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The First Blood Mystery CD Cover
Image © Animal Noise Records 2001 
 

(19 October 2003) Carina Round's The First Blood Mystery (Animal Noise (UK) ANICD114, 2001) garnered some extraordinary reviews when released in 2001. The Sunday Times reviewer called it "One of the most extraordinary debut albums Iíve ever heard - absolutely brilliant." Other words used across the music press were "striking, strange, invigorating, sexual and intimidating." Carina mentions Nina Simone and Led Zeppelin as formative influences and although she has a distinctive sound of her own, echoes of these diverse artists can be found within the songs.

Gigging outwards from her native Wolverhampton, this Anglo-Italian, singer / songwriter / guitarist has built a strong following based on her powerful and emotional live performances. When it came to recording her debut album Carina wanted to keep the freshness and edginess that marked those concerts. She succeeded by recording it in only 10 days and by not revealing some of the songs, all of which are self-penned, to her confederates, Simon Smith (stand up bass) and Marcus Galley (drums) until the day of recording.

Jazz influences are apparent on the opening track "Message to Apollo" and also on "How I See It." The former has a jazz-inspired backing to the verse, before the chorus moves into the rock arena. The spoken section is something many other artists have used, Heather Nova, Natalie Merchant, Kirsty MacColl, but Carina takes it a stage further by first speaking and then singing a cross rhythm. "How I See It" uses muted trumpet and brushes on the drums to good effect has some fine harmony vocals from Christine Van Dyke.

The gentle keyboard opening to "Lightbulb Song" gives plenty of space to Carinaís voice. There are places on this album, notable here and on the acoustic guitar driven "Let It Fall," where her voice is strongly reminiscent of Heather Nova's vocal style on albums like Glowstars. There's some interesting use of flute on this track which momentarily echo the recorders on Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven." Thereís great variety in this song and a distinct lack of a conventional structure, both of which work in its favour.

"The Waves" has some impressive vocal work with Lucy Mallet's flute again adding colour and interest. The sparse and subtle use of additional instruments, flute, trumpet, accordion add greatly to the album but still the string quartet on the beautiful "Ribbons" comes as a surprise. But Carina has saved the best for last.

The gentle acoustic opening to "On Leaving" gives no hint of what is to come. Carina has said that rather than go to school she preferred to stay at home and sing along with Led Zeppelin's "Physical Graffiti" at the top of her voice. If this kind of thing is the result, then it should be made part of the National Curriculum. There's a long, slow, relentless build to a breathtaking climax. The vocals are utterly and wonderfully terrifying, the kind you don't just hear, but live every moment of. Ultimately the song leaves one feeling exhausted, exultant, devastated and completely in awe.

Two years on does The First Blood Mystery still seem worthy of the accolades heaped upon it on its release? For the most part, yes. Carina certainly wears her influences lightly and has found a voice of her own much earlier than most young artists. Perhaps one of the more interesting things about the album is that while as a whole it is very memorable, individual tracks are less so, lyrics donít stick in the mind, melodies donít haunt you--yet at the end of it you know youíve been listening to something very special.--Jamie Field

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. An album certain to draw interest to Carina Round, especially with her 2003 follow-up just released, further investigation is certainly worth a journey.

 
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