The Birthday Girl

You Are the Birthday Girl (Shelter Thee Records)

Usually when musicians name their band after a song, said number is the best they've got at the time, or damned close: "Black Sabbath," co-written by Ozzy Osbourne, is a good example. Singer-songwriter John Nichols must feel likewise about "You Are the Birthday Girl," since he made it the title cut of his CD and employed virtually the same moniker as a nom de plume. But while the track in question is perfectly pleasant, it's less memorable than several of his other ditties.

Nichols is a devoted Anglophile whose work filters American influences through a British lens. Although "Charmaday," with lyrics by Charlie Hoge, features a Phil Spector beat, Nichols's ringing guitar tones and soaring vocal harmonies nod to drama, Manchester style. Elsewhere, "Tidal Wave of Shame" tunefully wallows in a sore subject -- and if "Rock You Into Submission" doesn't quite accomplish its stated purpose, the droning melody achieves a similar effect.

Overall, Birthday Girl and the Birthday Girl are better than "Birthday Girl." Try getting your head around that, Ozzy.

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