(10 August 2009) Amanda Somerville is an established singer songwriter and vocal coach from Flint, Michigan that has been living in Wolfsburg, Germany for some time. From a musical family and a beginning career as a pop singer engrained with the sounds of Motown, Amanda released several solo recordings. Here style has since evolved.
Gifted with stunning voice and tremendous lyric writing skill, Amanda became established at Gate Studios and has worked with a bevy of now well known Dutch bands and their female vocalists. For example, she has worked with Floor Jansen (After Forever) and Simone Simons (Epica) to name just two and contributed extensively to the stunning rock operas Aina and Avantasia.
We were delighted that Amanda contacted us when the original release of her long awaited solo project Windows (Amanda Somerville, Broken Moon Publishing A Hya! (Germany) LC12240, 2008) was ready for review. Amanda discussed the project further in the wonderful interview with Marta Samitowska for the 2008 book Through My Eyes In Their Own Words: Females In Metal And Beyond (review).
Our review copy features the first front cover shown left although subsequent pressings use the second front cover. A high quality color booklet complete with lyrics and further photos of the artist accompanies the package. The lovely photo of Amanda at the bottom of the left hand column graces the picture disc. The twelve-track recording spans an array of different styles and clearly illustrates the range and depth of this fantastic artist.
Amanda's earlier recordings include, for example, the tracks "Carnival" and "Point Of Safe Return" on the Bad Girls Don't Cry (2008) compilation, she conceived, wrote and sang on the stunning rock opera Aina (2003); Amanda wrote and recorded the Never Alone EP (2003) to raise funds for Lou Gehrig's disease. She also wrote and recorded the Blue Nothing EP (2000) and her debut recording, In the Beginning there was ... (2000). She is also credited with vocal coaching, vocal parts and lyrics contributions to Avantasia's Lost In Space (2007) and The Scarecrow (2008), the Epica releases 2003-2007, the After Forever releases 2003-2007 and the Asrai releases 2003-2007. See Amanda's MySpace for further credits.
Windows is Amanda's first full length album since her debut recording In The Beginning .... The twelve track collection not only demonstrates the artist's significant professional growth but also in the variety and depth of the material included. Production and contribution to the arrangements by longstanding musical partner Sascha Paeth contributes to the result. The most memorable albums are tracked to develop towards crescendo before gradually releasing the listener to their memories. Windows has been done perfectly.
The album opens with the upbeat, radio-friendly rocker "Mayday." The memorable chorus immediately draws listeners into this record. A little slower paced, but equally robust is the rhythmic track spanning Amanda's range entitled "Point Of Safe Return." Vocal layers in the tenderly delivered pop love ballad "Moth" work well against the multi-faceted arrangements in this composition. Sascha's guitar work and Amanda's keys provide a superb foundation for the production.
The first stylistic shift in the running order occurs in "My Song For You." Produced by and with keyboards and programming by Miro, Sascha Paeth's thick guitar works with Amanda's vocal to produce a dance-oriented track. Listeners will be enthralled to hear the upper end of Amanda's range in both lead and backing vocals. The thick bass in the bluesy track "Get Me" provides a foundation for a blend of whispy and sirenous vocal work and the surprisingly vast guitar excursions.
The depth of the arrangements make a market increase in the heartfelt "Inner Whore." Penned by Amanda, this upbeat and metal-edged rock track fits perfectly in sequence and style; her influence on some of the well-known Dutch rock bands will become immediately evident. And then very much in a Within Temptation style, comes one of the album's features, "Out." The song is perfectly delivered by Amanda backed by Sascha Paeth, but it would be equally well suited to Floor or Irene Jansen or Simone Simons in After Forever or Epica respectively.
In stark contrast, "Carnival" is a cabaret-styled number far better produced than anything by Emilie Autumn but not distant from her style. The remarkable chorus continues to draw the listener into this tremendous record. And in equal contrast to everything before it except for the thick bass part, "Clean" is an upbeat, latin-tinged dance-oriented number. Listen for Amanda's soaring vocal work and pop-sounding backing vocal work.
In a wonderful release, Amanda evocatively sings the bluesy "Sometimes" against rich lounge style orchestration produced again by Miro. "All That I Am" is a lovely heartfelt ballad. The evocative chorus continues to explore Amanda's range, is very memorably sung and accompanied by warm washes and crisp percussion. The 50 minute album concludes with the title track, "Windows," a gentle number that continues to illustrate the most sensitive edge of Amanda's voice. Accompanied by piano and warm keyboard washes, vocal layers perfectly adjoin Amanda's lead in this tremendous track.
Amanda Somerville is a busy woman, throughly dedicated to the music business, her friends and family. She has honed her craft both with personal development and by working with other artists to advance their own journeys. This new album,
produced by Sascha Paeth and Miro with other familiar artists from their established network, is not only a testament to the artist's own growth, but to her inner strength and commitment. It was worth the wait.