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Toni Childs' The Woman's Boat - it's prog, Jim, but not as we know it

Just how prog was Toni Childs' 1994 album?

Toni Childs’ musical compass has taken her north, south, east and west. Seeking inspiration for her third album, the American singer decamped to Madras, India, with a 24-track digital recording unit. It wasn’t her first field trip though. Childs’ debut, Union (1988), had been partially recorded in Swaziland, where she incorporated African voices into her art pop. (Fun fact: Union also features Marillion’s Steve Hogarth on keyboards.) Working with Indian musicians, Childs demoed four brand new songs in November 1992.

Womb, lyrically about a baby that is apprehensive about leaving its amniotic nest to enter the unknown world, suggested a conceptual direction for the rest of the album.The Woman’s Boat starts with that song of birth and ends with Death. The intervening nine songs trace a lifecycle of womanhood with all its triumphs and tribulations. Heavy stuff. But then Childs had plenty of life experience to draw upon. At 15, she ran away from the religious home she was raised in. Her early music career in Los Angeles foundered when she was briefly imprisoned for smuggling cocaine. A move to London heralded a fresh start. It was there that Childs befriended Peter Gabriel’s guitarist, David Rhodes, who became a key player on her early albums.


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