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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
Spirits of the World
Kate Price
Lobelia
Fula
Jennifer Onesto
Terry Gladstone
Crannog
Bernadette McCallion
Sally Cooper
Wappa Gappa
Wappa Gappa
Soleil Moon

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Instrumental Digest
 
Spirits Of The World
Image © 2000 Earthtone Records 
 

(23 June 2000) Spirits of the World (Earthtone (USA) 963-277-922-2, 2000) is one the better various artist compilation albums available today. Our exploration of the album was initially inspired by Miriam Stockley's recording entitled "Brave New World." As expected, her contribution was exceptional, but the other songs presented an unexpected and surprisingly good bonus. In fact, the first cut on the album, "Lyra," by Celtic Spirit, is a very close rival to Miriam's "Brave New World." It is a thoroughly enjoyable album.

"Lyra," by Celtic Spirit, a hauntingly beautiful song, is very close to our favorite on the album. The nostalgic a capella introduction gives way to a lively, upbeat musical accompaniment which leaves no doubt that it is a traditional Irish ballad. Ikarus' "In My Deepest Dreams," features Middle-Eastern vocals and percussion mixed with electronic accompaniment and produces a pleasant, upbeat listening experience. Godvina can always be counted on to produce interesting, unique sounds. "Compassion" is no exception. It is very difficult to categorize; a touch of Indian, Spanish, Middle-Eastern, and a few others we couldn't identify. The homogeny of styles and instruments creates a unique and appealing musical event.

"Summertime," by Angelique Kidjo is on of the most enjoyable renditions of Gershwin's Summertime that I've ever heard. It is sung in an African language and accompanied by traditional and non-traditional instrumentation. The total affect is pure listening pleasure. "Turale" by Yasue is haunting, seductive and thoroughly enjoyable. Upbeat, with interesting melodic intertwines, it is sung in an invented language, with unusual, unexpected vocal mixing. "Namah Shivaya," by Krishna Das is a Hindu chant, set to upbeat percussions, with interesting vocals. As a chant it is somewhat repetitive and might not appeal to a broad audience. Natacha Atlas' "Mon Amie La Rose" will certainly steal your heart. The style is a mixture of Middle-Eastern and Asian, the language is French, and the beautiful, seductive voice of Natcha Atlas brings it all together in an intoxicating, erotic musical experience certain to please listeners.

"Brave New World" by Julia Taylor-Stanley and sung by Miriam Stockley is one of our favourites from the album. Miriam Stockley, is one of the most talented singers/composers in existence today. And her voice is purely angelic. Given that, the track will appeal to the broadest of audiences. Sung in English, with African choral overlays, it is a celebration of Africa, Miriam's home. Totally, thoroughly enjoyable, the song is the best on the album. Primal Instinct's "Heart of the Rainforest" is relaxing, meditative, with the lush rain forest quietly overlaying the music. The mild percussions and flute prevent the common desire to doze off to environmentally inspired music. "Hope," by Bryan Miller begins with a quiet, serene score, which is gently modified with percussions and background vocals. The connection to a Central American primitive culture, as described in the insert, is obvious throughout. The theme of hope is solidly pronounced in this delightful instrumental.

Gaia's "The New World" can best be described as electronic and primitive. With the introduction of the vocal chanting, it almost sounds as if it might be Australian or Native American inspired. Whatever the inspiration, the deep spirituality of the song is its primary message and it is delivered with skill and talent. "Lhasa Love," by Suzanne Teng is a lively Chinese folk instrumental. Charmingly beautiful throughout, the children audibly playing in the background lend an added touch of cultured innocence. "Shivo'ham, Shivo'ham," by Dave Stringer is Middle-Eastern in style, the combination of instruments and vocals creates an obvious spiritual production that is pleasing, without the repetitive chanting found in the previously described Namah Shivaya. As with Godvina, Dead Can Dance can always be relied on to produce the unusual and unexpected. In "Yulunga," there is an obvious Middle-Eastern overtone, but the vocals remind of a Native American influence. A unique and penetrating musical experience.

This thoroughly enjoyable album will appeal to new age and female vocal enthusiasts alike. You can order Spirits Of The World at a variety of online shops including amazon.com by clicking here. With a stunning new track by Miriam Stockley bracketed by excellent work by various artists it is certainly a must listen!K. Donald Baer.

 
The Isle Of Dreaming
Image © 2000 Omtown / Higher Octave Music 
 

(15 July 2000) The new album from singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kate Price is entitled The Isle Of Dreaming (Omtown (USA) OMCD 48526, 2000). A long awaited followup to her previous album Deep Heart's Core (Omtown Music (USA) 44859, 1997), the nine-track masterpiece is a natural development from the artist's prior work which also includes her debut The Time Between (Priceless Productions (USA) PP402, 1993). Categorised correctly by the label as "a Celtic influenced fusion of exotic vocals, folk, classical, jazz and ethnic music," Price contributes vocals and her typical range of worldly instrumentals including hammered dulcimer, hummel and harmonium. Arranged by Kate Price with Teja Bell, the featured artist is supported by bevy of additional musicians and instruments. Album packaging is stunning with the booklet including lyrics, comprehensive credits and lovely photography.

World themes are evident in many of the album's tracks, primarily through the string arrangements and non-lyrical vocal samples. Almost jamming instrumentals and percussion add to mystical musical themes developed in the epic length track "Voices Of My People." Melodies and supporting harmonies on the album's more accessible tracks will hook folk and new age enthusiasts. The lovely title track effectively blends an exotic instrumental with a short and sensitive ballad-style vocal passage. The string melodies and woodwind-sounding keyboard harmonies within the instrumental tracks "Andalusia, "Kate Counts Eight" and "Lanxty Almblade-Cruso" are highly memorable. Acoustic guitar and dulcimer dominate the instrumental "Mystic Warrior" while vocal samples provide a stunning backdrop to the melody as the track begins; vocals take over as the track builds towards its conclusion.

The album's vocal-oriented numbers clearly demonstrate Kate Price's evocative and sensual delivery, presenting her ability to gently soar above otherwise folky themes. Her performance in "The Phoenix" is especially enjoyable. Kate Price's vocal style is best compared to Rachel Jones (Karnataka), although allusions to Loreena McKennitt can also clearly be heard. Vocals are echoed by whistle and other instruments in the upbeat Celtic influenced track "Sea Of Silence." The album concludes with "Beloved," a light folky ballad with Celtic influences spanning the sweet and sensitively delivered vocals and calling whistle parts. The vocal layering works quite well.

You can order Kate Price's The Isle Of Dreaming from amazon.com here and her earlier album Deep Heart's Core here. Kate Price's music will appeal to those that enjoy Clannad, Enya and Connie Dover's work. Her latest album, The Isle Of Dreaming is characterised by its substantial depth, excellent production, and overwhelming attention to detail. The collection of worldly themes within the instrumental arrangements when coupled with Kate's stunning vocal work makes the recording worth a journey. We certainly think it is a must listen!

 
Solitary World
Image © 1999 Lobelia Inc 
 

(15 July 2000) Although she has written over 300 songs, Lobelia's first recording features only thirteen of them and is entitled Solitary World (Lobelia, Inc (USA) 6 46397 10762 7, 1999). "Lobelia's lyrical stories reach out to the individual listener, drawing them into the lives of of her characters." Now aged 27, the response to Lobelia's music has been tremendous and "only time will tell what the future has in store" for her.

Produced by James Marlin and fronted by Dan Kane, Solitary World was recorded in only three months in Winser, Nebraska. Lobelia is currently based in Morgantown, West Virginia. Her music can best be categorised as general pop, but as an indie release, her album doesn't adhere to the stigma often associated with pop culture. A particularly attractive photograph of the artist adorns the back of the booklet accompanying the CD. Further photographs are available in her website's gallery.

The album features upbeat, highly accessible, moving vocal tracks and also a collection of ballads. The opening track "So Many Promises" is a fast paced track with sweet vocal layers supported by nicely arranged rock instrumentals and a stunning and highly memorable soaring lead vocal. The guitar parts compliment the vocal work in the moderate paced "I Can't Forget" while the keyboards and piano perfectly support the dynamic vocal arrangement in the lovely title track. Vocal layers work extremely well, complimenting the orchestral instrumental arrangement in "Matter Of Feelings."

The ballads include "I'm Lost" with it's highly emotive delivery and a passionate track sung over piano called "Time Will Tell" which would be perfectly at home at one of the WB TV teen shows like Dawson's Creek. The emotionally wrenching "You Never Knew Me" and "Soul Destroyed" would be equally at home in the TV show setting. "Rain" and "Empty Handed" are sung wonderfully over a lively piano melody; vocal layers in the choruses are sweet and evocative. Orchestral backing is added in "Mask," a lovely and highly accessible ballad with a rocking edge and dynamic vocal excursions that add to the overall texture of the track. We especially enjoyed the lushly sung ballad "Quiet." Powerful and sensual vocals are perfectly complimented by layers of guitar. The artist's vocal qualities are likely best illustrated in the extremely sensitive (think slow-dancing) ballad "Life."

The artist's work is available from online sources and there are plenty of downloads available for listener sampling. Soundbites, further information and Digital Audio Music CDs can be ordered at Lobelia's mp3.com website. Lobelia's debut album provides a first glimpse into the vocal talent and diversity of this rapidly rising singer songwriter. Certain to achieve both industry acclaim and commercial success, female vocal enthusiasts will want to watch her career develop further. The debut album is worth a journey, indeed a very nice listen!

 
Dark Matter
Image © 1999 Fulamusic

Zoe Stafford Interview

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

(15 July 2000) Fula are a five-piece English progressive band that meld a variety of influences into their sound. Although currently fronted by a new young vocalist named Josie (photos), their current album Dark Matter (Fulamusic (UK) FCD1, 1999) features lead vocals by Zoe Stafford who recently left the band to pursue a singing career elsewhere. We saw Fula live at the Classic Rock Society in Rotherham, England support Karnataka on 01 July 2000 (review). For the most part they faithfully reproduce their recorded sound in the live setting with the exception of the lead vocal part. The attractive young singer is doing a good job but currently lacks the energy, diversity and vocal maturity of their former member.

Fula have gone through several lineup changes over the band's career which spans at least the last fifteen years. Dark Matter is their one album; with 14 tracks spanning just over 60 minutes, it is a commendable song-based progressive rock album. In addition to their current singer Josie, the band is comprised of leader Rob Gould (keyboards), Greg Boulton (drums), Jason Gilman (guitars) and Nigel Moss (bass). Significantly harsher than Karnataka in their sound, the Classic Rock Society audience enjoyed their opening performance. While we found the live show a bit tedious, we enjoyed their album substantially more. Dark Matter is entirely self-produced and pressed on CD-R. Attractive artwork that accompanies it includes all lyrics and has been produced by computer as well.

The album's title track is a dynamic progressive rocker with excellent keyboard and guitar excursions, rhythmic percussion and a delightful soaring lead vocal part. While some at Rotherham were intrigued by the band's pulsing "Vanity" (Insanity), it is the one track the band has done that does nothing for us, primarily due to the lack of vocal diversity within it. The album's tracks generally feature stunning vocal parts and the range of styles available adds to its appeal.

Symphonic instrumental arrangements and layers of harmony vocals compliment the lead in the gentle rocking and stunning tracks "Girl In The Window" and "Banner Of Shadows," certainly two of our favourite tracks by the band. Clearly the instrumentals are more dominant in the latter with lovely guitar excursions, but they are never overly agressive; melodies and supporting harmonies are balanced with rhythm and crisp production (especially drums and percussion) and add to the accessibility of the two tracks.

Dark Matter's softer and more atmospheric songs are dominated by sensitively sung—at times soaring—vocals. These include "Nothing," "Everything" and the lovely atmospheric piece "River One - Part One." Certain to appeal to those that like the band's softer side, "Behind Cold Eyes" is a tender ballad with vocal layers soaring above a light keyboard- and guitar-based instrumental arrangements that build as the track comes to its conclusion.

"A New Advance" combines the band's softer style with a more agressive guitar-ridden instrumental and a more complex, almost experimental, vocal melody. "Where Did We Go Wrong?" is dominated by vast instrumental prowess, primarily with reaching guitar riffs, driving bass and powerful percussion; vocals are far more instrumental in their construction. The rock anthems "Cynthia" and "Insanity" are dominated by the band's powerful rhythm section and instrumentals and will appeal to those that like music with a harder edge. The latter will certainly appeal to Genesis enthusiasts.

Fula's Dark Matter is available from the band directly via their website and is an album worth further exploration. The band are charting a bright future in 2000 with support slots for major acts like Camel in their plans. If the tremendous preview of a new 30-minute epic that was performed in Rotherham is any indication, their new album due out later this year promises to be very exciting. With the range of styles available, solid production and Zoe's excellent vocal work, we found Fula's album particularly enjoyable and worthy of further exploration. It is certainly a very nice listen!

 
Twenty Houses
Image © 1996 BikiniCut Publishing 
 

(15 July 2000) Singer songwriter Jennifer Onesto's debut album Twenty Houses (BikiniCut Publishing (USA) 7 02677-011402 5, 1996) is comprised of ten highly accessible alternative rock tunes. Jen hails from Arlington Heights, IL and has been featured in Lorelei Music Magazine and at Harmony Ridge Music. Supported by a range of musicians, the album's tracks balance heartfelt vocals with a variety of well-played instrumental arrangements. A particularly attractive photograph of the artist dominates the artwork used on the back cover of the compact disc package. Additional photos at the artist's website and a downloadable video illustrate the dynamics in her live performances.

"Twenty Houses is an album that offers a true alternative: A fully produced wall of sound. Terrific melodies and harmonies. Big guitar-driven accompaniment. You won't find any spare, jumbled mixes with wispy, off-key lead vocals here. On the contrary, Jennifer has a phenominal voice, harkening back to the great female rock artists of the 60s and 70s. She has a clear, rich, alto voice of uncommon quality-versatile enough to be equally at home singing a driving rock tune as well as a soulful ballad."

We were particularly impressed with the vocal production of the album and use of original instruments including steel drums ("Love Changes Everything"), harmonica and sitar. Jen's vocals are mixed way up and layering, when used, is very effective in producing lovely harmonies to support individual tracks' melodies. While most of the album's tracks rock to a significant extent, the album also features one slower, equally enticing and evocative track entitled "Last Dance." With more of an edge than Lobelia's album reviewed above, this alternative rock album moves right along and with highly accessible rock tunes should delight the broadest of audiences.

Further reviews of Jennifer's album Twenty Houses are available and interested readers can order the album at amazon.com here. Our viewers can find further information about the artist, download tracks from the album, see a music video and purchase Digital Audio Music CDs from Jennifer's mp3.com website. Jennifer Onesto's debut album Twenty Houses is a tremendous introduction to this growing vocal talent. Worth further exploration and a journey, it is a certainly very nice listen!

 
Words and Music
Image © 1995 Terry Hope Gladstone 
 

(15 July 2000) Terry Gladstone's debut recording Words & Music (Terry Hope Gladstone (USA) VS101, 1995) was recorded in late 1995 as a demo to music publishers and the twelve tracks are as timeless today as they were then. Terry provides all of the vocals on the album, however, she has since recorded demos using different vocalists to cover her material. She has been a radio discjockey for over fifteen years and has been on all the major rock radio stations in Los Angeles. She has hosted her own talk show, a New Age midnight program and an acoustic Sunday morning program among others. Terry also worked at WTG/Sony in A&R where she worked with a variety of artists ranging from Jason Bonham and Princess Stephanie. Her background also includes studying music therapy and working with Downes Syndrome patients. She has recorded a vast array of demos and is on the satellite network of Westwood One radio.

Music on the recording was written primarily by Terry Gladstone. She is supported by Alan Silva (keyboards), Dave Carpenter (bass), Steve Klong (drums), Jimmy Stafford (guitar) and Michelle Mangione (percussion) on the album. The album blends different styles of accessible rock and easy listening tunes. Catching melodies are supported by harmony vocals and lovely instrumental arrangements throughout. Both upbeat light rocking tracks and soft, tender ballads are included. Keyboard work is especially enticing, often adding texture to the tracks within the instrumental bridges. The studio production certainly brought the most out of Terry's sweet and sensitive voice.

The album is dominated by heartfelt ballads wrenched with vocal layers and gentle accompaniment. We particularly enjoyed the way Terry's vocals soar as the intensity of the songs build and her ability to be sensually evocative as well as sultry by exploring different areas of her vocal range. Examples include "Together In Our Hearts," "Trust My Heart," "What's True For Me," the evocative "One More Time," Gentle bar-style easy listening tunes continue to explore Terry's range and are dominated by keyboard-based instrumental arrangements. These include "Surrender To Love" and "Little One." The bluesy "Run With The Fire" is sung primarily accompanied by acoustic guitar with the lead vocal style adjusted accordingly and it differs from the other ballads on the album in this respect.

The light rocking tunes of the album move right along and might be equally comfortable being classified as easy listening. In "Havin' A Blast" an almost spoken part is joined with a lively instrumental arrangement with crisp percussion and rich production. A certain favourite is the rocking "With Your Spirit" which combines layers of soaring vocals with a lively piano melody, interplaying guitar part and crisp percussion. We especially enjoyed the track "Worth The Wait" which blends ballad and easy listening styles using lots of vocal layers in the chorus. "Simple Dance" is the album's one instrumental. It is a light bar-like number arranged by Alan Silva. The album concludes with the stunning track "I Promise You My Love." A certain favourite, it combines the range of Terry's vocal styles with light rock arrangements and features a tremendous keyboard part during the instrumental bridge.

It is clear from the text above that we quite enjoyed Terry Gladstone's album Words & Music. While it has not been published, it provides insight into the talent of this established singer, songwriter, music professional. Interested readers should note that Terry Gladstone can be contacted via her promotional agent, Teresa Conboy (P.O., Box 27766, Los Angeles, CA 90027) or by e-mail at TerryGlad@aol.com. Terry's music resides in the gentler regions of the female vocalist space. A rare treat for music reviewers, the album is certainly worth a journey and we thought it was a very nice listen!

 
Elegant Disguise
Image © 1999 Crannog 
 

(16 July 2000) Fronted by Maria Miller, Crannog are a Celtic-crossover band from Scotland that have recently changed their name to Keeba. Their limited edition EP from 1997 was one of the first recordings provided to Musical Discoveries for review. Crannog's latest four track EP, Elegant Disguise (Crannog (UK) CNOG002/99, 1999) was produced with a seven person lineup. Additions since their earlier release include Kerry Barr (fiddle) and Fiona Gunn (fiddle, clarsach, vocals). With the name change to Keeba, further lineup changes have occurred. See the band's website for additional information! Soundbites from Elegant Disguise as well as bits of four live tracks are available there.

It is clear from the outset of this new EP that Crannog have continued to develop their sound. Unique in the way they combine Celtic themes with rock accessibility, Maria Miller continues to the band forward with her stunning lead vocal work. The new artists' inputs are evident with significant enhancements being additional vocal harmonies and an even lusher set of instrumental arrangements. Elegant Disguise includes three all-new tracks and a new version of "The Deepest Pool" which was the title track of their earlier EP. The structure of the EP is very much the same in that it shows three distinct variations of the band's sound.

The pure accessibility of the band's sound is evident in the opening track "Pacific Finance." Vocal harmonies support Maria's lead vocal work while lush and moving instrumental arrangements will hook the most casual listener. True to their Celtic heritage, the track "Mischief" combines 'mouth music' in a similar style to "The Porter Black" with contemporised traditional instrumentals and a soaring vocal part. It is a tremendous crossover track. Vocalise harmonies, powerful percussion passages and electronic instrumentation add to the texture developed within the track.

The everso enjoyable rock tune "The Deepest Pool" has been seriously reworked with additional percussion and thicker electric guitar parts. Here melody and rhythm are perfectly combined with layers of harmony contributing to a Celtic crossover track with pop sensibility—eat your hearts out Corrs! The maturity in Maria's voice is evident in the lead while gentle backing vocals and supporting instrumental arrangements add to the lush texture of the track. The EP concludes with "Into The Fire," an all new moderate paced track with a stunning—in your face—lead vocal part. Fiddles are eminent in the instrumental arrangement and when contrasted with guitar, bass and percussion, contribute to the crossover sound the band develops in the track. Changes in pace within the track are evident and work well. Harmony vocals continue to add texture and with the new fiddle parts contribute most significantly to the evolution of the band's sound.

We were immediately impressed with the latest EP, Elegant Disguise from Crannog. The additional musicians have made a significant impact and the band have continued to grow since their first EP The Deepest Pool. As they continue to search for commercial success with a new name and further lineup changes, we hope that they don't lose the unique formula that began with Crannog. The EP is available from the band's website and is highly recommended to our readers—get your copy immediately! Worth a cross-country — perhaps even trans-atlantic — journey, this latest recording from the group is a must listen!

 
Cry Wolf
Image © 2000 B. McCallion Gild The Lily Music 
 

(16 July 2000) Bernadette McCallion is currently working on a retail-ready album but is currently shopping her six-track demo called Cry Wolf (Gild The Lily Music (USA), 2000) around. She is also offering a seven track version of the recording as a Digital Audio Music CD at mp3.com. Additional pictures, reviews, airplay info, mp3s, lyrics and more can be found at Bernadette's mp3.com website; you can also order the DAM there.

Represented by Jacobson and Colfin, this 28 year old singer-songwriter from New York has signed a publishing deal with DSM Producers and is a member of ASCAP as a writer and publisher. McCallion also writes instrumental music for film and television. In addition to being two-time semi-finalist in Musician Magazine's Best Unsigned Band Contest, her 1998 self-produced EP received positive crticial comments and independent airplay in North America. Prior to embarking on her solo career, she sang in a pop/goth band playing keyboard, guitar and singing and was featured on two of the band's commercially released albums.

On Cry Wolf, Bernadette McCallion provides lead and backing vocals and also contributes guitar and piano parts. She posesses a powerful voice and expresses feelings behind the lyrics genuinely. McCallion is supported by John DiGiulio (drums, percussion), Rich Gaglia (bass, electric guitars and piano; co-producer) and Mark Corrigan (guitars) on the project. The music is classified as alternative but is certainly among the more accessible work we've heard. Lead vocal melodies are often supported by lush backing harmonies and thick guitar-based arrangements. Percussion is crisp and well produced. "Full Moon Course" and "House Of Straw" are two of the rocking tunes on the EP. Both are memorable in their construction and seriously sung lead vocals.

McCallion's ballad "Cry Wolf" has a sensitively sung lead vocal and layers of lovely backing vocal harmonies forming a striking contrast to the artist's more rocking numbers. An allusion to Julee Cruise (as with Sun Palace above) is quite evident in this lovely track and the highlight of our EP.

"Angels, Etc." is richly arranged and like "White" is another rocker albeit with sparser-guidar ridden-instrumental arrangements and a slightly spoken lead vocal parts. An uncharacteristic orchestral texture develops as "White" concludes. The track "What About Love?" concluded our EP. Thick guitar interplays with keyboards during the instrumental excursions while vocals explore a subtle melody. Vocal layers in the chorus are highly memorable.

Bernadette McCallion is continuing to build her reputation as a singer songwriter with tracks doing very well at mp3.com and other online sources. An established songwriter with a full length album around the corner, this introductory collection of recordings shows that a promising career is ahead. Worth exploration on the web and your compact disc player, the EP should be heard to appreciate the talent behind it. Worth a journey we found it to be a nice listen!

 
Sally Cooper's EP
Image © 1996 Midnight Publishing

Sally Cooper's DAM
Image © 2000 Sally Cooper










Sally
Image © 2000 Sally Cooper
 

(16 July 2000) The self-titled debut EP from Sally Cooper contains four tracks that illustrate the depth and range of this Austrailian singer songwriter. Cooper performs lead and backing vocals and is supported by Rex Goh (guitar), Richard Melick (keyboards and backing vocals), Victor Rounds (bass), Chad Wackerman (drums) and Tony Azzopardi (percussion).

From her mp3.com summary, "[Sally Cooper presents] a sultry, soulful style and [with her 14-track Digital Audio Music compact disc from mp3.com -- reviewed below] offers a sensational collection of universally appealing, cleverly crafted and catchy songs. Each tells its own unique tumultuous tale of love's endeavours. The tunes here are Sally's best, each unique in their own "hit written all over it" quality."

"Sally sings in a way that extracts an abundance of emotion with each phrase and nuance. Refreshingly sweet, passionate, and honest, you'll want to take the time to delight your senses as she delivers her tunes with an alternation of warm dulcet tones and soaring vocals." We especially enjoyed both instrumental and vocal excursions. The lead is sensuallly sung, and evocative especially when she soars above the otherwise lush instrumental arrangements.

We were amazed with the richness of the production quality on the EP—it is first class all the way and shares its style with work of Madonna and big name artists operating on that level. Keyboards, guitars and percussion are all perfectly arranged and balanced against Sally's powerful, evocative and sultry voice.

"Love I Feel" is a gently rocking Madonna-like tune, with several spoken segments between the lush harmonies of the chorus. Sally Cooper's power is immediately evident within the track despite the richness of the instrumental arrangements. "Make You Mine" is a lovely ballad sung sweetly and sensually over the lightest instrumentation except during the instrumental bridge where Rex Goh's guitar riffs dominate the sound. "Never Too Late" is an upbeat dance-oriented tune with a lovely lead vocal that soars above the R&B instrumental arrangement. The EP concludes with a lively bluesy tune entitled "Turn Around" that shows Sally at her sultriest. Vocal production on the last two tracks is notch and illustrates Cooper's power and range.

(31 July 2000) The Sally Cooper Album. A soulful selection of pop, R&B and alternative tunes are presented by Australian songstress Sally Cooper on her self-titled Digital Audio Music (D.A.M.) CD (mp3.com (USA) 21425, 2000). The CD has both full fidelity CD audio and mp3 versions of the 14 tracks on it; the mp3 versions play through software contained on the CD when used on a computer. The four tracks on the EP reviewed above are also contained on the D.A.M. In addition to performing as a solo artist, she is the driving force behind The Sally Cooper Band and has worked supporting well known musicians such as Frank Zappa, Madonna, Barbara Streisand, Jenny Morris, Daryl Braithwaite and Marcia Tunes.

Empassioned tales of love's warmth and consequence are delivered through each of the tracks on the album. With varied vocals and catchy beats, each song captures the mood perfectly. "Soon Enough," the first track sets the pace. With a Madonna-like vocal and strong beat, the song reall brings out what Sally can do. "Love I Feel" is more upbeat track. The vocals are more spoken than sung, however, when the singing appears you just want to hum to this catchy song. "Never Too Late" offers more of an R&B best to it whilst bringing out the strong emotion within the vocal part and beat of the song.

"Only Lonely People Can Play," a strong love-oriented ballad, really shows the soulful music that can be produced through the magnificient vocals of Sally Cooper just the same as in "Make You Mine," a more upbeat ballad. "Turn Around," is more in the alternative style, as is "Divinity." "Answer In The Wind" seems to be a track of its own. While soulful like "Only Lonely People Can Play," the crystalline vocals and light piano instrumentation drive one to listen to the words and focus on the meaning of the track. The tender ballad "Love Me" is produced in a similar style.

"Hear What You Say" combines a light classical vocal part with country rhythms to create an easy listening light rock sound. "He Takes His Time" really delves deep into an honest feeling of love that Sally felt when writing this song. This soulful, beautiful track leads right into a more upbeat song, "Tell Me Tenderly," a song of wanting love. While "Skies Are Sometimes Blue" illustrates the lighter version of love in a ballad style, "Like A Child" presents an upbeat version of the strong emotion of love.

Further information, mp3 downloads and links are available at Sally's mp3.com website; you can also order from a range of three EPs for $5.99 as well as the 14-track Digital Audio Music CD reviewed above for only $10.00 there. A wonderful introduction to a well established Southeast Asia-based artist, we found her full length DAM CD delightful and certainly a very nice listen!—Deborah J Elliot

 
Yamatai Album Cover
Wappa Gappa: Yamatai
Image © 1996 Air From Mt Fuji


A Myth Album Cover
Tamami Yamamoto
Image © 2000 Wappa Gappa
 

(06 August 2000) Progressive rock band Wappa Gappa's debut album Yamatai (Air From Mt Fuji (Japan) AIR-5001, 1996) is comprised of eight vocally-laced progressive rock tracks. Formed originally in 1992, the Japanese musicians have released two albums to vast acclaim from the progressive music press. Reviews in Big Bang (Fr), Exposé (US), Harmonie (Fr), Progression (US), Metamusica (Br), Prog-résiste (Fr) and at the Dutch Progressive Rock Page (www) of their recordings have all been very favourable.

Fronted by stunning mezzo soprano Tamami Yamamoto, other band members include Keizo Endo (electric bass), Yasuhiro Tachibana (guitars), Hideaki Nagaike (keyboards) and Hiroshi Mineo (drums). Although almost all of the vocal work is in Japanese, the band's sound is somewhat influenced by other Japanese progressive bands as well as Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. A strong similarity in sound to Argentina's Nexus (review) and Tamami's vocals to Nexus' vocalist Mariela González is evident from the outset.

Yamatai typifies Japanese progressive rock with lush keyboard-based instrumental arrangements and soaring vocals, often mixed right up where Musical Discoveries readers like them. Tamami Yamamoto's voice is smooth and strong, soloing without the need for backing vocals. Dynamic instrumentals are well played with individual members' parts contributing to the band's overall sound. Time signatures and melodies change frequently adding to the interest and progressive texture of the album.

Opening with the 11+ minute epic "Yamataikoku" (Yamatai country), individual Wappa Gappa band members take turn in demonstrating their musical prowess. The guitar solos and quiet instrumental supported vocal passages are especially notable. From Exposé, "Fans of Annie Haslam style singing should get this for the voice of Yamamoto alone." We couldn't agree more.

Styles vary with keyboard sounds as the eight tracks of the album develop. Almost every one has a solo section where instrumental excursions dominate creating a "stadium rock" atmosphere. Guitar solos, crisp percussion and harmonious keyboards contrast Tamami's lovely lead vocal. The album's quieter tracks feature the lead vocalist and further illustrate the band's virtuosity without letting the listener forget this is a progressive rock album. These include the sensitively sung "Yuki-bana" (Snowflakes) and highly atmospheric texture of "Angel's Song" (sung and spoken in English and Japanese with extensive vocalise) both somewhat reminscent of Quidam (studio album review, live album review).

Several tracks are most progressive in their construction and the similarity to the Nexus sound is uncanny. "Gereki no Hakobune" (An ark of rubble) and "Ngwachurei" (I miss you) [sung in Cantonese] certainly fit this category with their driving guitar parts, rich keyboard arrangements and powerful lead vocal. The evocative vocal in "Ngwachurei" is especially notable. This is contrasted with a jazz-oriented easy listening style, but not without Wappa Gappa's typical instrumental bridge, in "Amanogawa" (Milky way).

The closing track "Toughenkyo" (Shangri-La) is most symphonic with its dynamic melody and instrumental riffs driven equally by guitar and keyboard. Tamami's powerful vocal, sung in a lower register than most of the other tracks on the ablum, is more reminscent of Lana Lane (review) in the beginning of the track, but returns to her natural range as the track and album come to a close. The debut album from Wappa Gappa has something for every progressive rock listener; worth a cross-country journey it is certainly a must listen!

 
Tamami Yamamoto - Lead Vocals
Wappa Gappa: A Myth
Image © 1996 Musea
 
 

A Myth is the second album from Wappa Gappa (Musea (France) FGBG4250.AR, 1998). The album contains eight symphonically-oriented progressive rock tracks. Production quality is improved substantially over the first album, primarily in the vocal mix, and is evident from the opening track "The Lion Hearted King" (Shishi-Oh). One will immediately notice how the instrumentals are knocked down when Tamami Yamamoto's vocal begins. Instrumental arrangements are more delicately produced with imaging much improved over the band's debut (reviewed above). The booklet accompanying the compact disc contains stunning photographs of the band's members and English translation of the songs' lyrics.

Wappa Gappa's passion for soaring excursions during instrumental bridge featuring guitar and keyboard solos and time signature changes continues into A Myth. From Progression, "Female vocalist Tamami Yamamoto has a sweet earnestness about her delivery that's quite endearing. While everything is sung in Japanese, her sense of conviction shines through." Vocal work is stunning in all respects, however, the strong Asian influence in "The Banquet" (Utage) does not seem to fit into the style of the rest of the album.

While comparisons have been made to Quidam and Nexus in the music press, this is no more evident than in the orchestrally arranged ballad "No Mercy" (Mujou) which grows with passion during the song's choruses. The style is equally apparent in the soaring vocalise of "Pilgrimmage of Water" (Mizu No Junrei), with Tamami's incredibly clear lead vocal. This delicate style is also present in the acoustic guitar-based introduction to "The One and Only" (Yui Itsu) before the heavy electronic instrumental arrangement begins. Powerful soaring vocals seem to perfectly compliment the arrangement. "The Underground" is an impressive progressive rocker driven by thick guitar and somewhat subdued vocals. Melody and time signature variations add to the track's interest.

The epic 12+ minute title track is somewhat reminscent of Renaissance, combining Annie Haslam-style vocals with Yes-like instrumental arrangements. Very enjoyable as a progressive instrumental with loads of variation within its construction, the track features equally stunning soaring crystalline vocals by Tamami Yamamoto. A Myth concludes with the symphonic track "Floating Ice" (Rhuhyo). An atmospheric and ballad-like vocal introduction ultimately surrenders to a more dynamic progressive rock sound with typical Wappa Gappa time signature changes and instrumental excursions.

You can order Wappa Gappa's A Myth from amazon.com here. Their debut album appears to be available through the band's own website.

Wappa Gappa appear to stand apart from their Japanese contemporaries (eg, Providence and August); this is most evident in their songwriting and the symphonic textures produced in their arrangements. The group have also emphasised Tamami Yamamoto's vocals in the tracks, and this is especially apparent in their second ablum. The album will clearly appeal to female vocal enthusiasts and fans of progressive bands Quidam (Poland), Nexus (Argentina), Sagrado (Brazil) and Vermillion Sands (Japan). Certain to appeal to a broad range of progressive rock enthusiasts, their second album joins their first and—worth a cross country journey—is a must listen!

 
Soleil Moon World's Apart
Image © 2000 MFO Records 
 

(31 July 2000) Larry King and John Blasucci have joined forces to become Soleil Moon. Through Worlds Apart (MFO Records (USA) MFO-0818, 2000) the band's first album blends singer Larry King's epic rock instincts with Blasucci's sleek-flavored approach. "We are completely and utterly opposite, but together we created this sophisticated form of contemporary music."

To contribute to their sound, Soleil Moon enlisted world-class musicians Warren Hill (sax), Michael Thompson and Paul Jackson Jr (guitar), Ricky Peterson (keys), Kenny Aronoff (drums), Lenny Castro (percussion) and the London Symphony Orchestra. "These major players helped make the record come alive," says Larry.

Worlds Apart begins with "Willingly," a soft ballad about love's eternal devotion. "Never Say Goodbye" is an uptempo track about taking care of the planet and, with a catchy tune and beat, you can do nothing but sing along. "I Need You Close To Me," a soulful waltz contrasts with "Ohio," a powerful meaningful song and "Warm Summer Rain" which recants the sorrow and ultimate redemption of a father who sees in his young child the joy of life he once knew in his late wife.

Reflective love songs, "Worlds Apart," "I'd Die For You" and the passionate "You And Me" are easy listening with a strong sense of jazz, pop or both elements in the song. "Calling On The World," however, offers more pop than jazz while dealing with the issue of racism.

Soleil Moon shows their elegant neo style in "I Need You Close To Me" a ballad of true feelings with a smooth jazz background. "Love Me Like You Used To" was performed as a duet by Larry and John which really brings together what Soleil Moon are about and what they're like as a pair. The album closes with the orchestral piece "What Are You Dreaming" which will touch your heart and soul.

With each song written or co-written by Larry and John, they have really focused all of their style into Worlds Apart. You can hear soundbites from the album and order it from amazon.com here. A truly unique jazz/pop style has been used by the group in a form never achieved by any other artist. Worth a journey, the album is a very nice listen!—Deborah J Elliot

 
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