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.
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Image © Sinéad O'Connor 2002
(12 October 2002) Sean-Nós Nua (Vanguard (USA) 79724-2, 2002)
is the breathtaking new album by Sinéad O'Connor. The album whose title
is roughly translated from the Irish as "old style new way" features a
collection of traditional ballad and folk songs. Produced by Sinéad
O'Connor, Donal Lunny (Máire Brennan and highly respected musician)
and Adrian Sherwood (Massive Attack, Nine Inch Nails and The Cure),
the album also features performances by an array of skilled contemporary
folk musicians including the Waterboys' Steve Wickham (fiddle), Sharon
Shannon (accordion), Cora Venus Lunny (classical violin) and Rob
O'Gheibheannaigh (whistle and banjo), and a duet with Christy Moore.
Exhibiting a determination and creativity characateristic of the
Irish, Sinéad O'Connor has never feared to approach different
musical styles. In fact, as an artist, she has tackled everything
from jazz to rock and has lent her voice to various "world" and
"electronica" porjects (including Afro-Celt Sound System,
Conjure One (review),
and the soon-to-be-released Massive Attack album). However, with
Sean-Nós Nua, Sinead's voice finds an affinity with the music
that has never been heard before. Singing the songs of her own
culture, Sinéad's voice reaches new and sublime heights.
Despite her sometimes colorful public image, it would be difficult
to deny that Sinéad O'Connor is one of the most gifted singers of
our time. Like Annie Lennox or Joni Mitchell, Sinéad is that rare
performer whose voice is singularly her own, possessing a quality
that can only be described as "unearthly."
At times on Sean-Nós Nua, Sinéad's performance is so evocative
that it reaches the level of hallucinogenic. Her voice seems to embody
the fears and desires of thousands of people before her. Although some
fans may be slightly surprised by the direction Sinéad O'Connor has
taken, they really owe it to themselves to sit down and take a listen
to what is an exquisitely crafted musical recording.
The Irish have a penchant for writing songs that entwine the issues
of deep love and deep loss. Songs like the tender and forelorn "Peggy
Gordon" and the ever-lovely "The Moorlough Shore" feel as though they
were specifically written with Sinéad's voice in mind--and her grasp
of the emotional content is such that Sinéad is able to generate
massive chills in the listener through her vocal delivery.
Other tracks, including "Her Mantle So Green" and "The Parting
Glass" are more joyful pieces that will inspire within any listener
the desire to immediately book a flight on Aer Lingus for a trip to
Ireland. Again, Sinéad knows her material and fantastically animates
these songs with her own unique style.
It is also a pleasure to hear Sinéad sing in her native tongue on
two tracks: the assertive "Oro, SeDo Bheatha Bhaile"--a song about
the legendary Irish female pirate, Grace O'Malley--and the melodic
"Baidin Fheilimi"--which tells the sad fate of the fisherman Fheilimy,
whose little boat was wrecked off the island of Tory. Other
well-known songs like "Molly Mallone," "Paddy's Lament," and
"My Lagan Love" are given perfect treatment by Sinéad O'Connor.
Sean-Nós Nua will, no-doubt, appeal to fans of traditional
Irish music. However, Sinéad O'Connor has done the world a large favor
by reinterpreting these songs for a more modern and younger audience.
After listening to Sean Nos Nua, it is not hard to see why Sinéad
O'Connor has remained a formidable musical talent after so many years,
and why the songs of Ireland are still so intriguing after so many
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from
albums by Sinéad O'Connor, Sean-Nós Nua will delight our readers.
Worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this one is a must listen!
Image © Virgin Records Ltd 2002
Image © Ellen Nolan 2002
(13 October 2002) The latest album from British contemporary crossover artist Izzy Cooper is a 14-track collection entitled New Dawn (Virgin Records (UK) CDVE963, 2002). The Japanese version (Virgin Records (Japan) VJCP 68437, 2002) includes three bonus tracks unique to that territory. Our review is based on the Japanese release. Links to Musical Discoveries reviews of Izzy's earlier recordings Ascolta and Libera Me are provided below her photo. Click on either image to visit the artist's website.
Izzy's new album arrives following continued growth of the contemporary crossover genre. Factors contributing include the success of Izzy's earlier albums as well as others by Sarah Brightman
(Il Rosso Amore review),
(Myth Of Red review),
and Emma Shapplin
(Etterna review). While her voice is as pure and crystalline as a classical opera singer, Izzy departs not only in pop star styling but vocally with the inclusion of lush harmony layers--under the guidance of arranger Craig Leon--to previously solo soprano classical numbers.
Vocal harmonies and lush orchestration support the first four classics--"Lascia Ch'io Pianga," "Sull' Aria," "Pavane" (superbly arranged to the vast appeal of Annie Haslam and Renaissance fans) and "Un Bel Di Vdremo"--and add to the accessibility of these otherwise purely operatic tunes. Izzy's unique solo rendition of the traditional tune "The Water Is Wide" is stunning with rich orchestral arrangements that underscore the vocal lead to make it a clear album standout.
The album returns to classics with "Le Temps Des Cerises" whose extended orchestral arrangement provides an effective backdrop to Izzy's lead and harmony vocal layers sung in French. "Sheherezade Fantasy" on the other hand is a short multi-movement piece, rich with lovely vocalise supporting the rich orchestration and lyrical content heavily layered--and consequently difficult to interpret. Crystalline lead and harmony vocals within "Steal Away" are perfectly supported by the orchestra. This standout classical--but accessible--track is certain to delight album listeners.
Izzy was compelled to include a version of the traditional tune "Greensleeves" within the New Dawn collection. Rich orchestration supports a crystalline lead vocal line with harmonies supported with light instrumentals but primarily by additional vocal layers. Renditions of a suite of short French classics emerge as the album's harmonious theme develops--"Qui C'est Celluy," "Helas, Pourquoy Me Suis, Je Mariee" and "Laisses, Parler, Laisses Dire"--and tempos vary.
The flute in "Suo Gan" perfectly compliment's Izzy's vocal in this Welsh traditional tune. Izzy's performance of the Irish traditional piece "The Last Rose Of Summer" concludes the British version of New Dawn. Izzy's solo soprano lead vocal goes from powerful to quiet while blending perfectly with rich orchestration in this lovely performance.
The Japanese bonus tracks begin with "Shima-Uta," featuring a Izzy's lovely crystalline vocal sung in Japanese. Flute perfectly compliments the lead vocal line. Orchestration is classic yet modern. It is followed by the brief new age arranged tune "Aka-Tonbo." The rich bass line gives away the new age arrangement. The final track is "Shima-Uta (acoustic) featuring THE BOOM," which includes Izzy's stunning lead vocal sung in alternating English and Japanese to piano accompaniment.
Male vocals, also sung in alternating Japanese and English, provide a stark contrast and turn the track into a lovely duet with Izzy soaring away in vocalise. The superb Japanese bonus tracks certainly will make this version of the album much sought after.
Izzy writes in the liner notes, "New Dawn - New Hope; Hope lifest our spirits and helps us to grow; Music lifts our spirits and touches our souls; I would like my music to fill your hearts with joy and infinite hope." Indeed it has. This album must be explored further.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here.
Worth a trans-Atlantic journey this one--like those that precede it--is a must listen!
Image © Valley Entertainment 2003
More Méav Ní Mhaolchatha
Interview and Photos (2007)
Interview and Photos (2002)
Image © Celtic Collections 2002
(updated 25 November 2003) Méav Ni Mhaolchatha gained international attention as a featured soloist with Anúna, the Celtic choral group who performed in the London and US productions of Riverdance.
Anúna are well known for the soprano vocalists they have produced over the
years—another is Eimear Quinn (feature,
interview) who won Eurovision with "The Voice" in 1996.
Read our September 2002 interview with Méav for further insight into the artist's background and the making of her latest album Silver Sea. The album was originally reviewed here 28 September 2002.
With territories of release rapidly expanding, her second album Silver Sea (Celtic Collections Ltd (Ireland) CCCD 285, 2002) continues to reveal an effortless mastery of Celtic and classical pieces, traditional songs and early music. Méav's crystalline soprano voice is perfectly accompanied by
simple instrumental arrangements. The album's repertoire consists of thirteen short and relatively well-known compositions. Details are presented on the artist's website.
Méav is joined by a veritable bevy of guest artists on Silver Sea whose tracks share a common theme of the open water and seaside. The album, engineered by Brian Masterson was co-produced by Máire Breatnach who also contributed violin and viola to a handful of the tracks. David Agnew--from Méav's first album appears again playing a stunning oboe part on the opening track "You Brought me Up," sung exquisitely over a light piano arrangement.
Co-written by Méav and Conor O'Reilly, "The Wicked Sister" continues the album's theme in this new song based on the text of "Two Sisters" from the Child Ballad Collection. The bodhran percussion part perfectly compliments the strings and Méav's voice. The depth of the string arrangements increase in "Morning In Béarra," a tune sometimes ascribed to Rory dall O Cahan, the anchient harper of the chieftan Hugh O'Neill. Written by Méav, to words by William Shakespeare, "Full Fathom Five" is a lovely and gentle multi-layered, round-style, vocal piece primarily accompanied by harp.
Méav demonstrates her crystalline voice and lyrical versatility alternating between Gaelic and English in "The Waves Of Tory." The song blends into the lightly arranged choral number Méav arranged entitled "A Maid In Bedlam."
We especially enjoyed "The Cradles," another lightly arranged tune, this time delicately sung--spanning Méav's wide vocal range--in French with harp accompaniment. The "Newry Boat Song" is a Gallic lament song that Méav sings accompanied only by male choir.
Very clearly THE standout track of the album for our editors is Méav's rendition of the All About Eve tune "Martha's Harbour." The ballad was a top ten hit in 1988 and Méav recalls sitting up and taking notice that Top Of The Pops was featuring what sounded to her like a folk song. Her version with soft crystalline vocal work accompanied by acoustic guitars is absolutely superb.
"The Dark Haired Girl" is an upbeat folk number similar in style to a Scottish walking song with male choral elements contrasting lovely layers of the lead singer's voice; a robust whistle and fiddle bridge is rhthmically supported by bodhran. Méav's moody a capella performance of "Port Na Bpucaí" is a tremendous testament to the range and versatility of her stunning talent and is effectively contrasted by Colm Ó Snodaigh's low whistle parts within the number.
Rich string and woodwind arrangements in "Silent O Moyle" provide the effective backdrop for Méav's powerful vocal lead of this traditional Irish air. Segments of vocalise and lovely arrangements are a further tribute to the artist's talent. The album concludes with another standout track entitled "Youkali Tango," which perfectly combines French (and English) lyrics with Kurt Weil's robust tango-style and period instrumental arrangement. Listeners will delight with Méav's evocative vocal delivery.
Although the album is presently not available domestically (USA) through amazon.com, visitors are encouraged to read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.co.uk here.
Just like her debut album, this recording of crystalline vocal tunes illustrates the depth and range of Méav's vocal talent.
Image © Sparrow Records 2002
Image © Sparrow Records 2002
(29 September 2002)
Those of us who know and love Nichole Nordeman point to
lyrics like those and say, "See? This is why we keep those
two CDs in the car at all times because a drive isn’t a
drive without Nichole as a musical co-pilot." This is why
we tell our friends you have to listen to these songs--especially this one, or that, at this particular time in your life, because it will hit you right where you live right now. Nichole Nordeman's latest album is entitled Woven & Spun (Sparrow Records (USA) SPD 51934, 2002). Twelve tracks comprise this latest release.
People got excited about Nichole's music mighty fast. It
seemed like one day she won a songwriting contest in
L.A. and the next she got a record deal and moved to Nashville and then had a couple of #1 radio hits and then won the Dove Award for GMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 2001. She toured with Steven Curtis Chapman. Christian music’s favorite Male and Female Vocalists, on the road, same stage, huge arenas, big time.
There are certain assumptions regarding artists of
Nichole Nordeman’s ilk. This poetic piano player with the insightful lyrics and the clever turn of a musical phrase will find a good niche and keep it. There’s a core of music fans who love acoustic singer-songwriter types, so it makes for a steady career, not flashy. Not Big Time.
Over the course of a scant two albums, barely enough
to launch a career, the former Colorado Springs kid
who played piano in her home church and sang every
Amy Grant song there was found herself awash in
recognition, much to everyone’s surprise and delight.
Surprise, delight--and suddenly, much higher expectations.
Introspective singer-songwriters generally don’t win
the big prizes.
"It felt wonderful," says Nichole. "But that raised
the bar in a big way, even if no one said it out loud,
and even if I was the one raising it." So, with a
great big Dove Award, great big expectations, and a
highly-anticipated third album, Nichole set about
crafting songs for the new project. No problem, right?
"I sat down at the piano and I just couldn’t write. I had
a hundred things to say, a hundred song titles in my head.
I just assumed that because what I really wanted to write
about was God’s goodness and how that goodness is woven
into the everyday moments, that the writing would be easy.
Instead, I would just sit and stare at the keys for months
at a time."
At some point, inward thoughts worked their way into internal rhymes, and deep emotions passed from heart to hands on suspended fourth chords: line by line, word by word, came songs. And it did take time. "I wouldn’t even call it ‘writer’s block,’ it was like ‘God-block’. I knew I just had to take that time and soak up the silence, instead of resenting it. I had to listen and wait."
Her music has been called "introspective and intelligent," and she refers to herself rather self-effacingly as a "wrestling poet." You can read her lyrics, ponder them, without ever hearing the music. "I don’t generally write songs that are easy to sing along with. You’re forced to do the hard work of listening, which is great, but there are many moments on the record where I thought, ‘I just want this music to be accessible enough for someone who’s driving down the road or sitting by themselves to be able to detach from the lyrics for once, and to really worship, to sing along, to let go. We had a lot of discussions about that during the recording process."
"We" in this case means producer Charlie Peacock--his first time at the helm with Nichole--and returning producer Mark Hammond, who produced her first two records, This Mystery (review) and Wide-Eyed. This patient team no doubt believes the songs were
worth the wait, as Woven & Spun sends Nichole’s artistic accomplishments wheeling to new levels. And you can tell she poured everything she had into every note.
"I’m very attached to these songs for that reason, because it was a real labor of love." Speaking of love--besides the Dove Award, the writing, and the touring, there was a wedding. Hers and Errol’s--the love of her life, her husband, the reason she left Nashville and moved to Dallas. The two hit it off when mutual friends in Texas arranged a
casual group get together: "Our friends had been bugging us forever to meet each other. Eventually they just wore us down. I knew immediately that he was the one--it took him a little more time." Not much time though. Six months later they were engaged, and just a year after meeting, they were married.
"It made a lot more sense for me to relocate to Dallas than for him to come to Nashville, since I was still traveling so much. Besides, there are some real benefits to having some distance from the Nashville scene. It doesn’t always feel like a practical choice, but in other ways--like plugging into a community of friends that isn’t a part of Christian music--is good for me, and for us. It helps me separate my work from
my personal life.
As all newlyweds know, marriage has its challenges, and the life of a touring musician has particularly odd ones. "I used to say ‘yes’ to everything that had to do with my career, with not a lot of forethought or intention. The challenge in discerning God’s voice from the voice of my own ambition has been major growth for me. I’m saying ‘yes’ and ‘no’ for two people’s lives now. The concepts of sacrifice and compromise are probably like Marriage 101 for most people, but it’s taken me awhile to get it."
Nichole credits Errol with being "the voice of reason" in her life, gently challenging her to develop relationships at home, despite being gone so often. "He said to me, ‘It can’t be healthy that most people at our home church probably know your name and might buy your records, but
don’t really know you. Let’s do something about that"’ And that’s been so helpful to have his help in creating some boundaries and examining my priorities."
He’s also a great sounding board. "My husband is a great everyday, Consumer Joe guy. He’s not a musician or a writer, so when I play him a new song, if he says, ‘What exactly are you trying to say here?’ I know it needs some rewriting."
The struggle, the ‘God block’, the months staring at the piano keys--so what has come of it all? The songs are still intelligent--Nichole can’t help that. But they’re "lighter," she says, in tone, because she’s happier than she’s been in a long time. The theological wrestling continues, but for this season, it’s more like playing with Daddy on the living room floor.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Like the albums that precede her latest,
Woven & Spun is a tremendously produced work with stunning vocal work, rich production and the outstanding overall quality we expect from the Sparrow label--a must listen!
Image © E-Magine Entertainment 2001
(26 September 2002) Operatica's O Volume 1 is the pleasurable debut release produced by Lord Vanger
and featuring the brilliant, evocative vocals of beloved opera diva Maureen O' Flynn. Operatica shares much in common with other "classical-crossover" artists like Aria, and
Sasha Lazard (both reviewed at Musical Discoveries) who, like Operatica, meld modern day drum loops, ambient and organic
instrumentation and classical operatic melodies. Lord Vanger has managed to
select beautiful songs that he has attractively rearranged with the addition of
club, drum and bass and trance beats. However,
Maureen's shimmering and gorgeous vocals remain the highlight of the album.
The songs on O range from the serene to the energetic. The lullaby-ish and romantic
L'Heure Exquise combines mesemerizing new age instrumentation and Maureen's pristine
voice. "Melancholy Rose," on the other hand, is a Euro-pop sounding number that soars
thanks to Maureen's voicings. One of the the loveliest tracks, "O Del Mio Dolce Ardor,"
relies on carnival-esque rythym and piano to create an air of sweet uncertainty. The more
experimental "In the City" is a synthesis of drum and bass percussion, various electronica
splashes, and guitar licks. "Dite Oime" is a darkly contrasting track chock full of
tragic and ominous shadings.
O makes for wonderful listening, and should appeal to both purists and those who appreciate
a touch of experimentation in their music. This music is the perfect antidote for a busy
and stressful day. Enjoy it.--Justin Elswick
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
here. Clearly worth a journey like the ensemble's first album, this one is a very nice listen!
Image © OneWindow 2002
Image © OneWindow 2002
More Zoe Stafford
Zoe Stafford Interview
Fula Dark Matter
City Lights Promo
(12 October 2002) One Window's internet-only single "Never" is certain to whet the appetite for female vocals enthusiasts in Manchester, England and beyond. The title track "Never" is backed wtih "Battles" and "Come Home." In addition to the internet-only single, the band have three further tracks available: "Remembering," "The Difference" and a sample of "Talks With Weapons." Links from their website point to the mp3 files.
One Window were formed only a year ago by Irish songwriter Matt Collins. Matt's burning desire to fuse melodies with extremely expressive production values, a female vocal and modern beat production forced the formation of One Window as we know them now. After a one off recording--which was their first piece with the Zoe Stafford--was apparantly so good, they just simply decided to carry on recording. The music is modern Manchester, a form of dancemusic with some soul; some say it really is a bit like M-People or Brand New Heavies. Zoe's vocals are controlled; others say it's not the Aretha Franklin approach to the genre, and it really goes perfectly had in hand with sleazy techno-dance music.
We've adored Zoe Stafford since her work with Fula. Maybe that's why One Window seem so appealing. Be sure to read our interview with Zoe by clicking on the link left.
One Window are another one of those genre busting bands that some will compare to The Profile's new found friends, Tribeca from the Urbanite label. Taking classical pop songs, guitars and drums, One Window add hip hop beats, samples and scratches to this really slick single.
The internet single begins with "Never," a trip-hoppy number with various sonic effects underscoring the sensual and tender vocal work of lead singer Zoe Stafford. We especially enjoyed the mix as it puts Zoe's wide ranging crystalline voice right up in front but not to the detriment of the rhythmic instrumentals which are not forgotten during the bridge. The urban sounding "Battles," whose thicker and light dance-oriented rhythmic percussion perfectly supports the Zoe's multi-tracked vocal treatment of the lyrics. The single concludes with the upbeat verse-chorus style rocker "Come Home," a distinct departure from the other tracks in pace and depth of production.
"Talks With Weapons" is a most lushly arranged piece. We especially enjoyed the way Zoe's voice soared above the instrumentals. "The Difference" instrumental is set more sparsely atop crisp percussion, mello keyboards and acoustic guitar establish a gently rocking and repetitive dance beat.
"Remembering" (Inflow Records (UK) INFL001, 2002) is also the title track of the band's first commercial single. It is backed with "Talks with Weapons" and "Break It Down."
"Remembering" is altogether different as loops from former famous speeches add contrast and join rhythmic and acoustic guitar arrangements before Zoe's sweet and sultry vocals join the piece.
The single also includes the funky "Break It Down," which appears exclusively on the single. Zoe's multiple vocal layers add a tender texture to the rocking guitar and keyboard treatment in the number. We were left longing for more music and keenly await One Window's debut album. Visit Musical Discoveries frequently for updates!
Image © Lazerous Syndrome 2002
Image © Lazerous Syndrome 2002
(13 October 2002) English composer Des O'Connor and American poet Ashley Alquine team up to create aural landscapes from surreal vocals and experimental beats. Living on different continents hasn't hindered their ability to create music, thanks to the alchemy of the internet. Des labels them the First Transplanetary Band, and they collaborate with file transfers and arcane digital voodoo. The duo's first album is a ten-track selection entitled Resurrection.
The rich instrumentals and powerful rhythms of the title track open the album with very little vocal other than an occasional tribal chant. We especially enjoyed the whistle (keyboard) melodies that emerge halfway through. The listener is exposed to the sensuality of Ashley's vocals in the rhythmic and electronically oriented "Angel Of Marakesh." The lyrical content has been processed but remains ever present and blends with sweet vocalise.
The electronic and dance-oriented "Indigo Joy" and "Ageless" are accessible numbers with Ashley's wafty vocals complimenting the rhythmic arrangements. These tracks are contrasted by the ethereal and moody almost lullaby tempo piece "Close and Distant Friend," where Ashley's vocal effects, clips of famous spoken word and keyboards seem to blend effortlessly into one another.
"Lost In Action" is an ethereal and moody electronic ballad where--like "Angel Of Marakesh"--Ashley's lovely vocals have been blended with instumentals to subdue the lyrical content within the processing effects. "Conversations" is a more traditionally-oriented and accessible rocker and is less experimental in overall construction with Ashley's lead vocal mixed above the instrumental arrangement.
We especially appreciated the lush and wide ranging instrumental and vocal arrangements of "Emergence," a highly accessible ethereal electronic number certain to appeal to Balligomingo
enthusiasts. Layers of (subdued lyric) vocals are perfectly complimented by rich keyboards, percussion and bass in this album standout. "Requiem for an Ancient Sun" continues in a similar vein albeit slower and more significant vocally. The album concludes with a dreamy ethereal vocal-based, yet rhythmic, tune entitled "Part of the Sun."
The debut Lazerous Syndrome album Resurrection is presently available through links from the artists' website. We would prefer the lyrical content of the vocals to shine through the instrumentals and perhaps when the final mix is completed this will be achieved. With several of the tracks being absolute stunners, it is worth a journey and it is indeed a very nice listen!
Image © Sarah Fimm 2002
Image © Sarah Fimm 2002
More Sarah Fimm:
(09 November 2002) Lyrically Sarah Fimm is the musical definition of
'word-lick' intensity. Writing into places where most songs would never
go and singing into places--poetry! A songstress of voice-focus lyrical
life, Fimm writes thirteen-track and sings A Perfect Dream
Beginning with the minimal movement of impressionism (percussion) Fimm
opens with "Be Like Water". Stark naked in quality (the arrangement),
but vocally fully clothed. "Alien Boys" (the fifth-track) is the
expressionism of good abstract piano, which plays (actually she plays)
gently into a ballad of full-spectrum vocal photography.
And from the song "Spit Trap Ghetto" (the eighth-track) Fimm lyrically
swings in tongue licking and voice kicking chromatic purity--both
rhythmically expressive and singing(ly) beautiful.
And what inspires Sarah Fimm? "I am inspired by everything. People
inspire me, cookie dough inspires me, being alone inspires me. I try
to really remember what is important, and once I started learning
what was really important; it became a lot easier to become inspired."
She continues, "I hope that makes sense. It's a very hard
question--A Perfect Dream is based on conversations I
had with homeless people. That's why I sampled them."
"Dale is of course my favorite, the title track. He gave me the idea
for A Perfect Dream. And It makes my heart hurt to listen to
him--that's how I knew it was good--people are just windows. People
that struggle are fascinating ... which is all of us. So I will
never be out of information. I am an idealist and also the queen
of humanitarian ramblings."
Musically reproductive and voice structurally sound, Fimm writes
(sings) to the listener thirteen human-tracks leading to A Perfect
Dream. Outstanding musicians of ascending note: Sarah Fimm-Lead
Vocals, Keyboards; Dana Oaks-Trumpet; Jim Perry-Drums; Mac
Ritehey-Guitar; Michele Lane-Sax; Peter Geraghty-Bass and Beth
And what one rule (or rules) in the business and theory of music does
Sarah Fimm like to break? "All of them," she says!--Steven Digman
Listen to soundbites, read further reviews and explore the artist's
debut album Cocooned at amazon.com
Certain to appeal to
Alanis Morissette and Tori Amos enthusiasts, the latest album from Sarah Fimm
is a lightly arranged collection of alternative singer songwriter tracks with
well defined lyrical edges. Worth a journey, the album is a nice
Image © Vanguard Records 2002
(17 October 2002) Shana Morrison is indeed the daughter of legendary singer songwriter Van Morrison. Her debut album on Vanguard Records is a twelve plus one
bonus track collection entitled 7 Wishes (79581-2, 2002). The album is an eclectic blend of rock, blues and pop. Ten of the songs are original while two are Van Morrison-penned tracks, "Naked In The Jungle" and "Sometimes We Cry."
Shana and her band Caledonia have amassed an ever-increasing following in the San Francisco Bay area with their 1999 self-released and self-titled debut album. With numerous local club performances, Shana and Caledonia
have also shared the stage with Bonnie Raitt, John Lee Hooker, Lyle Lovett and Keb' Mo' amongst others. On 7 Wishes Shana is joined by Shawn Pelton (drums), Michael Rhodes (bass), Kenny Greenberg (electric guitar),
Matt Rollings (B-3), Sonny Landreth (slide guitar), Steve Buckingham (acoustic guitar, percussion) and Chris Collins (electric guitar). Van Morrison provides harmonica and vocals on "Sometimes We Cry."
Musical Discoveries readers will find that Shana has a wide range that is both powerful and pure. With a style that might be described as cross clearly between Alanis Morissette Stevie Nicks (review) and Michelle Young (feature), the San Francisco Examiner suggests, "her vocal inflection, soaring melodic lines, and sophisticated use of dynamics are reminiscent of her father's performance style. Her material is eclectic and impressive -- a delightfully entertaining mix."
Standout tracks from the album include the Van Morrison-penned number "Naked In The Jungle" evocatively sung and reminiscent of Stevie Nicks both in singing and songwriting style. Listeners will enjoy the vocal layering and production quality and the stylistic variation of the entire recording especially the Alanis Morrissette sound of "Smoke In Bed" and the upbeat while whispy accessible quality of "Would I Could." The evocative gentle bluesy style rocker "God Must Love Me" blends effortlessly into the ethnic instrumental arrangement of the bonus track "Connection," with Shana's wide ranging lead and backing vocal lines.
The album is well-packaged with a full colour booklet, complete with lyrics and photographs accompanying the compact disc.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Clearly an recording be explored at length, the debut album by Shana Morrison is worth a trans-Atlantic journey; it is a must listen!
Image © Sound Resources 2002
(03 October 2002) The latest full length album from the American progressive rock band Glass Hammer is entitled Lex Rex (Arion Records (USA) SR1123, 2002). Comprised of eleven tracks, several of them being truly epic length, the album is certain to delight both prior and new fans. The album is principally the work of Steve Babb (lead and backing vocals, four and eight string bass guitars, synthesizers, keyboards, pipe organ, Hammond organ, Mellotron) and Fred Schendel (lead and backing vocals, steel guitars, Hammond organ and all Hammond leads, piano, pipe organ, keyboards, sunthesizers, Mellotron, mandolin, recorderdrums and percussion.
Solo vocals and backing vocals are also contributed by Susie Bogdanowicz, Walter Moore, Sarah Lovell, Haley McGuire, Robert Streets and Carrie Streets. Additional guitar leads are provided by David Carter, Charlie Shelton and Bjorn Lynne.
Musical Discoveries visitors will be especially intrigued with the female vocal parts in a small number of the tracks. Remaining male vocals are well performed and are balanced with the progressive instrumental arrangements. The overall texture has developed beyond the Yes-sound of Chronometree and one will hear elements of earlier Glass Hammer, Yes as well as Ambrosia in the final mix.
Lex Rex is modern day progressive rock classic. Like earlier Glass Hammer releases, it is highly thematic in lyrical content and story telling; but the departure comes in the overall cohesiveness of the pieces. While we would have certainly appreciated more female vocal passages, the vast keyboard rich instrumentals that doeminate the epics are certain to please the most committed progressive rock enthusiats. Melodies are deep rooted in the individual numbers and recur throughout the project. Guitar solos perfectly compliment the rich orchestral sound.
A brief opening statement introduces the first epic number "Tales of the Great Wars," which opens with a orchestrally lush keyboard and combined guitar passage. Crisp percussion underscores the number as the musical theme and vocal harmonies develop. A taste of the female singers includes a stunning lead vocal passage by Susie Bogdanowicz--oh, how we would like to hear more from her. Further epics on the album include "Further Up and Further In" and "When We Were Young" and feature vast keyboard and guitar excursions, lovely choir parts, numerous tempo changes and ambitious orchestral-style passages.
"One King" and "A Cup Of Trembling" are a very Yes-like tracks with both guitar and keyboard sounds reminscent of the band's classic period. They is vocally and instrumentally lush with female backing parts shining through appropriately. Chris Squire fans will instantaly be drawn to Steve Babb's bass guitar parts, Wakeman-style keyboard excursions as well as Fred Schendel's Howe-like steel guitar parts.
"Centurion" is a thematic, progressive soundtrack-like track with instrumentalsand vocals both contributing to the lush harmonies; mood changes, crisp percussion and asymetrical keyboards, reminiscent of ELP's Tarkus, also grace the track. An extensive collection of progressive rocking elements contribute to the dynamic track "When We Were Young," the last epic of the album. "Heroes and Dragons" is the light acoustic rocker that concludes the album.
Glass Hammer's music is dominated by massive keyboard arpeggios that run up and down across the various tracks of the album. Although the album is not blessed with a vast number of female lead parts, the women add a lovely texture to the sound whether backing male leads or participating in the lush choir parts. The strength of the album is largely in the songwriting and instrumentals whose arrangements are just superb.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
here. Dave Shoemaker from CD Services says, "With Glass Hammer producing some of the finest melodic prog on the planet, using their instruments in more of a traditionally progressive style,
they surely must be considered as the undisputed
kings of the American symphonic prog scene." A stunning album in all respects, clearly this one is a must listen!
"Apparition" by D. Haskin
Image © Dreamtime Records 2002
Image © Dreamtime Records 2002
Image © Dreamtime Records 2000
(13 October 2002) Based out of Buffalo, New York, and featuring Ann Janish, Ray Lorigo, Daniel Haskin, and Pat O'Connell, The Dreaming blend myriads of styles, from alternative folk, to jazz, to ethereal, to progressive, weaving their own style of musical soundscape. The artists are all established in the Buffalo jazz and folk scene. Full biographies are available at the band's website.
The Dreaming's full length album Picturebook Rain (Dreamtime Records (USA), 2002) has just been released. This album follows a six-track EP entitled Silent (Dreamtime Records (USA), 2000) released almost two years ago. We review them both here.
Picturebook Rain. The band's first full-length album is comprised of fourteen relatively short tracks that span a range of styles. Ann Janish-Schieder continues to front the band on vocals and contributes keyboard and piano. The line-up is completed by Ray Lorgo (guitars, classical, acoustic, electric), Daniel Haskin (guitars, acoustic, electric ebow, keyboards) and Pat O'Connell (drums, percussion). Guests include Chris Nagy (drums) and Cathy Carfagna-Meinzer and Mari Anderson (backing vocals)
The album is a clear development from the band's first EP release. Instrumental and vocal arrangements are substantially more lush. The band have certainly developed into the art- or progressive-rock direction from the folky and bluesy roots of their debut through the loss of the violin and viola parts. It takes a while to get used to the "slightly out" timing of the various instrumental layers. The album opens with the title track which is an upbeat but light progressive-style rock classic. Vocal layers make an instant positive impression.
"Fifteen Minutes" is an upbeat rock style piece with lovely acoustic guitar backing and solos during the instrumental bridges and a sensitively sung vocal line. The sweet folk rock tune "Keep Breathing" is more sultry but equally enjoyable. The album's acoustic guitar instrumental "Need" builds upon "Ultramarine" from the band's debut EP. An album standout is light rocker "No Man," richly arranged around keyboard, guitar and drums and Ann Janish's lovely while somewhat sultry lead vocal. We especially enjoyed the flute (keyboard) solo during the instrumental bridge.
The ballad "Asymetrical," backed with acoustic guitar and flute (keyboard), is reminscent of Michael Dunford's Renaissance with Stephanie Adlington in both arrangement and Ann's theatrical vocal style. Lush symphonic keyboard arrangements support the slow progressive track "Beautiful Lost Thing." Ann's continued theatrical vocal delivery and the keyboard-based arrangements perfectly compliment one another. The upbeat folky tune "Sweet Mary" effectively incorporate Cathy's and Mari's lovely backing vocals as does the jazz rock crossover "Ophelia in Pink Electric Blue," two of the album's standouts.
The slow and atmospheric ballad "Evergreen and Red" blends acoustic guitar and keyboards in an effective arrangements to perfectly support Ann's lead vocal.
We especially enjoyed the mood and tempo changes in the rocker "Bed of Roses," the definitive album standout with vocals underscored by a dynamic progressive-style piano, guitar and drum arrangement.
"Below The Navel" illustrates the band's funkier style with Chris Nagy on drums, electric guitar excursions and layers of Ann's vocals adding to the resulting texture. "Alone In My Room" is lightly arranged with only acoustic guitar and finger snapping giving Ann's vocals the space to shine. The album closes with the evocatively sung torch song "Stay," accompanied by piano alone except for the instrumental brige which includes a lovely acoustic guitar sequence.
Silent. The Dreaming's first recording is comprised of six relatively short tracks dominated by Ann Janish's sweet and sensual vocals. The line-up for the CD is completed by Ray Lorigo (acoustic, classical guitar), Daniel Haskin (acoustic / electric guitar, juno 106), Cindy McCaffery (viola, zeta violin) and Kilissa Cissoko (percussion, conga). The recording opens with "I Think I'll Disappear" a light folk rock tune sung primarily over acoustic guitar although light keyboards and viola underscore the main melody well.
In the bluesy track "Need," viola takes over in the melody supported by acoustic guitar. Ann's vocals climb well above the arrangement with power and range that illustrate the depth of her talent. The acoustic guitar dominates "Silent," a lightly rocking tune with folk roots that emerge from Cindy's viola part. Again the listener is treated to Ann's powerful vocal which climbs above the instrumental arrangement. "The Getaway" is a slow and bluesy track that derives its texture from sliding guitar chords and a sultry vocal line. We especially enjoyed the piano part during the instrumental bridge.
The violin and viola parts in "For Real" establish the upbeat folk rock texture that underscores Ann's evocative lead vocal. The concluding track is a classical guitar instrumental entitled "Ultramarine" and is a tribute to the virtuousity of Ray Lorigo and Daniel Haskin. Like their full length album, the band's EP appears to have been put together without the aid of digital sequencing and the timing of the individual parts has that "slightly out" quality of an almost live recording.
Both CDs by The Dreaming can be ordered from the band's website. Clearly worth a journey this light progressive band's music should be explored further. The material is indeed a very nice listen!
Image © Sarathan Publishing 2001
(13 October 2002) Two Loons for Tea is Jonathan Kochmer (composition and guitar) and Sarah Scott (lyrics and vocals). Looking For Landmarks is the group's second album, a follow-up to their self-titled debut. In addition to the songwriter, Eric Rosse (Tory Amos, Kristy Thirsk), Matt Chamberlain and Mell Dettmer are credited with production. Rosse also provides a variety of other inputs to the album--see the band's website for further details on his contribution and those of the bevy of other artists involved in the recording.
Looking For Landmarks (Sarathan (USA) 71, 2002) is comprised of eleven average-length alternative but edgy rock-style tracks sung by Sarah Scott. Perfectly named for the rocking bluesy style, "Blue Suit" opens the album and introduces the listener to Sarah Scott's whispy lead vocal. It is clear from this opening track that the arrangements have been as well thought out as they are well played. The title track is a good bit slower with blues tones drawing on the melancholy in the verses but sonically awakening in the chorus. An album standout is the latin-styled and lushly arranged "Dying For Love" with layer upon layer of Sarah's lovely vocals.
Two Loons for Tea are not shy with their instrumental arrangements and guitar effects perfectly compliment vocal layers in "Blood For Sugar," a whispy ballad come gentle rocker. In sharp contrast is "Sad Diamonds," a bluesy ballad performed essentially just by the duo with Sarah's vocals accompanied by Jonathan's acoustic guitar with the small exception of Sanjay's small electric guitar part. A thicker arrangement builds with strings, additional percussion and vocal layering in the powerful tune "She's Not Worth The Worry."
And the depth of the arrangements continues to build in the raunchy "Shape Of Strange," with rich bass, various guitar effect and funky brass sounds adding texture underneath Sarah's reaching vocals. Another album standout is "Green Limousine" whose tempo changes coupled with lush and widely accessible rock arrangements pay tribute to the individual performers and production team.
In contrast, the bluesy "Emily" is almost starkly arranged with the exception of lovely vocal harmonies and the tune is left to showcase Sarah Scott's evocative work. "The Prisoner" rebuilds the depth of the album's arrangements yet continues to provide opportunities for Sarah to show her vocal prowess in this lightly rocking ballad with a great orchestral conclusion. The album concludes with the lush arrangements of "This Mortal Rodeo," where the everso powerful bass and further instruments underscore the melody without destroying Sarah's vocal line. A hidden (unnamed) bonus track at the twelfth position begins at 0:33. An instrumental with thick bass, light spacey electronic instrumentation and layers of vocalise, it runs for just under six minutes.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
here. Two Loons For Tea Looking For Landmarks is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!