Folktronica, Plums, and Relationships

Hear new music by Frank Harris & Maria Marquez and read Ruth Reichel’s memoir and Robyn Carr’s romance novel.


Echoes by Frank Harris & Maria Marquez. Strangelove.

The exquisitely earthy, sultry, and celestial bilingual singer Maria Marquez forged a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist, composer, and programmer Frank Harris around 1985. The Caracas-born Marquez brought her Venezuelan inspirations to the partnership. Martin, experimenting with the then-revolutionary Synclavier digital synthesizer, contributed multilayered sound fields of sampled voices and nature sounds, sci-fi effects, and “real” instruments. Only a few songs were released then. Nine appear together here in a warmer, deeper mix, mastered to 180-gram vinyl LP. Steely Dan-like pop flourishes and a cover of Kermit the Frog’s “Bein’ Green” situate the recording in its time; but the bulk of these svelte, percolating arrangements push South American Tropicalia into a folktronica future that sounds fresh today.  — Derk Richardson

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl (Random House, 2019, 267 pp., $27)

Ever wondered what the heady days of Gourmet Magazine were like when Berkeley hippie Ruth Reichl took the reins as editor-in-chief? A chef and core member of the foodies whose aesthetics led to the birth of California Cuisine, Reichl became a food editor and restaurant critic at the Los Angeles Times and then a longtime restaurant critic at The New York Times. With much convincing, she gave up that gig to helm Gourmet, a magazine she’d read since childhood. She shakes things up and has fun doing it, using her memoir to recall her 10-year tenure and go-go days of publishing there until its demise. She’s a delight to read and tells insider stories in a casual way while hobnobbing with the elite and honing the Ruth brand.   — Judith M. Gallman

The View From Alameda Island by Robyn Carr (MIRA, 2019, 336 pp., $16.99)

Prolific romance writer Robyn Carr has a new one out that begins with surgeons and divorce lawyers, charity auctions and dinners, therapists and church gardens. Enter a handsome landscape architect, Beau, with a troubled marriage of his own who charms the main character, Lauren, a divorcée-to-be, and you can guess the rest — or can you? The author has a few twists and turns for the messy ensuing divorces, challenging family dynamics, and emotional ups and downs, not to mention jealous spouses who are dead-set against giving up their partners. Early frowns, sighs, and hmphs give way to smiles, exclamations, and tender exchanges with humor driving competing storylines in a setting lacking much Bay Area presence.     — JMG

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