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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.

Michelle Tumes
Rachel/Common Ground
Camille Miller
Colette Baron-Reid
Hannah Fury
Bet Williams
Shannon Weir
Karda Estra
Vanessa Mae
Gabriel Yared

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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

A Blonde Moment CD Cover
Image © Toll Records 2001

Image © Toll Records 1998

More Rachel & Common Ground
Head 2 Head and Fabulous (2002)

(04 October 2001) The latest recording by Cornwall-based Rachel & Common Ground is a six track EP entitled A Blonde Moment (Toll Records (UK) 008, 2001). It follows on the heels of the band's self-titled debut (Toll Records 007, 1999). With influences ranging from folk through progressive celtic, the band is fronted by the stunning crystalline vocal work of Rachel Heffer. Rachel also plays harp and is supported by Chris Lobb (bass), Richard Penrose (keyboards), Pip Harbon and Terry Wallwork. The band have performed at the Classic Rock Society several times and are one of several supported by the organisation destined for significant success.

In contrast to the band's debut, A Blonde Moment features layers of backing harmony vocals and richer arrangements. Musical Discoveries' readers will be impressed with the attention paid to the vocals in the mix; clearly a female vocals album, Rachel's voice is mixed way up. Material ranges from "Journey" a soft acoustic ballad to the highly accessible opening track "Given Life." Instrumentals perfactly compliment Rachel's soaring voice in the upbeat yet bluesy "Megan O'Reilly." Similarly complimented by a lovely arrangement and sensitive harp part, "Mice and Men" is a sweetly sung upbeat light rock track.

As with "Given Life," the rocking "Step on Board" is lushly arranged with electronic effects supporting Rachel's soaring lead vocals. The acoustic guitar passages are as notable as the stunning vocals; a small spoken word—almost rap—passage breaks up the two main passages of the song. The EP concludes with the Pan Celtic winning folk entry, "Ow Mos Tre" (acoustic version). Lush arrangements back layers of Rachel's sweetly sung Gaelic vocal passages. Certainly worth a long distance journey, this latest EP from Rachel & Common Ground is a must listen!

The self-titled debut recording from Rachel & Common Ground is comprised of four well arranged vocal numbers. "Common Ground" is a lovely acoustic ballad dominated by Rachel's sweetly sung lead vocal. A lovely harp part is part of the supporting arrangement. The EP concludes with a Gaelic version of the opening track entitled "Tir Kemmyn." Sandwiched between the versions are "Spirit," a soft acoustic ballad featuring lovely string parts, and "Take Me Home"—the original and more simply arranged English version of the band's Pan Celtic award winner "Ow Mos Tre." Dominated by Rachel's crystalline vocals the band's self-titled debut is a must listen!

She Knows CD Cover
Image © Camille Miller 2001

More Camille Miller
Interview and Photos
Balligomingo Review

(04 October 2001) The debut solo album from Canadian singer songwriter Camille Miller is a twelve track recording entitled She Knows (Socan (Canada) CMCD2, 2001). Musical Discoveries' readers will recall Camille's contribution to the track "Lost" on the Balligomingo EP (review). Visit Camille's website for a complete biographical sketch.

Camille provides lead vocals, guitars, percussion and keyboards to the project and is supported by her partner Nick Hagar (guitars and keyboards), Douglas Elliott (bass, loops, guitars, vocals, keyboards) Tina Jones (backing vocals, trumpet and percussion, Craig Northly (guitars) and Pat Steward (drums). Camille's vocal work can be most closely compared to Maryanne Marino of November Project (now disbanded) and Karin Bergquist of Over The Rhine (review).

She Knows presents a broader perspective of Camille Miller's work than the brief preview found on the Balligomingo album. Material ranges from rock-n-roll ("I Always Will," "Dry," "Sugar Mountain," "Intensities") to ballads ("I Love You" and "She Knows") and from the bluesy ("Great Expectations," "Mississippi") to R&B textures ("Bird on a Rooftop," "Soul Feed," "Understand").

Camille's evocative vocals are equally delightful across the landscape. We were most reminded of Maryanne Marino (November Project) in the deeply contrasting textures of "I Love You" which varies from hearfelt ballad to soft rocker and the lush harmonies of the highly accessible "Naive." Camille's vocal work in the blues/R&B crossover "Understand" is highly notable, perfectly complimented by supporting harmonies and instrumental arrangements.

The album concludes with the stunning soft rock number "Intensities," where instrumental and vocal arrangements perfectly compliment each other. Clearly worth a journey, especially for those that have enjoyed the work of November Project, Over The Rhine and Balligomingo, Camille's debut album She Knows is a very nice listen!

Magdalene's Garden CD Cover
Image © EMI Music Canada 2001

Colette Baron-Reid
Colette Baron-Reid
Image © 2001 Billy Warhol


(04 October 2001) Colette Baron-Reid's second album is an ethereal collection of eleven tracks entitled Magdalene's Garden (EMI Music (Canada) 7 2435 27813 2 4, 2001). Richly produced by Eric Rosse, the album clearly features Colette's evocative vocal parts across a vast range of styles. She is supported by a broad range of acoustic and electronic arrangements from an equally wide selection of talented artists.

"Worlds collide on this record: western pop, mixed with hints of trance, dance music, Celtic and middle eastern music, provide the musical backdrop to songs that address love in its deepest forms. Unconditional love, destiny and free will, forgiveness, the sacred and the profane, sensuality and sexuality." Our readers will clearly hear similarities to Aeone (review) and Mae McKenna (review) when listening to the album.

Vocals have been mixed way up across the album's tracks where Musical Discoveries readers appreciate them. Layers of harmonies support a sensuous and evocative lead vocal track. The album's more ethereal tracks have new age textures supporting Colette's vocals and include the stunning title track and "Fine Line." The lovely soft rock track "Fine Line" is reminscent of Mae McKenna's work on Nightfallers.

Listeners will delight in the way that different styles have been combined within a track. Examples include the R&B and Indian blends within "Look Around" and the hip-hop / ballad blend of "Wide Open Spaces." A similar but even more upbeat blend is evident in "Forgiven." The contrast between Colette's soaring Sarah Brightman-style lead and the backing vocals is dramatic. The evocatively performed heartfelt ballads "Breath Of You" and "Mercy" must be listened to with headphones to appreciate the producers attention to detail in the arrangements.

Upbeat electronic arrangements add to the pop accessibility and radio friendly sound of the Madonna-style "What You Believe." The lovely contrast between the lead vocal line and the sweet harmony backing vocals is quite remarkable. Lushly arranged, the ballad "State of Grace" is dominated by Colette's strong, almost spoken vocal with sung parts soaring well above the instrumentation. The album concludes with Colette's hearfelt, stunning and vocally intensive interpretation of Neil Young's "Old Man." Certainly worth a cross-country journey, Colette's album Magdalene's Garden is a must listen!

Fragment Of A Dream CD Cover
Image © Aerial Sounds 2001 

(04 October 2001) The second album from Philadelphia-based singer songwriter Mariel is a self-produced twelve track project entitled Fragment of a Dream (Aerial Sounds (USA) 1004, 2001). Mariel is one of the few independent artists who has done the almost impossible. She entered the Top 40 Adult Contemporary Chart in the radio trade, New Music Weekly July 2000 with her single, "In Between Days" from her debut CD, The Darkest Angel.

Providing vocals, acoustic guitars, keyboards and programmeing herself, Mariel has received much praise for her crystal clear, sweet, emotional voice. Her lyrics have been called beautiful, introspective, and fearless. She has been compared to classic female singers like Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox, and Deborah Harry. Mariel’s live performances are said to be warm, endearing, and fun. On the latest album she is joined by Chris Eike (bass), Patrick Van Belle (drums), Chris Mood (electric guitars), Rob Federici (lead guitar on "All My Heart") and Lino (classical guitar, bass and programming on "Love Fades Away").

Fragment of a Dream is comprised of well-produced, catchy, ethereal pop songs. Her voice is well suited to the range of guitar-laced styles included on the recording and is consistently mixed well above the instrumental arrangements. Upbeat tracks ("Cruel Scorpio," "Say What You Mean" and "A Little Soul") generally have a strong hook and feature notable guitar solos in the bridges with Mariel's voice soaring as lead and harmony vocal lines resume.

Mariel's sweet voice rings through in the album's softer ballads ("Love Fades Away" and "Blind Faith") soaring above the light primarily acoustic instrumental arrangements. More thickly arranged, the soft electronically accompanied ballads ("Do It Again," "All My Heart," "Wish," "Limits" and "Fragments Of A Dream") are evocatively sung with stunning and lush vocal harmonies.

Accompanied by rocking electric guitar, Mariel's soaring crystalline vocals—mixed way way up where Musical Discoveries' readers like them—make "A Little Soul" one of the album's standout tracks. We were reminded immediately of 10,000 Maniacs recordings featuring Mary Ramsey in the catchy, slightly country and western-style tunes ("What I Want" and "Lost My Love").

Mariel's second album Fragments of a Dream is a wonderful followup to her debut The Darkest Angel (order here). You can find further information, photos and soundbites at Mariel's website and order the new album from amazon.com here. Worth a journey, the Mariel's album is a very nice listen.

The Thing That Feels CD Cover
Image © Mellow Traumatic Records 2000

Image © Mellow Traumatic Records 2000

(04 October 2001) With three compact discs to her credit, singer songwriter Hannah Fury's first full length album is entitled The Thing That Feels (MellowTraumatic Recordings (USA) MTR002 CD, 2000). Her debut recording, Soul Poison (MTR001 CD, 1998) is a five-track EP; most recently Hannah released a six-track limited edition EP entitled Meathook (MTR003CD, 2001) featuring four all new tracks. Hannah is based in Austin, Texas.

The tracks on Soul Poison are evocatively sung primarily over simple piano arrangements. Although some have compared her work to Tori Amos, Hannah's whispy style reminded us of immediately Xyra & Verborgen (review) by her style. Wrenched with emotion, the singer's talent is immediately evident.

"The Necklace of Marie Antoinette," "Idaho" and "The Last Piece of Cake" are softly sung relatively dark ballads. Occasional vocal harmonies add to the sonic texture. "Scars" is a lovely ballad with elements of "Scarborough Fair" scattered within the lyrics and arrangements. "Eat The Dirt" is more upbeat and lushly arranged with electronic keyboard and piano joined by piano and other effects but not without dark elements as well. The concluding track summarises the other four included within the EP.

Thirteen heartfelt vocally strong tracks grace Hannah's album The Thing That Feels. Performed and recorded in a style similar to her debut EP, lead and harmony vocals are primarily accompanied by gentle piano arrangements. Listeners will immediately notice the additional harmony layers that add to the album's acoustic texture.

The Thing That Feels is comprised primarily of dark ballads and the listener must be positively disposed to the style or risk being drawn unwillingly into the melancholy textures within it. A stunning piano instrumental entitled "Of Longing And Otherness" is also included on the album. Hannah's vocal work is full of emotion, tender and sweet and perfectly suits the style of the material.

New tracks on the Meathook EP continue in the same vein as Hannah's earlier work; the ballads are dark and sung over lovely piano arrangements. Vocals have been mixed even further up, well over the instrumental and individual parts are more clearly defined from one another. Immediately evident in the production of "Angels & Absinth" and "The Metro," Hannah's well-produced vocals jump right out of the recording.

We found the artist's interpretations of Abba's "The Winner Takes It All" quite enjoyable with multi-tracked vocal layers working well over the light piano arrangement. Hannah also covers "True Love Will Find You In The End" in with gentle vocals and light piano accompanying. Certainly the Meathook EP will delight Hannah's following.

Hannah's album The Thing That Feels is a lovely followup to her debut Soul Poison. We were provided with lyric sheets for both recordings certainly available for new listeners from her record label. You can find further information, photos and soundbites at Hannah's website and order her album from amazon.com here. Worth a journey, Hannah's recordings are a nice listen.

Rose Tatoo CD Cover
Image © Epiphany Records 2000

Image © Epiphany Records 2000

(05 October 2001) The latest release from Woodstock, NY-based Bet Williams is a breezy eleven track collection entitled Rose Tatoo (Epiphany Records (USA) 0002 2, 2000). The artist's prior recordings include Elephants and Angels (1990) (order here) and Building A Bed (1992) (order here). Musical Discoveries' visitors will recall Bet's collaboration on the Epiphany Project album (review).

After developing a cult following at Penn State University in the late 1980's, Bet packed up her poetry degree and a handful of songs to take them on the road. From House of Blues in Los Angeles, to the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville to the Bottom Line in New York City, Bet has shared the stage with a variety of artists including Arlo Guthrie, Joan Osborne, Baba Olatunji and John Gorka.

On Rose Tatoo, Bet provides the vocal talent and acoustic guitar. She is joined by Phil Parlaipano (electric guitar, organ, mellotron), Mark Harris (bass), Steve Theards (drums, loop), Scott Babcock (percussion), Bruce Watson (electric guitar) and Robin Moxey (electric guitar) amongst others. Coco Beaujolais provides backing vocals on some of the tracks.

Bet is known to be a passionate and dynamic performer with powerful voice can be earthy one moment and angelic the next. Songs like the bluesy "Killed My Man" and "Blow A Little Smoke" show Bet's humor and strong, soulful style while the highly infectious "OOh La La" and "Welcome To My World" demonstrate her ability to craft powerful rock and roll hooks.

Lightly arranged acoustic ballads like "Rose Tattoo," "California" and "Thunder and Stone" reveal a more sensitive side. The contrasts within "Just Like You" between ballad and gentle rocker certainly make it one of the album's standout tracks. We especially enjoyed the Americana style of "Walk Down The Road" and bluesy "Killed My Man" and "Water Under The Bridge" not only in contrast to the other tracks on the album but for the stunning vocal work within them. "Mary," a song about a woman panhandling, show Bet's compassion and gift for storytelling.

Musical Discoveries' readers will appreciate the tremendous production quality of the album and the fact that vocals are mixed way up, well over the instrumentals. However the instrumental arrangements are an equally strong element of the album, sometimes overlooked in a female vocalist's work. This is an album to be savored and played over and over. As Guitar One magazine put it "She's blessed with all the right stuff; a fantastic voice, a talent for songwriting, good musicianship and a charasmatic stage presence."

Rose Tatoo is certainly an album to delight female vocal enthusiasts, especially those that track Tori Amos and Sheryl Crow to whom Bet has been favourably compared. Find out more about the artist at her website and read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Certainly worth a cross-country journey, Rose Tatoo is a must listen!

Lennon CD Cover
Image © Arista Records 2001

Image © Arista Records 2001

(05 October 2001) The debut album from 19-year old American singer songwriter Lennon Murphy, comprised of twelve primarily metal-edged rock tracks, is entitled 5:30 Saturday Morning (Arista (USA) 07822014669-2, 2001). Lennon clearly has it all—songwriting dexterity, gorgeous voice, looks, and body as well as a polished on-stage persona—as the videos at her website clearly illustrate. Rolling Stone wrote, "Lennon Murphy is every hard-rock-loving dude's wet dream—a voluptuous teenage vixen with a penchant for bawdy lyrics and dark metal riffs."

Ever since Lennon played her first gig—a three hour show at a dingy club in Hendersonville, Tennessee, when she was only fifteen—she's understood how to raise eyebrows. "I like to say very sexual things just for shock value," she explains. "When I was younger, it was fun to hear whispers around the room like, 'She's fifteen!'."

Until recently Lennon's primary audience—not to mention mentor, collaborator and inspiration—was her mother Kathleen Murphy, an aspiring songwriter. Floored by her daughter's talent, Kathleen assumed a management role, culling players from the Nashville scene, booking gigs and negotiationg with the various record companies, vying for the young artist. Meanwhile Lennon's life was, "School—basically all honours classes—and between homework and tests, I wrote songs and did shows."

Just after she turned 18, Lennon returned home from school to find her mother dead, apparently from an allergic reaction. She became responsible for her eight-year old sister, Mariella, and secured a record deal with Arista that helped her prevail over a fierce custody battle with an aunt who had suddenly yang to step into their lives.

An accomplished singer and piano player, having studied guitar and saxophone as well, Lennon sings and plays piano on her debut album. She is joined by Scotty Smith, Eli McFadden and Spider (guitars), Kenny Aronoff (drums), Jerry Flowers and Scott Borland (bass). Production credits are split across Jeffrey Pringle, Scotty Smith and others. Signed to Arista, the production quality on Lennon's debut album is simply tremendous. Enthusiasts of Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia (review) are certain to Lennon's debut album.

Tracks on 5:30 Saturday Morning range from typically heavy metal, including occasional 'grunting' ("Property of Goatf***er") to anthemic rockers to gentler and more subtle ballads. Anthems like "Morning" and "I Hear" with their relentless rhythm and lead guitars to love-is-hell pieces such as bleak and trechorous "Brake of Your Car" and "These Days," a storm of menacing guitars, lush keyboards and monstrous background growls, it is obvious that Lennon is into the hard stuff. Yet she also uncannily merges the heavy with the heavenly on "Couldn't Breathe" and weilds whispers on the Fula-like (review) hammering "Trying To Make Me."

"My Beautiful" is especially reminscent of Lacuna Coil with Lennon's gorgeous voice in stark contrast to raunchy moderate tempo electric guitar lines while the ballad "Asking You" is one of the most gentle tunes on the album highlighting the artist's more tender side. Although harder than the Alanis Morissette song with a similar lyric, "Thank You," is a cross between ballad and anthem, sung over richly arranged guitar and percussion. The blend of traditional rock, heavy metal and ballad works extremely well in "Couldn't Breathe." Accompanied only by piano, the title track that brings the project to a conclusion is the gentlest and most sweetly sung of the album.

Clearly one of the best albums by an emerging artist we've heard this year, Lennon's 5:30 Saturday Morning is one that will delight Musical Discoveries' readers. Additional biographical information, photos, music samples and video segments are both available at the artist's website. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order Lennon's album at amazon.com here. Clearly an album worth a cross country or perhaps even a trans-Atlantic journey, this one is a must listen!

Nature About You CD Cover
Image © Shannon Weir 2001 

(05 October 2001) The seven-track debut album from Canadian singer songwriter Shannon Weir is entitled Nature About You (Socan (Canada) SHAN 002, 2001). The album is dominated by Shannon's voice; she also provides piano and organ and is joined by producer Ian McNally (guitar, mellotron, leslie organ), Andrea Bettger (violin), Alex McMaster (cello), Paul Passmore (bass) and Randy Cooke (drums). The album will almost certainly appeal to fans of Jennifer Nobel from Grey Eye Glances (review. Unlike most singer songwriter albums of the day, there is no multi-tracking; the listener is treated to Shannon's lead vocal exclusively.

Shannon's voice is sweet and crystalline; songs are sensually sung over light arrangements with vocals mixed way up. Gently rocking tunes compliment the ballads that form the majority of the album. "Beach" is a lovely ballad with an arrangement that builds as the song progresses featuring strings and electric guitar underscoring Shannon's soaring vocals. The softly rocking "Catch Me" is one of the most Grey Eye Glances-style tracks on the album with a catchy chorus.

"Imagine That" is a darker ballad with organ and light percussion providing a backdrop for the sensitively sung vocal line. Violin and cello are the main accompaniment for a lovely ballad "Lunar Eclipse" which effectively blends dark with bright spots to acoustically illustrate the song's lyrics; vocals are bright throughout, soaring above the arrangement. The soft rock tunes "Shannon Falls" and "Day and Age" are the album's standout tracks; guitar and piano provide a lovely texture for Shannon's sensitively sung vocals.

The album concludes with "Stop," a lovely pop-oriented piece of electronica full of lush keyboards sharply contrasting the other tunes on the album and demonstrating the artist's range. Certainly worth a journey, Nature About You is a wonderful introduction to Shannon Weir and a very nice listen!

Eve CD Cover
Image © GFT-Cyclops 2001 

(12 October 2001) The latest album from Richard Wileman, Ileesha Bailey and others performing as Karda Estra is a magnificient seven track epic entitled Even (Cyclops (UK) CYCL 104, 2001). A complete work, similar in some respects to their earlier works Thirteen From The Twenty First and A Winter In Summertime (review), the project is very soundtrack-oriented; vocals drift in and out introducing or echoing melodies. We remained impressed with the songwriting and vocal skills of these talented artists.

Writes composer, Richard Wileman, "Eve is inspired by the short novel The Future Eve, written in 1886 by Villiers de L'Isle Adam. It tells the story of the 'world-famed inventor and master electrician Professor X', who creates a 'perfect' mate for his disturbed friend Lord Ewald. The story is full of fantastical descriptions and images - the android ('Andraiad'), the not yet fully formed human potential or spectre that would become her soul and the quasi-scientific apparatus of Professor X."

He continues, "The Future Eve also fondly brought back to mind films like Bride Of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Created Woman which also played a large part in helping me set the scene. I find these kind of 'morality' plays just as relevant and chilling today with the ever-increasing developments in genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Also, when the creation is female, an added dimension of cruel Pygmalion-like manipulation appears."

Richard Wileman and Ileesha Bailey are joined by Helen Dearnley (violin), Caron Hansford (oboe, cor anglais), Zoe King (flute, alto saxophone, clarinet) and Rachel Larken (viola, violin). Recorded at the Twenty First and well produced like the earlier Karda Estra albums, the project is highly orchestral, extremely moody and has the soundtrack quality required to capture the composer's desired theme.

A continued departure from Richard Wileman's earlier vocally-oriented progressive rock work with Lives and Times, the music is as relaxing as it is insightful. Ileesha's vocals are sweet and melodic—we only wish she had an opportunity to contribute further. Instrumentally complex and of epic proportions the album is clearly worth a journey, a very nice listen!

Subject To Change CD Cover
Image © EMI Music 2001  

(12 October 2001) The latest album from viruouso Vanessa Mae is entitled Subject To Change (EMI Music (UK), 2001). A two-track single of Mae's unique rendition of "White Bird" with the album and an alternative mix has been released. Twelve tracks adorn the compact disc and unlike the artist's earlier pop and classical releases, this one is full of vocal elements; and they work very well. Both lead and choral sections are highly inspired, well produced and polished to an absolute shine.

Vanessa Mae sings in three different languages; her soft whispy voice just adds to the ambience of the music on the stunning "White Bird" as well as on "Love is Only A Game" and "Jamais." World sounds once again enter the mix but the production is highly accessible and will certainly have even broader appeal than the artist's former projects. The album grows on the listener with repeated listens.

Reviewer Georgina Collins writes, "Vanessa Mae has always described her music as techno-acoustic fusion but Subject to Change explores further than ever before into the techno (or rather not acoustic) aspects of her work. The album finds her teaming up with Killing Joke bass player turned prolific dance producer Youth, her virtuoso playing takes very much a back seat to his sweeping synthesisers and imposing drum machines."

She continues, "... there are plenty of tracks which highlight her skill and the violin-led melodies are as beautiful as they are intricate as on the flamenco tune, "Laughing Buddha". The opening piece "Yantra" is not indicative of the rest of the album. It has a poppy-trance intro which could be mistaken for ATB that would have been quite exciting once upon a time but now sounds a little dated. The production is very slick and has a feel that Mae is getting closer to the sound she is looking for but with patches of tired ideas subduing the innovative moments, Subject to Change has a way to go yet."

The latest album from Vanessa Mae is one to be explored at length and savored by the educated listener. The artist is certainly finding her stride. Read further information at her website; order the album, listen to soundbites and read further reviews at amazon.com here. This digest concludes with an album worth a cross country or even trans-Atlantic journey; it is a must listen!

Autumn In New York OST CD Cover
Image © Centropolis / Hollywood Records 2000 

(01 January 2002) Contributed by Suvi Kaikkonen: Gabriel Yared has proven his talent for capturing the beauty of sadness on a recording. His composition for Autumn In New York (Centropolis / Hollywood Records (USA) HR62280-2, 2000) established Yared as a master of producing musical accompaniment for emotional heavy and bittersweet stories.

Unlike The English Patient and The Talented Mr. Ripley, however, the music for Autumn In New York has an identifyable and consistent thematic heart. The score, while maneuvering to accommodate the film's tragic nature, succeeds in illuminating the spark of life created by the romance between the characters Charlotte and Will. With a jumpy step of jazz reminicent of Bernstein scores of the past, Yared portrays a glimpse of spring in its opposite season.

The title theme is upbeat and contemporary, with the urban setting accentuated by the performances of a sax and piano throughout. So seldom is a sax used in scores these days that it's refreshing to catch a few performances by one here. The opening titles and character theme which starts the score section of the album use jazz to assis New York City in becoming a three dimensional character all in its own.

Yared employs two key elements that keep the music interesting and listenable on album. First, while an orchestra with decent strings provides needed depth, solo performances by woodwind instruments add a touch of flavour. IN their wandering paths, a true sense of the autumn season is conveyed. On top of the sax, a clarinet and oboe shine in this role. Secondly, Yared enlists the voice of a quickly growing star to perform the elegy theme for the Charlotte character. You will likely recognise the voice of Miriam Stockley from either scores such as Great Expectations or The 10th Kingdom, or the Adiemus album that was featured prominently during Delta Air Lines adverts a few years back.

Her voice, as usual, is haunting in its clarity, and surpasses Yared's use of Sinead O'Connor for "Lullaby for Cain" in The Talented Mr. Ripley. Stockley performs two lyrical passages of about six minutes in total, with a few wordless vocals thrown in near the end of the album. Once again, an album with a Stockley performance can do little wrong.

The album itself is well constructed. An hour in length, it features two songs from the film and two additional songs. The song "Turn This World Around" by Amy Grant, is absent from the album, but featured on the film. Yared's score, however, is extremely listenable in and of itself. Even though it is comprised of over 20 short cues of score, the album's flow is surprisingly easy and quiet. At any rate Gabriel Yared, although a veteran of 25 years in the scoring industry, is continuing to impress audiences with his recent scores for top rate American films.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. With Miriam Stockley on vocals, this album is worth further exploration and certainly a very nice listen!

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