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Can't Watch Yourself Dance CD Cover
Image © 1999 Hidden Star Publishing 

(26 February 2000) The debut album from singer songwriter Esther Valentine is entitled Can't Watch Yourself Dance (MadamRex (USA), 1999). It is comprised of seven richly instrumented and vocally staggering tracks written and arranged by the artist. Esther's core group includes: Garrison White (acoustic guitar); Gregg Montante (electric guitar, production and mixing with Ken Allardyce); Robbie Myers (drums and percussion); Joe Caccavo (electric bass); Robin Rader (flute); and Connie Deeter (stand-up bass). Vocal performances, instrumental arrangements and production quality of the recording are absolutely tops. Additional biographic information and photographs are available at Esther's website. Soundbites are available from her mp3.com website.

With stated influences including Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, The Beatles, Elton John and similarities including Natalie Merchant, Loreena McKennitt, Enya and Linda Rondstadt, one certainly expects the artist's first album to exhibit vocal virtuousity—Can't Watch Yourself Dance delivers from the first, it's title, track. The vocal lines and supporting flute within the mainly acoustic instrumental mix are highly memorable, drawing the listener into the recording. Although the genre of the varied yet rocking "I Can't Keep Jennifer Waiting" and "Lost Emotion" differs from Kate Bush's typical sound, Esther's sensitive vocals are quite reminscent of the well known artist's in this terrific track. The layers of backing vocals in the choruses are especially notable.

While the album is vocally oriented, the instrumental arrangements have actually been given equal emphasis, adding to the overall quality of the album. "Dreaming" is lighly arranged with flute and strings carrying the backing for Esther's most sensitive vocal lead and a similarity to Jeni Saint (review). Esther's vocal harmonies in this track and the highly accessible "When the Idol Falls" with its richer instrumental production, soaring lead and thicker backing vocals are wonderful.

"When Your Eyes Stop Talking" is lovely highly emotive ballad sung over the lightest instrumentation that builds to compliment soaring vocals as the song develops. Perhaps most illustrative of Esther's vocal dexterity, it is a stunning track. The album concludes with the brief multi-tracked a capella "If My Complaints Your Passions Move."

Esther Valentine's Can't Watch Yourself Dance is a stunning tribute to a rising west coast talent. Vocally strong with tremendous instrumental arrangements the recording is certainly worthy of further exploration—a must listen!

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