many of the songs on the record are stories she’s singing about other people (perhaps real, perhaps fictional). “Out of Love” is the first of these tracks, in which Gore sings of a mother who loves her children, a brother who loves his sister, a father who loves all of them, and, simply, love in general. The next track, “She Said That,” is another song in this same storytelling vein; it juxtaposes Lesley with another woman who never got married because “her luck was bad” and who later passed away in her home.
One of the more upbeat, swinging songs on the record is “Don’t Wanna Be One,” taking on somewhat of a Latin rhythm and combining it with a lush arrangement of strings and intermittent horns. This track is also more stylistically reminiscent of her early career; one could almost imagine Gore all done up, hair in a flawless flip, on black-and-white television performing this song on The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960s, rather than Gore in singer-songwriter mode.
In the next string of songs — “Be My Life,” “Where Do You Go,” “What Did I Do Wrong,” and the titular track — Gore shifts back to blue-eyed soul style. Each is unique in its lyrical content, but all three share a sonic structure that builds with each verse and chorus and simplistic lyrics.
The tenth track on the album, entitled “Mine,” is one of my personal favorites, particularly for Gore’s (seemingly) autobiographical lyrics. In it, she sings of dealing with both heartbreak and a struggle to find her true identity; she says her partner will then “question all the me’s I’ve let you meet.” She later sings that “part of me is wed[…] to the times that I would cheat myself by being what I’m not.” This back-and-forth plays out as though Gore is verbalizing an internal battle, which ultimately ends loudly and triumphantly as the song fades into silence.
After this comes “No Sad Songs,” which follows suit with many of the others songs: it’s midtempo, accompanied by an orchestra, and features a controlled, elegant vocal. It ends on a note that allows it to flow nicely into the final track, “For You” (a complete turnaround from the opener, “For Me”). The melody of “For You” mirrors that of “For Me,” with alternate lyrics bringing the album full circle and, subsequently, to a close.
Lesley Gore wore many hats, so to speak: pop goddess, teen idol, feminist icon, and more. One that I’d never considered before hearing Someplace Else Now, though, was sweet singer-songwriter. This album proves Gore’s talent for crafting relatable lyrics that make the listener feel as though she is singing directly to him or her. They’re not overthought or pretentious; these songs are coming straight from Gore’s heart, and the sincerity is tangible.
Someplace Else Now is available for the first time on CD through the Real Gone Music shop.