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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
Sarah McLachlan
Norah Jones
Oh! From The Girls
Ariaphonics
Mostly Autumn
Marcie
Karnataka
Alex Parks
Holly McNarland
Hungry Lucy
Serah
Rajaton

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Digest Index
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Previous Digest Entries
Instrumental Digest
 
Afterglow CD Cover
Image © Nettwerk Productions 2003 
 

(18 January 2004) It has been six years since Sarah McLachlan's last album, and Afterglow (Nettwerk (Canada) 0 6700 30332 2 0, 2003) has been worth waiting for from this very talented songstress. The album is filled with lush tones and soothing melodies. While this CD differs from her previous album, Surfacing, its songs elicit the sensitive transitions that Sarah has made in her life due to the tragic loss of her mother from cancer and the joyful birth of her daughter.

Although the album contains only ten short tracks, Sarah's beautiful, soaring vocals stand out amidst the mellow tunes she's created. According to the singer, "A lot of these songs are about transition ... the turning over of the rock, what's underneath, the murky, shadowy uncertainty where everything looks very different."

The first track is "Fallen," a philosophical, insightful look within the artist's thoughts. There is a warmth and purity throughout, showcasing the beautiful harmonies. Her next song, "World on Fire" is the only writing collaboration on this album with Pierre Marchand, although he plays an integral part as producer, engineer and mixer on the entire album. All the songs were recorded at Marchand’s home studio in Montreal or at McLachlan's home studio in Vancouver.

"Drifting" changes the tone of the previous tracks with a more carefree melody reflecting the mood of the song. This buoyancy continues into "Train Wreck" with Sarah's melodious tones creating the laid-back but rich aura of her music. Her state of mind while writing this album continues throughout, reflecting in her tranquil melodies and reflective lyrics. "Push" creates a seductive mood with the love-inspired lyrics, accompanied by Bill Dillon playing the church organ, Tony Levin on bass, Jorane on cello, and Ashwin Sood on percussion.

"Answer" comes along with a delicate whispering tone that sets the atmosphere of introspection and determination in her acoustic music aided by Jimmy Creegan on acoustic bass and Sarah's sensitive lyrics. This song is one of Sarah’s favorites, "It's a total 'two o'clock in the morning, whispered in your ears' headphone track. That's always been my thing, feeling the very essence of a song. I have to be able to break it down and still feel its strength acoustically on piano or guitar. If the essence is strong, you can do whatever you want with it, it'll still be good. "

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Afterglow presents a rich tapestry of musical feelings drawn from this artist's life experiences. The poignant lyrics and the wonderful melodic harmonizations bring this series of songs to life. The emotions brought to the surface through Sarah's lush vocals will gratify and comfort her fans.--Audrey Elliot

 
Feels Like Home CD Cover
Image © Blue Note Music 2004 
 

(31 January 2004) Grammy winner Norah Jones is back with a followup to her best winning album of last year. Feels Like Home maintains the beautiful clarity of her vocals with a touch of jazz, blues, and enticing ballads. One can almost imagine sitting in the coffeehouse, listening to the mellow and rich vocals of this captivating vocalist.

The disc begins with the smoky, sultry "Sunrise", "What Am I To You"and "Those Sweet Words." Norah has a laid back quality to her music and bringing in the bluesy guitar instrumentals adds to the lounging melodies. Her lovely vocals possess a warmth and languid quality.

"Carnival Town" has a jazzy tone, accompanied by soft piano that gives the listener the feeling of sitting around the piano bar. More upbeat jazz follows with "In The Morning" while piano, soothing electric (Adam Levy) and acoustic (Kevin Breit) guitar change the mood to a more bluesy feel in "Be Here To Love Me."

Dolly Parton joins Norah in "Creepin' In," where their two voices blend in a more bubbly bluegrass duet. Dolly's distinctive vocals make these lyrics stand out along with the fun melody. This one was certainly a toe-tapper.

The CD continues with enjoyable material, but after a few songs, there is not a great deal of diversity. Some instrumentals stand out, such as Adam Levy's electric guitar in "Toes" and Kevin Breit's resonator guitar in "Humble Me." There are elements of jazz, blues, country and folk/pop music throughout this album.

In conjunction with Blue Note Music we have the pleasure of pointing visitors to streaming audio of new material (click here!) from Norah Jones (website). Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. It certainly will attract many of Norah's fans, and is worth the listen.--Audrey Elliot in New York

 
Oh! From The Girls CD Cover
Image © Nettwerk America LLC 2004 
 

(31 January 2004) Oh! From the Girls is a 15 song collection that is released through Oxygen Media and Nettwerk America. The CD is comprised of a compilation of songs from various renowned female artists including Sarah McLachlan, Avril Lavigne, Tori Amos, Dido, and many more. Some of the tracks include live renditions that are previously unreleased and many of the songs are well known favorites.

Dido launches this compilation CD with her massive hit, "Thankyou." R&B singer Macy Gray rocks with her rare live track, "Come Together." One can feel the excitement and mood of this explosive singer. Stacy Orrico's "Stuck" and Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You" highlight these two songstress' recent success in the pop/rock market.

Well-known, established vocalists Sarah McLachlan singing "Angel," Tori Amos singing the live version of "Cornflake Girl," and Aimee Mann singing "Calling It Quits" take center stage withtheir hits. Another tried and true song, "I'll Stand By You" by the Pretenders has the listenerreminiscing and singing along. Other lesser known female vocalists including Sarah Harmer, Martina Sobara and Kathleen Edwards hold their own with their soaring vocals.

As noted inside the CD booklet, a portion of the album's proceeds will go to support Oxygen's national partners for "Build Your Own Business" which is a public service program giving women the tools and funds they need to start their own businesses.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. This compilation is certainly filled with the familiar tones of some fabulous female vocalists that we all know and love, and the newcomers riding on their shirttails are worthy of a good listen.--Audrey Elliot in New York

 
Ariaphonics CD Cover
Image © Dmitri Silnitsky 2003
iGram Music Entertainment


More Ariaphonics:
Exclusive Interview (2005)
Vocalist Photos (2005)

 

(31 January 2004) Ariaphonics is part of the classical crossover genre and soaring, beautiful vocals abound throughout this album. Interspersed with an inspiring electronic sound, the exquisite melodies by Dmitri Silnitsky and fantastic vocals by the engaging soprano, Gloria D'Amos, make this album a stand-out.

"Divine Light" and "Summer Moon" combine distinctive orchestral and electronic sounds to create a uniqueness of sound. Operatic renditions by Gloria rival those of Emma Shaplin, Sarah Brightman, and Italian contemporary crossover artist, Filippa Giordano. But, it is the overall sound that make Ariaphonics magnetic and enthralling. Composer Dmitri Slinitsky said "Crossover performers sound more or less the same. Easy pop rhythms, some strings and a couple of well-known arias. An awful lot of people like crossover, but the format has become boring. So I wanted to experiment and try to get a completely different sound. At the same time, I wanted to present totally new material, rather than falling back on the old standards, and take advantage of the resurgent popularity of music from the 1970s."

"Sposa son disprezzata" has almost a jazzy beat due to the incredible musical artistry of the instrumentalists. Outstanding credits go to Dmitri Silnitsky on synthesizers and vocoder; Sash Protchenko on drums, bass and slide guitar, and midi programming; Slav Protchenko on keyboards, violin, piano, rhodes, hammond, clavinet, and mellotron; and Pavel Pavlov on guitar. Narrations by Natasha Shanetskaya also contribute to the overall sensation in this album.

"Intermezzo" arrives with almost an eerieness in some of the musical riffs, and the exquisite piano solos and background of blowing winds create a unique sound. Music for this track was by Dmitri Silnitsky, Slav Protchenko and Sash Protchenko. The listener is engaged in Gloria"s striking sopranic solos throughout and each track seems to capture your attention without letting go.

"Lullaby 2030" has a funky sound of its own, bringing back memories of the '70's while "A Dulcet Spell" and "Nausica" seem to fuse different sounds, narration and genres. The composer also said, "First of all, we’ve used only electronic instruments rather than a full-blown orchestra with string and wind sections. We’ve got melletron sounds instead of strings, for instance. Secondly, we make sure slow arias are interspersed with intermezzo, instrumental compositions where we up the tempo."

The album consists of two CDs, the main one with nine complete tracks, and the second, an EP with four tracks that are remixes of "Dulcet Spell," "The Knight Erreants Song," "Summer Moon" and "Sposa son disprezzata."

There is no doubt that the composer achieved his highest expectations with this superior album. Once you start to listen, you can't stop. The album remains engaging throughout and the stunning vocals and captivating music unifies the richness of Ariaphonics.--Audrey Elliot in New York

 
Mostly Autumn At The Grand Opera House DVD Cover
Image © Classic Rock Legends 2003 
 

(27 December 2003) The latest DVD by the band is entitled Mostly Autumn At The Grand Opera House York (Classic Rock Legends (UK) CRL DVD 1514, 2003). The day after the magnificent concert from which this DVD came, I posted a highly emotional paragraph on the Mostly Autumn website asking for its instant release. A paragraph which, much to my embarrassment, has found its way into the souvenir booklet itself. Just two months after the event, this record of the gig is already available. The only question remains: can the DVD match the majesty of the event itself?

The answer is a triumphant yes. This is a sumptuous package, though the text could use a little editing, the two DVD set is presented with an interesting 50-page booklet, some original artwork by Heather Findlay and it showcases the splendid photography of Chris Walkden.

Classic Rock Productions have got the content of the DVDs absolutely right. The first disc is the standard release, a 90-minute version of the concert featuring the tracks from Passengers and the astonishing version of "The Gap is too wide," during which, at one point, there were 25 musicians on stage, including Iona’s Troy Donockley.

The DVD also includes the usual brief-but-entertaining behind the scenes documentary, which accompanies three videos showcasing the original audio-visual presentations from the show. This is an excellent and entirely appropriate idea, as the multi-media elements of the show, inevitably, suffer a little on the small screen. One comment though: a band commentary would have made a great package even better.

The second DVD is what hardcore fans, like me, will want. A complete, no-nonsense presentation of the show without frills (except for the "Mother Nature" encore), superbly shot and a worthy souvenir of an event I will always remember. After the slightly disappointing The Next Chapter (review), this really is an essential purchase for fans and potential fans alike, and takes over from The Story So Far (review) as their finest visual presentation to date.--Stephen Lambe

 
Bad Judgement Call (Promo) CD Cover
Image © Marcie 2003

Marcie
Image © Marcie 2003

Alexander Perls Storm
Image © Monopsone 2003
 

(18 January 2003) Bad Judgement Call. After successful single and EP releases in Europe, Marcie has made her debut solo five track EP available for review by Musical Discoveries. The majority of the material was produced at Chaemeonwest Studios by Marc Hunt (Robbie Takac's place, of The Goo Goo Dolls.

Bad Judgement Call opens with the rousing rocker "Don't Call" written by Marcie, Hunt and Macmanus. It serves as a superb introduction to the clarity and power of Marcie's tremendous voice. "Quicksand" is written by Macmanus is more of a mid-tempo bluesy number lightly arranged and demonstrative of Marcie's evocative delivery. "Couple More Days" again picks up the pace. This track, also written by Mamanus, is a delightful track that shows Marcie soaring at the higher end of her range, above rocking guitars and crisp percussion.

Interested visitors should check out the video at Marcie's website (click on either image left). It shows her performing with Nik and The Nice Guys. Says Marcie, "Nik and The Nice Guys is a high profile corporate party band that emplys me independently on a regular basis." She adds, "I do not do my original music with them. Dave Lawrence, who I worked with on "I Just Don't Get it" helped me make the video." She concludes, "The single for that song is sold on the Nik Site, so the video on my site is also up on the Nik Site under 'original music.' Other than that my career with Nik and everything else I do are pretty separate."

The EP continues with "No Room," which features Marcie on lead and on backing vocals. The layered harmonies work with the rocking arrangement very well. And it concludes with Marcie's stomper, also featured in video form at her website (see remarks above), "I Just Don't Get It." The track was written by Stuckless and Lawrence and was produced by Dave Lawrence. The EP shows Marie throughout her range and serves as an exciting introduction to this rapidly emerging artist.

Alexander Perls' Storm. Earlier in 2003, Marcie lent her vocal talents to this European EP. Performing under the name Sarona, Marcie primarily provides sensual vocalise to Perls' 5-track EP of electronic material that will certainly appeal to fans of Delerium, Chimera and related artists.

We asked Marcie about her work supporting European artists. Says Marcie, "The music I've had European label success with has been electronic, both ambient and dance. The goal for my newest album was to create something with domestic appeal since my electronic stuff has had success mostly in Europe."

Listeners will have to pay close attention to pick out the vocalise contributions to the EP's short yet upbeat, new age-style title track. It clearly illustrates another side of Marcie's vocal talent. "The Drive" is borderline pop in style but various effects contribute to the electronic style of the piece. The lofty soprano vocalise adds a great texture.

"Recombination" features Perls' sweeping synth washes under a lovely guitar melody. Marcie's vocals waft in again to add texture and ambience to the track. The track "Maximalist" is very electronic, almost obnoxiously so with pulsing rhythms underscoring a minimalist melody prior to Marcie's delicate vocalise contribution, which is again delightful--and the highlight of the track for sure. The EP concludes with the multidimensional and gently rocking sound of "Can't Be Sure," the only track featuring lyrics, and with several distinct movements within the track, is clearly the highlight of this EP. Marcie's tender vocal contribution is again fantastic.

"Bad Judgement Call" and "Storm" serve as two very different introductions to Marcie's vocal and songwriting talents. We are anxiously awaiting the release of a full length album of her own material and in the meantime encourage our readers to visit her website, check out her music and video and look out for live performances in the Rochester, NY area.

 
Live In The USA DVD Cover
Image © Classic Rock Legends 2003

More Karnataka
The Storm*
HLC Rotherham 2000
w/Mostly Autumn HLC Rotherham 2001
Mean Fiddler 2001
Karnataka In Concert DVD*
w/Sleeping Giant Aylesbury 2002
w/October Project 2002
Classic Rock Festival 2002
Delicate Flame Of Desire
The Brook, Southampton 2003*
Robin 2 Bilston 2003
w/Mermaid Kiss Stourbridge 2003
Strange Behaviour
w/Mermaid Kiss 2004
*accompanied by interview
 

(27 December 2003) Though it is by no means a bad piece of work, it is a shame that Karnataka's first DVD (review), recorded at London’s Mean Fiddler in 2001 was recorded just before the band raised their game considerably. The catalyst for this was the recruitment of the charismatic Ann-Marie Helder who has since become a permanent backing vocalist and flautist, and has added considerable depth to the bands live sound and visual presentation over the past two years.

Filmed in Trenton, New Jersey, twelve months after the Mean Fiddler concert, Karnataka - Live In The USA (Classic Rock Legends (UK) DVD CRL 1083, 2003) is a very representative presentation of the band's live set towards the end of 2002. The songs from Delicate Flame of Desire are in strong evidence and well performed, with "After the Rain" already benefiting from additional flute and the strong interaction between the two singers on the large Patriot's Theatre stage (concert review).

Songs to note, especially, are the excellent live arrangement of "The Storm," and the atmospheric album version of "Heart of Stone," the bands most progressive statement to date. The players, too, are in excellent form with Paul Davies on guitar, in particular, in confident mood, while Jonathan Edwards' excellent keyboards are mixed gratifyingly high.

The DVD is well filmed, though the sound is a little "dry," lacking the warmth that the playing deserves, and once again a live recording has failed to quite capture Rachel Jones' singing at its absolute best--though it's still pretty good! The interview footage with the band, for some reason, squinting into the sun, adds very little insight into the gig, but is reasonably welcome nonetheless.

Ed. Note: After the disappointing quality of the Mean Fiddler DVD audio, the band secured an agreement with the label to mix the Live In The USA DVD themselves. Indeed a mix was prepared by the band--not only wasn't it used, but the production copy audio is out of sync with video for the first several tracks. Apologies were issued by the band after the initial release of this DVD. Both of the band's DVDs are available in PAL and NTSC versions.

Read further reviews and order the DVD from amazon.com here. Overall, this is a welcome addition to Karnataka's recorded output, and I'd recommend it, especially to potential new fans.--Stephen Lambe

Live at the Robin 2, Bilston, England - 04 Nov 2003

Review. One year on, and the band have just completed the second leg of their Delicate Flame of Desire (concert review, album review) tour, and have further benefited from their latest extended period on the road. One of the things I like about Karnataka is that, unlike most bands, they never really drop items from their live set, circulating older songs on a regular basis.

This gig at the excellent Robin further developed the interaction between both singers, which has become considerably more intimate. Rachel has always lent a strong sexual element to her performance, and with Ann-Marie now well established in the band this has gone up more than a notch, as has, fashion fans will note, the level of colour co-ordination between the two of them.

As well as the now well established songs from the new album, and the new song that has been in the live set for a few months "These Dreams are Over" (here played as the encore), the band also introduced a couple of new pieces a short, catchy song played early in the set, and a longer, more intense song with an eastern flavour, during which Ann-Marie played an interesting, horned, Arabian-sounding wind instrument. These new pieces give little clue as to what the next album will sound like, but it’s fun trying to guess.

Aside from these new pieces, the band benefited considerably from the excellent stage, lights and sound available at the Robin, which remains one of the best club venues in the Midland area of England, and delivered the sort of passionate, confident, professional performance we have come to expect from them.

It's good to see that they are continuing to develop and challenge themselves, and I look forward to seeing what further excitement 2004 brings them.--Stephen Lambe

 
Introduction CD Cover
Image © Polydor Records UK 2003 
 

(18 January 2004) 19-year-old Alex Parks will be known to British visitors of Musical Discoveries as the winner of BBC 1's most recent Fame Academy series. This is by far the best of the pop reality shows, promoting, as it does genuine talent and compositional ability over blandness and looks. Though I watched very little of the series, Alex came across as an engaging personality with a tomboyish image (she is openly gay). The album Introduction (Polydor (UK) 9866005, 2003) has been rushed onto the market to take advantage of Alex's inevitable high profile.

Not, then, a particularly enticing prospect, but the resultant album is actually rather good, and worthy of considerable attention. Alex's superb voice – emotional, versatile and rich – has been put to work over seven original songs and six covers that mainly represent the songs she performed during the show. It is also gratifying that two of her collaborators on the original songs are two of Britain's best, and most underrated, songwriters – Boo Hewerdine and Gary Clark.

Unusually, the album opens with two original ballads. "Maybe that's what it takes," her first single, is a good song that never quite tears at the heartstrings in the way that it should. However, "Cry," the second single written with Gary and Boo (how I would love to hear Boo sing it!) is a magnificent song well served by Alex's vocal performance and its arrangement. "Dirty Pretty Words" is much rockier with a great, dirty guitar sound on its chorus, and a strong suggestion of Avril Lavigne about it. The next original song is "Not Your Average Kind of Girl," a more ethereal ballad with some lovely harmony vocals and Beatlesque guitar.

"Stones and Feathers" broods in its verse before a dramatic chorus and an unexpected, choral coda bringing to mind the drama of Evanescence. The album closes on two more original songs, the superb, crunching "Wandering Soul" (Gary and Boo again) and the emotional, dreamy "Over Conscious."

The covers, which are mainly spread across the middle of the album are a frustratingly varied bunch. John Lennon's "Imagine" is a trite choice, and despite an atmospheric arrangement, comes across no better than well performed karaoke. The Tears for Fears classic "Mad World" is given a similar arrangement to the version that was at No. 1 is the UK charts over Christmas 2003 by Michael Andrews – slow, brooding and atmospheric.

Her cover of REM's "Everybody Hurts" suits the fragility of Alex's voice well, but it fails to find the same ache that Michael Stipe manages on the original. The song written for Christina Aguilerra, "Beautiful," however, is much improved by Alex's stripped down, less hysterical rendition. And the Eurythmics' "Here Comes the Rain Again" is converted into a joyful piece of guitar pop that takes off delightfully on its chorus. Sadly, Coldplay's "Yellow" is given the carbon-copy treatment, when a rearrangement would have been far more interesting.

Alex is clearly a considerable talent, and lovers of well-crafted pop will enjoy this considerably, even if they might like to edit out one or two of the covers. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Some visitors may it more reasonably priced at amazon.co.uk. A second recording of original compositions--when the Fame Academy excitement has died down--is an enticing prospect indeed.--Stephen Lambe

 
Stuff CD Cover
Image © Universal Music 1997 
 

Canada seems to have more than its fair share of female singer-songwriters with individualistic flair; Joni Mitchell, Jane Siberry, Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk. Holly McNarland is possibly the least known of the current cohort. Her first full length album Stuff (Universal Records (Canada), 1997) was released following the six song "Sour Pie" EP issued two years earlier.

Despite some fine reviews, Holly's album was overshadowed by the extraordinary success of compatriot Morissette's Jagged Little Pill which was then well on its way to becoming the best-selling debut album of all time. And by the time the Alanis bandwagon hit the buffers, a combination of adverse publicity and a second album (Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie) that had not an ice-cream's chance in hell of living up to the expectation generated by the first, Stuff had been out a year and life had moved on.

The album opens with "Numb." It's a strong, solid rock song with a very powerful vocal performance that leaves you in no doubt that Holly puts a lot of herself into the music, and like much of the album, there's a lot of anger here "Just another hit for the one you love / If you cared at all, you’d put me down ... I feel better when I'm numb."

The style and anger of the opener is carried into the second track "Elmo," - "I’m still thinking about you / 1000 ways to kill you." But there's a twist at the end of this particular tale which I won't spoil by revealing. Looking at the title of the next track "Porno Mouth," you're prepared for more of the same, but this has a much lighter touch, which serves to enforce the feeling that not only can this woman perform, but she can write too - listen out also for the lovely electric guitar break.

"Water" is an altogether different fish with a very downbeat, atmospheric opening with Holly singing in a restrained, ethereal manner and the band is supplemented by low strings. The chorus is clever in that by rearranging the order in which the lines are sung, the song's narrator undergoes a kind of metamorphosis as the song progresses. The vocal performance on this track is sublime. Best track on the album.

In contrast, "Coward" is one of the weakest - that's not to say it's bad, it just doesn’t engage the listener in the way the others do - it's also one of the more derivative numbers. "The Box" is an out and out rocker that opens with the line "I had a box / a box that could talk," so Holly takes it for walk, (as you do) has a chat with it, meets a terrified egg, eats the egg, stops the box talking, says goodbye. I don’t have a clue what it's about, but I enjoyed it immensely. She follows this with the beautiful, acoustically led "UFO," - a mysterious dream-piece; "I’m as liquid as the sea," she sings.

"Mystery Song" maintains the mood of "UFO." It's long vocalise over a soft pad and drum loop - in places it reminded me somewhat of Mermaid Kiss. "Just In Me" is short, which is good, because it's the worst track on the album. There's too many effects on the vocals and it lacks a melody. Skip it. The penultimate track "Twisty Mirror," opens a little like a stock Fiona Apple song, but whilst the vocals may have more power than Fiona, it lacks the subtly that Ms Apple and her producer Jon Brion would be likely to bring to it - and again, melodically, it's not as strong as most of the album.

The album concludes with "I Won't Stay," an acoustic song with a great atmosphere created by some neat reversed guitar - it all works well, despite the somewhat tentative ending, and is a refreshing contrast to the two rather bombastic tracks that preceded it. It also shows that Holly McNarland is an adept guitarist - she plays acoustic throughout the album as well as occasional electric.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Stuff is a very good album that was undeservedly neglected on its release. There's still time to put that right.--Jamie Field

 
Glo CD Cover
Image © Hungry Lucy 2003 
 

(18 January 2004) Hungry Lucy began by chance in 1998 when War-N Harrison (Fishtank No.9) was asked to contribute to a Depeche Mode Tribute. War-N asked vocalist/lyricist Christa Belle to record vocals for the song "Blue Dress." The couple found they worked together so well that they began writing together and Hungry Lucy was born.

The first fruit of this labor was "Bound in Blood" (now considered a Hungry Lucy classic). After writing and recording a handful of songs, War-N & Christa decided to put them up on mp3.com and the emails began to flood in from around the world! Pleasantly surprised by all the positive feedback, Hungry Lucy embarked on a full-length album.

Autumn 2000 saw the release of Hungry Lucy's debut, Apparitions (review and interview) that received amazing response worldwide. People responded to the combination of pop song structures, trip hop grooves and Christa's enchanting vocals and other-worldly lyrics.

Hungry Lucy continued exposing themselves very tastefully with a number of compilation and tribute appearances. This only fed to fire and Apparitions continued to sell better than ever. Still the fans wanted more. Hungry Lucy delivered with the debut live performance in San Francisco, a licensing deal with Belgian label Alfa Matrix and subsequent European release of Apparitions: Revisited.

Spring and early summer of 2002 found Hungry Lucy on stage in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Cleveland and even out in the Indiana woods! These live performances gave the public a real audio-visual treat with Hungry Lucy's music and accompanying video.

Hungry Lucy spent the last part of 2002 recording their next full length double album entitled Glo (HLCD002, 2003). The first Disc is an excellent collection of twelve original tracks that pull out all sorts of brooding and lovely emotion. The second contains ten remixes that move in the dance/trance direction. Hungry Lucy have created a double treat for fans who like both to dance into the wee hours and to "chillout" into the morning.

Songs like the stunning slow-vibe "Rebirth" will please fans of ethereal trip-hop acts like Halou and Harland. On "Rebirth," Hungry Lucy lace their deep and slow groove lines with electronic sighs and the siren voice of Christa Belle. The dreamy and mesmerizing "Her Song" is a sweeping lullaby of a song with soft piano and light synth flourishes.

The chilling "Into Pieces" moves insidiously with a slinky beat while ghostly soundscapes caress Christa Belle's vocals. "Fearful" is a pounding industrial/darkwave piece that would make Collide proud. One of the best tracks, "Storm" is a killer Portishead-y tune complete with funky bass-line and finger-snapping beats.

If the first disc of Glo is ambient chill at its best, the second is a kick-in-the-pants dance set. Take, for example, the Kew Mix of "In the Circle" which pulses and throbs with an energy that would make Madonna proud. The Dreamside Mix of "Could it Be" is all fierce drum-n-bass and perfectly fitted for the goth/tehcno club scene. "Her Song" (Synthpop Radio Mix) is an Erasure-influenced remix that really emphasizes the upbeat nature of the song.

Glo is a highly listenable and impressive album. With intriguing instrumentation, loops and drums, and the seraphic voice of Christa Belle, all things seem right in Hungry Lucy's world. And the good news is that the band are working on their next album, To Kill a King, due for release in summer 2004.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Glo is an excellent followup to Apparitions that will delight the band's established following and attract new listeners to their music.--Justin Elswick

 
Late Harvest CD Cover
Image © Great Northern Arts 2002 
 

(18 January 2004) New Age/World Music artist Serah’s newest release, Late Harvest (Great Northern Arts/Ryko (USA), 2002), derives its name from an old fable that tells the tale of a vineyard owner who journeyed from his village on a quest to defend his ideals, and returned home very late in the summer, well after the normal harvesting time. There he discovered that all of the people who helped him harvest in previous years had waited for him out of deference. The grapes hadn't spoiled, but instead were tremendously sweet and fragrant, and with them the village created a heady dessert wine called the 'Late Harvest' wine.

The story of an individual voyaging to a distant land, upholding strong moral and humanitarian ideals and returning home to reap a sweet harvest supported by their friends and admirers could be Serah’s own story. In the 80s, she traveled to Africa to work in a drought-stricken region of Northern Kenya. She took along her guitar and after work, shared her music with the local families, as they shared their music with her.

She returned to America with the firm belief that music can reach across cultural barriers to inspire and heal. With that in mind, she has gathered an incredible family of multi-cultural musicians around her, not least of which is Senegal’s renowned Wasis Diop who co-produced and co-arranged quite a few of the songs on Late Harvest, as well as contributing vocals, guitar and percussion.

In addition to her own standout compositions, on this album Serah takes us in a new direction, bringing her own fusion of African and western musical influences to well known pop standards by Van Morrison ("Crazy Love"), Christopher Cross ("Sailing"), and Ben E. King ("Stand By Me"), which is already a hit on the AC charts.

Serah's original contributions to Late Harvest are a celebration of the human experience, with themes ranging from romantic love--I’m partial to the bouncing "I Think I Know," with a beautiful assist from Diop--to spirituality and our ongoing struggle to be the best that we can be. "Psalm Song" and "Inner Voice Dialogues" particularly resonate.

The centerpiece of the album is the haunting "Dolce," which uses beautiful imagery and amazing instrumentals and, for me, expresses the struggles and rewards of the long journey we all must take to find the best in ourselves and each other.

The mood of the album is wide-ranging, with tracks spanning moods from the uplifting to the meditational, which is probably why it hasn’t left my 5-disc CD changer since the day I got it. Recommended for its evocative imagery, thought-provoking lyrics, beautiful music and amazing African flavor, anyone who has enjoyed Serah's other albums (Senegal Moon, Flight of the Stork, Wing of Mercy, Out of the Wind) will love it, and for everyone else, this is definitely worth a listen. For a taste of what Late Harvest offers, there are mp3s and very interesting behind-the-scenes videos at her website. The album is available from her site as well as amazon.com. Enjoy!--Anna Weil

 
Lauluyhtye Rajaton Joulu CD Cover
Image © Plastinka Records 2003

More Rajaton
Live in Oulu 2003
Sanat
Nova/Boundless

Image © Plastinka Records 2003
 

(18 January 2004) During the past years, the Finnish a cappella ensemble Rajaton has achieved success both in Finland as well as other countries across the world. At the end of October 2003 the group of five singers--two sopranos, one alto, one baritone and one bass--released in Finland their latest album entitled Joulu (Plastinka Records (Finland) PLACD 006, 2003) (translated as "Christmas"), and this album is the fourth album in the group's history.

When listening to this album--a two-CD set--one doesn't need to wonder why the album went Gold in Finland in just about two months, because both the first "studio" disc and the other "live" disc (recorded in the church but not in concert) once again show what kind of harmony and the "steel" collaboration can be at its best. In addition, both of these albums have very professional producers; whereas disc one has been produced by a multi-talented person (Mrs.) Anna-Mari Kähärä, the producer of the other disc is a long-term choir conductor (Mr.) Pasi Hyökki. The sales were surely boosted also by the recent, greatly outcarried and nearly sold-out Rajaton Christmas Tour, which included concerts in fourteen cities around Finland.

Once again, the choice of the pieces must have been difficult since there are so many songs to choose from, but Rajaton has succeeded to make the Christmas album as a whole, not just a collection of various songs. In addition to the arrangements of already familiar Christmas songs, there are also both brand new songs that have been especially composed for Rajaton, as well as arrangements of a bit more unfamiliar songs, too. Among the list of composers there are e.g. Sibelius, Mia Makaroff and even Anna-Mari Kähärä herself, and even the ensemble's bass singer Jussi Chydenius has also both arranged and composed some of the pieces. This shows the versatility of the singers very well indeed!

Many listeners could imagine to hear only "basic" arrangements of those carols already familiar, but with Rajaton it just isn't so all the time. For example a piece called "Kulkuset" (Jingle Bells) has evolved in the hands of a Finnish jazz pianist/composer Mr. Iiro Rantala, into a very humorous and uniquely funny wholeness with its "reggae" rhythms, although a foreigner who doesn't understand Finnish would wonder what there is in common with reggae and a sleighride. The secret is, that the words "reggae" and "reki" (sleigh) are pronounced quite similarly to each other, so that makes the thing very amusing!

The first disc contains mostly "jolly" and happy Christmas pieces and the other one is a bit more serene, and each to compliments the other, forming a wholeness to the album. Christmas music for every taste so to say, and with very well interpreted as well! The only thing that is lacking are the lyrics and their English translations, so if the album would be released outside Finland as well, it should also contain lyrics and their translations as well. It would be a big pity if the album remains released only in Finland, since I believe that this kind of brilliant material, even though it's all Christmas, has a potential to sell well enough in other countries as well. The result of such steel collaboration really deserves a greater audience than just us Finns, because this double album is a must-listen!--Suvi Kaikkonen

 
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