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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
Vanessa Carlton
Conjure One
Lacuna Coil
Martina Sorbara
Envision
Avril Lavigne
Sarah Brightman
Eva Turkoni
Theatre Of Tragedy
Fula
The Future Sound Of Gaeldom
Frou Frou

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Instrumental Digest
 
Be Not Nobody CD Cover
Image © A&M Records 2002

Vanessa Carlton
Image © A&M Records 2002
 

(20 August 2002) 21 year old Vanessa Carlton is currently the darling of the US and UK charts, with her debut album Be Not Nobody (A&M Records 0694944074, 2002). Her feminine, exotic beauty and undoubted talent have made stardom almost inevitable. As a result, visitors of this website may have an obvious antipathy to such an obvious pop star. However, at last I can announce that the adulation is truly warranted!

Under the guidance of Producer Ron Fair, many of Vanessa’s songs, influenced both by singer songwriters such as Tori Amos and the classic rock she listened to as a child, have been nurtured into mini masterpieces. Instrumentally, bass and drums are mixed high, alongside Vanessa’s superb, rhythmic piano playing. However, it is the addition of a full orchestra on each of the 11 tracks, which is "symphonic" feel, while replacing the need for further keyboards, and allowing piano to take centre stage. Vanessa’s voice is distinctive, if girlish, with a surprisingly bluesy rasp to it when required.

"Ordinary Day" is very much a scene-setter, a mid-paced song with orchestra and piano dueting effectively, while "Unsung" is a full-paced R & B workout with Vanessa bashing the keys like Little Richard! The superb hit single "A Thousand Miles" follows, with piano carrying the melody and Vanessa’s singing at its sensitive best, while the orchestra, cheekily, borrows a riff from Western film The Magnificent Seven alongside some excellent slide guitar from John Goux.

Ballad "Pretty Baby," though by no means a bad song, is a little syrupy for my taste, however the next two songs "Rinse" and "Sway" are both astonishing pieces of work. The former is full of unresolved tension, a genuine taste of Tori Amos style angst with piano and guitar sharing a dramatic riff, while the latter is dominated by piano and Charles Bisharat’s wonderful electric violin, which makes the song reminiscent of American progressive hard rockers Kansas.

"Paradise" is more sinister, with an infectious hook, while "Prince" gives drummer Abe Laboriel and bassist, the legendary Leland Sklar the chance to lay down a complex rhythm on which to build the song, before a bluesy mid section, which builds to an explosive climax. A routine (and unnecessary) cover of the Rolling Stone’s "Paint it Black" follows, while "Wanted" features with some splendid classical piano, and "Twilight" is the obligatory dramatic ballad to finish.

This is an album of great maturity, and it is good to see a talented artist being nurtured patiently by a major record label. hough the album is not faultless--it peters out a little after "Prince," it is more than worth a trip to the "chart" section of your local record store, and it will be interesting to see where Vanessa takes her undoubted ability from here.--Stephen Lambe

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Worth a journey, this incredible album by an up and coming vocalist is a very nice listen!

 
Conjure One CD Cover
Image © Nettwerk Productions 2002

Conjure One
Rhys Fulber Interview
Chemda Interview

More Rhys Fulber
Semantic Spaces
Karma
 

(12 September 2002) Conjure One (Nettwerk (USA) 0 6700 30246 2 4, 2002) is the the new solo project by Delerium co-founder, Rhys Fulber. Rhys, along with partner Bill Leeb released several albums under the Delerium pseudonym including Semantic Spaces (review) and Karma (review). After releasing Karma, Rhys decided to go on hiatus from the Delerium project, leaving Bill Leeb alone to work on Delerium's most recent original album, Poem (review).

In the interim, Rhys travelled throughout the world, investigating various indigenous cultures, focusing particularly on those cultures' musical traditions. Although Delerium fans will be pleased to learn that Rhys has returned to work with Bill Leeb on a new Delerium album, those same fans will surely find Rhys' Conjure One release to be a rewarding listening experience.

Working with top female vocalist/songwriters like Jane, Marie-Claire D'Ubaldo, Chemda, Mel Garside, and Joanna Stevens (Solar Twins), Fulber has created an album that is both musically stunning and lyrically exceptional by joining ethnic vocals and samples, pop structures, and vibrant instrumentation.

The production (Rhys Fulber, Rick Nowels, and Junkie XL) and mix (Greg Reely) of this album are immaculate--the instrumentation is bold while retaining a lush, exotic feel. In general, many of the Conjure One tracks maintain a more straightforward song form than some of Delerium's songs. Also, many of the various electronic textures are less apparent. Instead, the Conjure One songs rely on strong percussion lines (live drums and percussion provided by Ashwin Sood--Sarah McLachlan's husband), piano (Chris Elliott), live strings (Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), guitar (Jeff Martin) and the occasional synthetic element--and the end product is absolutely absorbing.

A brief capsule review of each of the tracks follows. "Damascus" combines mythic synth-pads and epic vocals by Chemda. This short introductory number immediately inspires visions of exotic and hidden locales. "Damascus" would work well as a soundtrack to any historical or fantasy film.

"Center of the Sun" is an inspiring and suprisingly touching track that features Poe on lead vocals. A strongly Arabic-flavored melody leads the verses. However, Fulber displays real genuis as the chorus modulates into an affirmative, major-chord progression. Throughout, full orchestral accompaniment provides a sweeping and grand flavor to the music. Jane's lyrics are thought-provoking and her voice is distinct and passionate as ever.

"Tears from the Moon," originally written and recorded by the band Lunascape (feature) for their debut release, has been reworked turning vocal duties over to Sinead O'Connor. As is typical, the gifted O'Connor infuses "Tears from the Moon" with Celtic hints of melancholy, desire, and anger. "Tidal Pool" opens with a swath of otherworldly ambient sounds and drifts soothingly until (after several minutes into the song) Rhys brings in the Delerium-esque percussion. Chemda does a fine job of vocalising at various intervals.

The superb track "Manic Star" is one of the highlights of the album. Marie-Claire's unique vocals unfold a song that deals with issues of the human condition. Although Ms. D'Ubaldo's lyrics display a leaning toward the existential with words like "grains of sand is all we are, crawling on our manic star," her expressions are nevertheless fascinating, poignant and enhance the sense of beautiful loneliness created by the music. Joanna Stevens provides additional vocals. "Manic Star" definitely deserves to be a huge hit.

The vast and thrilling "Redemption" sounds as if it sprang directly from a Persian mystic's visionary dream. Chemda's spine-tingling wails are so primal and stirring that it is difficult not to be captivated by her performance. Featuring dulcimer, ghostly vocal sections, mid-tempo trance beat and phenomenal piano, "Years" is an unusual foray into Dead Can Dance territory. Again, Rhys Fulber easily meshes the modern and the ancient into a gripping and unified whole.

Poe makes her second appearance on "Make a Wish." Mellow yet colorful, Poe gives a noteworthy performance as gentle piano and trip-hoppy grooves highlight her seductive vocals and invite the listener to relax. "Pandora" is a somewhat unusual track but one that continues the mood established by "Years." Mel Garside supplies the lovely vocals elements.

Without doubt, the most sensual song on the album, "Sleep" is a heavenly piece featuring the irresistible vocals of Marie-Claire D'Ubaldo. Entrancing beats and synth throbs resonate throughout generating images of afterhours desire. Reprising the melody from "Manic Star," Conjure One pulls all stops in an string-fronted finale. Vocalists Jeff Martin and Joanna Stevens add to this epic closing track.

With Conjure One, Rhys Fulber has taken female-fronted world electronica to a new level. In particular, one is greatly impressed by the loveliness of the melodies and the "clean" quality of the music. Although hints of Rhys' Delerium days are present on this album, his Conjure One project is a distinct and transcendent collection of beautifully crafted songs that stand on their own.--Justin Elswick

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Like his work with Delerium, Conjure One is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!

 
Comalies CD Cover
Comalies Album Cover
Images © Century Media Records 2002


Lacuna Coil (2002)
Cristina Scabbia
Image © Doralba Picerna 2002


Lacuna Coil (2002)
Lacuna Coil Press Photo
Image © Century Media Records 2002


Lacuna Coil (2002)
Cristina Scabbia
Image © Doralba Picerna 2002


Heaven's A Lie
Heaven's A Lie (Single)
Image © Century Media Records 2002

 

(02 September 2002) The first album to emerge from Lacuna Coil since Unleashed Memories (feature) is a 13-track collection entitled Comalies (Century Media (USA) CD 8160-2, 2002). From Century Media, "With three full-length albums and two EPs released in a four year span, each offering has furthered the enunciation of the subtle, solemn beauty Lacuna Coil creates. Signifying "empty spiral" in English, the definition betrays the rich versatility of their music. Comalies maturely exhibits the trademarked gothic overtones and simplistic melancholy of their haunting musical landscape." Comalies moves away from the Cristina Scabbia-dominated vocal harmonies found on Unleashed Memories and moves into a new territory vocally without admonishing the classic Lacuna Coil sound. As the label writes, "Lacuna Coil bring miraculous eloquence to their collision of melody and metal."

So what do Lacuna Coil sound like? Their music is more than richly arranged--it is very thick, full of powerful guitars, strong bass and driving percussion. Lead vocalist Cristina Scabbia's stunning crystalline contributions swirl in the mix, soaring above it at times, and are contrasted by those from male vocalist Andrea Ferro, an excellent singer in his own right. Symphonic and rhythmic keyboard elements work their way into the mix to produce the wall of sound one will instantly recognise as Lacuna Coil's and noone else's. The lineup is completed by "Cristiano Migliore (guitars), Marco Biazzi (guitars), Marco Coti Zelati (bass and keyboards) and Cristiano Mozzati (drums and percussion).

"It is indeed difficult not to get pulled into the dream-like quality of the world Lacuna Coil creates, which floods you with a myriad of heavy and hypnotic sounds. The epic feel of Comalies will quickly lead you to believe that an incredibly personal epiphany is about to happen. Each song contributes to the buildup, encouraging introspection while documenting the sadness that this particular journey uncovers. Upholding the emotive yin/yang tradition of vocal interplay between the dulet tones of Cristina Scabbia and the deliberate vocals of her male singing partner Andrea Ferro, Comalies is another dynamic exploration of Lacuna Coil's soulfully somber and stunningly enigmatic musical alchemy," Century Media writes.

The album is produced once again by Unleashed Memories' Waldemar Sorchta at Woodhouse Studios. Lacuna Coil's metal-edged instrumental power is evident across the album's tracks, they begin full on in "Swamped." Andrea's lead introduces the lyrical content while Cristina's dramatic backing vocal soars in the distance before coming front and centre in the well-produced arrangement. The powerful metal ballad "Heaven's A Lie" features Cristina singing in a lower register while symphonic instrumentals and further vocal harmonies support her soaring towards the upper regions as the male vocal enters the fray.

Cristina's and Andrea's vocals alternate leads in the rocking "Daylight Dancer" whose rhythmically styled keyboards and percussion add tremendous texture to the thickly arranged guitars. Soaring vocalise inroduces "Humane," a slower paced--yet equally thickly arranged--tune that will treat the listener to the range of Cristina's heartfelt layered vocals. The upbeat rocking sound of "Self Deception" again features vocal work of the two lead singers with longer alternating sections of their leads. We especially enjoyed Cristina's treatment of the choruses and the vast guitar excursions in the bridges.

A short and light guitar instrumental introduces a gentle crystalline vocal part by Cristina in "Aeon" that precedes the multi-sensory "Tight Rope," a rocking metal edged number of with vast guitar riffs and vocal layers blending the two singers' parts as the album comes into full splendour. Cristina's powerful lead punches through the rich instrumental to carry a soaring melody and leaving rhythmic percussion in her wake. The tempo slows down for the orchestral-style ballad (well about as orchestral as Lacuna Coil gets!) entitled "The Ghost Woman And The Hunter" which is led by Cristina's sensually sung vocal part and layers of her equally sweet supporting harmonies.

"Unspoken" is a classic Lacuna Coil-style gothic-edged track dominated by Cristina's vocals, mixed way up above the symphonic arrangements. With lush vocal harmonies in the chorus and a memorable melody, the track is a certain standout and one that will have the broadest audience appeal. The vocal intensity continues into the soft metal construction of "Entwined," a lovely ballad presenting Cristina's vocal work right up in the fore in the guise of similar-to Madonna but against Lacuna Coil's typically lush instrumental and supporting male vocal arrangements.

"Angel's Punishment" is a progressive metal-edged piece that balances the sweetness of Crisitna's voice with Andrea's grunting style and the instrumental awesomeness of the other band members. With verses dominated by Andrea's vocals, "The Prophet Said" is a powerful metal-edged rocker; it features Cristina's vocals in the dramatic choruses that soar against the thick guitar solo-based bridges. The album concludes with the title track blending the vocal talents of both singers with metal and symphonic arrangements. Short Italian lyrical elements are intertwined with English.

While some may characterise Lacuna Coil's music as heavy metal, the band are clearly on the edge of something else, very symphonic and rhythmically accessible. Instrumentally very strong, listeners will agree that Cristina Scabbia's vocals play an essential part to the band's unique sonic texture. Read our review of Lacuna Coil's live performance at the London Astoria on Halloween 2002. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Trust us, this is a tremendous album, clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, it is a must listen!

 
The Cure For Bad Deeds CD Cover
Image © Nettwerk Productions 2002

Martina
Images © Jeff Wasilko 2002
 

(01 September 2002) Recently having completed her second album, The Cure for Bad Deeds, (Nettwerk (USA/Canada) 6700 30260 2 4, 2002) Martina Sorbara has very quickly gained the attention and admiration of many involved in the Canadian music industry. As Martina's popularity continues to grow while performing regular dates in Canada and the United States, her album is one of those musical gems you want to treat like a secret. Part of you wants to keep it to yourself, and part of you wants to tell the world because it is so good.

Most artists aspire to have talents that make them special--a quality about them that forces an audience to take notice. And some artists are special without ever trying to be. Martina Sorbara is such an artist. When one first catches a glimpse of Martina singing on stage it is only the beginning of the connection between the artist and the fan. Aside from her natural, intense beauty and effervescent personality, her voice is angelic with an amazing range, and her passion obvious and proud. Her lyrics are wise and poetic and her style is expressive and original.

Performing on stage with only the accompaniment of her drummer, Adam Hay, Martina plays both piano and guitar, switching from one instrument to the next throughout her set. Influences of pop, jazz, blues and folk are evident within her show and throughout her first independent album "Unplaceables" released in 1998 at the age of 19.

After her vocals, the piano is her primary instrument. She is also a self-taught guitarist with a captivating and highly original style. Her interest in the guitar began at age 11. At 15 she began writing her own music and performing it for others. She has already played at numerous festivals and has opened for acts such as Sarah Harmer and Andy Stochansky. She has performed at SXSW in Austin, Texas, at The Edmonton Folk Festival and at Summerfolk, to name a few.

One of the many outstanding talents that Martina possesses, and that she remains very modest about, is the construction of her own instruments. Martina made both of her acoustic guitars herself, with her own determination and craft. Martina's music appeals to all ages and genders. Perhaps the fact that Martina is influenced by a wide range of artists, from Sarah Vaughn to John Prine to Cyndi Lauper, explains the diverse array of listeners. Her hero, in musical terms, is Tom Waits.

The opening track of the album is "Bonnie & Clyde," a heartfelt slowly rocking ballad with Martina's sweetly sung vocals soaring above the string based arrangements. Light acoustic guitar and crisp percussion give "Cassanova" a jazz orientation that perfectly compliments Martina's crystalline vocals. "Undone" is a upbeat and accessible tune and one that will appeal to a broad audience. Vocals are wonderfully clear and perfectly suited to the lush arrangements.

Accompanied only by piano, the ballad "Claudia" and "Cherry Rd" accompanied by acoustic guitar both serve to illustrate the gentle sensuality of Martina's voice and her ability to deliver a highly emotional message in song. "Eggs Over Easy" is an upbeat and light rocker with vocals being perfectly supported by crisp percussion and piano. The vocal treatment in the chorus is especially enjoyable making the track one of the album standouts. The lounge-style "Eggs Over Easy" and "Better Man" presents a bluesy feel while "Call Wolf" returns the listener to Martine's guitar-based singer songwriter ballad texture that builds to rocking splendour as the song develops.

"Once I Was Mighty" is an emotionally charged rocker with lush string-based arrangements underscored by lush electric guitar and crisp percussion. Certain to please a broad audience. A gentle tune entitled "This Ship" is vocally intense with piano and backing harmonies building in the background while Martina's voice carryies the melody of this heartfelt ballad. "The End Of The World" continues in the singer songwriter style with acoustic guitar accompanying the sensitively sung vocal track. The more richly arranged--think Kate Bush "Running Up That Hill"--"Bonnie & Clyde II" concludes the album.

Martina is very passionate about life and her passion is infectious. The songs on The Cure For Bad Deeds clearly illustrate that passion. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. An album that will interst frequent visitors here, clearly Martina Sorbara's album is a must listen!

 
Live at The Tralf CD 1 (of 2)
Image © Envision 2001


Live at The Tralf CD (2 of 2)
Image © Envision 2001
 

(01 September 2002) Envision is the perfect band for female vocalist enthusiasts that love Yes. The band's debut album A Tribute To Yes (1999) reveals the tremendous musical talent of Envision's instrumentalists as well as the stunning vocals of their lead singer Melissa Riddle. The lineup also consists of Matt Riddle (keyboards), John Kastelic (guitars, vocals), Alex MacDonald (bass, vocals) and Marty Zlocki (drums). Melissa also contributes various percussion and acoustic guitar parts.

Envision's 1999 studio album includes covers of Yes' classic tunes: "Siberian Khatru," "Wondrous Stories," "All Good People," "South Side of the Sky," "America" (P Simon), "Long Distance Runaround," "Roundabout" and "Heart Of The Sunrise." The album has been distributed in a number of territories and serves as an excellent introduction to the band.

Yes' music is extremely complex in its own right making covering the material that much more difficult. Not only have Envision done so accurately with their instrumentals but Melissa is gifted in being able to sing like Jon Anderson incredibly well. Her voice is most akin to Solstice's Sandy Leigh. The Live at The Tralf two CD set is a wonderful celebration of Envision's live performance and was recorded live in Buffalo, NY on 2 February 2001. Interested readers should note that an album of original material is being prepared by the band.

The live album opens with Envision's stunnig cover of "Siberian Khatru" which captures the essential features of the song, individual solo parts and reflects a live ambience only to be equalled in a Yes concert. The album continues with a medley of "Perpetual Change" and "Soon" which work well together despite their Yes period chronological difference.

We especially enjoyed Envision's live version of the entire "Close To The Edge" and "And You and I" suites that follow and their cover of "I've Seen All Good People." The first CD of the set concludes with a powerful rendition of "Yours Is No Disgrace." Even the audience reaction reminded us of a Yes concert. And we especially enjoyed Melissa's lead vocals throughout; harmonies from the others worked perfectly and faithfully reproduced the Yes sound.

The second CD opens with Envision's live version of "Cinema" which breathed new life into the track for our editors. Their cover of the popular "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" offerred an extended live mix preceding their version of the concert classic "Roundabout." One of our editors' favourites is "Heart of the Sunrise," and it was made even more special with some of the unique instrumental arrangements in this live version. We were given a unique opportunity to hear Melissa speak in both normal and Jon Anderson cover voices in a break before the penultimate track--and now we long to hear her sing on the original Envision material!

As a further illustration of Envision's prowess, the first side of Tales From Topographic Oceans "Ritual" is performed superbly with each member's contribution highlighted at various moments--including the faithfully reproduced drum solo--within this epic track. Wild audience acclaim is evident in the opening of "Tempus Fugit" which concludes the album. Guitar, bass and keyboard excursions perfectly introduce the vocal harmonies and lead as this final track brings us down the home stretch of this two-CD set. An a/v mpeg of "The Meeting" that highlights the tremendous skill of Matt and Melissa Riddle and presents a glimmer into what Envision's live performance is like.

Interested readers will want to browse our 2002 Yes feature which reviews the two-DVD set Yes Symphonic Live and the five-CD box set In A Word (1969 - ) as well as the band's live performance at Jones Beach in July 2002. And those interested in the British Yes cover band Fragile should read our review of their 2001 live performance at The Brook. Fragile also offer a full length CD entitled Live at the Half Moon that is worth a journey.

Click on either of the CDs left to visit the band's website. There you'll find further reviews, band biographies and photographs including poses with Yes members! Envision's Live at The Tralf two CD set is available directly from the band for $16 US. Visit this website for further ordering information. You may also obtain the band's debut studio recording Envision - A Tribute To Yes (1999) for $10 US. Add $3 US per item for shipping outside the United States. Contact Matt Riddle to arrange payment or make payments through www.paypal.com. Certainly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, especially in the run up to Envison's first studio recording of original material, these CDs are a must listen!

 
Let Go CD Cover
Image © Arista Records 2002 
 

In the wake of Michelle Branch comes another teenage "rock chick" Avril Lavigne. This 17-year old was discovered in Canada and brought to New York City to develop her song-writing with a variety of collaborators, including The Matrix, a production team involving talented Lauren Christy. Her album is entitled Let Go (Arista (USA) 07822-14740-2, 2002) and it has been a big success in the USA, and I have to say that despite major label influence and a considerable amount of outside assistance, there is no doubt that she is a major talent.

This really is pop-rock of the highest order. Though there is nothing particularly new or innovative here, it is almost amazing how someone so youthful could possibly have written such a consistent and tuneful album. Avril's image is somewhat grungy - a tomboy w ith more than a hit of femininity - though suggestions of sexuality have wisely been repressed and her lyrics reflect this detailing relatively straightforward teen angst issues, albeit with a sense of humour. Her voice, too, is interesting, youthful yet powerful, and bodes well for live performance.

However, it is the composition and execution of the songs that is so impressive. She has built a core of impressive young musicians around her, and despite the many other collaborators, there is a real feeling of continuity throughout the album. "Losing Grip" is very much a statement of intent for the whole CD - a brooding Alanis Morrisette-style verse leads into a crushing, guitar driven chorus (though the ultra-trendy turntable-scratching is a little superfluous), while the splendid US hit single "Complicated" returns the album to pop territory.

"Sk8er Boi", meanwhile is a wonderful post-punk rock anthem, contrasting interestingly with the next song, the violin-dominated ballad "I'm with you." "Mobile" continues the pop-rock theme, with a quirky verse giving way to another terrific chorus. "Unwanted" is rather more dramatic, the brooding acoustic guitar of the verse building tension before the metallic release of the chorus.

"Tomorrow" is another sweet ballad, while the lyrically strong "Anything But Ordinary" chugs along pleasantly and has another excellent chorus, as do "Things I'll never say" and "My World." "Nobody's Fool" is another obvious single, and features Avril's white rap leading to a splendid sung chorus. The album finishes on two slower songs "Too Much to Ask" and "Naked".

To borrow the Sum 41 album title, this is very much "All killer, no filler", great song following great song, to the extent that even the album's weaker pieces would stand out as classics on lesser artist's albums. Wildly e ntertaining and not without passion, this is a remarkable debut from a considerable talent.--Stephen Lambe

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Recommended to readers by female vocals fans in the United States and England, Avril Lavigne's new album Let Go is a very nice listen!

 
Encore CD Cover
Image © Decca Music 2002

More Sarah Brightman
La Luna
Classics
 

(02 September 2002) Encore (Decca (USA) 314589 050-2, 2002) is a 15-track collection of both well known and obscure theater songs performed by the internationally renowned, genre-bending vocalist Sarah Brightman. The album features a selection of songs by the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hamick, Lemer and Lane, Puccini, Lloyd Webber and others.

Produced and arranged by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Encore highlights Brightman's crystalline soprano and legendary versatility, while introducing obscure songss from both Broadway and London's West End. Among the lesser-known tunes featured on the recording is the beautiful "One More Walk Around the Garden" from the 1979 musical Carmelina, written by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Land, the duo behind the hit musical On A Clear Day. However, unlike On A Clear Day, Carmelina shuttered on Broadway after only two weeks leaving few theatergoers familar with the show's romantic score.

Another Encore rarity is George and Ira Gershwin's "In The Mandarin's Orchid Garden" from their 1929 East Is West (Ming To). The musical, written for the legendary impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, was never produced for the stage. Also featured on Encore is "If I Ever Fall In Love Again" from Peter Greenwell's failed 1959 West ENd tuner The Crooked Mile, which ran a mere 164 performances.

Encore also features Brightman assaying more familiar theater fare including songs from The Phantom Of The Opera, the musical in which she first burst onto the international stage, Whistle Down The Wind and Song And Dance. There are performances of "With One Look" ("Guardami") from Sunset Boulevard and "Memory" ("Piano") from Cats sung in Italian. And Brightman shines in a performance of Giacomo Puccini's achingly beautiful "Chi Il Bel Songo Di Doretta" from the opera La Rondine.

From initial success with a 70s dance hit on the British Pop charts and her definitive performances in The Phantom Of The Opera, to the phenominally successful international crossover hit, "Time To Say Goodbye," Sarah Brightman has distinguished herself as an artist of incredible impact, integrity and passion.

Check out the complete track list, read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Click on the "more Sarah Brightman" links above left to read further reviews on the artist's work. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Encore is a must listen!

 
Eva Turkoni CD Cover
Image © Dunnet Wright Music Ltd 2002 
 

(01 September 2002) Eva Turkoni is the latest artist to emerge from Dunnet Wright Music Ltd (Brighton, England). Her self-titled album has been produced by Iain Dunnet whose earlier work includes Charlie's Vision (feature). Eva's debut recording, produced at the age of 18, is an eleven-track eclectic collection of pop, alternative, soul and ethereal crossover material. But most importantly, it features stunning vocal work. An interview with Eva incorporating the latest photographs of the artist will appear here soon.

Powerful lead vocals and harmony layers grace the everso popular sounding and heartfelt track "Mirror." Lush arrangements in the choruses and the a capella harmonies at the conclusion are incredible. Gently rocking acoustic guitars and bass support Eva's powerfully soaring vocal in the singer songwriter style track "Heaven's Grasp." Further harmonies illustrate the artist's range and add texture to the gentle tune. Eva's crystalline voice is evident above the crisp arrangements in the ballad "Total Lies." We especially enjoyed how her heartfelt crescendos emphasised the lyrical content and her use of vocal range in the track.

The bluesy ballad "Me" is lightly arranged and vocally rich and continues to illustrate the range of Eva's voice and stylistic talent while the rocking pop-accessible tune "Miracle Of Love" shows the single potential of the artist. "Without Me" is clearly a standout track, blending popular sounds with the ethereal while presenting clear allusions to Miriam Stockley's music. Lush harmonies, various additional vocal excursions and electronic arrangements serve to support Eva's powerful lead vocals. One to be played over and over, this track will delight Musical Discoveries' listeners and make them long for more from this stunning vocalist.

Listen to Eva's vocal clarity against the stark acoustic guitar and string arrangement of the gentle and soulful ballad "Ask You For More." In contrast, Eva's delivery of "Flowers," another gentle ballad, is equally soulful but electronic arrangements add richness and give her the room to add power and explore her vocal range further. Layers of vocals join acoustic guitar in the bluesy and heartfelt ballad "Through & Through" whose instrumental and vocal arrangements build to richer proportions in the concluding segments of the track.

The signature vocal track is a Star Search-quality number entitled "Used," a long, powerful and bluesy ballad that fully explores Eva Turkoni's range. The lovely, upbeat and gently rocking tune, "Addiction," concludes the album. We especially enjoyed how her vocal lead is contrasted by lovely harmonies in the choruses. Production quality and layers of string based arrangements and crisp percussion are tops.

While the album is presently only available from Dunnet Wright Music Ltd, discussions are underway for release on one of the major labels. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, Eva Turkoni's self-titled album is a must listen!

 
Theatre Of Tragedy - Assembly - CD Cover
Image © Nuclear Blast 2002
Image © Metal Mind Productions 2009


Liv Kristine Espenæs
Liv Kristine Espenæs
Image © Siv Sivertsen
Torbjørn Heggheim 2002

Theatre Of Tragedy - Musique - CD Cover
Image © Nuclear Blast 2004
Image © Metal Mind Productions 2009
 

(02 September 2002 updated 02 August 2009) To some audiences there is no need to introduce the Norweigan band Theatre of Tragedy. Few bands can take credit for leading the aesthetics of the so-called gothic metal/rock to such a plain perfection as they have done. Many bands tried walking in their footsteps over the years. In 1995, their first self-titled album was considered a stepping-stone in gothic metal and Theatre of Tragedy rapidly lived up to the meaning of overnight sensation. The latest output from the band is a eleven-track collection entitled Assembly (Nuclear Blast (USA) NB 711-2, 2002). The band is fronted by the stunning vocalist Liv Kristine Espenæs.

Some would even say that Theatre of Tragedy were the inventors of the extreme contrast between the well known male death grunt-type of vocals and crystalline female angelic singing. The band was able to create a totally new style with what they were doing, not to forget about the beautiful, romantic-depressive lyrics by singer Raymond I. Rohonyi, which were written in old English. They succeeded in becoming a very unique band, which of course soon found many imitators.

The must have numbered limited edition digipack of the album (Metal Mind Productions (Poland) MASS CD 1296 DG, 2009) includes three remixes and an improved version of the accompanying booklet. Also at this writing the band have also released a numbered limited edition digipak of Musique (Metal Mind Productions (Polsan) MASS CD 1297 DG) with three bonus tracks and a gorgeous booklet.

Their song "A Hamlet For A Slothful Vassal" from their first album became a cult classic, which so far still counts to the most important tracks in every repertoire of any Indie/Gothic-disco, but the band soon should reach new heights. The second album Velvet Darkness They Fear (1996) turned out to become one of the most successful gothic albums ever, and their club hit "Tanz der Schatten," helped them to reach an even bigger audience.

With their third album Aégis (1998), the band began to cross their own borders, and showed their real potential. Many fans were a little frightened at first due to the untypical, electronic and silent aspects of Aégis and the new way how the duets between Raymond and Liv were performed. But as time passed by, it turned out to be the right and logical step. Not only have they been one of the few bands that were able to escape the restrictions of their genre showed that they had won a lot of new fans.

Theatre of Tragedy soon discovered that their full potential couldn't be supported by their old record label, so with the help of a new management, a deal with East West Records for Germany and Nuclear Blast for the rest of the world was secured. Musique, the first album for the new companies, was a perfect mixture from the well-known Theatre of Tragedy trademarks and the electronic influences they already practiced on Aegis. The electronic part was stronger than on the previous record and so the band found a lot of new fans and followers. The outstanding videoclip to the major hit Image had airplay on nearly every important station worldwide.

On the new album Assembly the band have clearly found their own sound mixing memorable and accessible melodies with melodic metal. There were a lot of sound changes in the last couple of years, but it always was typical Theatre of Tragedy. And so is Assembly! Together with their new guitarist Vegard K. Thorsen they have produced a true masterpiece. Produced by Hiili Hiilismaa the band again shows the world their amazing talent and potential in writing songs.

The songs include typical Theatre Of Tragedy metal-edged rockers ("Automatic Lover," "Universal Race," "Episode," "Envision," and stunning "Flickerlight"); tender edgy ballads ("Starlit" and "Liquid Man"); memorably accessible numbers ("Play" and "Superdrive") and dance-metal tracks ("Let You Down" and "Motion"). Album standouts include "Superdrive" where Liv's vocals blend perfectly with the instrumentals and Raymond's harmony vocals; the moody and ballad-like tune "Starlit" is another standout. The band is able to vary between the sounds of Nightwish, Within Temptation and blend sounds all the way in between.

Although it's not comparable to what they did in the past, Theatre of Tragedy managed to maintain their own, unique sound. Self-confident, matured in all terms, Liv Kristine Espenæs' voice has become to one of the most important characteristics of this band. But not only she, but also the rest of the band seems to be a little more relaxed and ready to take the next big step.

Read further reviews listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Theatre of Tragedy's Assembly is available in the standard eleven track version but further editions with bonus tracks are also available. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey for melodic metal and alternative progressive enthusiasts, Assembly is a must listen!

 
Kissing Trees CD Cover
Image © Fula Music 1997 (2002)

Nadeen Plant Nadeen Plant
Lightwood Reseroir, Buxton
Photo © Carole Tuff 1997


More Fula
Songs From Beyond The Merrygolight
Dark Matter
The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True
 

(14 September 2002) In the run up to the final release of Fula's 2002 album The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True, Musical Discoveries' dialog with songwriter Rob Gould revealed some of Fula's earlier recordings. Our review of the band's Songs From Beyond The Merrygolight drew attention to the stunning vocal work of the band's first lead singer Nadeen Plant. Further discussion with Rob revealed an additional fourteen tracks which have been compiled onto the Kissing Trees album reviewed here.

Fula have actually had four vocalists during their eight year run. Nadeen Plant, featured here again, was their first singer. She preferred studio work to gigging and was subsequently replaced for a short time by Janet Galloway. Zoe Stafford joined the band next and sung on Fula's Dark Matter. The album received widespread acclaim in the progressive rock press and mention in the BOTY awards by England's Classic Rock Society.

Josie Bostin joined Fula after Zoe departed to pursue other interests, toured with the band for a couple of years and recorded The Beautiful, The Delicate and The True, the band's latest release. But Josie has just recently departed to complete her formal education. A replacement has been identified but at this writing has not been named. Musical Discoveries is working with Fula to arrange a comprehensive interview that may very well include inputs from the vast majority of their prior vocalists!

Musical Discoveries has contrasted the work of three of the vocalists--Nadeen, Zoe and Josie--in previous reviews and our editors are delighted to review this earlier recording featuring Nadeen Plant. Readers interested in catching up on Zoe Stafford's current work should visit the website for her latest project--One Window--where various samples of the band's work be heard.

Nadeen Plant has a well-trained theatrical vocal style--full of lush vibrato--that can be most closely compared to Tracy Hitchings (feature). Her powerful, sweet and wide-ranging voice is perfectly suited for progressive rock which aside from her dislike of touring made her involvement with Fula ideal. The recording of Nadeen's vocals on Kissing Trees is especially notable.

The recordings on Kissing Trees date back to 1997 and while they serve to acoustically document the work are unfortunately limited by the equipment available to the group at the time. The instrumentals are dominated by keyboards and generally lack percussion or other arrangement and therefore are reminscent of Clive Nolan's Strangers On A Train series (review). The tracks included are quite short for the most part with an average running time of only three or four minutes, some less. While this is atypical from a progressive band, one must listen to them recognising they are demos of material that could have been developed into much more.

Kissing Trees is principally an album of Fula rarities--at least it is at this writing! It opens with the original sensually sung (layered) version of "Behind Cold Eyes" accompanied only by keyboard. Like "Nothing More" which follows and some of the other tunes presented here, it was subsequently recorded with Zoe Stafford for Dark Matter. "Where Did We Go Wrong," with its incredible bluesy sax-driven arrangement, and "River One" are original Nadeen Plant-version Fula rarities. The gentle keyboard-ridden ballad "Ragamuffin Man" is entirely unique with a moody spoken word part which deeply contrasts Nadeen's soaring vocal excursions.

Readers will instantly be drawn by Nadeen's vocal work in the stunning showcase heart-wrenching ballad "Something" sung over the lightest keyboard arrangement. The more richly arranged but equally gentle "This House" shows that, even in full splendour, Fula's progressive instrumentals could be modulated to not overpower. The lush instrumental was co-written by Rob Gould and Nadeen Plant. A further original version of a Dark Matter tune is "Everything." Nadeen's vocals, like in "Something," soar above the powerful instrumentals.

The album includes a short middle eight from an early and rich instrumental-only version of "Vanity" in this unique compilation complete with percussion, bass and saxophone. Nadeen's evocatively sung original version of "Banner Of Shadows" is also included on this album. Despite the shortness of the tracks and lighter arrangements of the demos, a dynamic instrumental bridge in "Shadows" illustrates where Fula were progressively when the recordings was made. "Shadows" was later recorded with Zoe Stafford and released on Dark Matter.

We especially enjoyed the lovely ballad "The Drowning Man," a well-arranged and accessible showcase number reminscent of "Gingerbread World" from Beyond The Merrygolight. The album concludes with two further numbers, the first a sensually sung ballad accompanied by keyboard entitled "Small House" and the second a full-on progressive instrumental entitled "Big House."

We are informed that Kissing Trees will be generally available for the holiday season. Click on the album cover to visit the band's website for ordering information. Although the recording quality suffers from the equipment available when the material was produced, the project is clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey. We hope that the artists will join up again to record new material. Until then, Nadeen Plant's work with Fula on Kissing Trees is a must listen!

 
Future Sound Of Gaeldom CD Cover
Image © Survival Records 2002 
 

(12 September 2002) Something exciting is happening in Scottish Music. A new breed of young musicians, steeped in the musical roots of their land, are pioneering an innovative fusion of traditional songs and instrumentals with contemporary sounds to create a new form. Such is the latest compilation by Survival Records entitled The Future Sounds of Galedom (SURCD026, 2002).

This is an unique musical movement, pushing the boundaries of the genre way beyond anything that is happening in Ireland or in any other area of Celtic/Roots music. One only has to read the many reviews of Capercaillie's music within Musical Discoveries to understand.

This is no ordinary compilation. The fifteen artists features are a veritable "Who's Who" of contemporary Celtic music; from Capercaillie to the Peatbog Faeries; Marty Bennett to Michael McGoldrick; Shooglenifty to Croft No Five. Listen to the tracks and you will certainly wish to explore your new favourite artists further.

The common denominator is their approach and attitude to their music. All of them have taken an ancient tradition and merged it with modern grooves to create a brand new sound that has already begun tapping into a younger, mainstream difference.

"At a time when more and more of what passes as popular music is being diluted, as the same styles are recycled over and over again, it is only by looking to the indiginous roots of a culture that music of any real depth and integrity can be found," said David Rome, director of Survival Records, who compiled this album. Co-director Anne-Marie Heighway and David are long time supporters of Musical Discoveries and the music reviewed here.

"Having worked with Capercaillie for the last ten years, I have been fortunate enough to witness the growth of this new music scene. The Future Sound Of Gaeldom is an opportunity for people all over the UK and around the world to hear what is happening in Scotland today," Rome told us.

Hearing the tracks on this album will encourage the listener to search out the artists' individual albums, some of which are already reviewed at Musical Discoveries. For example, our readers are reminded to check out Big Sky's The Source: Volume 1 (review) and the many Capercaillie albums reviewed at the site. This is great music, that the mainstream audience rarely gets the chance to hear, and it is Surival's aim with this release to introduce as many listeners as possible to these exciting new sounds.

The album features recordings by Capercaillie, Karen Matheson, Michael McGoldrick, Shooglenifty, Martyn Bennett, Mouth Music, Peatbog Faeries, Nuss, Alyth McCormack, Big Sky, Croft No 5, Tartan Amoebas, Paul Mounsey, Salsa Celtica and Keltic Electrik. A mix of instrumentals and numbers with stunning female vocals, this is a compilation that will have wide appeal.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this stunning compilation from our friends at Surival Records is a must listen!

 
Details CD Cover
Image © MCA Records 2002 
 

(13 September 2002) Imogen Heap--24 years old, 6 feet tall--is the rare voice behind Frou Frou whose album Details (MCA Records (USA) 314 586 996-2, 2002) is comprised of 11 varied tracks. The new album comes on the heels of Imogen's 1998 solo album entitled I Megaphone (order here). Her voice can soar breathily to celestial bilss or drop into the lower register to epitomise a different mood. She can gracefully articulate inventive lyrics, then slip into sighs and syllables that are a language of their own.

Guy Sigsworth creates the sound behind Frou Frou. He is a producer and songwriter at the forefront of today's most innovative electronic music. He's worked extensively with Seal and Bjork. He's also the man behind Madonna's "What It Feels Like for a Girl." Together as Frou Frou, the duo have met their match--in each other. For the London-based duo's debut CD, their combined talents have created some truly incredible songs. They are real songs, with melody and meaning, not mere sweet diva delivery and over stream-of-consciousness noise.

Let's face it--when it comes to crafting intelligent electro-pop, the British have everyone beat. And in this case, British duo Frou Frou certainly reinforce that perception. Just like the name of their band, the music of Frou Frou is buoyant, sophisticated, and cheeky.

More upbeat than Dido, but less driving than Kosheen, Frou Frou's sparkling debut entitled Details blends electronica, pop, retro, and folk elements resulting in a fresh and instantly likable recording. mogen Heap's husky and breathy vocals at times share much in common with Sarah McLachlan, Dido, and Bjork. Throughout, Imogen expertly evokes feelings of joy, irony, and frustration as expressed through her lyrics. Co-writer and musician Guy Sigsworth brings his exeprtise to the table by providing classy (and sometimes flashy) instrumentation.

Tracks like the jubilant opener "Let Go" and the vivacious "Must be Dreaming" combine dense orchestral elements, drum-and-bass percussion, and electronic flavours in a way that makes one want to roll the windows on the car down and head for the nearest beach. In other words, this is road-trip, summer music at its best.

The jaunty "Hear Me Out" is a bittersweet but intensely catchy piece that makes the most of Imogen's wistful voice. The stunning "Psychobabble" is a chilling track made all the more intense by the unsettling electronic whirrs and the piercing harmonies delivered by Imogen. "Shh" replicates an early 80's new wave vibe while remaining highly modern.

Madonna has called Frou Frou one of her new favorite bands--and this compliment is well-deserved. Although this is only Frou Frou's first album, their music is so polished that it sounds as if Imogen and Guy have been making music together for years. With the break-out success of British female-fronted "folk-tronica" acts like Dido and Mandalay, Frou Frou looked poised to be the next big thing on the scene--and that means more Frou Frou for everyone!--Justin Elswick

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Worth a journey, Details by Frou Frou is a very nice listen!

 
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