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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Content
Julienne Taylor
Naimee Coleman
The Vards
Darlene Koldenhoven
Stella Mirus
Jane Olivor
Monica Starck
Karda Estra
Pamela Morgan
Scheherezade
Fabio Armani

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Instrumental Digest
 
Racing The Clouds Home
Image © 2000 Streamline Music Ltd 
 

(23 November 2000) The debut album from Julienne Taylor (photo) is entitled Racing The Clouds Home (Virgin Music (UK) CDV2931, 2000) and two singles have already been released featuring tracks from the album which blends traditional with contemporary and almost-pop sensibilities. Julienne is the latest singing sensation from Scotland. Supported by guest musicians—Gordon Campbell, Richie Harrison, Rab Howat, Finlay MacDonald, Dougie Pinckock, Chris Stout and Stuart Wood—the album is a certain to further her international following.

Racing The Clouds Home opens with Julienne's stunning a capella opening to the track "Rose of Sweethay." Keys accompany the latter half of the song, sung sensitively introducing listeners to the whispiness of Julienne's voice. A wonderful cover of the Fleetwood Mac classic "Second Hand News" backed with a blend of traditional Celtic and contemporary accompaniment immediately broadens the appeal of Julienne's vocal talent to a wider audience; it is no wonder why the label elected to feature this track as the album's first single. The whistle part perfectly compliments the vocal layers in the song's choruses.

"Just Let Me Be" is gentle country style ballad accompanied acoustically with layers of heavenly vocals adding texture to the chorus. The country sounds are further emphasized in the track "Woolball" where Julienne's lead is perfectly offset by the extensive backing vocal harmonies. "I Will Protect You" continues in a similar vein but is stronger acoustically both with traditional and contemporary sounds supporting Julienne's delicate vocal layers. One is immediately reminded of The Corrs' arrangements in the upbeat and highly accessible Celtic crossover track "Dreamworld" written by Stuart Wood who also shares the album's production credit with Gordon Campbell and Julienne Taylor. Julienne's vocals are generally whispier and more sensually sung.

"I Would Love You" is a stand-out track on the album. Whispy lead vocals are supported by light mainly acoustic arrangements. Yet harmony vocals and Celtic instrument arrangements build towards the chorus to tremendous power as each crescendo is reached. Julienne's interpretation of "Caledonia" is performed in a similar light acoustic style. "Land Far Away" is a traditional-based hymn with new arrangements by the production team. With extremely light instrumentals, Julienne's voice soars heavenly and floats well above the keyboards, and demonstrates the artist's vocal virtuosity. A stunning cover of "I Burn For You" features soaring whispy lead vocals while traditional instrumentals in the bridge and lovely harmonies add texture in the chorus.

Clearly "Tell Me Where You're Going" is the most pop-oriented number on the album. Upbeat and accessible, it blends contemporary with Celtic instrumentation and crystalline lead and harmony vocals. The album concludes with "What Am I Gonna Do?", a signature Julienne Taylor and Gordon Campbell track. Julienne's whispy vocals soar above further supporting layers and are joined by light acoustic arrangements that build in the chorus.

Julienne Taylor's Racing The Clouds Home is a stunning debut album from a rapidly rising Scottish singer and songwriter. Certain to please fans of All About Eve, The Corrs and even Enya, this twelve track is certain to widespread commercial success and critical acclaim. While currently only available in the European Community as a domestic product, we're certain it will find equivalent success in other territories. There are soundbites available at the artist's website that should be explored further. Order your copy from amazon.com here. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Julienne Taylor's new album is a must listen!

 
Naimee Coleman
Image © 2000 EMI Records Ltd

More Naimee Coleman:
Bring Down The Moon (2001)

Naimee Coleman - My Star Artwork
Image © 2001 EMI Records Ltd
 

(23 November 2000) Naimee Coleman's second album is entitled Bring Down The Moon. Due out in early 2001 on Chrysalis, Musical Discoveries editors were provided with a five track sampler to whet our appetite for her new release. Naimee's debut album Silver Wrists (Chrysalis Records (UK) CD SIL1, 1997) received critical acclaim internationally as well as in one of the first reviews published at Musical Discoveries. Anyone interested even remotely in The Corrs' music will be enthralled with Naimee's work.

The success of that album in Ireland elicited invitations for Naimee to perform with the likes of Donal Lunny and Sinead O'Connor and to co-wrte with songwriters in Nashville, and in Miles Copeland's castle retreat in the South of France. Other writers involved included Go-Go girl Jane Wiedlin, Paul Brady and former Police drummer and movie soundtrack favourite Stewart Copeland. Some of the results of these songwriter brainstorming sessions will be found on the forthcoming album. It was produced by Ian Stanley. The first single from the album is Naimee's interpretation of The Cure classic "Love Song," released in November and following on from her top five single success with "Ordinary World," featuring Aurora.

Our five-track album sampler from Bring Down The Moon (Chrysalis (UK) naimeedj001, 2000), for promotional use only, begins with "Love Song." While the lyrics are almost spoken in spots of this melancholy song, rich vocal harmonies in the chorus are unmistakably Naimee Coleman. Instrumentals are sparse but effectively support the lovely lead vocal part. "Sugar Me" is a highly accessible ballad with crisp percussion and contemporary instrumentation supporting Naimee's evocative lead and backing vocals. The pop-oriented upbeat "My Star" demonstrates a strong resemblence to the music of The Corrs. Naimee's lead vocals soar while her backing vocal arrangements blend with contemporary and traditional instrumentals, highlighted in a tremendous bridge.

Especially rich instrumental arrangements support layers of stunning vocals in the lightly rocking track "Standing Strong." Contrasts include a stunning vocal lead and in the verses and lovely harmonies in chorus that highlighted string arrangements. The album's title track, "Bring Down The Moon," is a dynamically arranged piece moving back and forth between a sensitive ballad and richly arranged pop-oriented track. The power, range and depth of Naimee's vocal talent rises above the well-played and -arranged instrumentals and carries the track.

Our patient wait for Naimee's follow up to Silver Wrists is quickly coming to an end. The five-track album sampler reveals significant artistic development along a line parallel with The Corrs. While Irish roots remain the artist's drive towards a contemporary sound is equally evident. You can order Naimee Coleman's self-titled album from amazon.com here. Stay tuned to Musical Discoveries for our full album review and exclusive interview with the artist. Naimee's sampler is certainly indicative that the new ablum will be worth a trans-Atlantic journey-a must listen.

 
A Time Of Change
Image © 2000 Universal Music (Ireland)

A Time Of Change
A Time Of Change (Single)
Image © 2000 Universal Music (Ireland)
 

(26 November 2000) The new album by The Vards is entitled A Time Of Change (Universal Music (Ireland), 2000). An earlier album entitled Heavenly (Coumbia/Sony (UK) 68837, 1999-2000) featured all three sisters (Wendy, Lisa, Cathy) and and included seventeen well-known classically oriented vocal tracks. The latest album features performances by Wendy and Lisa. Cathy's solo album should be reviewed here soon. The Vards' album appears to be available exclusively in Ireland at this time, but we expect it to be released in other territories as interest in the music grows.

Like Heavenly, the album offers a selection of tunes originally performed by other artists. The Vards provide wonderful interpretations of each one and breathe new life into former contemporary classics. The album opens with their interpretation of The Beatles' "In My Life" blending some traditional Irish instrumentation with lovely vocal harmonies. The sensitive French ballad with English interpreation by Tim Rice "The Second Time" is as rich vocally as it is instrumentally. "Song Of Bernadette" features one of The Vards singing the solo lead supported by piano and light orchestral instrumentation and the other joining during the chorus in a lovely harmony part. Traditional Irish instrumentation accompanies a sensitively sung lead vocal and lovely harmonies in the Vards interpretation of "Fields Of Gold."

The album's stand-out title track, "A Time Of Change," blends modern Irish arrangements with Abba-esque harmonies and accessibility. The vocal harmonies and string arrangements are superb. It is easy to understand why the single featuring the track backed with "The Water Is Wide" did very well commercially in Ireland recently. The original version of the track by Laura Powers resides on the artist's debut album. Her followup will be reviewed here soon. The Vards' duet version of "Nella Fantasia" is a brilliant contrast to the solo version recorded by Sarah Brightman on Eden. Vocally lush, instrumentals are perfectly subdued.

The sensitivity and depth of The Vards' talent is perfectly illustrated in their interpretation of Alan Parsons' classic "Old And Wise"; strings and guitar during the instrumental bridge are especially notable. "Back When We Were Beautiful" is a sensually sung solo ballad performed very much in an Andrea Corr style. Light instrumentation supports a lovely mid-register lead vocal part. Vocal harmonies dominate the lovely interpretation of "The Water Is Wide" performed a capella while contemporary arrangements underscore them in the lovely track "Wonder Child." The album closes with The Vards' collaboration with with Shane Filan in the upbeat country-Irish crossover version of the theme from the motion picture Babe entitled "If I Had Words." Layers of male vocals perfectly compliment The Vards' harmonies.

The Vards' latest album A Time Of Change is comprised of lovely interpreation of familiar tracks that illustrates the sisters' range and vocal prowess. Certain to appeal female vocal enthusiasts, this one is clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!

 
Air
Image © 2000 TimeArt Recordings

Air
Image © 2000 TimeArt Recordings
 

(09 Decenber 2000) The third album from Grammy Award winning vocalist Darlene Koldenhoven is entitled Heavenly Peace (TimeArt Recordings (USA) D10993, 2000). Ten well arranged tracks feature the artist's five octave vocal range and inspired by Christian classics and original numbers suit the holiday season and beyond. Darlene's earlier releases include the stunning spiritual pop crossover entitled Keys To The World (TimeArt Recordings (USA) D10901, 1993) and Free To Serve (TimeArt Recordings (USA) D10902, 1996) featuring the CRC Choirs and Friends. She is also well known as the soloist that performed "Aria" on Yanni's Live at the Acropolis video and finally appeared on one of his best-of albums after popular demand dictated some time later.

Heavenly Peace is not just another Christmas music album. The full range of the artist's experience and classical training is evident in the dynamic and creative arrangements of timeless holiday pieces. Vocal excursions soar spanning Darlene's entire range and fully illustrate the range and virtuosity of her performing talents. Keen listeners will hear operatic, pop and theatrical styles within the album's arrangements. Notable for a holiday music album, many of the selections are original compositions.

An operatic performance of the traditional "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" opens the album with a lovely orchestral arrangement featuring Karen Briggs on violin with Darlene's voice immediately soaring to join the melody. The variation in styles on the album becomes evident instantly with the Middle Eastern flavour of Darlene's "Gabriel to Mary, Weaping," and thinking of Scheherazade (the musical) it is illustrative of her theatrical singing style. And while performed primarily in a theatrical style, "Joseph's Question" also has soaring operatic elements. Harmony vocals are subdued but provide an excellent supporting texture to the track.

Performed largely as a duet with herself, the old English ballad "The Star to The Stable" is an evocatively sung piece finely arranged with lovely instrumental parts supporting the vocal passages. We most enjoyed "Angels Pastorale," a lovely instrumental featuring a whistle melody textured with Darlene's vocalise. The stunning five part a capella "Angels We Have Heard on High" is a heartfelt gospel tune blending traditional elements in a unique arrangement. The crystalline purity of Darlene's voice rings in her performance of the Howells/Luther "Balulalow" (O My Deir Hert). Our readers will be instantly reminded of Charlotte Church's voice in this performance.

While Darlene's debut album was most reminscent of Miriam Stockley's work in a number of the tracks, this stylistic similarity vanished from her work with the exception of her modern interpretation and heavily layered version of "Silent Night" which is clearly a standout track on Heavenly Peace. Soaring excursions further illustrate the extent of Darlene's range in her vocalise performance of "Emmanuel." The album closes with a most stunning and standout performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Pie Jesu" arranged by Alex Wurman far surpassing those by Sarah Brightman and Charlotte Church who have both released it previously. The contemporary arrangement breathes refreshing new life into the modern day classic and Darlene's voice rings with crystalline clarity. Simply stunning.

Heavenly Peace is a lovely blend of traditional and modern holiday music, with wonderful instrumental arrangements supporting the artist's stellar vocal performances. Unique arrangements of "Silent Night" and "Emmanuel" as well as "Pie Jesu" make this album one for all seasons. Soundbites are available at the artist's website (click on album cover to visit). You can read further reviews and order the album from amazon.com here. As with the artist's earlier albums, Darlene Koldenhoven's Heavenly Peace is worthy of much further investigation and is a must listen!

 
Air
Image © 2000 Pacific Garden (Japan)

Eri Sugai
Eri Sugai (Vocals)
Image © 2000
photo courtesy Narumi Arai
 

(09 December 2000) Kazumasa Yoshioka and Eri Sugai co-produced the album Air (Pacific Garden (Japan) CHCB-30003), 2000) under the monniker Stella Mirus. Eri told us, "this is not an Asian-style CD, I made it by order to make classic music by Mr Yoshioka. That is my style too." Enthusiasts of music by Miriam Stockley, Enya, Adiemus and Eri Sugai's album Mai (review) are certain to enjoy this album as well. One track is even reminscent of work by the legendary Julee Cruise.

Eri Sugai has created stunning vocal arrangements that perfectly compliment her crystalline voice for the album's nine tracks, of which five trace back to classical pieces by Bach, Satie, Beethoven Faure and Mussorgsky. We were instantly reminded of Adiemus, Enya and Annie Haslam's Still Live from first listen. The album opens with it's title track "Air" derived from a piece by Bach. Gently flowing vocal layers are supported by light keyboard accompaniment.

Sugai's lovely interpretation of Erik Satie's classic "Gymnopedie No. 1" is almost entirely vocalise—the keyboard is especially light and perfectly compliments her voice. Annie Haslam's "Shine" on her 1985 Still Life is an interesting lyrical alternative and worth a journey for interested readers. Eri Sugai's vocal arrangement of "Sonata for Klavier Nr. 14" (Beethoven) is most reminiscent of the whispy style of Julee Cruise and is accompanied by Yoshioka's lovely keyboard-created string part.

By stark contrast to the classically derived numbers on the album is a certain favourite to Enya's fans called "In Your Arms." String passages, vocal arrangements, keyboards and the song structure itself creates an instant allusion to Enya's latest album A Day Without Rain (review). "Aquamarin" is an atmospheric number, with both evocative vocals and rapid range traversing keyboard excursions, is equally reminiscent of Enya's work. The similarities are lovely and Eri Sugai's voice suits the style extremely well.

Eri Sugai's crystalline vocal ability shines through in the a capella arrangements of "Stella." Harmony layers support the lead vocal layers and create a stunning accompaniment during the piece performed very much in the style created on her Mai album. The style continues into the introduction to the artists' interpretation of Faure's "Siciliania-Pel Leas Et Melisande Op. 80." Keyboards join and support the lead and backing harmonies as the almost epic length track develops. The album's final classical re-arrangement begins with a lovely multi-tracked a capella rendition of a portion of Mussogsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Midway through the track the vocals quickly pick up pace and additional layers and orchestral instantly recognisable as an Adiemus style emerge.

Styles blend in the album's closing epic "Silent Love." The keyboard arrangement is especially notable and full of classically derived allusions. Within the vocal passages, listeners will hear styles made famous by Enya, Julee Cruise, a bit of Adiemus and the blend will leave a lovely impression of this tremendous album. Clearly Eri Sugai is a stunning vocal talent and one that we hope to hear a lot more of in the coming months and years. There are four lovely soundbites at the label's website (click on album cover to enter). Air is worth extensive exploration and worthy of a trans-Atlantic (or trans-Pacific) journey, it is certainly a must listen! Available exclusively as an import, order your copy today.

 
Love Decides
Image © 2000 River Road Entertainment 
 

(11 December 2000) While her earlier albums date back to 1976, Jane Olivor's first new album in eighteen years is an eleven track collection entitled Love Decides (Varese Sarabande (USA) 302 066 198 2, 2000). The album was produced by Steve A Addabo, whose guitar parts grace all but one of the selections. While there are tww Olivor originals, "However Dark The Night" and "In The Moment," written by Olivor with Rede and Addabbo respectively, the majority of the tracks are covers of tunes written by others. October Project's Marina Belica provides backing vocals to "Night Song," Olivor's interpretation of "Bury My Lovely" and "In The Moment."

Jane Olivor's singing naturally dominates the album. She says, "This is my first album in 18 years and it's finally here. I'm thrilled to be able to share it with all of my fans and I am so grateful for your loyalty and love. I think you with all my heart. I excitedly welcome new fans who I hope will become old friends." The album effectively balances uptempo, midtempo and slowly sung heartfelt ballads.

While "Warm," title track "Love Decides" and "Half Heaven, Half Heartache" provide a lovely introduction to the artist's repertoire, the uptempo 1997 Olivor / Rede track "However Dark The Night" is the first truly standout track on the album. Jane sings in a mid- to low-register and, while soaring vocal excursions do occur, she doesn't go into the stratosphere. Her vocal work is consistently evocative, sensual with a mature emotional delivery outweighing the need for a vast range. "However Dark The Night" has a lovely alternative rock arrangement and Marina Belica's backing vocals add a lovely texture to the choruses. Jane's emotional vocal delivery and both sax and guitar solos during the instrumental bridge is highly notable.

Jane Olivor's interpretation of the Emil Adler/Julie Flanders track "Bury My Lovely" originally performed by Mary Fahl and Marina Belica with October Project on the band's debut album is the standout track on the album. Vocally stunning in every respect, Steve Gabour's keyboard arrangement and guitars by Steve Addabbo give the cover a truly unique, somewhat Celtic touch. While backing vocal work by Marina Belica and Emil Adler in Olivor's interpretation of the song adds a lovely texture, the lead vocal is most evocative and sensual, adding a new dimension to this October Project classic. Jane's soaring lead in the chorus while sung lower is also reminscent of Karnataka's Rachel Jones and further justifies their comparison made to October Project made by our readers.

Production quality perfectly compliments vocal performance and instrumental arrangements in the heartfelt ballads "I Had This Man" and "I Believe In You." The uptempo "In The Moment" is a more highly accessible song with lovely multi-tracked backing harmony vocals adding texture most effectively. "Colors of the Wind" is a theatrical style ballad and most effectively illutrates Jane Olivor's ability to transmit an emotional message within her singing. The album concludes with the lightly accompanied ballad "I'll Be There" further illustrating the singer's sensitive delivery.

Clearly Jane Olivor's Love Decides is a wonderfully produced return to the mainstream album for this extremely talented singer songwriter. Standout tracks on the album are balanced with emotively sung ballads and demonstrate the range and depth of the artist. You can find other albums by Jane Olivor, and read reviews, hear soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. October Project enthusiasts will be delighted to hear Jane's interpretation of the classic "Bury My Lovely," and while the entire album is excellent, this one track will certainly justify its purchase. Worth a journey and lots of further exploration, the album is a very nice listen!

 
Stories Untold
Image © 1999 Bolero Records 
 

(11 December 2000) Recommended to Musical Discoveries' editors by our Scandinavian correspondent, singer songwriter Monica Starck's debut album Stories Untold (Bolero Records AB (Sweden) BOL 50042, 2000) is nominally a twelve-track alternative rock pop crossover collection. With the album's selections largely self-written or written with other partners and produced by Dan Sundqvist, Monica's vocal work will certainly appeal to those that follow Andrea Corr.

Sweden has a knack of producing highly accessible pop tunes fronted by lovely female vocalists and Monica Starck's work is certainly no exception. The overall production of the recording and lush rocking instrumental arrangements have been created with accessibility in mind as evidenced by the album's emotionally delivered upbeat tracks. Monica's vocal work is clearly the focus of the album however the lushness of the instrumentals balances the overall sound.

Song structures on Stories Untold vary from highly accessible uptempo ("The Trouble With Ben" and "In From The Cold") through moody alternative rocking numbers ("Into The Unknown," "Even Summer," "The Farewell of Julia" and "Powerful Thing") and heartfelt yet moving ballads with expressive vocal work ("Happy" and the title track "Stories Untold") that would be effectively placed in the midst of one of the Warner Brothers teen television dramas.

One of the album's standout tracks is the upbeat and lushly arranged "This Side Of Blue." Thick instrumental arrangements adorn Monica's sensually sung "I'm Just Like You," a highly accessible radio friendly pop rock track certain to appeal to a broad cross section of younger audiences.

Lushly produced vocal harmonies add texture and depth to the finely played instrumentals. "Happy" is certainly one of the album's standout tracks. Accompanied only by acoustic guitar, Monica's vocals soar in the evocatively sung and gentle ballad "I'd Rather Sleep Alone." The Scandinavian release of the album concludes with a light alternative acoustic ballad entitled "Written On My Heart" that could equally be classed as a folk tune.

Currently Monica Starck's albums are available only as imports outside the EC. You can order the album from amazon.co.uk here or as an import from Japan with several bonust tracks from amazon.com here. Singles are also available at amazon.com. While the United States music market is full of alternative female singer songwriters, Monica Starck's work stands above them in song construction, harmony vocals and instrumental arrangements. Worth further exploration, her debut album is a very nice listen!

 
The Land Of Ghosts
Image © 2000 Karda Estra 
 

(11 December 2000) The latest album from Richard Wileman's Karda Estra entitled The Land Of Ghosts is a collection of previously released tracks and previously unpublished rarities. Swindon-based Wileman has substantial earlier work that includes two albums by Karda Estra (review) and five by the progressive Renaissance-like group Lives and Times. His most recent work, including the Karda Estra albums and the final Lives and Times album features the stunning vocal work of Ileesha Bailey whose voice has been favourably compared to Sandy Denny previously. Lives and Times came to a conclusion at the end of 1997 when Richard and Ileesha gave birth to Karda Estra. The Land of Ghosts showcases Richard Wileman's soundtrack themes.

In The Land of Ghosts, Richard (piano sequences, classical guitar) is supported not only by Ileesha's vocal work but also Caron Hansford (oboe, cor anglais) and Zoe King (flute, saxophone). Instrumental arrangements are highly thematic throughout featuring guitar-based textures. Ileehsa's vocals seem to be denser and more heavily layered. And mixed up further she seems to be far more prominent in the arrangements than the earlier Karda Estra material.

The album recalls tunes from Karda Estra's first two releases A Winter In Summertime and Thirteen from the Twenty First. These tracks include "... From A Deep Sleep," "Transference," "Dorothea's Nightmare" and "The Ribbon Of Extremes." The album's first brand new track recorded earlier this year is the dynamic and moody "Avatar" which blends rhythmic percussion, straight guitar and heavily processed instrumental excursions with a brief yet lovely vocalise melody.

The dark moody opening title and vocally lush main theme from the movie Chaos occupy track positions six and seven on The Land Of Ghosts. One has to adore the way Richard Wileman has balanced the instrumental arrangements with Ileesha's vocals. We also enjoyed the sensual oboe solo in the main theme. It is complimented wonderfully by Ileesha's vocals and the saxophone part and is truly a wonderful main theme.

The Land of Ghosts includes two moody orchestrally arranged instrumental numbers written and released in 1993 and 1995 respectively for the Lives and Times albums. "Lizard Baby" appeared initially on There And Back Again (1995) while "Two Broken Circles" is from The Pull of a Tide (1993). Richard told us, "They point the way to the atmosphere of Karda Estra and I thought it would be nice to include them here." "Two Broken Circles" is an orchestral piece with classical influences while "Lizard Baby" is a harder edged piece. Neither of the latter two tracks have vocal parts.

Karda Estra is currently working on their new project that will be entitled Four Elements. Until its completion, the group's largely retrospective work The Land of Ghosts is certainly one to pay attention to. Based on demos our editors heard earlier this year, we are keen to hear tracks from the new project. Until then, this latest album is certainly worth further exploration. Visit the band's website for ordering information. It is a very nice listen!.

 
Pamela Morgan Collection CD Cover
Image © 2000 Amber Music Ltd

Pamela Morgan On A Wing And A Prayer CD Cover
Image © 1996 Amber Music Ltd
 

(11 December 2000) Pamela Morgan's latest album release includes twelve tracks that detail her diverse and innovative musical journey. It is entitled Collection (Amber Music (Canada) 9807-2, 2000) and chronicles her solo work and with her band Figgy Duff. She is the former lead singer, songwriter and co-founder of the folk/rock innovators Figgy Duff. At the forefront of the traditionally influenced Celtic scene for the past 20 years, her music will appeal to enthusiasts of Clannad, Capercaillie and Renaissance. With a sweetly sensual voice she is vocally similar to Sandy Denny and Jennifer Nobel so her music may indeed appeal to those that follow Fairport Convention and Ileesha Bailey of Karda Estra (review above) as well as Grey Eye Glances.

Writing from Newfoundland, Pamela Morgan told us, "[the album is] an introduction for some, a road map for others; a bridge between influence and direction, past, present and future. This is a collection of some of my favourites; scattered over several albums, each reflecting its own time, beauty and circumstance. Often inspired by nature and the ocean, these are songs of changing times and changing moods, but always coloured by the constant and profound beauty of Newfoundland and her graceful people."

Before Noel Dinn's untilmely death in 1993, he worked with Pamela to produce the exquisite The Colour of Amber also featuring Anita Best on backing vocals. Pamela continued her musical journey on the album, redefining some of the most haunting traditional material that ultimately landed the album on several "Year's Best" lists throughout the world.

Collection's twelve tremendous tracks come from a broad cross section of Pamela Morgan's earlier releases including On A Wing And A Prayer, Downstream, Weather Out The Storm and the various artists collection Another Time. Tracks are largely Celtic influenced but blend contemporary and rock arrangements with Pamela's stunning vocal work. Traditional sounds are largely delivered through modern instrumentation. One can not help but be highly captivated by each song's arrangements and Pamela superb vocal delivery. The upbeat folk rock track "Freedom" is certainly the album's standout track. It is a tremendous album, a wonderful collection of the artist's work, and a tribute to the band where it all began—certainly a must listen.

With the release of her first solo album, On A Wing And A Prayer (Amber Music (Canada) 9803-2, 1996), she carries the legacy of Figgy Duff through her own highly innovative, self-produced original music, which earned critical acclaim and a place on various international compilations. It is actually only one of Pamela's two solo albums, the other being a collection of holiday music entitled Amber Christmas (more). On A Wing And A Prayer has twelve original numbers, some written with Noel Dinn prior to his death and it continues much in the style developed earlier with Figgy Duff. Occasional traditional instrumentation includes whistle and bodhran and both are played to great effect. One is keenly reminded of Loreena McKennitt's work in several of the album's tracks.

As one would expect of a female vocalist's solo album On A Wing And A Prayer is slightly more self-indulgent, with the vocals mixed way up where Musical Discoveries' editors like them, and with more vast vocal excursions exploring Pamela Morgan's range. Instrumentals are actually slightly more traditional with fiddle, whistle and mandolin clearly shining through the arrangements each with lovely solos played during the instrumental bridges in the individual tracks.

Pamela Morgan's vocals are sweet and sensually sung, whispy at times, but never dusky (as others have written). She sings equally with crystalline quality, especially on her solo album, and our readers will hear all of these styles in both Collection and On A Wing And A Prayer. These albums will be equally comfortable being played on an easy going Sunday morning as they will be on a dynamic Saturday night but perfectly suited to calm the nerves in intense city traffic might be too relaxing for a cross country motorway drive.

Pamela Morgan's recordings are available through a number of online sources. You can read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order Collection from amazon.com here and On A Wing And A Prayer here. With stunning vocals and instrumental arrangements, these two albums by Pamela Morgan are worth a long distance journey and are a must listen!

 
Scheherezade Preak CD Cover
Image © 2000 Scheherezade/Wutang Records 
 

(11 December 2000) Scheherezade are a dynamic club-oriented rock band from Denver, Colorado (USA). Their self-released debut album Preak was produced by vocalist and engineer Heather Lee at the beginning of 2000. The group originated in 1998 when four musicians and long-time friends reunited to create their own unique sound. Their main focus is currently on recording their second album and may involve a move to the east coast next year. Heather told us, "We feel we can reach more people through our performances simply because there are more people to play for in the tri-state region. Exposure, marketing and promotion will be key, but we need to target the right audience."

Preak is comprised of ten original harder-edge progressive rock-oriented tracks with heavy guitar and keyboard excursions and layered vocal textures. Musical Discoveries was also provided a short demo of work in progress with tracks "Blue Star" and "Autumn." Percussion and keyboards are substantially more dominant than guitar contrasting the band's debut album sound. The new ballad "Autumn" is moody but it is also highly melodic with solo electric guitar underscoring Heather's soothing vocal layers.

Heather told us, "I wanted to include a few more songs on the demo because it would provide a better idea of which stylistic direction the band has been heading, but the studio that I work in and where we record has been booked and I can only record off hours, of which there have been few." Preak, by contrast has a heavier, mid-70s-ish Yes edge. Heather continued, "We are intentionally weeding out the 1980s 'guitar-hero' sound which you hear in some of the songs such as 'Close Proximity' and 'Road's Whisper.' These songs were written long ago and we just had to get them out of our system." A similar style is evident in the album's opening, "Stonegate."

Those familiar with the British band and Classic Rock Society favourite Fula will certainly hear a similarity to Scheherezade instrumentally and vocally in the track "Secrets," "The Chase" and "911" where keyboards and guitar blend with vocals to carry the song's melody forward. The album's darker tracks include "Tumbleweed," "Spanish Rice" and the gloomy beginning of "Close Proximity."

"Road's Whisper" is a melodic progressive rock track. It's almost spoken solo vocals are supported by backing harmonies that seamlessly blend with the instrumentals. Another progressive rock number is is "Shameless." Layers of Heather Lee's bluesy vocals soar above instense keyboard and guitar-based harmonies. We especially enjoyed the softly rocking ballad "Her Way Out" with its striking guitar solos and Heather Lee's sultry vocal lead and lovely layered backing harmonies. The album concludes with the dynamic "Close Proximity." Layers of vocals ride above a progressive and dynamically arranged instrumental with crisp percussion, a metal-edged guitar and lush keyboards. It is a fantastic concluding track.

Two tracks from the Preak album were selected to be used in the feature-length film Picture of Priority, dealing with teenage suicide. "The Chase" and "Stonegate" were chosen for a couple of the rebellious scenes. The band's debut album can be obtained at their official website and at their live performances in and around Denver. Preak effectively captures the band's sound and with its harder edge will appeal to progressive rock enthusiasts. A rather significant departure from Renaissance—who they are compared to at mp3.com—the band's music is adventurous in its genre and should be explored further online. Notable instrumental and vocal performances make the album a nice listen.

 
Terre Differenti
Image © 2000 Different Lands

Terre Differenti
Image © 2000 SIAE
 

(28 November 2000) We made initial contact with Fabio Armani over ten months ago in the run up to a new album by Advena Avis entitled Da Terre Lontane. The group's earlier album is entitled Medioevo Futoro (1997). Advena Avis was founded by Armani and Marco Carpiceci in Italy in 1990. He told us, "The group's music folows a course which, inspired from the ancient, that is the vast repertoire of medieval melodies, and from the study of instruments and performing techniques of the ethnic and popular world, developed and enriched itself in different phases." His style is further developed with the debut self-titled work Terre Differenti (Different Lands (Italy) DL071, 2000) also released this year.

Our demo version of the album included vocal work by Anna DeMartini. However when the album was released her parts were replaced by Yazemin Sannino and Doris Levin. We have had the opportunity to listen to both versions and Armini's earlier Advena Avis albums for some time.

Terre Differenti is extremely atmospheric and an epic work running the full 74 minute length of a commercial release. It draws significant natural sounds and ethnic chants into the music, which varies from highly rhythmic to that involving almost total improvisation, to develop a visually enticing backdrop for the experience that rises above it. One can not help but be metaphysically transported to a different land when listening to the first two title tracks (I and II).

The theme of different lands is most evident in the ever shifting themes. One will hear new age, ethnic and alternative arrangements blended seamlessly with lovely jazz parts. Production is superb with each of the composer's instruments evidently discernable with perfect clarity. It is an adventurous group of recordings that move the body and soul, inspiring relaxation during the journey. Arrangements are perfectly balanced with our only desire being to have more vocals.

Fabio Armani told us about three of the album's tracks, "'Clouded Shapers' is a song inspired to the beautiful landscapes created by the clouds in the sky. It has an inner strength given by crescendos of electric guitar solo, synths and world percussions. 'The Legend Of The World" is a beautiful and evocative New Age piece inspired to ancient legends on the wind. It uses electronic as well as ancient and world instruments. "The Witches and the Desert" is a percussive middle east oriented piece inspired by a photo of three red dressed women in the desert. It talks the red tongue of the sand."

The Advena Avis and Terre Differenti albums are instrumentally dramatic and evocative in their construction. The music will likely appeal to a broad audience with its blend of jazz and world fusion textures. Visit the artist's website for further information. You can read further reviews of Terre Differenti, share your views with others and order their debut album from amazon.com here. We found the two Advena Avis and Terre Differenti albums by Fabio Armani to be a very nice listen!

 
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