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Image © 1999 Sony Music Entertainment
The follow-up to the record-breaking debut
album-Voice Of An Angel (Sony SK60957, 1998)-by young
operatic superstar Charlotte Curch is destined to certain
success. A widely-aired live video entitled Voice Of An
Angel In Concert (Sony SHV61770, 1999) also received
significant international attention and was certified gold
by the RIAA.
The new album titled simply Charlotte Church (Sony
SK64356, 1999) includes a staggering collection of 17 tracks
opening with the stunning original contemporary-opera
crossover track "Just Say Hello" produced by Trevor Horn. A
two-minute edit of the 3:50 track is being used in the Ford
Global Millennium television advert. Certain to achieve
critical acclaim beyond typical classical circles,
further contemporary crossover work would be appreciated
by even broader audiences. Order the album today from
Charlotte Church provides all lead vocals and is accompanied
by the London Symphony Orchestra throughout the
recording-their chorus also contributes to the album
as does the London Welsh Male Choir. The singer's vast
ranging vocal excursions span the
recording and include technically superb renditions of
classical pieces such as the recent Sarah Brightman
"O mio babbino caro" as well as "Lascia ch'io pianga,"
"The Jewel Song," "If Thou Art Near," "Voi che sapete"
and a Brahm's "Lullaby." Her vocal work in Rossini's
"la Pastorella" waltz from Soirťes Musicales
is especially memorable as is "Barcorelle" from Offenbach's
The Tales of Hoffmann and the traditional pieces
"She Moves Through The Fair" and "Men of Harlech"
(with male choir). The stunning ballad "Summertime"
from Porgy and Bess and the highly emotive
treatment of the secular hymn "Guide Me, Oh Thou Great
Redeemer," also with male choir, round out the album.
Destined for great success, this self-titled second album
is technically superb. Accompanied by a lovely booklet with
lyrics and translations where required, production quality of
the recording is top notch as well. This second collection
of Charlotte Church recordings includes a wide selection of music
and fully illustrates the talent of this rapidly emerging
vocal talent. Worth a cross-country journey-a must listen!
Image © 1999 Astor Place Recordings, LLC
The followup album to Paul Schwartz' Aria (Astor Place TCD 4009, 1997),
entitled Aria 2 New Horizon (Astor Place TCD 4017) is more focused and
highly polished when compared to the debut. Foremost a vocal work, yet again a contemporary-classical opera crossover, Schwartz began with well-known pieces
from various composers, coupled them with his own and created highly unique
and modern arrangements featuring the stunning and hypnotic vocals of Tony
Award nominee Rebecca Luker. You can order the album from
amazon.com today. Aria's debut album can also be ordered from
Professionally and richly orchestrated in every way, the album contains
equal installments of modern instrumentation-gorgeous guitars, electronics
and percussion contribute to the contemporary and progressive effervescence
of the album. The album includes unique arrangements of Monteverdiís
"Lament of Arianna," Verdiís "Addio," Offenbach's "Barcarolle" as well as
a version of Faurť's "Pavane." Four of the tracks are instrumentals while
the balance of the album is vocally oriented.
Featured on both the debut and this followup album, Rebecca Luker's highly
emotive vocals are crystal clear, instrumental in their quality, and
undescribably lush at the same time. A certain highlight of the album is
Schwartz' contemporary arrangement and Luker's vocal rendition of "Ave Maria."
Contrasting lead vocals are provided by Clair Marlo on the Croation and English
versions of "Sviraj (Lullabye)." The one male vocal number, "Leiermann"
arranged by Schwartz from Schubert's "Die Wintereise," is sung (in German)
by Steve Barton.
While some crossovers are quirky with styles vastly oscillating track
to track, this album has a strong direction and is highly thematic, rich
in texture, wonderfully produced and consistently strong across the twelve
individual tracks. A gatefold with lovely artwork and a removable booklet
adorns the compact disc. As with the debut album, lyrics, their translation
and contributing artists are included. Certain to win international acclaim
and broad appeal, Aria 2 New Horizon is worth a cross country journey-a
Image © 1999 Sarah Slean
Sarah Slean's first full length album, Blue Parade (Sarah Slean SSCD-002, 1999), follows her highly successful independently released EP, entitled
Universe (Sarah Slean SSCD-1998, 1998), available since the latter
half of 1998 on CD and on cassette for a year longer. The new album, also
independently released, is self-written and sung with piano, wurlitzer, toy piano
and rhodes also played by Sarah herself. It contains eleven tracks including heartfelt
alternative rock tracks intermingled with sensitive ballads accompanied by light instrumentation. Compared by some to Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell and Sarah McLachlan, Slean's voice is sweeter and more emotional and her songs are musically more complex.
Further light instrumentation is provided by Mark Mariash (drums, percussion and
horn arrangements), Drew Birston (bass), Maury Lafoy (bass), Kurt Swinghammer
(guitars), Kevin Fox (cello), Todd Lumley (Hammond B3) and Erin Donovon (vibraphone). Strings are also arranged and conducted by by Sarah and as with the
horns are played by various session artists.
Reviews of Sarah Slean's live performances suggest tremendous stage presence
and she is continuing to venture outside of her native Canada to larger venues
in the United States, including New York for example.
Her chatty on-stage style has warmed many audiences and live performances, mail
and internet sales have resulted in significant demand for her independently
Styles on the new album vary from upbeat songs ("Playing Cards with Judas" and "High")
through instrumentally exploratory songs ("My Invitation," "Narcolepsy Weed," "Eliot" and "Habit") to the tremendous ballads ("Blue Parade" and "Twin Moon"). The lovely
multi-tracked a capella "Awake Soon" is a true testament to Sarah's vocal talent.
With excellent songwriting and inventive classically derived instrumentation, the
album is a significant development over and (positive) departure from her earlier
Sarah Slean is certainly a very promising up-and-coming independent female singer-songwriter. Clearly outside traditional pop culture, she is destined
to become widely appreciated in AOR circles. This debut full length album
is worth further exploration and with complexity better understood with
repeated listenings is a wonderful listen!
Image © 1999 New World Music Ltd.
Recently reviewed in this digest, Pia's debut album
Benediction Moon was voted by New World customers Best New Album 1998.
Her latest recording,
Magical Eclipse (New World Music (UK) NWCD 474, 1999), is a stunning followup
that builds upon the debut album with eight wonderful tracks of heartfelt
expressive vocal excursions with a variety of supporting instrumentation. Writing
about the album, New World Music said it best:
"Backed by superb musicians such as Pete Booker and John Richardson, her voice is
magical, and the melodies echo out of enthralling arrangements where guitar, keyboards,
flute and percussion all interweave." This is an absolutely tremendous album
-- a must listen for anyone that enjoyed her first album and a fabulous
introduction for those that have yet to hear Pia's debut recording.
Predominantly written by Pia herself but sharing credits on several tracks
with Pete Booker, the songs vary in style from highly expressive dramatic ballads
to highly developed numbers based on traditional pieces ("Govindam"). Lyrics
are mainly in English but also include Pia's native tongue. Tracks have been
sequenced to permit the album to develop to a natural crescendo and production
quality -- depth, dynamic range and imaging -- is absolutely superb throughout.
Three of the album's tracks extend over the seven minute mark and with
such length provide a unique insight to Pia's writing and vocal talents.
"The Way I Found Her" has a whispy lead vocal track augmented by
acoustic guitar, awesome backing vocals and sensitive percussion. The
vocal work spans popular, progressive and world textures and contributes
to the overall success of the piece which, due to it's tremendous quality,
doesn't seem to run for its almost eight minutes. More thoroughly
developed orchestration and intense percussion enables "Eclipse" to build
the style further, with Pia contrasting a very powerful lead
vocal with multi-tracked backing vocals. "Chasing The Sun" (7:10) closes
the album with pop, new age and tribal sounding world music fusing together.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
Pia's Magical Eclipse with it's broad variety and tremendous
production is certainly one of the best new female vocal albums released
this year and, worth a journey, is a must listen.
Image © 1999 Earthtone Records
Initially drawn to this release by Miriam Stockley's vocal
track "There," Earthtone Records' latest new age compilation
Ascension (ETD-7913, 1999) is "a transformational
experience, [and] a heavenly carriage to greater self-awareness
and attunement." A&R Director Jeff Payne is responsible for
the album's concept, sequencing and selections from various
Earthtone and other recording artists. Best listened to
either with headphones or directly seated between the the
speakers to enjoy the intricately producted imaging and
stereo phasing, this warm album of primarily synthesizer
melodies includes vocal work in several of the tracks.
However, unlike many of the albums reviewed on this website,
Ascension is first and foremost an instrumental
recording and the relatively narrow variety of overall sound
works well to deliver a relaxing experience despite the
lack of extensive female vocals.
Although the attractively styled liner notes accompanying the
album indicate that Miriam's track "There" is from a forthcoming
release by Alkaemy (see our review of 1998 Earthtone album
The Merlin Mystery), we
have been unable to confirm any details about the release.
The album opens with a track by Richard Burmer from 1988 and
continues with a 1989 recording by Constance Demby taken from
her album Set Free. "First Kiss" by Chris Spheeris
and Paul Voudouris from their 1991 album Enchantment
follows. Christopher Franke's "Flower Hill Trail" from his
1999 album Epic also released on Earthtone Records
and Anael's "One Brief Dream" from their 1997 Light of
Refinement album continue to develop the album's
The 1998 track "Seduced by an Angel" by Ayman and Earthtone
Recording artist Mars Laser's "Amy's Lullaby IV" from their
album 11:02 precede Cheryl Gunn's "Elysian Fields"
from her 1999 Earthtone Album Vanity of Venus. The
build up to Miriam's track begins with "The Hiddin Smile of
Naiad" by Back To Earth from their album Rivers Of Life,
"Reunion" by Richard Burmer and "The Only Answer" by Collette
Baron-Reid. These tracks and those that follow Miriam's
bracket "There" quite nicely and serve to showcase the
most stunning vocal performance of the album.
The album concludes with "Improvisation One" by Michael
Rubini from his 1994 album Secret Dream, "Desires of
the Heart" by Chris Spheeris from his 1994 album Desires
and "In The Cathedral" by Gary Lamb from his 1995 album
This is a soothing and rich album with a good selection
of primarily instrumental tracks by new age artists. The narrow
mixture of textures works well to highlight the vocals within the
album and the sequencing of the tracks builds effectively to
Miriam Stockley's ballad. A good collection, it delivers the
goods promised within the title. It is indeed a relaxing
Image © 1999 Alliance Music Ltd.
Anyone familiar with the Christian Celtic progressive rock band
Iona is surely
equally familiar with the stunning vocal talent of their lead vocalist Joanne
Hogg. She is well known in progressive rock circles and has been a top rated
award winning female vocalist by the Classic Rock Society along with
several times. Joanne's
debut solo album on Alliance Music is entitled Looking Into The Light
(Alliance Music 1901182, 1999). The album contains twelve tracks of traditional
and self- or collaborative- penned themes with very light instrumentation
provided by Joanne and other Iona musicians. The album is first and
foremost a collection of folky vocal numbers that fully illustrate Joanne's
emotive style, sheer power ("I Ask No Dream") and extensive range.
Accompanied by a well designed CD booklet with lovely photographs, it
is indeed a wonderful debut album.
Production is by Iona's David Bainbridge (also guitars, keyboard,
bouzouki) and additional arrangements are by Troy Donockley (also Uilleann
pipes and low whistles). Other Iona players involved in the project include
Phil Barker (bass), Nick Beggs (fretless bass and chapman stick), Tim Harries
(fuzz bass), Frank Van Essen (percussion, drums and violin) and David
Fitzgerald (flute, tin whistles).
Unlike her albums with Iona, Joanne's debut is a collection of secular
hymns and therefore the extensive instrumental progressions are primarily
absent. Although not needed to add to the strength of the vocal work some
multi-tracking adds to the texture and ambiance in several of the tracks
("Oh The Deep, Deep Love"). Joanne's shorter interpretation of "When I
Survey" -- also recorded by Iona on Journey Into The Morn and live
on Heaven's Bright Sun -- has more instrumental energy than many
of the songs on the album, yet it is vocally very strong.
Joanne Hogg's Looking Into Light is a very strong debut album
and one that Iona fans will likely enjoy. The album is indeed a very
nice listen, certainly worth a journey.
Image © 1999 New World Music Ltd.
Recommended initially by Graham Lubin, webmaster of
Celestial Voices, the debut album by Wendy Stark is
another stunning example of contemporary vocal work mixed
with modern electronic instrumentation. Entitled
Child Of Transferrence, (New World Music NWCD 467, 1999)
the album, although far less multi-tracked and tribal, builds
on a concept most associated with Adiemus in that the text
for the vocals was written in a phonetic manner with the words
viewed as an instrumental sound. It has again worked quite
Child of Transferrence is balanced and both vocally
and instrumentally ("Prelude") strong, even soundtrack-like at
times. Emotions, feelings and moods are conveyed and evoked in
the listener as the melodies in the songs develop. Significantly
more heavily produced and electronic -- as a result of the
guitar and strong rhythmic elements -- than Enya, Adiemus or Pia,
the album's ten songs each paint their own soundscape yet have
been woven together in the album in a stunning way that grows on
the audience with repeated listening. I found myself singing
along with the non-lyrical vocals after the third pass through
the album. The track "Avť Maria" is a stunning combination
of vocals, traditional and electronic instrumentation.
From the liner notes, "Born in South Wales, Wendy Stark
has been writing songs since childhood. Drawing from emotional
and spiritual experience, her music is both reflective and
inspiring. Her beautiful melodies, entwined with enhancing
vocals create an intimate musical journey." Wendy's
mid-register voice is pure and well-trained and compliments
the light acoustic instrumentation and electronic progressions
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
Highly recommended for its variety and overall
somberness, the album is a good listen and worthy of
exploration. Check it out soon.
Image © 1998 New World Music Ltd.
First heard almost seven months ago, the debut album from New World Music recording
artist, Pia [Gaur„ngi Devi Dasi], is clearly a work of timeless quality laced with
dreamy female vocals and balanced with light traditional acoustic and electronic
instrumentation. Entitled Benediction Moon, (New World Music NWCD 445, 1998)
the album has been released in both the UK and the USA.
From the liner notes, "Following a period performing the rock opera
Bhagavad Gita, she studied with the renowned Bengali musician and vocalist
Haridas Ganguli, and has toured extensively performing Bhajans (traditional Indian
spiritual songs). Pia has performed with artists such as Boy George, John
Richardson, and Dream Academy."
Pia's songs are range from the evocative moody style of Enya -- illustrated in
"Radhe" and especially in the stunning "Feel Free" -- to soaring ballads similar
those sung by Sarah Brightman; John Richardson's "Angelus Cantus" for example.
English ("Angelus Cantus," "Prayer" and "Feel Free") and foreign lyrics ("Siren
Song") are accompanied by vocalise in spots on the album's six tracks that
range in length from 4:43 to 11:19. Pia's work is filled with a rich yet
heavenly voice produced to be a true testament to the sheer power, extensive
range ("Benediction Moon") and superb delivery of this extremely talented vocal
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
This album is a work of stunning proportions and is quite clearly a
Image © 1998 Adastra Records
The first recording from Ohio-based Falling You entitled
Mercy (Adastra Records (USA) 9802, 1998) contains twelve
of self-penned tracks of synth-oriented spacey and moody
gothic music laced with superb lead and backing vocals by Jennifer
McPeak. From the album's sleeve notes,
Jennifer is the "life" element of the group. Instrumentals are
by John Michael Zorko - the "blood" behind it all - and include
synthesizers, samplers, rattlers and drum programming. Guitar work
on one of the instrumental tracks is provided by Scott Bivens.
Seven of the album's lush tracks are 'pure' instrumentals with
only occasional light backing vocals adding texture to John Zorko's
clever keyboard work. Typical music in this genre, the band's
instrumentals are quite dark but extremely relaxing in their
own way. The five lyrically richer numbers have Jennifer taking
over and driving the music forward, however, with the exception
of "Glacier," the songs fall short of leaving the listener with
memorable melodies. The album's title track "Mercy" stands out
as one of the band's rockier numbers crossing both blues and dance
lines at the same time and is a testament to Jennifer's range,
power and evocative style. Whether singing lyrics or providing
backing vocal scan, she has a truly stunning voice.
Best compared to Love Spirals Downwards, Love Is Colder Than Death,
Edera and even some of the very early Chandeen, all of whom operate in
the Heavenly Vocals genre, Falling You's music has somewhat of a unique
freshness attributed to Jennifer McPeak's stunning vocal work and
John's intellectually broader use of keyboard effects.
Soundbites are available at the
Fans of Hyperium Records'
Heavenly Vocals compilations should
certainly seek this album out. Overall, a very relaxing album.
Image © 1998 KMWM Productions
The debut album by internet award winning Bay Area
independent singer-songwriter Katheleen Michaels,
Faces, Traces & Timelines (KMWM Productions,
1998), contains eleven heartfelt vocally rich folk-rock
tunes backed principally by guitarist and co-writer
Bill Mazur. With keyboards by Ken Ruppel, further
instrumental contributions include Nathan DeMello
on bass and Patrick Ward and Dennis Briggs playing
The album is dominated by Katheleen's vocal
work. She also plays 12-string acoustic guitar.
The album is easy to listen to with catchy bluesy
or bright folk-like melodies balanced amongst the
supporting guitar and keyboard instrumentation.
Other songs have a bluesy feel. Although the style
of her music is different, Katheleen's mid-range
vocals could be best compared to those of Frances
Black or even Chrissie Hynde at times.
The typically bluesy "My Old Friend" is quite
popular amongst internet audiences sharing a similar
feel to "Where Did He Go" and "How Long" which follow.
Katheleen demonstrates that she is equally adept at
ballads in "Outside My Window" and "Father Joe".
Several of the album's songs are more bright
and airy with "Forever" and "If I Could" being
the most stunning examples. "Save Me" is an
epic-like track combining Katheleen's different
styles into one song with powerful instrumentals
and is therefore a high spot of the album.
The work of independent artists is becoming
more prevalent and well known with the internet's
growth. Katheleen Michaels' debut album, largely
distributed through internet audiences, is certainly
one example of what is being done today. It contains
good cross section of music demonstrating the range
of her vocal and songwriting ability. A nice
Image © 1998 Spark Records
Mythos' self-titled album
Octave Music (USA) HOMCD
46572, 1998) is their first international release.
We agree completely with the notes provided on the
album's back cover: "Hauntingly powerful vocals
accentuate the warm acoustic centrepiece of Paul Schmidt's
guitar and Bob D'Eith's piano. The album's rich classical
melodies blend with African tribal rhythms and traditional
Oriental and Middle Eastern tones to create a sound that
is unique, otherworldly, and elegant. With over an hour
of music, this self-titled recording includes the best
of the previously released Introspection plus
seven new tracks." Mythos hails from Vancouver,
BC in Canada and have been popular there for several
years; this release will certainly broaden their
audience and widen the appeal of this masterwork.
Well written with tremendous time and care,
Mythos' music is classically centered, and is bright
and airy with catchy complex melodies of extraordinary
depth. The artists indeed combine extremely accurate
guitar playing with wonderful keyboards and lush
non-lyrical heavenly sensual female vocals provided
either by Jennifer Scott, Christine Duncan or Annette
Ducharme. The vocal work, in a word, is stunning.
Production quality of the album is first rate
throughout the recording with obvious effort applied
to create outstanding imaging. Overall the album
has much of a soundtrack quality although each of the
album's brilliant tracks work well on their own.
Clearly set in what some might call the New Age
/ World genre, their music will certainly appeal to
fans of Adiemus, Beautiful World, Enya and Era.
The label reckons the album fits into the Delerium,
Enigma, Deep Forest genre as well. A must listen.
Image © 1999 Mercury Records
Image © Universal Music 2000
latest album, Dawn Of A New Century
(Mercury Records 538 838 2, 1999), like their two
earlier albums, combines contemporary classical music
with Celtic themes. With perfect production, the album's
thirteen tracks are instrumentally rich, featuring
Fionnuala Sherry's stunning violin parts and the
tremendous keyboard work of Rolf LÝvland. Once again
LÝvland has composed all the music, and has also arranged
and produced the album with Fionnuala Sherry as co-producer.
Additional vocals have been contributed by Karen Matheson
Anne Karin Kaasa, Nikki Matheson and the Irish choir,
Anuna, conducted by Michael McGlynn. Fionnuala makes her
vocal debut in the everso sweet ballad "Sona."
The artists have significantly improved the stature
of their vocal arrangements especially in the title track.
Violin passages are a trademark of any Secret Garden
release and they have reached new heights this time.
The tremendous fiddle performances in the elaborately
arranged traditional dance tunes "Elan," "Children Of
The River" and "Lore Of The Loom" would all be equally
at home within either the Riverdance or the
Lord Of The Dance soundtracks. "In Our Tears"
and "Aquarell" are typical of Secret Garden, both
combining the accuracy and warmth of Rolf's keys
with Fionnula's sensitive violin work.
Karen Matheson's vocals in "Prayer" bring Capercaillie
to mind; the sound is later developed further with
another vocalist in "Dreamcatcher" with more of a
classical feel. "Evensong" has obvious Anuna
vocal influences while Secret Garden's instrumental
arrangements breathe a unique warmth into them. A
dynamically stunning contemporary classical piece
featuring violin, keys and lush orchestral parts called
"Divertimento" is a clear testament to the artists'
songwriting and performing capabilities and an
The title track is truly epic in its proportions
- a memorable melody arises from a powerful fusion of
traditional Celtic and classical progressions; it is
presented with narration, choir and orchestra and
builds to a fantastic climax as the album concludes.
You can find soundbites, further reviews and order the album at amazon.com
here. A tremendous 170 minute DVD is also available and can be
ordered from amazon.com
here. Clearly, this stunning album is a must listen. CD and DVD: