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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
Izzy
Sue G. Wilkinson
I Wanna Be Kate
September
House Of Red
Cecilia
Renée Safier
A. Hill & R. Safier
Vespertina
Debra Davis
Watsonville Patio

Links
Digest Index 
Previous Digest Entries
Instrumental Digest
 
Image © 1999 The Decca Record Company, London
Image © 1999 The Decca Record Company, London 
 

In 1998, it was France's Emma Shapplin. England's Sarah Brightman is also doing it while the Welsh soprano Charlotte Church is currently sticking to her classical foundation. Yet 1999's classical crossover is a soprano from the Notting Hill district of London named Izzy. Born as Isobel Cooper and raised in Muchwenlock, Shropshire, this attractive young woman completed her stage school education before winning a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to study singing. At the age of 23, she teamed up with Blondie's producer Craig Leon and recorded her stunning debut album at London's Abbey Road Studios in 1998. Libera Me (Decca (UK) 458 913-2) was released in September 1999 and soared to number 1 in the UK classical charts in just four weeks. Now at 24, Izzy is taking Europe by storm. You can order the album from amazon.co.uk.

A recent issue of the HMV Choice magazine paid tribute to Izzy with a brief personal sketch and review of Libera Me. She was also written up in London's Daily Mail Weekend Edition. Live performances of "Baïlèro" and "She Moved Through The Fair" on BBC's Breakfast, Ireland's Late Late Show and Gloria Hunniford's Open House have also expanded Izzy's exposure. "My music is passionate," smiles Izzy, "it's spiritual, colourful, peaceful and very honest, but most of all it's liberating—it liberates me."

Izzy has a crystalline voice with a wide range. She confidently sings equally well accompanied by orchestra or a capella—the traditional "She Moved Through The Fair" which she arranged herself for the album is a stunning example of her vocal abilities. The album includes lovely modern arrangements of famous classics ("Baïlèro," "Libera Me" and "Nanita") and songs she composed herself ("Amor," "Fall The Leaves" and "Laudate Dominium"). With stated influences including both classical (Mahler, Pavarotti) and contemporary (Kate Bush, Björk and Madonna), she loves composing and did most of her writing for Libera Me during a year off while recovering from a case of severe tonsillitis.

The title track is loosely based on a movement from Fauré's Requiem while "Baïlèro" is from Canteloube's Songs Of The Auvergne, a track made famous by Kiri Te Kanawa. "Nanita" is variation on a Falla's arrangement of a Spanish folk song. Allusions to Albinoni's "Adagio Giazotto" come through in Izzy's own "Amor" while the rich orchestration and lush multi-tracked vocals of her "Laudate Dominium" make it an instant favourite and the song, like the reprise of "Baïlèro," is certain to excite and delight Adiemus fans.

Watch for Graham Lubin's forthcoming review of the album at Celestial Voices. Although currently only released in the United Kingdom, you may order Libera Me internationally from amazon.co.uk here. Critically acclaimed and taking the world by storm, this is certainly the female vocal classical crossover album of the year; Izzy's Libera Me is worth a journey—a must listen!

 
See About Me CD Cover
Image © 1999 Sue G. Wilkinson 
 

(12 February 2000) Atlanta based singer, songwriter, guitar and piano player Sue G. Wilkinson is about to complete her first solo album. Her limited edition pre-release EPs, See About Me and Sympatico are available from her official andmp3.com websites respectively. The latter is a digital audio music CD which will pay mp3 on computer as well as normal audio on a standard player. We were also provided a couple of ditional adult alternative tracks from Sue's forthcoming album to review.

See About Me. Sue's pre-release limited edition EP is comprised of four tracks beginning with the bluesy R&B sounding track "Box." It's easy to imagine why her live performances in the USA and England receive critical acclaim. Here Sue's vocals sound most like Tina Turner / Aretha Franklin. The slow moving ballad "Bitter Girl," written by Sue herself, is sung sensitively in a similar style. "Lack Of Trying" is a typical R&B track Sue co-wrote with James Scruggs and its extensive vocal multi-tracking adds texture to the overall sound. The title track "See About Me," written by James Scruggs, is another bluesy R&B number accompanied primarily by piano. Again, multi-tracked vocals produce a great effect. The contrast in styles between this EP and Sue's work on Sympatico is dramatic.

Sympatico. The title track has done very well on mp3.com charting #1 in Atlanta, #1 in Georgia and #7 worldwide in the AAA Adult Alternative category. The digital audio music CD actually contains two tracks ("See About Me" and "Bitter Girl") from See About Me and serves as a wonderful introduction to the artist's singing and songwriting. "Sympatico" is an instrumentally lush track written with film scorer, bass player and recording artist, Patrick O'Hearn. It was originally an instrumental piece for Sam Sheperd's Broadway play "Simpatico" soon to be a major motion picture starting Sharon Stone, Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte. Lyrics that tell a story about holiday romance perfectly compliment the sensuous and jazzy melody. Sue's absolutely stunning ethereal vocal part perfectly compliments ambient and orchestral electronic instrumentation. Soundtrack in proportion instrumentally, the evocative crystalline vocals are presented with tremendous emotion.

Also written by Sue with Patrick O'Hearn, the sensitive "Stronger Heart" is dominated by emotionally illustrative vocals and accompanied by quieter ambient electronic instrumentation. Our bonus tracks included Sue's highly theatrical and powerful vocal performance of "Alone Again" explores the "quirkier side of pop music"—reminscent of Tracy Hitchings in her Dancing On Stones project—with a variety of inspiring vocal excursions. "Out Of The Blue," a richly instrumented and vocally strong ballad, is a stunning testament to the singer's range, power and ability to perform theatrically. An additional ballad-like track entitled "Change" is available for download at Sue's website. Its building instrumental perfectly compliments Sue's evocative and soaring vocals carrying on from "Out Of The Blue" and crossing over between the R&B/Rock style of See About Me and the adult alternative theme of Sympatico—it is a fantastic track.

We completely adored the Sympatico EP with the two bonus tracks that Sue included for Musical Discoveries' review. Sue's recordings are available for preview at her website and mp3.com—be sure to sample them today. Clearly, Sue's forthcoming album will be worth a cross-country journey and be a must listen!

 
I Wanna Be Kate CD Cover
Image © 1999 Brown Star Records 
 

(12 February 2000) Recorded by various artists and produced by Thomas Dunning, I Wanna Be Kate - The Songs Of Kate Bush (BSR (Canada) 6947, 1999) is an interesting collection and collaboration of seventeen artists covering classic tracks of the legendary female vocalist. Unlike the two-CD set, A Tribute To Kate Bush - The Child In Her Eyes (Dressed To Kill (UK) DOP152) (amazon.com) by E-clypse with Gemma Price doing the vocal work, the Chicago artists' recordings on Dunning's production have worked as hard to make them different and their own as they have to capture their original Kate Bush essence. Further information on the contributing artists may be accessed from the album's website. We were as mystified by the photographs in the booklet as we were by several of the musical arrangements of the tracks. Ordering information is available online.

Like Tom Dunning, we were introduced to Kate Bush's music initially by Pat Benetar's cover of "Wuthering Heights" and weren't exposed directly to Kate's recordings until years later. The cover versions on this recording are performed by male and female vocalists with singing styles that vary extensively. We didn't like all of the tracks on the compilation, but several were indeed stunning and they were good enough to recommend the album to serious Kate Bush fans.

The Aluminum Group's version of "L'Amour Looks Something Like You" is a reasonable interpretation with modern lush jazzy instrumentation backing a male vocalist. "The Sensual World" by Susan Voelz is a mostly faithful, albeit substantially slower, reproduction of this sensitive backed with electronic instrumentation and multitracked vocals. The Moviegoers almost Bruce Springsteen version of "The Hounds Of Love" is certainly listenable but was otherwise uninteresting. "The Man With The Child In His Eyes" is sung emotively by Syd Straw (female) with light acoustic instrumentation; faithfully reproduced but with the artist's own interpretation, it's a nice track. The J Davis Trio managed to disappoint us with their rap rendition of "There Goes A Tenner."

Lush instrumentation and Kate Bush-style vocals in Nora O'Connor's rendition of "The Saxophone Song" and Victoria Storm's "The Kick Inside" are both perfect examples of covers with additional artistic colour. "You're The One" sung in a James Taylor style by Justin Roberts and "Coffee Homeground" by Mouse (female) in a Beatles-like ("I Am The Walrus") style were both listenable and well played. Catherine Smitko combined a Fleedwood Mac-like (Christine McVie) vocal style with Celtic styles and traditional instrumentation in her lively rendition of "Jig Of Life."

The Baltimores significantly rearranged "Running Up That Hill" into a Go-Gos-style new wave version leaving no resemblence to the Kate Bush original concept. The bluegrass version of "Home For Christmas" by Diamond Jim Greene had lovely banjo music but was otherwise uninspiring. The male vocal version of "Love And Anger" by Trinkets Of Joy, however, works quite well.

"Kashka From Baghdada/Babooshka" by The Plunging Necklines is a lovely multi-female singer rendition of these classics accompanied by acoustic guitar and light percussion alone. A gothic version "Suspended In Gaffa" by My Scarlet Life with its layer upon layer of heavenly and ethereal haunting female vocals is a stunning track in its own right.

The West End version, complete with orchestral overture, of "And Dream Of Sheep" by Thomas Negovan is wonderful. Tom Dunning & Your Boyfriends' rendition of "Not This Time" is an absolutely stunning track, with evocative lead vocals and lush well-produced instrumentation and absolutely terrific soaring choral backing vocals. These two tracks along with "The Saxophone Song" and "The Kick Inside" discussed above make this compilation of Kate Bush covers worth further exploration—a very nice listen!

 
September Self-Titled Demo CD Cover
Lisa, Sally, Lucille
Image © 2006 September
 
 

(12 February 2000) September is a Philadelphia based female trio consisting of Lisa "Blu" Warda (lead vocals and drums), Lucille Wurtz (guitar) and Sally Nero (bass). Paraphrasing from the biographical information provided to us, September is opening the ears, eyes and minds of many with their progressive blend of musical extremes. Diverse emotional and musical backgrounds are integrated into a force that attracts enthusiasts unexpectedly. The band aims to "make a mix of elegance and ferocity palpable." Empassioned vocals layered against guitars permeate the music. While September continue to evolve and mature as a solid songwriting team, raw simplicity and emotional honesty still lay the foundation for each song. The Philadelphia area has produced great bands including October Project, Grey Eye Glances and Second Story. With Lisa's vocals somewhat reminscent of Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq) and award winning live performances, September should find themselves in the company of these great Northeast bands.

The band's self-produced demo recording includes seven vocally-laced tracks accompanied by guitar, bass and drums exclusively. "Be Together" is a moderately paced progressive rock number with Lisa' soaring vocals balanced with offset by Lucille's lead electric guitar. The ballad "Dead Roses" slows down the pace and while lush electric guitar backs the vocals, a lovely acoustic guitar part has been added along with delicious backing vocals to the mix. The highly varied textures and rapid pace of "Voidhead" is certain to appeal to many audiences and Lisa's lead vocal especially in the chorus is most reminiscent of Tracy Hitchings here. Lyrically very strong, the lead vocals have been mixed way up on the slow and very serious ballad "You See Everything."

The most accessible track on the demo recording is "Wake Up," a sensitively sung rock number with soaring vocals and lush electric guitar. The ballad "Another Time," like "Dead Roses," incorporates an acoustic guitar part to tremendous effect broadening the band's sound. The track "River" concludes our demo recording. This somewhat lighter and sweeter track builds upon the group's ballads but actually has an edgy lullaby sound to it before it develops into full rock splendour. The song is vocally stunning.

September performs primarily in the Philadelphia area. Certainly worth further exploration, September's music should be listened to online—check it out at their website.

 
House Of Red Self-Titled CD Cover
Image © 1999 House Of Red 
 

(12 February 2000) The self-titled debut album by New York City's House Of Red was made generally available during 1999. Self-produced with twelve stunning adult alternative vocally inspired tracks, the recording captures the talent, inspiration and energy of the members working together as a band and as individual artists. Production quality of the recording is tops and the artwork in the booklet accompanying the compact disc is first class.

House of Red is centered around a songwriting and production collaboration consisting of their singer Ann Marie, keyboardist Sasi Shalom and guitarist Ben Butler. The band also features Steve Hass on drums, Richard Hammond on Bass, Joey Cardello on percussion, and guest vocalist Katie Ostrow. House of Red's common vision is to create music which reflects the journey of the human experience. Through the use of poetic images, rich textures, explosive rhythms and evocative melodies, House of Red produces music that is both powerful and graceful, full of drama and intimacy. Be sure to visit the band's website for further biographical details and their mp3.com website for soundbites and further information.

The album's tracks include highly accessible almost pop numbers ("Falling Down," "Life," and "I Would Not Lie") with their layers of rich vocals. Slow moving heartfelt ballads ("Gently Free," "Us," "You Are My Love") sung almost solo with the lightest of acoustic instrumentation explore the reaches and sensitivity of Ann Marie's voice. "I Would Not Lie" is more richly instrumentally accompanied and the solo vocal parts give this memorable track more of a Broadway / West End Musical texture. The light yet instrumentally lush vocal track "Second Wind" is a lovely illustration of the band's integrated talents.

The whispery and bluesy "Slow Down" is reminscent of early Amy Grant while the alternative pop track "Sea Change" would be right at home within some of the most popular television series' soundscapes. The band's rocking title track features highly emotive vocals and lush instrumentation of equal depth. Celtic-pop crossover tracks include "I Would Not Lie" and "Life" which is certainly one of the most noticable tracks on the album, and with its stunning vocals and complimentary instrumentals, will attract a broad audience. An acoustic reprise of the track, with Ann Marie's vocals accompanied just by piano, concludes the album.

House Of Red performs primarily in New York city. Their album will soon be available directly from their website and in selected retail outlets. Certainly worth a long distance journey, House Of Red's self-titled debut album is a must listen!

 
Inner Harmony CD Cover
Image © 1996 Polygram AS, Oslo - Norway 
 

(05 February 2000) The latest album by Norway's Cecilia, entitled Inner Harmony (Polygram (Norway) 538 814-2), is comprised of eleven heavenly vocal tracks accompanied with orchestral and Celtic instrumentation. The artist's earlier recordings include the debut album Voice of the Feminine Spirit (1994) International 1994) and Violet 19 (1997). Cecilia began her musical career at the Norwegian Conservatory of Music in Oslo. She studied there for four years before going on to further training at the Conservatory of Aarhus, Denmark and at the Conservatory of Music in Munich. Recorded in Oslo and London sessions, her latest release focuses on her spiritual side and draws upon her classical training. A complete biography, soundbites, photographs and ordering information are available at Ceclia's website.

Cecilia's voice is incredibly pure and crystalline and she is equally at home singing heartfelt ballads as rocking progressive Celtic numbers. Within the liner notes Cecilia characterised the album best, "Inner Harmony is what I'm striving for, and something I wish for everyone to feel. I believe music has the power to heal, and I hope this album will uplift, inspire and move your soul to go forward on your journey, your life. I wish you will follow your heart and dreams, amd make your life a beautiful place to be." This lovely album completely achieves the artist's aims. The production quality of the vocal work is technically superb in every way as well.

The highly accessible Celtic tracks on the album include lovely whistle parts and have rich orchestral instrumentation, stunning lead and multi-tracked vocals. "Fly Away," "Inner Harmony" and "Carpe Diem" are among the best examples of this sound. Cecilia's heartfelt ballads perfectly compliment the album; they are generally more lightly accompanied and dominated by delicate vocal work. They include the tracks "Losing Faith," "We Have Met Before," "The Prayer" and "Angel Of Love." Also ballads in their own right, the dramatic "A Eg Veit Meg Eit Land," "In Dreams" and "Wisdom Of Your Heart" begin quietly but develop with orchestral splendour into individual epics.

Cecilia's rendition of Iona's "Today" (from their fourth album Journey Into The Morn) is a progressive Celtic rocker and one of the album's highlights. The instrumentation as well as her unique vocal interpretation of the song are both absolutely stunning. Cecilia's third album once again illustrates the tremendous vocal talent of this well-established Norweigan artist. Eleven tracks centered on heartfelt ballads illustrate her vocal range and power. Cecilia's earlier album Voice Of The Feminine Spirit is available from her website and at amazon.com. Certainly worth a long distance journey, Inner Harmony is a must listen!

 
The 14th Of February CD Cover
Image © 1999 Andy Hill and Renée Safier 
 

(05 February 2000) The 1996 album by Renée Safier The 14th Of February is a collection of ten songs of varying textures and styles each featuring absolutely stunning vocal work. Produced by Renée with Andy Hill, the album's tracks include one song by jazz writer Bob Malone, another by Bob Dylan - "Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)" - and seven by Andy Hill. The album's final track entitled "The Night I Left Town" was written by Larry and Terry Tutor. Reviewed below, Renée and Andy's latest album, Something Unbroken, features songs by many of the same writers. Renée is featured as a jazz vocalist on a 1998 album with Bob Malone entitled They All Laughed. Soundbites from this album can be heard here.

Renée's first "solo" album is a tremendous introduction to her vocal talent as well as that of the songwriting team. The album is perfect gift for partners of either gender this time of year and we hope that this review will motivate our readers to explore it further as the first Valentine's Day of the new Millenium approaches. The album can be ordered from the artists' website.

The 14th Of February opens with the welcoming "I Want To Believe Me," a light and highly accessible ballad accompanied primarily by guitars and piano. Backing vocals include both Renée's multi-tracking and additional texture that Andy provides. The title track is a slow, jazz/blues oriented number with Renée's vocals accompanied strictly by piano with multitracked choir-like backing vocals in spots. Vocals and piano are a true testament to the artists' talent.

"Homeless Night" is a light and very sensitive rock song performed as a lovely duet that will appeal to everyone. Andy and Renée's vocal work as well as the whistle and piccolo parts by Nelson Rangell are highly notable. "Three Women," certainly one of the best tracks on the album, is a lovely ballad performed much in the same style. Renée sings the jazzy "What Are You Doing Here With Me?" written by Bob Malone primarily with light piano accompaniment with a small saxophone part that adds the right ambiance to the track. The pace picks up and instrumental accompaniment increases in "Man Of Virtue," which combines jazz with rock and country sounds. Bob Malone is again featured on piano. "Fear To Eternity," one of the more rocking numbers on the album, builds upon this sound. The Dylan ballad "Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)" illustrates Renée's range and power with her stunning lead vocal work in the verses and symphonic instrumentation and backing vocal work with Andy and Steve Curto backing in the choruses.

"Schopenhauer's Blues (Everybody Passes By)" is a fast paced and very highly accessible number and was one of our favourite tracks on the album with its combination of styles. A range of stunning vocals are perfectly complimented by keyboards. The lovely ballad "The Night That I Left Town" combining country and western with rock styles concludes the album. Andy Hill's guitar solo is highly notable.

Renée Safier's debut album is best characterised by its stunning vocal work, superb songwriting and great instrumental performances. She demonstrates an uncanny ability to capture the listener in a wide range of heartfelt song styles. Female vocalist enthusiasts will adore Renée's recordings; her first album is worth a journey and is a must listen.

 
Something Unbroken CD Cover
Image © 1999 Andy Hill and Renée Safier 
 

(09 January 2000) The latest album featuring a collection of songs by Andy Hill and Renée Safier is entitled Something Unbroken. With twelve vocally rich tracks of varying styles penned either by Andy (8), Renée (2) or Larry and Terry Tutor (2), the stunning album is self-produced and was self-released. Enthusiasts of Jennifer Nobel's work with Sojourn and Grey Eye Glances and Marianne Marino with November Project will certainly appreciate Renée's vocal work. They regularly perform in Redondo Beach at The Blue Moon Saloon, one of our long standing favourite southern California restaurants.

Both artists have former releases together and individually. Their earlier release together is entitled The 14th Of February and is a a ten-song collection that the duo co-produced. It includes seven Andy Hill originals; the mood of the album shifts from jazz and pop ballads to guitar-based rock and roll. In 1998 Renée released They All Laughed with Bob Malone. The album consists of eleven jazz standards performed by Renee and Bob Malone, including such classics as "Embraceable You" and "Our Love Is Here To Stay" by the Gershwins, "I Could Write A Book" by Rogers and Hart, "Soon It's Gonna Rain" by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, and Arlen and Mercer's "One For My Baby."

Renée sings lead vocals on half of the new album's tracks ("Second Story," "After All That's Passed Between Us," "Something Unbroken," "Autumn," "Take My Hand" and "When You Remember Me") while Andy sings lead vocals on the others ("You Chose Me," "The Part Of Me That's Over You," "Two Trains," "I Already Know," "Before I Go To Sleep" and "The Eye Of The Beholder"). Renée sings backing vocals on most of the songs where Andy sings lead. There is a slight country texture to several of the album's tracks largely achieved with slide guitar and keyboards.

The album opens with "You Chose Me," a lovely ballad with light instrumentation with Andy doing vocal lead and Renée on backing vocals. The album moves to a country sound largely achieved with a slide guitar and Renée's sweet lead vocals in the track "Second Story." Renée sings the sensitive ballad "After All That's Passed Between Us" with mainly piano accompanying her although a gentle slide guitar adds to the instrumentation as the song develops. This is clearly the song to hear Renée's voice most clearly—simply stunning. Her highly emotional vocal performance of the title track, "When You Remember Me" and more heavily instrumented "Autumn" ballads are equally awe inspiring. Renee's lead vocal performances are mostly done without multi-tracking. Renée's vocal peformance on "Take My Hand" is warm, powerful and sensitive. Some light multi-tracking here and Andy's backing vocal adds to the colour and depth of the track.

Harmonica and light acoustic guitar provide the gentle instrumentation for Andy's lead vocal on "Two Trains." Slide guitar continues to provide a slight country edge to the song. The highly accessible "The Part Of Me That's Over You" is a moving almost-country sounding number with lead sung by Andy. The acoustic guitar perfectly suits the rock ballad "Before I Go To Sleep" sung by Andy. Electric guitar excursions add to the colour of the song. Renée's backing vocals on these two tracks are reminiscent of an earlier Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks) sound while the joint vocal performances within the track "I Already Know" that approach a duet are highly memorable in their own right.

A certain favourite is the adult contemporary light rock crossover "The Eye Of The Beholder" that concludes the album with Andy's lead and Renée's wonderful backing vocals. This highly accessible track has tremendous instrumentation (with excellent improvisation in the instrumental that closes the song) as well as a nice hook.

This latest album by Andy Hill and Renée Safier is a stunning combination of excellent singing, songwriting and instrumental performances. Heartfelt lyrics, top notch production, and professional in every way, the music is excellent and worth detailed exploration and a journey; it struck us immediately with its timeless quality—certainly a must listen!

 
Visions Of Vespertina CD Cover
Image © 1999 Celsius Records & Hyperium Records 
 

The first release by International and award winning illustrators Michelle Barnes and Greg Spalinka is available in two formats. The artists are based in New York. Accompanied with artwork by the duo, the compact disc is available alone with very simple artwork in a jewel case or in a cardboard sleeve with full colour 32-page booklet from Hyperium Records as The Visions Of Vespertina (Hyperium (Germany) RTD 39102002). Alternatively, a full color hardbound volume featuring the artists' illustrations accompanied by the original score on compact disc pressed by Celsius Records (Finer Arts Records (USA) 9830) is available either from the artists, the label or at amazon.com. The Celsius Records version of the album comes with a 24-page illustrated booklet. Visit their sites for soundbites and further ordering details.

The album is comprised of nine gothic-oriented tracks that swim with Michelle's heavenly vocals. Dominated by vocal textures across the album, Michelle is is accompanied by April Allen, John Bagdasarian, Carolyn Sachs and Maurice Welsh. Jill Soubule, Virginia Haigh, Michelle Gold, Zuriani, Lorraine Joy, Isabel Vansamson, Tom Ang, John Breakstone, Jeff Lipton, Tim Butler, Jeremy Kidd, Dan Leuck, Mario Romano and Greg Spalenka are credited with additional vocal contributions as well. The album's producer is Erik Moon; his keyboard work dominates the dreamy instrumental foundation of the album's music.

Meant to accompany the book of illustrations, the album's tracks flow from one to another. Aside from the tracks "De Profundis (Out Of The Depths)" and "Carpe Diem" which both stand on their own, the individual songs work best within the context of the album as a whole. The memorable "De Profundis" is a highly dramatic and stunning song combining gothic and Middle Eastern textures. "Carpe Diem" is highly orchestral and the choral effect created in the song's crescendos is extremely memorable. Effects used in some of the album's other tracks improve the visual experience created by the music. The vocal work on the album is superb with Michelle's lead being everso sweet and inspiring.

From Hyperium's website, "Vespertina will guide you to a place that borders on the unconscious, a multi-coloured landscape of sound and image which serve as a personal diary and travelogue of her medieval excursions." Commenting on the music and illustration, Hyperium add, "with this unique piece of art they reflect a transcendal journey into unknown worlds, mystical and magical. The music, rich and haunting, is complimented by an additional beautifully illustrated 32-page full colour booklet of verse and reflection. The CD and extra booklet come in an attractive cardboard slipcase in the same finely-fashioned design." With two versions of the album available from Hyperium, enthusiasts are encouraged to get the one with the 32-page booklet as the illustrations likely improve the listening experience.

A lovely album with delightful music for heavenly vocal enthusiasts and certainly recommended for those that enjoy Stella Maris, Love Is Colder Than Death and Hyperium's Heavenly Voices series (review), the album is worth further exploration—a nice listen!

 
Debra Davis Angels In The Attic CD Cover
Image © 1999 D3 Records/Farren Music America 
 

Yes, she's very attractive—but no, it's not Jenny Garth (90210) or Austrailian singer songwriter Merrill Bainbridge. Debra Davis is a Los Angeles based singer songwriter with a BA in Journalism. Her debut album released in 1998 entitled Uninvited Guests as well as the brand new CD Angels In The Attic (D3 Records (USA) FMA0034). have both received widespread airplay and critical acclaim in the printed media. You can order it from amazon.com. Her earlier album Uninvited Guests can also be ordered from amazon.com. Listen to soundbites at her mp3.com website.

Debra has a huge following of fans, including a lot of kids, due to the positive and very real vibe of the music. Debra's songs have been featured in Dawson's Creek ("Angels In The Attic" in Episode #217, "Psychic Friends"), Lifetime TV's Beyond Chance (hosted by Melissa Etheridge) and various films and on radio nationwide. The album was produced by Dave Beyer, who drummed for years for Melissa Etherdige, with select tracks produced by Mark Cross (Sheryl Crow, Bill Bottrell). Debra has a dynamic band of powerful musicians. She is a storyteller, and her songs touch something in all of us; she is even holding the Angel Story Competition for kids, sponsored by Reading is Fundamental, to support the promotion of her new album.

Songs from the album are upbeat and the frequently catchy melodies move right along. Best characterised as potent, heartfelt, pop/rock music that hits deep, it's like Joni Mitchell meets Sheryl Crow, rooted in Carole King. Debra's voice is sweet and pretty and the songs are highly accessible without too many instrumental riffs, although there are a few improvisational excursions (in "Enemy" and "Childhood" for example). Multi-tracked vocals add to the depth of the gently rocking "In Your Pocket". The acoustic guitar and pretty vocals on "I Don't Wanna Be That Cools" are reminiscent of the title track. Instrumentals build to make the track highly memorable and a certain favourite.

The album's ballads are most illustrative of Debra's vocal abilities. They include the bluesy "Begin Again," "Where Does It Hurt," the sensitive "I Am Home" and almost country sounding "The Way Things Used To Be." "Walking With Grace" which closes the album is the slowest and lightest of the ballads. While some might compare Debra's vocals to Stevie Nicks, we certainly don't hear it to the extent of Janice Grube with Watsonville Patio. Certainly a lovely album for fans of alternative rock music with female vocals, this album is a nice listen.

 
Population 02 CD Cover
Image © 1999 Farren Music America 
 

The third release from Los Angeles based quartet Watsonville Patio is entitled Population 02 (Farren Music America (USA) FMA 0047). In addition to their latest release, the band (Janice Grube-vocals, Dylan Brock-guitar, William Venturelli-bass and Josh Vazquez-drums) recorded, produced and financed two prior albums: a self-titled album in 1996 and the second in 1998, entitled Hotel Roselynn. Formed in 1994, Watsonville Patio is fronted by Janice Grube, a stunning young woman and excellent female vocalist from New Jersey, whose voice can most closely be compared to a young Stevie Nicks. The band are selling a lot of their albums in west coast shops and at their live performances.

The band's latest release features eleven alternative rock tracks that illustrate superiour songwriting and performing skills honed over three years of constant touring. With an upbeat light rock style with a slight country edge, their sound might be compared to 10,000 Maniacs, R.E.M., Fleetwood Mac or maybe even Grey Eye Glances. Soundbites can be heard at their mp3.com website. You can order the album at amazon.com here or their prior album Hotel Roselynn here.

The album's tracks are mostly highly accessible, alternative rock numbers. Janice's warm vocals are mixed way up throughout, on top of the guitars. The album has an almost immediate catch with it's pop-country crossover opening track "Charmed." The bluesy sound of "Changed Your Mind" and "Misery" is balanced by a melodic chorus with tremendous vocals. "First Stop Tucson" is certainly the most country and western sounding number on the album. Several of Dylan Brock's guitar solos are especially notable.

The album's ballads include the certain favourite "When Bells Ring," the sensitive almost country "Chains Are Broken." "Over Westside" is a moving number that sounds like 10,000 Maniacs ("More Than This") combined with the vocals of Fleetwood Mac. The 10,000 Maniacs rocking side is also heard in in Watsonville Patio's "Perfect Combination." While Janice Grube's voice sounds a lot like Stevie Nicks throughout, perhaps it is most evident in the sensitively sung ballad "Into The Mystic" and sounds most sweet when accompanied by acoustic guitar alone in "Let It Be Me." The album concludes with another ballad laced with heavy electric guitar entitled "Tell Me Why."

With strength derived from their dynamism, pop sensibilities and folk-flavoured melodiousness, this third album from Watsonville Patio with Janice Grube's tremendous lead vocals is an easy album to get into—a very nice listen.

 
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