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Dream CD Cover
Images © Sparrow Records 2001

Images © Sparrow Records 2001

(09 October 2001) Michelle Tumes has returned with an all new album entitled Dream (Sparrow Records (USA), 2001). Fans of the golden-voiced Australian singer may be somewhat suprised by the slightly different approach that Michelle has taken with her third full-length release.

Many of the tracks on her first album Listen were melodically, vocally, and instrumentally closer in sound to the more ethereal stylings of Máire Brennan and Enya. Michelle's second album, Center of My Universe, (review) saw the artist move in a more pop-friendly direction, while maintaining a hint of otherworldliness.

On Dream Michelle has worked with new producers Scott Erickson and Doug Beiden to create a uplifting pop/dance set complete with D.J. scratches (provided by Jesse Shacklock), vocoder emulation (a la Madonna), and orchestra-synth strikes—think Britney Spears' "Baby, One More Time." In addition, the multi-layered harmonic vocal tracking that was so much a part of her first two albums has largely been abandonned for a more distinct and assertive single vocal melodic line.

Fortunately, Michelle Tumes' greatest strength has always been her talent for writing exceptionally catchy hooks; and the collection of songs on Dream once again reflect that talent. Most of Dreams ten tracks fall squarely within the cateogry of pure pop. But, what separates this album from the ubiquitous legion of radio-ready pre-fab cd's currently on the charts is Michelle's skilled singing, personal lyrics, and clever and enlivening arrangements. In truth, a listen to Dream leaves one feeling a little better about the world and everyone living therein.

The opening title track begins with a soothing guitar intro overlayed with children's voices. The serenity of these opening phrases, however, is quickly altered by a break-beat drum track and percolating bass-synth. Michelle's voicings are particularly soulful and driving. The energetic chorus ultimately makes for a vibrant song that would be well-received on any dance floor. Other tracks like "The Light," and "There Goes My Love" maintain this encouraging, "get out of your seat and dance" vibe.

"One and Only," one of the album's standout tracks, features a hand-clapping gospel choir, tin whistle, racing strings, and wah wah guitars—all to wonderful effect. "Image of" presents a powerful and affirming messageregarding the intrinsic worth of each human being. To her credit, Michelle is able to deliver a relevant spiritual message without sounding preachy or overwrought—not to mention the fact that that message is accompanied by a lovely melody.

The majestic and serene "God of My Hope" is really the only song that recalls the mood of "Listen." Dense, sweeping strings accentuate Michelle's delicate and worshipful voice. Indeed, the highest compliment among those many that might be paid to Michelle Tumes is that she combines real musicianship with sincerity. As a result, her music always manages to be both emotionally and aurally compelling.

It is a pleasure to review Michelle Tumes' latest album here. Further information, photographs and soundbites are available at the artist's website. Order the album from amazon.com here. Certainly worth a cross country journey, Michelle Tumes' new album is a must listen!--Justin Elswick

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