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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
Emma Shapplin
Capercaillie
Karen Matheson
Nightwish
Arjen Anthony Lucassen's Star One
Rachael Sage
Angelwing
A Woman's Voice
Donatella
Lyn Leon
Naked Feet
The Silk

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Instrumental Digest
 
Etterna CD Cover (Draft)
Image © Arc 21 Music 2002

Emma Shapplin Image © Arc 21 Music 2002

more Emma Shapplin
 

(02 July 2002) Five years since her debut album Carmine Meo (review), Emma Shapplin has released the stunning follow-up Etterna (Ark21/Universal Music (Canada) 4400183682, 2002). A natural evolution of the singer's initial collaboration with J. P. Capdevielle (Atylantos review) and further work with Graeme Revell on The Red Planet soundtrack, this brilliant new project--a CD enhanced with English- and French-spoken interviews--is attracting significant attention from audiences worldwide. Our review copy was provided by Graham Lubin from Celestial Voices. Click on the album cover to visit the artist's all-new website.

Graced by Emma Shapplin's stunning--coloratura soprano--lead vocal and supporting harmonies, the 12-track album was mixed principally in Kauai and was mastered at Abbey Road Studios. Blake Neely arranged The London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir contributions. The album's material was written entirely by Emma Shapplin and produced by Graeme Revell. The collaboration has obviously been successful; the album, like her previous project with Capdeveille, is a cohesive masterwork.

From her website: Born in Paris in 1974, Emma recalls as a young girl she was far to shy "even to make a noise let alone to sing" and her family were not particularly musical. But her musical passions were aroused at the age of eleven when she heard the "Queen Of The Night" from The Magic Flute. It was a moment of transcendence, although to her amused embarassment, Emma admits this introduction to the world of opera and bel canto came via a television commercial. Nevertheless, a life-long love affair was forged. "I ran into my bedroom and tried to sing the tune immediately. That's when I fell in love with singing for the first time," she says. "I knew then I wanted to sing like that. That was the music that touched my soul."

Like 1997's Carmine Meo and subsequent reissues, Etterna is classical-contemporary crossover-based project. Sweeping orchestral movements are effectively combined with contemporary percussion and rock instrumentation to broaden the appeal of the operatic numbers. Additional vocal layers, choirs and further sonic enhancements add colour to the lush arrangements. The Emma Shapplin interview included on the CD--and available at her website--provides further insight into the album's water-based themes. Vocal parts are perfectly mixed, highlighting Emma's range, power and sensitivity.

Emma Shapplin, whose soaring and crystalline soprano voice clearly dominates the pieces, continues to set the world standard in this emerging genre where Sarah Brightman (La Luna review, Classics review), Charlotte Church (S/T review, Dream a Dream review), Izzy (Libera Me review, Ascolta review), Sasha Lazard (The Myth Of Red) and Filippa Giordano (Passioni review, S/T review, Il Rosso Amore) comfortably compete. After the commercial success of Opera Trance, a variety of alternate versions are planned; the highly accessible "La Notte Eterna" remix is included--more or less as a "bonus track"--on the first pressing. Richly produced artwork, a full libretto and a bevy of up-to-date artist photographs adorn the package.

The first single from the album, "La Notte Etterna," is presently available from amazon.com here. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Certain to achieve the high standards set by her debut album, we assure you that this album is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!

 
Live In Concert CD Cover
Image © Survival Records 2002

More Capercaillie Reviews:

Dusk Until Dawn
Glenfinnan
Nadurra
Capercaillie Collection [DVD]
Choice Language
Guildhall, Southampton, 1997
Fernham Hall, Fareham, 2001

TRACKS
  1. MO CHALIN DILEAS DONN
  2. FINLAYS
  3. KEPPLEHALL
    a. Kepplehall
    b. The Osmosis Reel
  4. NIL SI I NGRA
  5. THE MIRACLE OF BEING
  6. a. DE MACPHAIL'S REEL
    b. CAPE BRETON SONG
  7. THE WEASEL SET
    a. Granny Hold the Candle
    b. The Weasel in the Dyke
    c. Macleod's Farewell
  8. INEXILE
  9. IAIN GHLINN CUAICH
  10. BONAPARTE
  11. THE ROB ROY REELS
    a. The Road to Rio
    b. Bulgarian Red
    c. Shetland Reel
    d. The Gesto Reel
    e. Kiss The Maid Behind the Barrel
    f. The Rob Roy Reel
  12. COISICH A RUIN
  13. CRIME OF PASSION
  14. THE TREE
 

(23 June 2002) For a band that began playing strictly traditional material, Capercaillie has never been afraid of venturing into new musical terrain. Through twelve studio albums--click on the album cover to visit their website for further information--and countless "live" performances in over thirty countries, the group has continued to develop and hone their craft, adding distinctive, contemporary and progressive innovations to a traditional music-based repertoire. Their latest album (and regretably their last album on this label) is a stunning fourteen track collection entitled Live In Concert (Survival Records Ltd (UK) SURCD 027, 2002).

If sales of their studio recordings have helped carry their music to an international audience--with over one million album sales worldwide and one gold and two silver discs in the UK--it is their "live" performances that have reinforced a loyal fan base around the globe. See our two live performance reviews--links to your left--for further insight. Even with Get Out capturing some of the band's former live appeal, Live In Concert captures their latest magic and energy on CD. This album is not a backward-looking greatest hits live recording. The band continues to innovate and there is a definite new feel--a new energy and vitality to this recording--which reflects a subtle shift in the band's overall sound.

The band chose the set list very carefully, featuring several previously unreleased titles and brand new arrangements of some of their best known material, including "Coisich a Ruin," the song that charted as the UK's first Gaelic Top 40 single. Recorded by Kim Planert at the Royal Concert Hall Glasgow, January 25th 2002 front of a 2,500 sell-out audience, this album has a total playing time of approximately 73 minutes. It was mixed and mastered at Secret Music by Paul McGeechan.

The all-star line up of the band is underpinned by the brilliant rhythm bedrock of ex-Deacon Blue bass player Ewen Vernal, new recruit Che Beresford on drums and the multi-percussion talents of David 'Chimp' Robertson. This trio provides the perfect foundation for underscoring the power and delicacy of Manus Lunny's bouzouki; the fire and energy of Charlie McKerron's fiddle; the dazzling skills on pipes, flutes and whistle of BBC Radio 2 Folk Musician Of The Year Michael McGoldrick; with Donald Shaw holding it all together on keyboards and accordion.

All of this glorious instrumental virtuosity is taken to transcendental heights by the stunning crystalline vocals of Karen Matheson who has been described by Billboard magazine as "the finest Gaelic singer alive today." Sean Connery described Karen as having "a throat surely touched by the hand of God." Karen Matheson's second solo studio album Time To Fall (review), a stunning followup to her debut collection The Dreaming Sea has also just been released.

The tracks on Live In Concert represent an excellent cross section of the band's broad repertoire. Gaelic reels are effectively balanced with classic Capercaillie ballads and upbeat Celtic rockers. Standout tracks include "Coisich A Ruin," "Crime Of Passion" and "The Miracle Of Being." The live keyboard-rich arrangement of "Bonaparte" is also certain to delight. We especially appreciated the extended reels including "Dr MacPhail's Reel," "The Weasel Set" and "The Rob Roy Reels." The closing jig, "The Tree," further highlights the band's Celtic roots and progressive edges.

Capercaillie's "Live In Concert" continues to explore new territory whilst preserving the rich musical tradition that is their heritage. Click on the album cover to visit the band's website where further information and soundbites are available. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this stunning collection of live recordings by Capercaillie is a must listen!

 
Time To Fall
Image © Vertical Records 2002


More Capercaillie Reviews

 

(23 June 2002) Karen Matheson's second solo album is a twelve-track collection of tunes entitled Time To Fall (Vertical Records (UK) VRTCD 002, 2002). The album is the long-awaited followup to her first solo project The Dreaming Sea released in 1996, a gentle departure from her progressive Celtic work with Capercaillie (reviews) and the artist's first album with her new label. Further information is available at Karen's new website.

It is not surprising that several of Capercaillie's members contribute to the album instrumentally. Familiar personnel include James Grant (guitars), James Mackintosh (drums, percussion) and Donald Shaw (wurlitzer, piano and rhodes). Other artists include Ewan Vernal (double bass), Neil Yates (trumpet) and BT Scottish Ensemble (strings).

Time To Fall is a clearly a female vocals album firmly planted in the singer songwriter category but set clearly above the majority in the genre by Karen Matheson's crystalline voice. The material is primarily sung in English, but there are two numbers in Gaelic. The compact disc is accompanied by a lovely colour booklet with loads of new artist photographs and full lyrics.

The opening ballads set the stage for the richly arranged title track. Instrumentals and vocal layers blend orchestrally to produce a timeless while contemporary Celtic-edged epic. The thickness of the guitar in "My Whispered Reason" transforms the short ballad into a gentle rocker while "Bonnie Jean" and "Goodbye Phoebe" return the listener to the lighter side of Karen Matheson's traditional sound while adding rich arrangements. The sharp contrast of a capella with rich orchestral arrangements makes "An Ataireachd Ard" one of the album's standouts. The bass is just tremendous.

The lightly rocking texture of "Speed Of Love" is supported by a lovely trumpet part and almost spoken vocal segments that give it a somewhat jazzy feel. "Moonchild" continues to develop the jazz texture building the intensity while further exploring the artist's singing and songwriting virtousity. The most Capercaillie-oriented tune on the album is the progressive Celtic ""Moch di Luain." We especially enjoyed the blending of the vocal harmonies with rich guitar, bass and percussion arrangements.

Thick bass and trumpet are again perfectly complimented by percussion in the rhythmic "Hoping For You," another album standout. The album concludes with the tender piano-based ballad "World Stood Still" graced with the full range of Karen's sensitive vocal talent and backing harmonies by Tim O'Brian.

The long-awaited followup to Karen Matheson's debut solo project will clearly resonate with Capercaillie fans and further establish interest in her solo work. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Time To Fall must be explored further to fully appreciate and it was easy for us to recommend a trans-Atlantic journey to do so. It is clearly a must listen!

 
Century Child CD Cover
Image © Spinefarm Records 2002


Tarja Turunen
Image © 2002 Spinefarm Records

More Nightwish Reviews
 

(16 June 2002) When I first read the introduction letter accompanying our copy of Century Child (Spinefarm (Finland) SPI148, 2002) I did not pay lot of attention to the text saying "Nightwish has taken a notable step forward with their new album." It sounded like the usual promotional text we are used to seeing widely just as interest stimulator.

The first listens did not open the album as easily as the previous ones, but as we all know, this is usually a good sign. But the letter was right and we have a very welcome album here. Especially the two albums before Century Child have presented us Nightwish as they are and that sound has made the heavenly feeling of flying high "Over The Hlls" and so on--Century Child is obviously born under high pressure and expectations. The band survived change of one of their members; composer Tuomas Holopainen says "a lot of personal anxiety was involved when writing the new songs."

Century Child includes new sounds and elements. You can hear the participation of Joensuu City Orchestra, Tuomaschoir and for the first time a male vocalist together with the stunning Tarja Turunen. The new band member Marco Hietala (bass) sings the male vocal parts.

All the new elements compliment the original Nightwish-style composing we are familiar with, but overall listening brings you the feeling of an album slightly harder rocking than the previous ones, despite the balancing of classical elements. One tiny detail supporting the heavy line is the somewhat distorted bass part. The album remains well arranged and sounds great!

Musical Discoveries focus on Tarja Turunen as female lead vocalist of the band has been a continuous enjoyment ever since we learned to know their music. Her classical background and ongoing studies in Germany show her again as professional soprano loaning her voice for metal edged rock, although this was originally not to be at all her area of music as she publicly admits.

Tarja will continue her classical studies a couple more years and sadly this breaks Nightwish's tour plans. We first noticed Tarja to sing wider scale and lower tones when she co-operated with Beto Vazquez Infinity album last year (feature). We find the same on Century Child. The duets that Tarja and Marco sing are one of the highlights of this album and a good example of perfect success is the cover of "Phantom of the Opera."

Century Child went immediately to platinum in Nightwish's home country of Finland. This is the ultimate local record of any artist making it in only two weeks. The album is at the top of our ratings for bands of similar style with a female lead vocalist. Nightwish has continuously shown their capability to create new elements out of surrounding dimensions and they certainly do it here again for our pleasure.

I rate the album third against the earlier Nightwish albums with Oceanborn and Wishmaster rated above it. This is primarily because I personally prefer and enjoy the less hard sound of those albums and secondly after so much Nightwish listening the criticism hits hard on evry part you think you have heard from them already before.

In "Bless The Child," the choir at opening is very nice, and it is generally a well arranged piece. A mixed rock beat, not typical for Nightwish underscores "End of Hope" which follows. Marco makes his debut on vocals in "Dead To The World" one of my favourite songs. The harder speed metal track "Slaying The Dreamer" didn't appeal much to me.

"Ever Dream" is the first single from the album that has had a lot of play time at our local radio; rich percussion is added to the typical Nightwish sound. We also enjoyed "Forever Yours." Another favourite is "Ocean Soul," a nice ballad backed with a rock beat. Tarja told us "this is one of the most enjoyable to sing." A nice duet and equally enjoyable is "Feel For You." But it is "Phantom Of The Opera" that generates a real wow!--the duet works fine.

The album concludes with the multi-part "Beauty of the Beast." Emppu's great guitar work is featured here and at five minutes running the track has a very powerful sound and really breaks the skies. There are two editions of the album available. While our promo included only one CD, the limited edition includes two with the second having bonus material essential to serious Nightwish fans. Details are available on the band's official website. The album is generally available in Europe from the first week of July.--Mauri Osterholm, Scandinavian Bureau Chief

Interested visitors will want to check out our review of the "Ever Dream" single and the latest update to our Nightwish feature.

 
Star One Space Metal CD Cover
Image © InsideOut Music America 2002

More Arjen Anthony Lucassen
Live On Earth
Space Metal
Ayreonauts Only
Flight Of The Migrator
The Dream Sequencer
Fate Of A Dreamer
 

(02 July 2002) Best known for his progressive rock project Ayreon (Ayreonauts Only review, Flight Of The Migrator review, The Dream Sequencer review) and his recent collaboration with Astrid van der Veen on Ambeon's Fate Of A Dreamer (review), Arjen Anthony Lucassen has chosen to expand his artistsic identity with a new project called Star One. The debut album is a ten-track collection entitled Space Metal (InsideOut (USA) 6 93723 65042 5, 2002). Early editions include a six-track bonus CD. It is Lucassen's first release on the InsideOut label.

Lucassen says, "Ayreon has come to be known as having many different musical styles while Star One focuses mainly just on the heavy side of my music. The songs are more straightforward and guitar-oriented but they are still progressive. This album was never intended to be an Ayreon album, so calling it Ayreon just wouldn't feel right to me." There are clear Lucassen tendencies in the album and while it is not an Ayreon album per se, it will most certainly appeal to Ayeron enthusiasts. The name Star One is derived from an episode of Arjen's favourite science fiction TV series called Blakes 7.

The material isn't a continuous story or a rock opera, yet it is still very much a concept album. Instead of a continuous story, the individual songs are all based on space movies and are designed to act as a vehicle that takes the listener on a journey through Arjen's mind and memory. Although the main melodies are dominated by male vocals, lovely female vocal-based choirs courtesy of Floor Jansen (After Forever) are reminiscent of Lucassen's other work.

Arjen spoke about the singers. "To ensure that the vocals didn't all sound the same, I used very different sounding singers. Though appearing in the same songs, the different singers were used to convey different moods." Dan Swano (ex-Edge Of Sanity, Nightingale) sings the low parts. Russell Allen (Symphony X) sings the powerful rough parts while Damian Wilson (ex-Threhshold, ex-Landmarq) sings the high clear parts. Robert Soeterboek (Ayreon) sang the backing vocals with his huge smoky voice.

Other artists involved in the project include Ed Warby (drums), Erik Norlander (keyboards), Jens Johansson (keyboards), Gary Wehrkamp (guitars) and Dave Brock (guest vocals). The album includes memorable melodies, hard rocking guitar solos and vast keyboard excursions. Readers will be drawn to incredible variety of the different tunes on the recording and the lush vocal melodies within each of the tracks. Production quality is typically of Arjen Anthony Lucassen--simply stunning. The epic closing number "Starchild" with its vast guitar solos and Damian's soaring lead vocal is and supporting harmonies is most reminscent of Lucassen's earlier Electric Castle work.

The album version with the bonus CD should be sought out by serious Arjen Anthony Lucassen enthusiasts. In addition to the incredible cover of "Space Oddity," two versions of "Spaced Out" grace the disc. The final alternate mix includes lead vocals by Damian Wilson, Robert Soeterbuck and a stunning--while short--multi-tracked part by After Forever's Floor Jansen. Interested readers should visit our After Forever feature for further information. The track's vast reaching keyboard solos are especially notable.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. This incredible new project by Arjen Anthony Lucassen should be investigated thoroughly because worth a trans-Atlantic journey, it is clearly a must listen!

 
Illusion's Carnival CD Cover
Image © MPress Records 2002


More Rachael Sage
Interview and Reviews
Painting Of A Painting
Illusion's Carnival
Public Record
 

(02 July 2002) The fourth album from New York's Rachael Sage is a fifteen-track collection of new singer-songwriter favourites entitled Illusion's Carnival (MPress Records (USA) MP7272-2, 2002). The album follows several highly successful American and European tours and three previously acclaimed albums (Morbid Romantic and Smashing The Serene feature, Painting Of A Painting review). A vast American east coast and midwest tour schedule is planned to promote this stunning new album.

In addition to other awards--far too numerous to mention here--Rachael recently won the grand prize in the 2001 John Lennon Songwriting Contest and has toured with Ani DiFranco, Eric Burdon, Melissa Ferrick and played the Lilith Fair with Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Suzanne Vega and The Pretenders. Further information is available at her website.

On Illusion's Carnival Rachael departs further from earlier Kate Bush musings. The recordings are more lushly arranged, continuing the instrumental development from her most recent album Painting In A Painting. The singer's voice continues to be edgy, gracefully delivering the hearfelt sensuality of her earlier work. In addition to providing the vocal work and piano, her supporting cast of players includes Doug Yowell (drums, percussion), Matt Lindsey (bass), Jack Petruzelli (electric guitar), Jimi Zhivago (electric guitar, organ), Stephanie Winters (organ), Jeremy Adelman (trumpet), Walter Parks (backing vocals) and various others.

Vocally intense throughout, instrumentals provide the foundation for the melodies and harmonies. We especially enjoyed the rich keyboard- and brass-backed arrangements. Harmony vocals add lush texture in the choruses. The album is full of lovely piano melodies, typical of Rachael Sage's work.

Illusion's Carnival has tunes that vary from lightly rocking bluesy numbers--especially in "Marmelade"--to some faster paced numbers like "Maybe Its The Way" but never drift far from traditional singer songwriter ballads. The album's standouts include the dramatic opening number "Angel," "Before It Comes" and the heartfelt ballads "Unbeauty" and "Linger," some with familar sounding melodies from Rachael's earlier work. The arrangements in the waltzy "Look" are also certain to draw attention to the album's songwriting.

A rare combination of timeless craftsmanship and contemporary feminist sensibilities, The Village Voice described Rachael's music as "earthiness, color and emotion ... Sage has folk on the brain and piano keys for hands and is sure to put on a show sublime." In essence she is a young East Village New York woman who tours playing some of the most interesting music in rock and pop today. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. This album is worth further exploration and is certainly a must listen!

 
The Nymphaeum CD Cover
Image © Exzel Music Publishing 2002 
 

(08 June 2002) The debut album from Angelwing is a a ten-track collection entitled The Nymphaeum (Exzel Music (USA) EMCD990601, 2001). Certain to appeal to Enya and Loreena McKennitt music enthusiasts, the album inspired by the classic William A Bougereau painting, features vocally laden tracks bracketing the mainly instrumental title track, a whispy Enya-like five-part epic. The artists are from Los Angeles, CA and Phoenix, AZ.

Reenie Varga (vocals) and Erin Hawkins (cello and backing vocals) are two of the featured artists. Reenie Varga is an aspiring singer/songwriter living in Los Angeles as well as an accomplished painter and actress and is the main vocal force behind Angelwing. She frequently performs in the Los Angeles area with the Reenie Varga Trio. She has has appeared in films and has lent her voice and likeness to some very successful video games as well. Reenie attended the Tyler school of Art at Temple University and her oil painting 'the Nymph' graces the back cover of the Angelwing CD.

Erin Hawkins is a classically trained singer who got her start at the age of four. She took up the eello at the ripe age of nine and has been playing ever since. She won the Utah state competition with her high school three years running and is a graduate of the University of Utah majoring in Fine Arts. Erin is currently working on her own solo album project due out later this year.

Rick Costello (guitars and executive producer), Gary Strausbaugh (keyboard), Frank Danna (guitar), Victor Bradley (bass) and John Biehl (percussion) complete the lineup. Rick's background is in progressive rock. He created and released two other albums: The Lemming Shepherds, a children’s CD-ROM storybook that promotes individual thinking and the compilation disc, and The Job Shopper Album an eclectic mix of standard and original songs for the Contract Engineer on the road.

The album opens with the vocal track "Radical Seed" written by Renee Varga. Here the vocalists harmonise in an evocative and sensual introduction to Angelwing's music backed by light orchestral arrangements. The title track is a symphonic instrumental of acoustic guitar, piano, cello and is accompanied by the vocalists' whispers, oohs and ahhs. Haunting and unforgettable, the Nymphaeum is an inspiring while soothing new age suite certain to appeal to a wide audience.

"Part I-a guitar duet" and "Part II-the orchestral theme" are blended into a gentle and moody 10+ minute epic with keyboards and strings--especially acoustic guitar and piano--swirling between the various thematic elements of the piece. The shorter "Part III-an acoustic guitar theme," actually more highly textured by keyboard, continues to build on the themes. "Part IV-reprise," is richer still, with rich orchestral-style keyboards evoking memories of classic progressive numbers. The vocal harmonies within the mix are wonderful. "Part V-piano themes" has spacey keyboards and whispy vocals that compliment the main piano-based melody.

The upbeat richly arranged and primarily instrumental new age number "What a beautiful Sunset!" includes evocative and soaring oohs and aahs from the vocalists that are more pronounced than in "the Nymphaeum" suite. "The Calling" is a short, lovely and vocally-laden track supported by acoustic guitar and gently orchestral-style keyboards. Clearly the standout track on the album is the richly arranged, moving and evocatively sung "Tears of Joy." Lead and backing vocals are perfectly supported by lush orchestral arrangements.

A short intermission on the CD precedes sweetly produced remixes of "Radical Seed" and "What a beautiful Sunset!" echo the vocal themes in the earlier tunes and are certain to appeal to all. The listener must wait patiently through a ten minute intermission following "Tears of Joy" or fiddle the CD player to advance to track 9 to get them play.

Our readers are certain to enjoy Angelwing's gently flowing debut album "The Nymphaeum." While the central suite draws significant attention, the pieces that bracket the main suite may appeal more to our vocal oriented audience. Read further reviews, grab the free downloads and order the album from amazon.com here. Clearly worth a journey, this album is a must listen!

 
A Woman's Voice CD Cover
Image © PhotoDisc Inc. 2001
New World Music 2001
 
 

(16 June 2002) A retrospective 12-track compilation by showcasing a bevy of stunning female vocalists is entitled A Woman's Voice (New World Music (UK) NWCD 519, 2001). Just over half of the tracks amount to a "best of" set from albums by new age vocalists reviewed at Musical Discoveries previously. Others have served as an introduction to our editorial staff and will stimulate further interest from our visitors. Contemporary celtic and world tracks form the backbone of the album.

Juliana's sweet voice forms the melody for the soothing "Sky Fire (Mandragora)" from Llewellyn's album Moonlore (review) opens the album and is followed not long after by the softly rocking title track from her solo album Woman Wisdom (review).

The upbeat Enyaesque track "World Of Wonders" from Freud's album Time Passengers (review) is sung by Cora O'Donavon who can also be heard on the Elysia album Spirit of the Sun (review) and Terra Del Sol's album Selection One (review). Freud's second album The Great Crossing (review) is expected to be released in late 2002.

The stunning multi-layered tribal influenced title track from Sally Oldfield's album Flaming Star (review) will certainly whet the listener's appetite for more ofher work as will the everso gentle acoustic "Musa Mare Lullaby" from Wendy Stark's lovely album Child Of Transferrance (review).

The album includes two tracks by Pia, one from each of her albums. "Angelus Cantus,"with soaring vocals from her debut album Benediction Moon (review) reveals the crystalline clarity, range and soaring sonic power of her voice. The epic and percussive "Shyam" from Magical Eclipse (review) illustrates further artistic development with lush solo vocal and multi-layered choral arrangements underscored by Eastern themes. Pia's natural power, clarity and vast vocal range are perfectly captured in the two stunning selections.

New artist introductions include Susanna whose upbeat new age track "Free Yourself" taken from Music For Love (NWCD 468) blends rich new age instrumentals with gently soaring and evocative lyrical vocalise elements. "Fly Through The Skies" from Lazy Days (NWCD 494) introduces Sarah Jones' sweet and sensual voice. The soaring vocal melody is the lovely chorus is contrasted by whispery almost spoken messages in the verses.

In contrast to the rest of the album--sparse tribal sounding instrumentals with droning digereedoo and choir of of vocal layers set it aside--is the epic-length "Honour The Earth As Your Mother" by Sarah Hopkins from her album Honour The Earth (NWCD 570). As interesting as the other new discoveries, our editors were most curious to know what the rest of her album holds.

"Canzone Angelica" is a gentle new age ballad taken from the Mystic Heart (NWCD 183) album. Lush keyboard variations dominate the track before Sharon Sage's lovely vocals begin--the track will surely leave the listener longing for more of her sensually sung lead and harmony vocals. "De Profundis" from Terry Oldfield's Out Of The Depths (NWCD 474) is sung by Imogen Moore. As with the previous track, the instrumentals somewhat overpower the vocals yet generate further interest in the singer's work.

New World Music selected the tracks to create an album of soothing uplifting music that expresses all the wonders and joy of the feminine. The project combines the work of established international Musical Discoveries' artists and newcomers in a fusion of styles to produce a kaleidoscope of richness. An album you will want to play over and over again, it is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!

 
Under The Moon CD Cover
Image © Oceanic Records 2001


Donna (Donatella) Rawlins
Image © Oceanic Records 2001
 

(02 July 2002) Donna Rawlins (Donatella) is a successful singer, songwriter and voiceover artist. Her new album, Under The Moon (Oceanic Records (USA) 3003-2, 2002) is a ten-track collection of vocally sensuous hypnotic rhythms, electronics and acoustic guitars. The vocalist's range is evident from the eclectic collection represented on the album. The title track was featured in the CBS mini-series And Never Let Her Go and on two episodes of the network hit That's Life. Click on the album cover to view further information on the artist's website.

Textures vary from the sultry "Under The Moon" sung at the lower end of Donna's mezzo range to the lively "Life Is What Life Will Be" and "Daeya" that explore her upper reaches. The sensitively sung acoustic guitar accompanied "Maybe Someday" demonstrates the edgier side of the artist's vocal regime. Percussively dancy with lovely layers of vocals--reminscent of Balligomingo (feature) and Lunascape (feature)--listeners will immediately be drawn to the stunning track "Shadows Fall."

Donna's hearfelt vocal sensitivity--think Miriam Stockley--in "River Flow," lovely piano part and rhythmic intensity is broken by the (annoying fire) siren that opens and closes the track. The percussive "Tell Me" and bottom- to top-end vocal exploration of Donna's range places the number clearly in the club circuit and is sharply contrasted by the lovely singer songwriter style of the acoustic guitar-based "Why," aired on Dawson's Creek earlier this year.

Clearly one of the the album's standout tracks is the most accessible "Daeya," a track dominated by a lively acoustic guitar melody and a soaring lead vocal. The harmony vocal layers contribute significant texture as the tune develops. We especially enjoyed the rhythmically accessible "Life Is What Life Will Be." The tune explores the edges of Donna's range and features lovely instrumental and backing vocal contrasts between verse, chorus and bridge.

The slow and sensitively sung ballad "Fallin' Down" is lightly accompanied allowing Donna to explore her full vocal range sensually. The album concludes with "I Think It's Her," a track that contrasts a spoken part [about the songwriter's grandmother] with the lushest of Miriam Stockley-style vocal harmonies in the choruses will certainly appeal to a wide audience.

Percussion, electronics and lush vocals clearly set this album apart from the run-of-the-mill singer songwriter album. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. A broad ranging album with tunes that will appeal to female vocalist enthusiasts worth further exploration, Donatella's Under The Moon is a very nice listen!

 
Glass Lounge CD Cover
Image © Percords 2002

Lyn Leon
Stephan, Carolyn, Matthias
Image © Percords 2002
 

(13 June 2001) Lyn Leon (formerly The Swiss Percussion Group) are New York singer Carolyn Leonhart and Swiss multi-instrumentalists Stephan Diethelm and Matthias Eser, with guest musicians on bass and drums. Their album Glass Lounge (Percords (Switzerland) PERCORDS 001-04, 2001) embraces a pleasing combination of cool jazz and soul, with a laid-back vibe, which makes for great late-night listening. The album is available either in a standard jewel box format or in a limited edition must have glass-bottomed case.

Indeed Carolyn, some-time backing singer with Steely Dan, has certainly brought some of that band’s relaxed aura to the table here, and her smooth, intimate, bluesy, yet perfectly pitched vocals are a delight. But it is the extremely unusual instrumentation that makes this album stand out from others of its type.

Both men play the same instruments in various permutations. These vary from subtle Fender Rhodes chords and lightly struck mallet percussion, to, most unusually, glasses (or bowls) filled with water to produce different pitches, then rubbed or struck, to give an ethereal, sustained note and the emphasis is on warmth throughout this excellent album. Often these instruments cut across the songs delightfully, while mobile bassist Wolf Zwaiuer and jazzy drummer Kaspar Rast lay down a variety of infectious grooves.

"Never" opens with a slow throb and we hear sustained glass notes almost immediately, while "Stronger than That" is a brisker tune, dominated by fast mallet percussion runs. "Would You Catch Me" is another up-tempo piece with infectious bass playing, while "66th Street" is a slow cha-cha, with a surreal mid section "Childish" has a vocal performance that Peggy Lee would have appreciated, and some more sustained glass playing, while "Priquer" reminds me of former Prince band members Wendy and Lisa is at their quirkiest.

"Marimba Lounge" has more percussion cutting across a complex drum pattern drifting into a lovely, laid back song. "The Answer" suggests Weather Report with complex patterns weaving in and out of the song, while, in contrast "Everywhere and Nowhere," after a slow start is the albums poppiest song, with it’s infectious chorus, Carolyn suggesting Randy Crawford in her vocal, and some delightful Marimba.

"Anytime," again, has some infectious percussion, while "Photo" utilises an almost lazy, discordant percussion accompaniment, and the closing (mainly) instrumental, "Silver Storm" carries the music to its logical conclusion--jazz.

After repeated listens, this album is now a firm favourite. Classy, atmospheric, yet challenging if listened to deeper, it will please anyone with an interest in the cooler side of jazz and soul. And Carolyn is a great singer, too.--Stephen Lambe

The album is available worldwide through the ensemble's website. Pay them a visit!

 
Fire CD Cover
Image © Naked Feet 2002 
 

(23 June 2002) In the run up to their first full length album and following in the footsteps of Oasis, Stone Roses, Supergrass and Muse, nakedfeet have released a seven track EP entitled Fire (Cornish Rock (UK) CR-CD-027, 2002) recorded at the Sawmills Studio in Fowey, Cornwall. The band is fronted by Julie Elwin (vocals, piano, accordion, whistles, guitar, hammond organ) who has written more than 80 tracks. Simon Elwin (bass, vocals), Dave Richards (guitars, vocals), Joe Westfoot (guitars, vocals) and Nina Hudson (drums, vocals, violins, congas) complete the lineup.

nakedfeet collected gold and silver awards for Cornwall in the annual Pan Celtic International Song Contest in Ireland. The band's original melodies, powerful harmonies, exceptional musicianship and lovely vocal work are said to place the band in the same broad musical space as Shakira, Travis and The Beautiful South.

Their EP opens with "tees an castel," an upbeat Celtic-oriented rocker graced with a lovely whistle and vocal part sung in Cornish. It is the story of a girl growing up and growing old in the Shadow of St. Michael's Mount near Penzance. Powerful electric guitar contrasts the traditional instruments in the arrangement. The feet tapping title track "fire!" blends rich vocal harmonies with Spanish-oriented Celtic overtones. Orchestral violins in the bridge, mixed up way over the vocals, give it a spacey texture.

Julie's powerful vocal carries the melody in "groovy," a sixties-seventies style pop song with rich electric guitars in support. Harmonies add a lovely texture. A lovely whistle part introduces "push and shove," a lush verse and chorus rock song full of further vocal harmonies. Guitars and conga support Julie's lead and the lush textures of other members' harmonies in "the day i met you," a gentle rocker certain to appeal to a broad audience.

The English language version of "tees an castel" entitled "castle clan" is especially appealing and most accessible with whistle, guitar and lead vocal contributing to the sound. We wonder if the commercial release should place this track as the first and the Cornish version in the sixth place. The EP concludes with "hungan" a lovely and haunting Cornish lullaby sung a capella. Julie's vocal style here is similar to Clannad's Máire Brennan (review).

With critical acclaim from national press coverage of their EP and live performances, nakedfeet is certain to reach great heights with the release of their forthcoming album. The dynamic sound of the band's music indicates that their live performances are equally intriguing. Click on the album cover to visit their website for further information, photos and a tour schedule. The EP is a very nice listen!

 
Precious Baby CD Cover
Image © The Silk 2002 
 

(23 June 2002) The first recording from The Silk, a pop-influenced progressive rock band from Belgium, is available on CD-R and is entitled Precious Baby (self-published (Belgium) 2001). The band are presently searching for a label. Fronted by singer Jo Duchamps, Bernard Wauters (guitar, djembe), Alain Delsaux (guitar), Marc Brasselet (drums) and Jacques Duchateau (bass) complete the lineup. The band's live performances span a range of venues and festivals and include supporting Seven Reizh (review).

Listeners will immediately be drawn to Jo Douchamps' vocals. Similarities to Curved Air's Sonja Kristina are obvious while others have made reference to Kate Bush, Nina Hagen and Janis Joplin. The mini-CD includes five short tracks in the three-four minute range and one longer piece running almost six minutes. The rich guitar excursions contrast Jo's soaring vocals in "Safe," whose lyrics lead to the title of the mini-CD, very much in a Curved Air style.

The percussive tune "Smell Of Success" clearly illustrates the virtuousity of Marc Brasselet and the electric guitar work of Alain Delsaux. Jo's vast vocal excursions illustrate a broad range of sounds and styles. Lush electric guitar arrangements provide a firm foundation for the Jo's sensitively sung lead vocal in a gentle ballad entitled "The Rats." This is contrasted by the progressively jazzy textures of "The Circus" where Jo's edgy vocals will remind listeners of Kate Bush's early recordings.

The band's jazz orientations continue to blend with progressive sounds in "The Great Escape." Crisp percussion and lush guitars, tempo changes and a vast range of vocal effects illustrate Jo's incredible diversity and give the song an experimental texture. This experimentation continues into the final track on the mini-CD entitled "Home Sweet Home," which in addition to the lyrical element is full of Jo's soaring vocalise and rhythmic guitar, bass and crisp percussion. Additional tempo and style changes contribute to the progressive texture of the track.

Acclaimed previously by Prog Resiste and other French language publications, The Silk is clearly emerging as a progressive-pop band. Reviews of their live performances have been as positive as those of their recordings. Click on the album cover to visit the band's website where further information, soundbites and videos can be viewed. Worth a journey, we found their mini-CD to be a very nice listen!

 
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