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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 Brightman
Grey Eye Glances
Filippa Giordano
Rosemary Pure
Chiwoniso
One
Terry Oldfield
Cousteau's Dream
Highlander
Damita
Before Dark

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Instrumental Digest
 
La Luna
Image © 2000 Angel Records

USA Track Title EEC
01 La Lune -
02 Winter in July -
03 Scarborough Fair 02
04 Figlio Perduto 03
05 A Whiter Shade Of Pale -
06 He Doesn't See Me -
07 Serenade 06
08 How Fair This Place 07
09 Hijo de la Luna 08
10 Here With Me 05
11 La Califfa 04
12 This Love 01
13 Solo Con Te 10
14 Gloomy Sunday 11
15 La Luna 12
- She Doesn't See Him 09
- First Of May (Live) 13
 

(20 August 2000) The latest album by Sarah Brightman entitled La Luna (Angel Records (USA) 7243 5 56968 2 3, 2000) released in the United States on 29 August, continues much in the vein of the star's prior albums Eden and Time To Say Goodbye (Timeless in Europe and other territories). A classical crossover album in every respect, La Luna, with its moon themes, has something for every one of Sarah's fans. Cover versions of folk and pop songs perfectly compliment her modern interpretations of the more classical Aria-oriented tracks. Once again produced by Frank Peterson, the album clearly blends sounds from the Dive and Fly era with the artist's most recent releases. Sarah Brightman has long led the way in the classical crossover genre and has been joined by Emma Shapplin (review), Aria (review), Izzy (review) and Filippa Giordano (review).

The Angel Records version of La Luna differs slightly from the German pressing both in running order and tracks included to best address the American audience. Most notable is the differing lyrical viewpoints between the complimentary ballads "He Doesn't See Me" (USA) and "She Doesn't See Him" (EEC). This stunning track blends contemporary sound with Celtic orchestration. The four additional tracks on the American version make it more accessible, emphasising the contemporary side of the classical crossover genre. Musical Discoveries readers that have long requested a review of Sarah Brightman's work should appreciate this (pre-release) album review.

The album's classically derived tracks are performed graciously with operatic vocals soaring well above the orchestral instrumentation. Examples include "La Califfa" (Lady Caliph), Beethoven's "Figlio Perduto" (Lost Son), Handel's "Solo Con Te" (Only With You), and Rachmaninov's "How Fair This Place"/"How Fare This Spot" sung in Russian; it is joined to a Frank Peterson instrumental introduction entitled "Serenade" which includes Sarah's lovely soaring vocalise.

The most accessible tracks on the album include Brightman-style anthem "Here With Me" and uptempo rocking tune "Winter In July". The inclusion of Sarah's stunning cover of Gary Brooker's "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" this time with rich orchestral arrangements perfectly compliments "A Salty Dog" on Dive. Sarah's cover of "Scarborough Fair" is sensitively sung over light instrumental arrangements. The song was recently covered by Gypsy Soul as well (review). Sarah's singing in the lovely uptempo classically derived piece entitled "Hijo de la Luna" (Son of the Moon) is most reminscent of Kate Bush's style.

Slow ballads ("La Lune," "He Doesn't See Me" and "This Love") are sung tenderly and evocatively, backed with a well-produced blend of traditional and modern arrangements. The bluesy jazz smoky piano bar undertones of "Gloomy Sunday" add to the unique sound of the album. The American version of the album closes with the title track, an Frank Peterson adaptation of a Dvorak classic that blends classical construction with Brightman's operatic soaring vocals and slightly contemporary arrangements. A hidden track within "La Luna" includes a unique Brightman acoustic interpretation of "Moon River." Interested listeners will have to wait until about 5:15 on the counter for it to begin.

The booklet accompanying the compact disc of both EEC and USA versions is as stunning as the music. Produced on high gloss paper and loaded with stunning photos by Simon Fowler (all available on Sarah's website), it contains lyrics both in the language sung and their translations. You can order the American version of La Luna from amazon.com here as well as the import version here. Sarah Brightman's earlier albums are also available at amazon.com. Diverse in its content, well-produced in all regards with stunning vocals certain to delight our readers, La Luna is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!

 
If I Was
Image © 2000 Sojourn Hills Records 
 

(20 August 2000) Grey Eye Glances albums Songs Of Leaving and Further On (both originally released under the band name Sojourn) were followed by Eventide and Painted Pictures on Mercury Records. An additional EP sold exclusively on the internet entitled One Day Soon was the band's last release on Mercury Records before it was merged into a larger label. To ensure their continued growth, the band recently purchased back rights to material produced while they were with Mercury and released four additional special compilations of rare and live material that was sold via the internet to their most dedicated fans. The band are currently financing their next album by selling tracks individually as downloadable mp3 files.

The first collection of six of these tracks has been released as an EP entitled If I Was ... (Grey Eye Glances (USA) JED0112, 2000). It was recorded at The farmhouse—the band's new 24-track digital studio located in West Point, PA. A second EP is due at the end of 2000. Fronted by lead vocalist Jennifer Nobel, the band also includes Eric O'Dell (bass, trumpet, vocals) Dwayne Keith (piano, organ, melodica, vocals), Brett Kull (guitars, mandolin, banjo, vocals) [Echolyn] and Paul Ramsey (drums, percussion). While the EP is professionally pressed and well recorded, the production quality is reminscent of the band's earliest two releases, with the lushness and rich bottom end typical of the Mercury era gone.

With only one track co-penned by Jen Nobel, the other five are written by Dwayne Keith either himself or in various combinations with Kull and O'Dell. Earlier Grey Eye Glances albums included more Jen Nobel writing credits. The vocals are again stunning, and the band have mixed them way up, as in their earlier releases. Jen's fans will be well pleased with her vocal work. on If I Was .... Artwork is professional prepared and full lyrics are included.

The EP opens with the title track "If I Was" which is similar to "Painted Pictures" in its rhythm. The brass section adds a lovely texture to arrangement. Vocal work is evocative and balanced with the individual instrumental parts. Harmony vocals and a well played electric guitar part provide a perfect backdrop to Jen's sensitive vocal in the soft rocking "Moonlight." The sweet and sensitive ballad "In" is softly sung over light acoustic arrangements, perfectly demonstrating the talent of the band's lead vocalist. Instrumentals build for "Even," a typically Grey Eye Glances tune, are well played. The song blends a crystalline lead vocal part with orchestral sounds in the background as energy within the track builds.

"Ordinary Day" is a very upbeat and equally accessible track with melody carried by keyboard and lead vocal offset by a lively guitar part. Crisp percussion and bass puctuate the sound. We were reminded of "Halfway Back" from first listen. The EP concludes with "Hollow," opening as a delicate and lightly instrumented ballad. Jen's sensitively soft vocals intertwine with searching guitars and delicate percussion and build with harmony vocals as the song develops.

The latest release by Grey Eye Glances is certain to thrill their following. The band are making great progress towards an independent full length album release, and this EP is a notable step in the process—one to be appreciated by those that prefer CDs to mp3 files! Although not generally available until September the band's fans can order the EP as a prerelease via the GEG website or by calling toll-free 877-916-5862. Enjoyable in every respect, especially with the return to a self-produced sound, the EP is a very nice listen!

 
Filippa Giordano
Image © 1999 Sugar Music 
 

(20 August 2000) The latest album from Filippa Giordano is a self-titled twelve track recording (Erato/Sugar (Italy) 3984-29694-2, 2000). Giordano's music is underpinned with classical influences, yet blended with pop sensibilities, it lies firmly in the crossover genre. Indeed, eight of the new album's tracks are Filippa's own interpretation of well-known arias while the remaining four are more accessible, contemporary vocal sensations. While she began recording as a pop artist, recent influences have been classical. Her vocal work is crystalline and comparable to both Sarah Brightman (review), Emma Shapplin (review), Aria (review) and Izzy (review). Filippa's soaring crystalline vocal excursions reveal extensive talent and training.

The album features long-time operatic favourites as "Vissi d’arte" from Tosca and "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi, both by Puccini, "Addio del passato" from "La Traviata" by Verdi and "Casta Diva" from "Norma" by Bellini. "Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix" from "Samson & Dalila" by Saint Saens, and the Habanera from "Carmen" by Bizet; all are rich in passion, but performed absolutely natural. A short version of "Casta Diva" opens the album whilst an extended version concludes it. Giordano's own interpretatoin of "Ave Maria" rounds out the classically derived numbers. Gary S. Dalkin wrote, "Using a conventional orchestra sometimes supplemented by electronic keyboards and occasional drums, the production achieves a slick and glossy chart-friendly sound that will find favor with fans of Whitney Houston and Céline Dion. It's doubtful that serious opera aficionados will care much for Filippa Giordano, though music lovers in general may well find the album an attractive entry into the sometimes-forbidding world of the classical diva."

The four contemporary songs illustrate another side of this stunning vocalist's talent. The Ennio Morricone-Roger Waters "Lost Boys Calling" from the 1999 Golden Globe-winning movie The Legend of 1900 is the first following the classical numbers and is most reminscent of Céline Dion's work. "You Are The One" is the first of three contemporary tracks by Fracesco Sartori. Although contemporary in its construction, it is anthemic in style, most reminiscent of Mariah Carey's early work both in vocal delivery and overall sound. "Dissonanze" (Mondo Trash) continues in a similar vein combining rich orchestral arrangements with evocatively soaring vocal excursions. A soft emotive ballad entitled "Maria (By The Sea)" balances soaring vocals with light orchestral instrumentation. Constructed as an anthem, the track also compares favourably to Céline Dion's work.

You can read further reviews, hear sound samples and order Filippa Giordano's self-titled album from amazon.com here. Artwork accompanying the compact disc positions the classical numbers and contains several lovely photos of the attractive artist. Crystalline vocals, well arranged orchestration and tremendous production contribute to the stunning quality of Filippa's latest album. Certain to please enthusiasts of classical crossover female vocal work, the album is worth a cross country journey. Our readers will agree with us: it is a must listen!

 
Some Days '98
Image © 1998 The Rosemary Pure

See Your Star
Image © 1999 The Rosemary Pure
 

(20 August 2000) The debut album from The Rosemary Pure, entitled Some Days '98 (The Rosemary Pure (USA) trp1098, 1998), is comprised of thirteen "post-alternative" rocking tracks laced with vocals from the band's two female singer / guitar players Kiki Parry (lead vocals) and Joanna Coopersmith (lead guitar). Andrew Hendry (guitars) is also credited on the band's recordings. Based in central New Jersey not far out of the reach of Philadelphia, the band is rounded out by rhythm section Neil Odell (bass) and Chip Morrow (drums and percussion). In addition to the band's debut alubm, a six track EP entitled See Your Star (The Rosemary Pure (USA) trp8.99, 1999) is also being distributed at the band's live performances and sold via their website.

The band's debut album has quite a few (short) upbeat and "melodic, driving, kinetic indie pop/rock" tunes. While they are not self-labeled as a new wave band, we were reminded of groups operating in that genre on more than one occasion while studying the album. Sweet two-part vocal harmonies dominate, yet they are complimented by lovely guitar work and crisp percussion. The Rosemary Pure are first and foremost a rock band—dynamic and well-played instrumental bridges balance the otherwise the band's vocally-laden sound. With all of the band's energy, a live show must be quite an experience. The vocals are awesome.

Several of the songs on the debut album can be easily distinguished from the others. The vocal work in the folk rock tune "I Can See Her Now" has an especially well-blended texture and despite the lushness of the instrumental arrangements, the harmonies work especially well with vocals mixed way up, the way we like them most. A similar sound emerges in "Tired," and like "I Can See Her Now" we were reminded of The Cranberries' sound. The significant contrasts within "Under Waves" were not only well played but they were most remniscent of the progressive sound of UK-based band Fula (review) especially by Kiki Parry's lead vocal. Some Days '98 is a great album and must be listened to a few times to really appreciate all of the intricacies within its tracks.

The band's latest project, an EP (pressed on CD-R) entitled See Your Star, has six tracks with the last track being an acoustic version of the first one. The band have obviously moved on, becoming instrumentally tighter with harmonious vocal work sounding even more like The Cranberries. "Mermaid" is an upbeat, new wave-tempoed song, with glorious two-part harmonies. The acoustic version is lighter, and accompanied only by acoustic guitar and light percussion, unprocessed lead and harmony vocals naturally dominate. Songs are more intricate with tempo and mood changes within them trending the band into a song-based progressive rock direction at times. "Surrounded" joins "See Your Star" and "Every Hour" in overall tempo while being vocally subdued in comparison favouring the instrumental arrangements in prowess. "Higher" is a slower track more characterised by soaring vocal harmonies and Fula-like progressive textures.

You can read further reviews and order The Rosemary Pure's CD Some Days '98 from amazon.com here. While further information is available at the band's official website, you can visit their mp3.com website for free downloads and further information. The Rosemary Pure's sound is certain to appeal to alternative rock enthusiasts. Vocally rich, rocking sounds make the sound enjoyable and the more accessible tracks and the ballads are very attractively produced. The debut album's artwork compliments the compact disc while the lack of liner notes and a lyrics sheet is disappointing. Says lead vocalist Kiki Parry, "I work at Discmakers and my job is to design CD packaging for bands. I really enjoyed designing my band's own CD, it was fun." Despite being done in a home-based environment, the recording quality is very good and overall production quality of the album is exceptional. Certain to appeal to our alternative rock readers, both the album and followup EP are a very nice listen!

 
Chiwoniso-Ancient Voices CD Cover
Image © 2000 Tinder Records 
 

(03 September 2000) The debut album from Chimoniso Maraire, entitled Ancient Voices (Tinder Records (USA) 42859372, 2000), originally released in 1998 on the Lusafrica (France) label, is available as a domestic product for American audiences. Ten worldly tracks blend the artist's stunning crystalline lead vocals with richly produced instrumental arrangements. Lyrics are a mixture of English and other langugages, primarily from Zimbabwe.

Chimoniso, regarded as the star of a new generation, won the RFI prize for the most promising new singer in Africa in 1998. Her album combines traditional trance-music of the mbira (tuned metal strips attached to a sound board, and plucked with the thumbs) with modern arrangements supported by the band Andy Brown & the Storm.

Ancient Voices is a blend of new age, world and more accessible pop sounds and is certain to please a broad spectrum of audiences. Arrangements, while worldly at times, are equally contemporary. Chimoniso has a wonderful vocal range, resting in a spot between Maggie Reilly and Miriam Stockley, with excursions soaring into higher octaves as well. The album is rythmically oriented towards easy dance beats although far more easy listening than Miriam Stockley and Mae McKenna's work on Shabala.

"Madame 20 Cents" combines reggae rhythms with accessible tunes while stunning soaring vocals in both English and native tongues are supported by lovely harmonies. The guitar solo during the instrumental bridge and arrangements demonstrate the prowess of the supporting band. Lovers of Miriam Stockley's tribal style vocal layers or the sounds of Phil Sawyer's Beautiful World will be enthralled with the tracks "Mai," "Nhemamusasa," "Iwai Nesu" and "Wandirasa." Contemporary jazz-oriented tracks include "Ancient Voices," "The Way Of Life," "Tamari" and "Look to the Spirit" which has a slight reggae beat and a lovely flute part. The album closes with a soft rock tune entitled "Everyone's Child" sung primarily with acoustic guitar and mbira accompaniment. The instrumental bridge is richly produced with traditional sounds. Vocal work is sweet, evocative and crystalline and demonstrates the artist's viruousity.

You can find further reviews, hear several sound samples and order Chiwoniso's album Ancient Voices from amazon.com here. This album balances stunning vocal work with world, new age and pop instrumental arrangements. It is easy to understand why Chiwoniso won the RFI prize for being the most promising new African singer. Her vocal work, song writing is perfectly complimented by the superb production of this debut album. Clearly worth a cross country journey we think it is a must listen!

 
Various Artists, One CD Cover
Image © 2000 Word Entertainment 
 

(03 September 2000) Chuck Nelson's various artist compilation One (Word Entertainment (USA) 080688603427, 2000) has been produced to support World Youth Day. The album cover is linked to the official site (but the server is frequently overloaded). Israel Button wrote,"Initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985, by the year 2000, World Youth Day draws approximately two million youth to Rome, Italy. The purpose of World Youth Day is to answer the call for Christian unity, and build up the relationship between youth and the church. Word Records has partnered with the Vatican's World Youth Day committee to help with entertainment and promotion for the event. This compilation disc is a first step in the process, featuring songs that explore issues of unity with Christ and with others."

Both male and female vocalists are featured. Twelve tracks by a broad selection of secular recording artists spans an equally vast spectrum of Christian contemporary styles. The CD features selections by an all star lineup including: Rachael Lampa, Aaron Neville, Sixpence None the Richer, Máire Brennan, Booley, Winans Phase 2, Burlap to Cashmere, Jaci Valasquez, Gabriel's Harp, A Ragamuffin Band, Cindy Morgan, Luis Fonsi and Salvador. The song "Emmanuel" is the official theme song of the World Youth Day 2000; two versions are included within the album—one entirely in English and the other in Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese (we think!). Both are sweetly sung tender ballads led by male and supported by female vocals.

We most enjoyed the contemporary rocking tune "Heart Of Every Man" by Gabriel's Harp. Sweetly sung female backing vocals contrast the male lead and instrumentals perfectly. The pop rock tune "Love" is a moving remix by Sixpence None The Richer dominated by electric guitar. Leigh Nash's sweetly sung vocal part is especially enjoyable; vocalise in the orchestrally arranged chorus demonstrates her true virtuosity. The album's token Celtic-oriented track is a classic Máire Brennan ballad with a lovely calling whistle part entitled "Peace Has Broken Out." Her stunning performance illustrates why she is one of the top Irish female singers today (review).

Salvador's "Ain't It Good" is one of the album's Latin tunes. They have a great brass section which contrasts well with the song's keyboard parts. "Basic Instructions" by Burlap To Cashmere also has a latin flavour—an upbeat track, it works quite well. The rhythm and texture of A Ragamuffin Band's "Il Tuo Strumento" is quite Brazilian especially with the symphonic instrumental arrangements. The album's only R&B-oriented tune is "It's Alright" by Winans Phase 2.

Tender ballads include Rachael Lampa's emotional "There Is Still A Dream" performed with Aaaron Neville and the highly evocative and sweetly sung "With Me" by Jaci Velasquez. "The Last Supper" is a ballad performed as a duet by Cindy Morgan and Luis Fonsi to light accompaniment, primarily provided by acoustic guitar. Morgan is a wonderful vocalist with a sweet and sensitive voice; we'd certainly like to hear some more of her music.

You can find further reviews, listen to sound samples and order One from amazon.com here. Clearly with the tracks spanning a vast range of styles and featuring contributions from some excellent performing artists the album is worth further exploration. Check out the online samples and let us know if you agree. We think it's a very nice listen!

 
Across The Universe CD Cover
Image © 2000 New World Music 
 

(04 September 2000) Terry Oldfield's 19th album Across The Universe (New World Music (UK) NWCD 489, 2000) "is about the yearning to be free that becomes so much a part of Human Condition as we travel the pathways of liberation." In contrast to his earlier projects, three of the five tracks feature stunning vocal contributions from sopranos Juliana and another named Karen Debbonnaire. Instrumentals are played and arranged by Terry Oldfield and include parts on low whistle, flute, piano, percussion and keyboards. Further instrumentals include shakuhachi, temple bell, pan pipes. Peter Rosser contributes piano to "Sun In My Eyes" and "When", to which Rhonda Oldfield contributes backing vocals.

With only five tracks to the album, each one is epic in proportion. Relaxing new age, soundtrack-oriented instrumentals dominate the mix but lovely vocals contribute to the expressive texture of the album. Juliana's lovely soprano vocals inspire the listener on the title track ballad that opens the album. Crystalline clear and flute-like in texture, the lyrics are sung over soft electronic accompaniment before flute and low whistle parts begin. The track builds in depth with rich new age sailing-oriented arrangements that pass the melody from voice to whistle to keyboard. Juliana's voice is most reminscent of Eimear Quinn in clarity, style and texture. A children's choir (Lana and Hallam Robinson and Eilidh Debbonnaire) adds texture to the chorus as the track comes to its conclusion.

Steven Page wrote, "'From the Heart' has a feel to it that is similar to that of Terry's earlier albums Cascade Reverence. It opens with some wonderfully peaceful natural sounds. Terry's flute comes in and you immediately find yourself drifting with the music. It most definitely tugs on your heart strings and fills you with all kinds of emotions."

The album's third track "When," while full of woodwind textures, is complimented by the whispy tone of Karen Debonnaire's lead vocal and the layered vocal choir. Sung in the style and textue of Márie Brennan, Enya or Shanon (Ronan Hardiman's project), it is a lovely new age ballad with several movements each rhytmically different that will delight female vocal enthusiasts. The new age ballad "Sun In My Eyes" is vocally even richer, with Karen demonstrating the crystalline texture that she can achieve over light flute and acoustic guitar accompaniment. The interplay between lead vocal and flute melodies is dramatic and evocative. The instrumental "Down to Earth" features a lovely reprise of the title track and concludes the album.

You can find further information, listen to soundbites and order Terry Oldfield's album Across The Universe at his official website and at the New World Music label website. A new age album with plenty of female vocals that should entice Máire Brennan, Enya and Shanon enthusiasts, it should be explored further. Worth a journey it is a nice and relaxing listen!

 
Cousteau's Dream CD Cover
Image © 2000 Real Music 
 

(04 September 2000) Terrence Yallop, founder of Real Music, formed the EarthSea Institute to promote global environmental awareness. His latest compilation is a benefit album entitled Cousteau's Dream (Real Music (USA) RM4114, 2000) that features thirteen tracks from the most popular new age artists. While largely instrumental, the album includes selections from female vocal fronted artists as well. Nautical themes dominate electronic and traditional instrumentation; production, artwork and packaging are tops as we have come to expect from Real Music releases. "Ranging from tribal to operatic, poignant to passionate, Cousteau's Dream is a musical voyage of hope and inspiration fo what one person can do to change the world." Several ocean sound passages within the album evoke the producer's desired effect.

The album's instrumental selections include two electronic excursions from Vangelis ("West Across The Ocean Sea" and "Eternity"), Kamal's "Shakuhaji Tales" and Richard Burmer's "Sun's Comin' Out." Instrumentals are rich and blend nautical themes with new age arrangements. No new age compilation would be complete without a contribution by keyboard impressario Yanni or his Japanese counterpart Kitaro. Yanni's richly orchestrated "Secret Vows" from Out Of Silence (1987) and Kitaro's nautical Japanese flavoured "Nageki" are both included. Female choir sounds interplay with the flute (effect) melodies in Kitaro's track. Kenny G's unmistakable saxophone delivers the lovely melody in "Theme From Dying Young." "To Sleep on Angel's Wings" by Kevin Kern is played softly on harp which gives it a Celtic feel. "Future of the Sea" by Frederic Delarue concludes the album blending whale sounds with light electronic instrumentation.

Aria's "Un Bel Di" (from their debut recording) is perfectly situated on this compilation with operatic vocals joining new age style tribal rhythms. "Stella Maris" by 2002 from River Of Stars (review) is an upbeat track and perhaps the richest vocal number on the album, with lots of harmonies and light strings—violin, acoustic guitar and harp—and flute carrying portions of the melody. A delightful track with construction and vocals that make it very Enya-like. A richly produced vocal choir joins an epic range of orchestral and ethnically oriented instrumentation in Tim Wheater's "Circle's Edge" from his 1999 album Incantation. Vocals effectively exchange melodies with low whistle and other instrumental parts and should delight Miriam Stockley's fans. Heidi Fielding's soaring soprano vocalise dominates the otherwise orchestral arrangements of "Lachrymosa" by Michael Hoppé.

You can find further reviews, listen to sound samples and order Cousteau's Dream from amazon.com here. From each purchase of a CD, approximately $2.50 will be donated by Real Music's non-profit EarthSea Institute to the Cousteau Society and organizations with similar goals of protecting and preserving the earth and its inhabitents. A notable compilation of new age tracks certain to please enthusiasts of this genre, we think it's worth further exploration—a relaxing listen!

 
Highlander - A Celtic Opera CD Cover
Image © 1999 B. C. Electrola 
 

(04 September 2000) Roger Bellon and Harlan Collins' Highlander - A Celtic Opera (B.C. Electola (USA) 001, 1999) is a professionally produced recording in every respect. It has a running time of over 70 minutes. The project was written, composed and produced by Bellon and Collins. Bellon also composed the music for Highlander The Series and Highlander The Series - Volume II. Although (to our knowledge) the opera has not been staged, the recording and accompanying package is far more than a demo, although it may have been developed for that purpose initially. Clearly the album is catching on with intense audience interest expressed by comments made in the offial website's guestbook.

The story spans a period from circa 1600 until the modern day, takes place in Scotland and Paris and involves six characters: Duncan MacLeod (Steve Amerson), Aurora (Karen Fineman), Frtagern (Sean Wright), The Witch (Adelaide Sinclair), Mirrdhen (Virenia Lind) and Dr. Rodia (Paul Stowe). Although labeled an opera, the parts are clearly performed in a modern West End or Broadway musical style. Instrumental arrangements are orchestral and are richly produced in every respect. The album certainly presents the image of a soundtrack from a major musical. Professionally sung and performed in every respect, the album leads us to believe it would succeed in the theatre district. We especially enjoyed the vocal parts sung by Steve Amerson and Karen Fineman.

Solo parts and those with the company are well sung and evocatively performed. The variation in mood as the story unfolds is expertly delivered. A modern West End musical-style story tells of the immortal life of Duncan MacLeod and his first love Aurora who dies in the first act. Set in Paris, a modern miracle brings about her rebirth in the second act, but her love of another man drives Duncan back to his homeland. She joins him again in the third act, however, evil returns and slays her once more. The story blends bliss with strife in a highly dramatic setting. It is well supported musically both with the singing parts and orchestral arrangements.

You can order the album, listen to samples from it and read further about the story at their official website. The album blends classical operatic treatments with contemporary Celtic themes. The full libretto is in English and is easy to follow. Production quality and packaging of the album are superb. A whole lot less expensive than an evening out in the theatre district, the album is worthy of further exploration—a very nice and dramatic listen!

 
Damita CD Cover
Image © 2000 Atlantic Records 
 

(04 September 2000) The debut self-titled album from Damita Haddon is available on Atlantic records from September 26. With her gospel R&B singing style, Damita inspires, moves and delivers the "Truth" and the beauty of "Life," or the passionate questing of "Why." Inspired by her faith, Damita's emotion has become a trademark sound. The Detroit native is no novice. She's sung with Aretha Franklin—"It was a humbling experience, having one of the greatest singers in the world ask me to sing with her"—a seasoned stage performer and the wife of Gospel star Deitrick Haddon.

Fresh out of high school, Damita toured with the Gospel theater production Mama Don't. She realized that this was what she was meant to be doing with her life. Now with a new group of R&B producers, Damita could create the sound she was looking for. Damita says that it "added the hot sauce—the pepper—to the mix. They helped give me the urban street edge."

Damita recognizes the source of her trademark sound. "The songs on the album lyrically can go both ways. They can either be about a loved one or God. But no matter what kind of music you're singing, you know that God has placed this finger or even his fingernail upon it. It's something you just can't copy."

"Why," "Truth," "Life" and "Spirit Inside" have this strong R&B edge to them that makes you want to move to the music. However, if you sit and listen to the words carefully, Damita's voice tells the meaning of her music and its very powerful. "Cavalry" sets the first four tracks apart from this one. The first ballad on the album is a beautifully sung religious song that brings out Damita's voice. The upbeat track "Hold On To Your Faith" adds a gospel choir and rich instrumental arrangements that blend nicely with Damita's voice. The track clearly emerges from the rest as one of the best on the album. "I Can Feel Him" has a more of an R&B beat where her style is most reminscent of R&B artist Monica. The words on each of these tracks are very powerful, are delivered by the artist evocatively and shouldn't be taken lightly.

"If I Ever" and "Won't Be Afraid" are upbeat ballads more of an R&B style than Gospel. However the Gospel comes out again in the words of the songs. "Real Friend" takes Damita's faith into the song and shows that Christ is her way and her faith. "The Wedding Song," "Day Go By" and "Holdin' On," all ballads, are sung by Damita more in a soul style than anything else. It is a beatiful flow of voice and words that are so moving to the human ear.

Damita is very interested in reaching fresh ears and the hearts and minds of the young. "I'm sure they'll like the music," she says, "because they'll know I haven't forgotten them. And they want to be heard. Music plays a big part in how kids react. We've got to communicate. Sometimes you can get a little too "urban" or sometimes a little too "mature." That's why the album strikes a balance."

Produced by leading cutting edge hip-hop Atlanta producer Arif Martin and husband Deitrick Haddon, Damita adds the diverse depth and grace that is needed for a world class album. You can order Damita's self-titled album, read editorial reviews and hear soundbites at amazon.com here. A well-produced R&B Gospel crossover album, it is a very nice listen!—Deborah J Elliot

 
Before Dark Daydreamin' CD Cover
Image © 2000 RCA Records 
 

(04 September 2000) The debut album from Before Dark entitled Daydreamin' (RCA (USA) RADV 67691-2, 2000) was released in July. Before Dark—Mia, Arike and Jeni G—deliver a mix of R&B and hip-hop on their debut album and share the same goal of living each day to the fullest and striving to achieve as much as possible before they are too old. This goal is the meaning of the group's name Before Dark.

Before Dark had two hit singles in 1999—"Come Correct" and "Baby." Those two songs set the stage for the rhythmic tune "Monica." Before Dark have made a video for this track and is airing on The Box Music Network. Daydreamin' is a mixture of harmonic voices fast beats, slow jams and passionate lyrics. Even though the group says they still have a lot to learn about. "We may be young and inexperienced in the deeper aspects of love relationships," says Arike, "but we know how it feels to really care about a guy, and the happiness and pain that goes with it. It comes from honest feeling and real emotion, but not necessarily actual experience."

The "Jazzy Interlude: Going to the Movies" sets a base for what we are to expect from Before Dark. We hear that these girls are unique and we are introduced to what they can do in "How Could You." This track is fast and upbeat; the harmonic voices blend together perfectly. "Monica," the most recent track released off of the album, is another upbeat track. The song is much smoother and brings out the R&B in the group's sound. These two tracks deal with popular issues of "she's trying to take my man" or "how could you do this to me."

"As Far As They Know" is another upbeat song that is more hip-hopish sounding like the musical artist Pink. "Baby," another upbeat song, brings back the R&B flow in Before Dark. "Always On My Mind." the first ballad on the album takes an R&B beat to it with the the three voices making perfect harmony. The tracks show that Before Dark feels true emotions for love with powerful deep meaning words. The passionate R&B ballad "It's All About You" seems as though it takes a real love situation and it was put into a beautiful song. Harmony fueled, the song relaxes just before the interlude into "Come Correct." This upbeat song is much more hip-hop based and much less harmonic voices but it shows the versatility of the group.

"Tough Love" is a powerful R&B rocker, hungry for love and emotion while the title track "Daydreamin'" is a beautiful harmonic mid-tempo masterpiece. "She (Could Never Be Me)" is a moving track that blends R&B and hip-hop together with three lovely voices evocatively singing from a deep emotional experience. "Push-N-Shove" and "Back Around" conclude the album blending vocal harmonies with hip-hop beats.

These super talented young ladies possess strong, wide-ranging voices, an energetic, fresh visual presentation and the determination to succeeed, all of which are sure to take Before Dark further into the limelight. You can order Before Dark's Daydreamin', read editorial reviews and hear soundbites at amazon.com here. A well-produced R&B album, from an up-n-coming female trio, it is a very nice listen!-Deborah J Elliot

 
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