(15 December 2012) Karnataka--a UK band that has been heavily covered by this publication since 2000--has evolved over the last two years to their third mainstream lineup. Now fronted by Hayley Griffiths, reviewed here back in 2010 as a classical crossover artist, Karnataka's newest project is an almost two-hour live album, DVD and BluRay set entitled New Light Live in Concert (Immrama Records (UK) KTKCD006 and KTKDVD0001, 2012). The booklet includes stunning photos of the artists contributed by Chris Walkden. The album is the band's first output since Gathering Light (2010).
In addition to Hayley Griffiths (lead vocals), Ian Jones (bass, bass pedals) is joined by Enrico Pinna (guitars, vocals) and newcomers Caĝri Tozluoĝlu (keyboards); Colin Mold (guitars, violin, vocals); and Matt McDonough (drums). The recording was done at The Met Theatre in Bury, England on 23 February 2012. The DVD must be seen to appreciate the band's on-stage performance and Hayley's striking visual presence.
Griffiths is a classically trained singer who has had long successful runs with Riverdance and Lord of the Dance as well as other West End outings. In addition to her classical crossover album Silver Screen (Surefire Music Group (UK) HG CD001, 2010), she completed an album of of traditional and contemporary Irish-themed music entitled Celtic Rose (Surefire Music Group (UK) HG CD002, 2011) just as her signing to Karnataka was announced.
Hayley's vocal work is a departure from Karnataka's prior singers Rachel Jones (pre-1998-2004) and Lisa Fury (2008-2010). The Karnataka spin-off project Chasing The Monsoon, that was also meant to include Fury's vocal work has not yet been released. We understand that a new studio recording by the current lineup is underway.
The New Light album and DVD find the band in their 2011-2012 tour with a good run of live performance experience. individual members have clearly become comfortable with the band's repertoire that spans their last dozen years although none of the tracks from Karnataka's debut self titled album have been included. Their performances are indeed outstanding. Arrangements have been tuned for the brighter and more robust keyboard work and to Hayley's vocal style. The addition of violin parts to the arrangements suits the music quite well.
Both the CD and DVD versions benefit from tremendous production and attention to capturing the details of the vocal performances as well as the arrangements without one over powering the other at anytime in the set. Video work is solid and not too choppy as so many unthoughtful concert recordings can be. The DVD provides an excellent introduction to the new lineup especially for those that either can't make it to see Karnataka live. It is also clear from the DVD that the band's stage show has evolved significantly since earlier tours.
Likely the best track to compare the first lineup to the third is the new arrangement of "Heaven Can Wait." The difference between the Kate Bush allusions of Rachel Jones and Hayley's classical/West End sound makes a tremendous difference, and diehard fans will find it quite noticable, but not offensive in any way.
Similarly, the powerful "Tide To Fall" is likely the best track to note the difference between the Lisa Fury-fronted lineup and the current team. Most of the live tracks, as one might expect, feature extended guitar and or keyboard solos. Karnataka's unique blend of Celtic and Middle-Eastern flair is certain to draw attention to this arrangement. Listen for the Riverdance or Lord of the Dance riff in the track.
"After The Rain" was fronted by Anne-Marie Helder and Rachel Jones on Delicate Flame of Desire. The rendition by the new lineup has of course has been reworked to better suit Hayley's vocal. She has done an especially good job on the vocal solo. Also listen for the new string arrangement in the mix.
In addition to the new renditions of material from The Storm, Delicate Flame of Desire and The Gathering Light, Karnataka have included of Haylety Griffith's tracks on this album. A real testament to her vocal talent, "Lagan Love," also recorded on Haley's Celtic Rose album, is performed brilliantly here atop a light keyboard wash. The stunning Hayley Griffiths song "Our Love" from Silver Screen is sung operatically against Karnataka's Celtic rock arrangement to the audience's sheer delight.
Karnataka are indeed back. Their New Light tour was extremely successful and brought back a loyal following to the band. They have now just completed the Forbidden Dreams tour where they played even more new material to audience delight. The New Light CD set, DVD and BluRay are available from the band's website. In addition to the music tracks included on the CD set, the DVD includes band interviews and a tour photo gallery. We can't wait for their next studio album. Bring it on!