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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.

Jennifer Terran
Margaret Far
Eva Cassidy
Various Artists (Iona, etc)
Various Artists (Karnataka, etc)
Laura Turner
Daughter Darling
City Lights

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Instrumental Digest
Chimera CD Cover
Image © Nettwerk Productions 2003

More Delerium
Semantic Spaces

(05 July 2003) The Canadian master of female-fronted electronica, Bill Leeb, is back with his newest bevy of spectacular singers featured on the latest Delerium album, Chimera (Nettwerk (USA) 0 6700 30306 01, 2003). According to Greek mythology, the Chimera was a fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion, body of a goat and tail of a serpent. It plagued the land until it was killed by Bellerophon who was riding the winged horse, Pegasus. The word chimera can also mean an impossible and malleable scheme or fancy. Appropriately, this mythological and mystical-sounding word captures the metamorphosizing and haunting quality of this most recent Delerium release.

Once again, Bill Leeb mans the Delerium vessel as producer and melody-shaper. This time around, one-time Delerium partner Rhys Fulber--who most recently released his own project entitled Conjure One (review) has returned to produce and program several of the tracks on Chimera. Carmen Rizzo also features as co-producer and programmer on the remaining tracks. As with Delerium's previous album Poem, live drums by Sarah McLachlan's husband Ashwin Sood, and strings arranged by Jane Scarpentoni are featured prominently, giving the album an even more organic feel.

Although some die-hard Delerium fans have resented the group's exploration of world and pop music, it is extremely gratifying to see Delerium progress and mature with each succeeding album. Beginning with Semantic Spaces--with its more disembodied, cold and industrial sound--to the present, each Delerium album has strived for a more functional song-based content. Chimera is clearly Delerium's most "proper" pop album to date.

Most of the tracks are standard in length--instead of the 8-plus minute tracks that used to appear on past Delerium albums--and contain the more common intro / verse / pre-chorus / chorus / bridge formula. Despite this move away from the experimental realm, Delerium's work continues to be fresh and exciting both lyrically and melodically. In fact, the songs on Chimera are more wide-ranging in mood and color than any of the songs on Poem, Karma, or Semantic Spaces. Suffice it to say that Bill Leeb and company do not disappoint.

Even fans of older Delerium albums will appreciate the two more epic and soundtrack-flavored pieces, "Serenity" and "Eternal Odyssey." Both are haunting, amorphous and visionary, relying less upon a structured vocal line and more upon intermittent ethnic samples and wails In fact, "Eternal Odyssey" cleverly weaves the melody from Samuel Barber's gorgeous "Adagio" within the fabric of steady beats and spectral electronic touches.

Some of the tracks on Chimera like "Love" featuring the fabulous voice of Faithless collaborator Zoe Johnston and "Returning" sung by the sorely-missed original Delerium voice, angelic Kristy Thirsk are highly pleasing electronic gems. Others, like the certifiably club-friendly "After All" featuring Jael of the band "Lunik" and the retro/disco treat "Truly" featuring Nerina Pallot push the album's energy up a notch.

Still, others like the spine-tingling "Just a Dream" sung by the stunning Margaret Far and "Touched" with Rachel Fuller--and, incidentally, one this reviewer's favorite track on the album--are more mellow and contemplative in tone. Most suprising is Delerium's foray into the jazz/chill/trip-hop realm. "Orbit of Me" sung by Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer, "Magic" featuring Twin Peaks diva Julee Cruise, and "Stopwatch Hearts" sung by Emily Haines are all great songs that incorporate jazz chord progressions and hip-hop drums.

Although this is an entirely new genre for Delerium, Bill Leeb and the vocalists pull it off with class and panache. Most importantly, this triad of songs actually enhance rather than distrub the flow of the album. Another unique track is "Forever After" featuring Sultana which combines spoken word/rap and Arabic/Indian instrumentation to great effect. Finally, the emotional "Fallen" sung by Rani is a poignant song about an otherworldly being who loves a human and wishes to enter the material world.

It should also be noted that the Chimera bonus CD contains the extra track "Stopwatch Hearts" and a remix of "After All," as well as three videos of previous Delerium hits: "Silence," "Flowers Become Screens," and "Aria." In total, fans receive 14 new tracks, one remix, and three videos for the price of one CD--reason enough to be grateful to Bill Leeb and Nettwerk Records. This reviewer, for one, is most enthusiastic about Delerium's Chimera, finding it to be a worthy addition to the group's string of top-notch albums.--Justin Elswick

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Delerium continues to be one of the leading electronic acts making music today. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey like their previous material, this album is undoubtedly a must listen!

The Musician CD Cover
Image © Grizelda Records 2000 
  (11 July 2003) From the opening few bars of sparse piano and voice it is obvious that Jennifer Terran has created an album of refreshing honesty and emotional quality. Terran's clear voice blends perfectly with the simple piano and string arrangements throughout this record. Comparisons with Tori Amos seem unavoidable as both have their own very distinct piano based writing and vocal style. Even without the richness of Tori’s voice Terran shows an incredible depth and range together with a terrific aptitude for shimmering harmony lines on tracks such as "The Painter," "Unconditional Love" and "Magdeline Try," which is an outstanding final track before Terran's spoken close to the album.

Terran's songs range from the very personal to the self aware, while songs such as "This Recording" and "Mad Magdaline" encourage the listener to think about the music industry. The flow of songs is frequently interupted by Terran speaking and nowhere is this more effective that in the inbetween song that serves as an intro to "Mad Magdeline." Spoken and sung lines blend together to evoke the true madness of the situation where the industry picks and chooses and shapes artists, crushing the real talent dispite not being able to exist without the musician. Hearing Terran speak, describing how to avoid 'the inbetween song' and how she uses her microphones for example, draws the listener into the music, it becomes 'an exchange' (Terran's description). This can be disconcerting, giving the album a very different feel, even if they invariably lead smoothly into the songs.

The instrumentation stays similar throughout, varied by Terran's clever piano work but it is a relief to hear the change to a guitar base in "Emotional Laxative" and the voice and percussion working so well together in "Sticky Sweet," this last being an excellent example of the way in which Terran allows the listener to hear the bones of her work. The voices in the background of the track put it into a very real environment - there is none of the sterile atmosphere that we hear so often in the manufactured pop industry of today. This record manages to simultaneously avoid all the pitfalls of the modern manufactured artist while remaining commercial in its own way. Jennifer Terran has written, produced, engineered, arranged, mixed, mastered and released independantly an outstanding album that I know I will be playing for years to come.--Evelyn Downing

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here.  

Daytrip CD Cover
Image © Middlechild Music 2003

(05 July 2003) Margaret Far, who also appears on the Delerium album Chimera (revew), has released her own solo debut album entitled Daytrip (Middlechild Music (USA) 6699106 21721, 2003). Stylistically, Margaret's voice falls somewhere between the open-toned and lush singing of Moya Brennan and the sensual crooning of Sarah McLachlan.

Margaret has that wonderful ability to eliminate most of the vibrato from her voice--somewhat in the traditional Irish sean-nos style--instead stretching each note honey-like over scintillating soundscapes. She has influences that include Kate Bush, Bjork and Peter Gabriel. Touches of these influences appear in Daytrip. However, the album is entirely novel. Margaret served as the album's co-producer, writer, instrumentalist and vocalist--quite a significant undertaking for such a young artist--and the results are spectacular.

The songs on Daytrip range from the drum-and-bass-y ("Half Man Half Horse") to the jazz-sprinkled ("I Dwell in Possibility") to the creamy ballad ("In All Your Love"). Exceptional tracks on the album include the dense and ambient "Will I Drown" which utilizes sparse rythmic elements, and sonorous synths to perfectly compliment Margaret's languorous vocals.

The tender "Take My Hand" is a serene and dreamy number that slowly pulses with elegant intensity. Stirring lyrics contribute heavily to the album's overall success. On "Little Blue Room," Maragret expertly moves from simple piano and vocals in the verses to multi-layered Enya-esque majesty in the chorus. The result is a hymn-like slice of heaven. The closing track "Sing me to Sleep" is a fantastic finisher that calls to mind Sarah McLachlan's "I Love You."

"Daytrip" creates a wonderful sense of well-contentedness as if the listeners ears are being brushed with diaphanous gauze. With Daytrip, Margaret Far has shown herself to be a potent singer/songwriter. We look forward to what this new voice may create in the future.--Justin Elswick

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Margaret Far is emerging as a vocalist to be followed. Clearly worth a journey, this album is a very nice listen!

American Tune CD Cover
Image © Blix Street Records 2003 

(15 July 2003) The crux of today's music--the selling point--is the unified accepted practice on how to market the "voice ratio coalescence", of any artist who is too diverse to fit into the standard "everything sounds the same" scale of songs.

The usual answer is to not sign the artist. Or, with some marketing persuasions (pressure) to somehow adjust the artist (the vocal constants), thereby decreasing the musical CD ratio to a more simplistic and easy to understand (and this is important), easy to "sell" musical language - American Tune is not this, and either was Eva Cassidy!

In words well worth repeating: "It was said that Eva could not get a recording contract with a major label because her choice of material [the vocal constants] was to varied, I found that Eva's perceived weakness was in reality her strength." (From the liner notes "Imagine" - Bill Straw, Blix Street Records). Today Straw elucidates even further: "Eva let the cat out of the bag ... and the majors have joined the party; exhibit 'A' being Nora Jones. It's no coincidence that the major label that broke Nora Jones--Capital/Blue Note--was the same label that passed on Eva because she was too eclectic. They lost Eva, went to school on Eva's success, and eventually graduated with honors by breaking Nora Jones. The big winners are music fans everywhere."

And American Tune is proof of all of the above!

"Be-singing" with "Drowning In A Sea Of Love" (Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff), Cassidy evokes the meaning / definition of true audio imagery. Giving to the listener not just the sound, but the sight and feel of sound. It's a good song that only gets better - "Better" because it is sung by a great voice. "True Colors" (Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg) is a familiar song to many, but has never until now been interpreted with such audio/visual passion /perception, of total Eva vocalized color!

The title track "American Tune" (Paul Simon) is Cassidy at maximum clarity, and is sung with the vocal-point convergence of two distinctive parts - Eva's heart, and Eva's vocal s oul. Listen to the words. "Yesterday" (Lennon and McCartney) is a ballad of understated beauty. Powerful... but ever gently, so.

And the final track, "You Take My Breath Away" (Claire Hamill) and Eva vocally does! Featuring members of the Eva Cassidy Band: Keith Grimes (guitar), Raice McLeod (drums), Lenny Williams (piano), Chris Biondo (for producer plays bass), with special performances by Dan Cassidy (violin) and the multi-instrumentalist (genius) of Marcy Marxer.

In conclusion, American Tune is soon to be an American Classic. It is a listening study into the heart (art) of Cassidy style vocal fusion. A successful union of ten-tracks formed into a beautiful CD syncretism, of one great voice singing (meeting), the diversity of songs. Eva Cassidy died in 1996.--Steven Digman

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here.

The Cold Light Of Darkness CD Cover
Image © Tr3nity 2001
click image to visit artists' website

(26 July 2003) Tr3nity are a five member group from Basingstoke, England, a place not very far from London but rural enough to give artists the kind of freedom needed to produce classic rock creatively. The band's first offering, The Cold Light Of Darkness (Cyclops (UK) CYCL 111, 2002) is an eight track neo-progressive concept project. The last four tracks actually comprise and epic "The Exposure Suite." And you aren't meant to find a female singer anywhere on the CD. Never mind that--this is a superb recording with over an hour of material that our readers will flip over.

The band are fronted by lead singer Chris Campbell whose stage background and major musical credits come shine in the power, range and emotion delivered into the microphone. The band was formed by Rob Davenport (guitars, bass) and Paul Gath (keyboards) in 1998. Campbell and Rolf Smith (drums) joined during 1999. Graham Lane has recently joined the band, adding bass to their stage act. He will also play bass on the forthcoming follow up album. The band is said to be influenced by Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes and other big 70s rock bands. Indeed one can clearly hear the foundation--sweeping keyboard and soaring guitars especially fill the various solos that grace the album--in their material. The extended keyboard and guitar passages that conclude "Into The Dark" are among the first incredible expositions of the artists' virtuosity.

The Cold Light Of Darkness draws the listener in from first listen but it is the concept behind the lyrics that makes this more than just another neo-prog album. With a strong emphasis on melody and structure, the album is a mature work that explores the delicate and challenging subject of child abuse and neglect. The subject is treated with sensitivity but never denies the underlying truth. Says Paul Gath, "The concept for The Cold Light of Darkness originated from the combination of a desire to explore the personal effects of drug abuse on all individuals involved, including the addicts themselves as well as their families and acquaintances." Rob Davenport's niece Aime serves as the model for the stunning photographs taken by Paul Gath and used throughout the album's artwork

The album delivers the message by telling the story of Cathy, gradually unfolding a period of child abuse followed by an entanglement in the drug scene through associations with the less desirable. The story further unfolds from there. In addition to the album, Tr3nity have had a variety of live dates during 2003. A performance with Karnataka at the Classic Rock Society (HLC Rotherham) has generated a lot of interest in the band and their material.

Campbell's voice perfectly compliments the structure of the album since after all it is a concept work and the arrangements work cinematically with the strong lyrical messages, each element of the complex story delivered with a different element of emotion. Instrumentals vary effectively between those that back the lyrics to the outstanding keyboard and guitar solos found on the most progressive of albums. What sets Tr3nity clearly aside is their ability to weave keyboard passages into an almost new age sound between these two extremes. The material is complex and melodic. It is superb. Much of the story is told through Cathy's words--it made us think of how this album might sound if some of the more poignant lyrics were sung by a female vocalist instead.

Progressive rock enthusiasts will be delighted with some of the extended track lengths as well, some will see the four-part suite as one large masterwork--we certainly did. Structurally the material is as progressive as it comes. The conceptual theme of the lyrics is perfectly complimented by the arrangements. And while there are no female backing vocalists, there are passages with lovely harmonies. We are told that female backing singers are being considered for the follow-up. The album's sound effects are incredibly realistic and are by no means contrived; such is thunder and rain that precedes the acoustic intro of "Into The Dark," an evocative and heavily themed tune.

With new age and progressive rock textures providing much of the foundation, the bluesy rhythms and lush backing vocals (are there some women in here?) in the epic "Which Way?" generate additional interest and show the diversified realms this band can cover. Paul Gath's keyboard and Rob Davenport's guitar solos duel throughout the bridge, but it is the extended guitar solo that places the song clearly in the progressive rock camp.

The four-part (21-minute) "Exposure Suite" explores the many facets of Cathy's personality and the thoughts and feelings that she experiences that lead her to eventual salvation and redemption. "The Film" is a theatrically oriented ballad with primarily acoustic guitar and light keyboard providing the perfect foundation for Chris Campbell's evocative vocal lead. Instrumentals--electric guitar, thick bass and keyboard--build to reflect additional emotion as vocals rise to deliver the message. The vocal harmonies in the concluding passages are tremendous. Many will likely agree with us that it is one of the album's standouts.

The suite continues with the slow, melodic yet instrumentally austere track "Help Me" which clearly illustrates Chris Campbell's sensitive delivery. Only light keyboard backs this emotional tune. Brightness returns in the ballad "Is There A Paradise?" in lyrical content, lovely backing harmonies and piano melody. A very West End oriented number, it drifts significantly away from the progressive rock sound heard earlier on the album. But it quickly returns with the highly varied textures of the concluding track "Can't You See?." Rocking drums and high pitched--flute-styled--keyboards open the piece before the band's full splendour is displayed in this tremendous culmination of the album. Evocative vocals--in a range of styles--are backed by symphonic progressive arrangements. Listeners will adore the vocals and the instrumental solos. A song-based progressive track and album standout, it is a perfect conclusion to this stunning album.

We are told that the next album is well underway. We can't wait to hear it. Until then read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the debut album from amazon.com here. Further exploration of this material is most clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey. We believe that Tr3nity's album The Cold Light Of Darkness is a must listen!

Songs For Luca CD Cover
Image © Open Sky Records 2003

More by Iona
Woven Cord
Open Sky
The River Flows
Southampton - 1997
Rotherham - 2002

More by Joanne Hogg
Featured Artist
Looking Into Light
New Irish Hymns
New Irish Hymns #2

More by Eden's Bridge
Isle Of Tides

More by Máire Brennan
Whisper To The Wild Water
New Irish Hymns
A Magical Gathering
Two Horizons (review and interview)
Alexandria, VA - 1999

More by Rick Wakeman
Rick Wakeman DVDs
Out There
With Yes Jones Beach - 2002
Croydon - 2003

More by Mae McKenna
Mirage and Reality
Shore To Shore
Faire Celts
Celtic Mystique

More by Karnataka
The Storm
Karnataka In Concert DVD
Delicate Flame Of Desire
HLC Rotherham - 2000
With Mostly Autumn Rotherham - 2001
Mean Fiddler - 2001
With Sleeping Giant Aylesbury - 2002
With October Project NYC - 2002
Classic Rock Festival Trenton - 2002
Southampton and Crewe - 2003


(20 July 2003) Dave and Debbie Bainbridge in conjunction with Iona's Open Sky Records have produced a stunning two CD compilation entitled Songs For Luca (Open Sky (UK) VP999CD, 2003). The 26 tracks spanning the collection include contributions from a wide variety of artists--Iona, Máire Brennan, Rick Wakeman, Karnataka and Mae McKenna to name a few--that will appeal to Iona and progressive/Celtic rock enthusiasts. Proceeds from the CD sales are going towards helping Dave and Debbie's son Luca through his Son-Rise® (Autism Treatment Center of America) program. Voiceprint's Rob Ayling has played a major role in bringing this release to fruition. Material can be best grouped into tracks by Iona and Iona-related artists, other Celtic artists, progressive rock, and other instrumentals.

Iona enthusiasts will be delighted with the related material included on the compilation. The first unreleased track by the band is "Beijing - The Widescreen Remix" which appears near the end of the first CD. Equally enticing is "Man - Live in Tokyo" and "Open My Eyes - Reprise (Live in Norwich Cathedral)" which grace the second CD. Recording and production quality of these rare tracks is nothing short of superb with atmosphere, power, emotion and artistic talent perfectly captured.

Contributions by the Iona artists are equally well done. These include the opening instrumental "Columba Aspexit" by former band member David Fitzgerald, the dynamic "Sights" by award winning multi-instrumentalist Troy Donockley and Dave Bainbridge's own previously unreleased acoustic guitar track "In the Wake of Colmcille." Further contributions by Iona band members include Joanne Hogg's "Brightest and Best," Nick Beggs' special contributions to the album and previously unreleased tracks "For Luca" and "Forever in my Heart" and two from Frank van Essen entitled "Esther" and "Labyrinth." In addition to his contribution with Eden's Bridge, Terl Bryant's "My Song is Love Unknown" is another great track featuring Joanne Hogg's vocals. The Iona sound can be heard in all of these. The CDs conclude with piano numbers by Debbie Bainbridge entitled "Starlit Garden" and "Bright Flame," both previously unreleased.

Especially notable inclusions by artists new to Musical Discoveries' editors include the stunning--standout--Celtic-styled track "Open Sea" by Eden's Bridge featuring the vocal work of Sarah Lacy, percussion by former Iona member Terl Bryant and woodwinds by Capercaillie's Michael McGoldrick. We hope to review their latest album Isle Of Tides (Jude Music) soon. Jeff Johnson's "I'll Look for You" is another great number. The whispy vocals, light piano and sensitive percussion make "Shepherd Wheel" by the Peter Fairclough group another interesting track.

Mae McKenna's contributions of "The Whistlin' Gypsy Rover" and "Ca' the Ewes," Máire Brennan's "Misty Eyed Adventures" and Karnataka's (Rachel Jones) "After The Rain" serve as a wonderful introduction to the vocalists featured on the forthcoming (autumn 2003) Dave Bainbridge solo album Veil Of Gossamer with vocal contributions from these singers as well as Joanne Hogg. Says Dave, "There are to be nine tracks on the album, and I hope I've struck a nice balance of simpler acoustic sections with the more epic sounding full on bits! There are voices on six of the tracks and although I recorded the three main singers (Mae, Jo and Rachel) at different sessions (indeed in different countries--England, Ireland and Wales--their voices blend together really well and compliment each other exactly as I hoped they would."

The album is rounded out by contributions from friends of Iona: The Flower Kings' "A King's Prayer" (specially reworked for this album), Rick Wakeman's acoustic version of the Cat Stevens classic featured in many of Rick's live shows "Morning Has Broken" and Gentle Giant's "Aspritations." The droning tones of "Lament" by Julie Tippetts will likely not appeal to everyone however the evocative piano tune "Like Father, Like Son" by Adrian Snell is certainly will draw the listener in.

Songs For Luca will be a great introduction to Iona's artists for newcomers and an essential compilation for existing enthusiasts' collections. In addition to contributing to a great cause, the album is one to seek out for your own enjoyment. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey it is by all counts a must listen!

CRS Acoustic Sessions
Image © Classic Rock Society 2003

More by Gina Dootson
3AM Generation
Edge On

More by Sleeping Giant
Primates and Embers
With Karnataka Aylesbury - 2002

More by Karnataka
The Storm
Karnataka In Concert DVD
Delicate Flame Of Desire
HLC Rotherham - 2000
With Mostly Autumn Rotherham - 2001
Mean Fiddler - 2001
With Sleeping Giant Aylesbury - 2002
With October Project NYC - 2002
Classic Rock Festival Trenton - 2002
Southampton and Crewe - 2003


(20 July 2003) The CRS Acoustic Sessions (CRS (UK) Hudrok002CD, 2003) was recorded at the Herringthorpe Leisure Centre, Rotherham on January 18, 2003 and features selections by Karnataka, Sleeping Giant, Miv Cameron Band, Gina Dootson and Tommy Binks. This is the first time The Classic Rock Society have mounted an all-acoustic evening, and the resulting CD is a well-recorded and -packaged affair, with design by Oliver Wakeman.

The contributors are largely regular visitors to the CRS stage, however the first two tracks are by young Rotherham singer-songwriter Tommy Binks. "Eskillater" and "Janet" are both direct and humorous, strongly influenced (to my ears) by post-punk troubadour Billy Bragg, and steeped in the quirks of ordinary living. He seems talented.

Gina Dootson is next up, and her contributions are somewhat more intense. The artist is well known to our visitors, she has an excellent voice, in the US folk style, and her songwriting is tuneful and perceptive. "Wrapped" has an excellent hook, and some frantic guitar playing from Gina, while "Crippled" is an haunting, slower piece. "Slide" is her last contribution, its repetitive hook building into a thunderous climax with her voice at full power. On the evidence of these three songs she sounds like a terrific prospect.

The Miv Cameron band, bring slightly more diverse instrumentation to their performance. Several guitars, some lovely vocal harmonies, and atmospheric keyboards give more weight to these gentle folk songs in a traditional vein. "I love you" and "The Empty Seat" are good examples, while"Kieran" adds some well-chosen whistles into the mix. Miv herself has a good, though unremarkable, voice.

Sleeping Giant are also well known to Musical Discoveries, so it would be interesting to hear what a full, acoustic band performance could do with their songs. In fact, the arrangements here are largely restrained versions of their electric counterparts, with Leon Parr’s drums replaced by conga’s and percussion, Dave Foster on acoustic guitar, Simon Crumley remaining electric on bass, and James Rimmer confining himself to piano. "When your best is never good enough" from the Primates mini-album is a good choice, with Charlotte Evans only slightly more restrained than normal, while "Nothing More," from the "Embers" EP is a delight, with its lovely piano figure to the fore and Charlotte in fine voice. "December Moon" also works well, and actually manages to "soar" in the same way the electric version does.

Sleeping Giant offer faithful versions of songs without much rearrangement. However, Karnataka, performing as a three piece of Rachel Jones on vocals, Ian Jones on guitar and Jonathan Edwards on keyboards do something entirely different, presenting completely stripped down versions with an entirely different feel. "Must be the Devil" with Jonathan’s "Doors" like keyboard runs, is positively moody, with Rachel singing much more gently than she is normally able to do live. "Strange Behaviour" is a fairly straightforward version of the song as it must have been as it was written, with very subtle keyboard textures just hinting at its electric arrangement. "There Must be a Way" from their first album, is not performed live in an electric arrangement now, but the gentle version here is the album highlight, with Jonathan's piano part absolutely perfectly arranged. Finally, "Crazy," again, takes on a whole new life as another brooding acoustic piece.

Martin Hudson and the CRS should be congratulated for an excellent recording of what sounded like a memorable event. Each of the artists represented did themselves proud – and Karnataka fans will want this for the version of "There Must be a Way" on its own!--Stephen Lambe

Some Horses CD Cover
Image © Rock House Music 1995 

(11 August 2003) Discovered as our Laura Turner feature went to press initially, her first album Some Horses (Rock House Music Productions (USA), 1995) is a sharp contrast to her 2003 album Soul Deep. The album is comprised of thirteen country and western favourites. Recorded in 1995, the album includes well known country and western songs like "Streets of Laredo," "King of the Road" and "Sweet Wyoming Home." The album gives a unique insight to the artist's development and although un-noticed at the time of release, her rising popularity is likely to draw attention to this early work.

Produced and engineered by Trent Walker, Laura sings lead vocals and is joined by Michael Dowdle (guitar), Vince Frates (piano), Todd Sorensen (drums), Pat Smith (bass), Ben Winship (mandolin), and Timothy Hodgson (fiddle). Backing vocals are contributed by Jake Gray, Marsh Morford and Amy Winkle. The album was arranged by Daniel Lee. Don't expect operatic vocals here--this is a country and western album. We would expect nothing less from Laura Turner--the material is sung well and simply well arranged. Hear the early work of this rapidly emerging singer on this recording.

While each of the tracks will appeal differently to enthusiasts of Laura's work, the title track ("Some Horses") and "Borderline" are certainly album standouts. The electric guitar work and vocal excursions are most notable. A mix of ballads, sing-alongs and country and western standards span the album. The unmistakable clarity of Laura's well-trained voice is evident in "Night Riders Lament." Her treatment of "Streets of Laredo" and "King of the Road" is lovely. The crystalline vocal work in the country ballads "Old Tin Barn" and "Lights Of Home" is also enticing. The tender vocals in "Rock a Bye" explore the wider extremes of Laura's early range. The guitar solos are also excellent.

Some Horses will appeal to a somewhat different audience than Soul Deep. Country and western music remains the most widely listened to genre in America and while the Some Horses is an outstanding recording, it falls short of showing Laura's vocal range. Nor does it illustrate her rare talent of blending operatic vocals with popular arrangements. But it is an essential album for completists and those that want to see what she did earlier in her career.

The album is available through the Horse Feathers Ranch online store. Click on the album cover to visit their site. While there are no soundbites online at this time, perhaps some mp3s will be added as interest in the artist grows with the release of Soul Deep. Visit our online feature and Laura's website for further information on what the artist is doing now. There are no references to this project in either of these locations. This album, a rare find, required a bit more behind-the-scenes research.

Sweet Shadows CD Cover
Image © Plain Jane Records 2003

More Daughter Darling
Interview and Photos

Image © Plain Jane Records 2003

(26 July 2003) Daughter Darling, a trio comprising Natalie Walker (vocals, lyrics, guitar, keyboards), Travis Fogelman (producer, programmer) and Stephen Fogelman (producer, programmer, dj) have released their highly-anticipated debut Sweet Shadows (Plain Jane Records (USA) 783707725826, 2003). The final result is a luminous and breathtaking collection of eleven tracks that are moody, evocative and poignant.

The band openly admits their influences, which include trip-hop and female singer/songwriter artists such as Portishead, Sneaker Pimps, Poe and Tori Amos. And while some of the ethereal and haunting qualities of these artists shine through in Daughter Darling's work, the band has successfully developed their own unique style and sound that sets them apart from other acts in the "trip-hop" field.

While some of the tracks do retain downtempo percussion lines and the occassional dj "scratch," the majority of Daughter Darling's songs are imbued with a searing loveliness that allows the music to transcend the standard "trip-hop" label. This may be in large part due to Natalie's blazing and powerful voice and the fresh piano (JD Kinder) and stings (Daniel DeJesus) that are featured in many of the songs.

Natalie's voice, which sounds eerily like the marriage of Sarah McLachlan and Fiona Apple's voices, is one of the single best that we've heard in some time. Hailing from the Indianapolis area, Natalie answered Travis Fogelman's ad for a female vocalist to sing lead for a trip-hop band. Strangely, Natalie is a very devout Christian and Travis and Stephen are avowed atheists. After several attempts to move the album forward, Natalie almost walked away to pursue a career as a Christian singer. Fortunately, luck--or destiny--was on the trio's side. Like any good band, Daughter Darling's members had their share of creative differences. However, the various opposing forces that came into play during the creative sessions for Sweet Shadows have beautifully coalesced into something wonderful.

The soldily melancholy "Broken Bridge," is the opening track. Featuring a breakbeat percussion groove and whip-sharp piano, Natalie's voice immediately invades the listener's ears. Add to this some superbly well-crafted lyrics and the end result is an addicting and lush first track. "Shattered" is a deeply affecting song about suicide. Here, Natalie uses her rich and emotional singing to give proper treatment to the subject matter. The instrumentation is looming and dark without being oppressive. Track three is the Fiona Apple-esque "Let Me Speak." Throwing down some seriously "skanky" beats, Travis supplies the meat for the song along with his brother Stephen (aka DJ Infinit) who spices up the entire thing with some fierce scratching. And of course, Natalie sounds amazing in her moaning torch-singer mode.

The goose-bump-inducing "Absconding" is definitely a highlight. Relying soley upon JD Kinder's piano and Daniel DeJesus' cello, Natalie completely rips the ceiling down (vocally speaking) and proves that Canadian and European singers aren't the only ones that can unleash the otherwordly with their voices. "Mermaid" is an ambient/chill-out piece that winds steadily into the heart. Who would have ever thought that aquatic noises and ocean waves would combine so perfectly with drum-n-bass percussion? The funk-o-matic "Sad and Lonely" is a terrific piece, emphasizing Daughter Darling's ability to work within a more traditional jazz realm.

The folkie "Things Untold" compares favorably with Jewel's "Who Will Save Your Soul" in its contemplative and meandering style. "Voodoo Games" is the darkest track on the album. The story is about an individual who uses a voodoo doll against his former girlfriend. The music reflects the late-night, sinister quality of the lyrics. The innovative "You Won't See Me" is an interesting folk ballad with oriental flavorings. The Portishead influence is most strong in "Sweet Shadows" which includes some nightmarish samples and a jack-swing beat. Top-notch.

"Sweet Shadows" closes with a brilliant remake of the Kansas hit "Dust in the Wind." Although this may seem and odd choice for a "trip-hop" band, Daughter Darling actually improve upon an already good thing. The dreamy and introspective guitar rift (Jason Baron) is combined with a subtle drum track. What stands out, again, is Natalie's earthy and bluesy vocals giving this classic a truly commendable makeover.

Generally, the creation of the genre known as "trip-hop" is attributed to the British "trinity" (Massive Attack, Portishead, and Tricky) who pioneered the sound in the early-mid nineties. Since that time, numerous bands such as Mandalay, Goldfrapp, Sneaker Pimps, Alpha, Airlock, Lamb and Hooverphonic have taken the core trip-hop ideal and generated various permutations. Daughter Darling can certainly be considered equals in this pantheon. However, Daughter Darling have expertly moved beyond the formulaic in creating a debut that is emotionally stirring and musically seductive. In fact, it is fair to say that Daughter Darling may be the musical revelation of 2003. If this is the future of trip-hop, we are most optimistic! --Justin Elswick with Russ Elliot

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Clearly with exploration worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this debut album by Daughter Darling is a must listen.

City Lights Promo CD Cover
Image © City Lights 2002-2003

More Zoe Stafford
Zoe Stafford Interview
Fula Dark Matter
One Window Never/Remembering


(27 July 2003) City Lights is the latest project featuring ex-Fula vocalist Zoe Stafford. Joined with Tim Diggle (backing vocals, all instruments, production), the duo have generated a five-track promo in the run up--we hope--to a full length album. In addition to a preview with 30-second snippets from what follows, the promo includes a radio edit and full length version of "If You Could See Me Now" and two other tracks.

Says Zoe, "It's pop but slightly dancy--oh, i don't know what it is really. It's very good though--a really refreshing change." When asked what she has been up to between the One Window release and this project, she responded, "I managed to blag my way onto The Australia Pink Floyd's Autumn tour as a backing singer, and have been all over the shop, including HollyWood and the Royal Albert Hall. A bit surreal actually."

The "Preview" track presents a chorus from"If You Could See Me Now" and then fades into the choruse from "The Day It Rained" and finally into the chorus of "10,000 Times." With interest piqued the next up is the roughly four minute radio edit of IIf You Could See Me Now." We immediately noticed the pop flavour in Zoe's vocals, especially as compared to her work with Fula. The track is rhythmic with a latin oriented dance theme, especially underscored by acoustic guitar; keyboards provide the perfect texture behind Zoe's stunning vocal work. The multi-layered harmonies are especially well textured and rich and the purity of Zoe's voice is best heard there and in the lovely reprise that concludes the edit.

"The Day It Rained" is a contrasting contemporary piece sung more with an R&B edge than the opening track. Light yet modern keyboard washes and crisp percussion underpin the dramatically soaring vocal track. Rhythmically building, the material clearly illustrates the whispier edge of Zoe's remarkable voice; a lovely multi-layered a capella bridge illustrates the singers versatility blending clarity with whispiness.

Zoe's amusing spoken words open and close the "10,000 Times," which begins backed by acoustic guitar. This is the number that is the most "Zoe Stafford"-oriented on the recording. A bluesy ballad, the material builds with acoustic percussion to full electronic instrumentation as the song concludes. The singer's emotional delivery is clear as her voice soars to deliver the lyrical message. A delightful track. The full length (almost six minute) version of "If You Could See Me Now" provides a lovely conclusion to the promo. It is certain to delight Zoe's staunch fans.

Our expections of City Lights have certainly been set with this all-new promo. The two artists seem to have found both a groove and a sound that is likely to draw attention from a broad audience. We'll keep you posted of their progress here.

The Miracle Line CD Cover
Image © Medea Music 2003

More Medea
Dreams & Revelations
(review and interview)


(27 July 2003) The long awaited follow-up to Medea's debut album Dreams & Revelations is their latest album entitled The Miracle Line. A blend of accessible melodies and modern progressive rock the album is certain to appeal to fans of October Project, Second Story and Grey Eye Glances to name a few.

We caught up with lead singer Irene Lambrou who shared the story of the new album, "We made Dreams & Revelations in 1999 and it felt good, and a bunch of people actually bought it. Then we thought that if we made another cd that was more light, less dark, it would feel even better. So we recorded The Miracle Line over the course of a year in Pat's studio in Bucks County, mostly on Tuesday nights. Pat spent many wee hours tweaking the sounds and playing all kinds of instruments himself. Glenn played bass in his own basement and brought the bits he captured to Pat who blended it all in."

Indeed the album has a brighter texture right from the opening and highly accessible title track. "Orianna" is more acoustic yet it is vocally intense and evocatively sung. We were quickly reminded of the similarity to Second Story who hail from the same region as Medea. Vocal harmonies are lush and recorded well atop lush keyboard washed instrumentals. The first standout from the album is certainly "Garden of Sleeping Love." The track brought back instant memories of the band's debut album in its construction, especially the interplay between piano and bass in the arrangements. Irene's almost sultry lead vocals soar above the arrangements wonderfully and the harmonies in the chorus clearly the singer's virtuosity. We especially enjoyed the piano solo during the bridge.

A significant change in texture arrives with "Not the Man (Medea's Blues)" which as the title suggests is a bluesy number. Well played piano, bass guitar effects and electronics work well to back the lead singer's evocative delivery. A thick bass line and crisp percussion provide the almost R&B texture to "Better Look." Irene's pure voice sounds great in the lead and layers of backing vocals. Continuing to build the sound is the electronically oriented "Crawling Floor" which is certain to appeal to enthusiasts of Mermaid Kiss (feature). The longing in Irene's vocal delivery during the verses is complimented by a richly arranged and brighter chorus.

"Burn" is a gentle rocker with arrangements dominated by the crisp texture of the percussion and electronics. It's the power and accurate delivery of the vocals here that continue to illustrate her skill, especially as the lead soars extended notes in the dramatically delvered chorus. The short but highly accessible and radio-friendly rock track "Fear" is lushly arranged with acoustic and electric guitar feverishly competing for attention between the vocal passages. And so we don't forget the band is really a progressive outfit, they use Greek bouzouki in the art rock textured ballad "Sun Shines," highly reminscent of the band's sound on the debut album.

The traditional rock track "Save Me" shows off Irene in her most sultry voice while the rest of the band get off with vast guitar and keyboard excursions. When played on stage this tune must really get the audience going. The album concludes with the soulful "In My Soul" and a two-minute mystery tune buried in the eleventh track. Evocatively performed, we are left with a lasting positive impression of Irene Lambrou's exquisite vocal work. The piano work is equally tremendous.

Says Irene, "The hidden track is called 'Try.' Pat's lovely music worked perfectly with lyrics I had, and although the idea didn't develop into a complete song before the end of the recording process, we loved it too much to let it fall by the wayside." It's precious and a lovely conclusion to the album.

As with their debut album Dreams & Revelations, this latest offering from Medea, The Miracle Line, is a tremendous album and well worth a trans-Atlantic journey. The album is available from links within the band's website or from CDBaby here. Check it out and order your copy today. It is indeed a must listen!

Keyholder CD Cover
Image © InsideOut Music 2003 

(updated 02 November 2003) The second album from Swedish progressive rock sensation Kaipa (since their reunion, but actually their seventh overall) is comprised of eight epic-length tracks. Entitled Keyholder (InsideOut Music (Germany/USA) IOMCD 132 / IOMACD2064, 2003), the album features contributions from the same lineup as their eleven track offering from 2002 Notes From The Past.

The band has been built up from the electric and acoustic guitar work of Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, Transatlantic) as well as keyboards and vocals by Hans Lundin. On the new album, Morgan Agren (drums), Jonas Reingold (bass), Patrik Lundstrom (vocals) and Aleena (vocals) are more prominently listed on the album's artwork as band members.

Aleena's vocal work is substantially greater--she emerges from the backing vocal role on the band's prior album to lead vocalist on several of the tracks of this new project. And her contributions will draw more of our visitors to Kaipa's material than before. Aleena's website (under construction at this writing) is the definitive online resource for the singer.

Kaipa's sound reflects upon the artists' various musical heritages and blends them into accessible progressive rock. While the instrumental excursions are frequent and individually virtuous, they are well arranged, and will please even new entrants to the genre. Allusions to the band members' heritages as well as other major progressive influences, including frequent-but-brief Yes-like passages, are evident throughout the album.

Notes From The Past received tremendous critical acclaim for the sound, structure and production of the material. Sung primarily by Patrick Lundstrom, the album included an occasional whisp of Aleena on backing vocals. When we heard that she would play a larger role on the band's follow-up, our editors pursued the material with more vigor. And it was indeed worth it.

While the lyrical passages of Keyholder are still principally sung by Patrick Lundstrom, Aleena is given the opportunity to perform the lead role on several of the tracks. The songs across the board are excellent, but those with Aleena on lead will to draw more attention to the band. Her voice will remind some of Tracy Hitchings (feature) and, for those familiar with her work, Andrea Corr (reviews 1 | 2).

The album highlights include "A Complex Work Of Art," a dramatic progressive number with Aleena singing lead, the Yes-styled duet "Across The Big Uncertain" and the dramatically lush piece "Distant Voices." The robust instrumental arrangements perfectly support the sung parts and instrumental excursions demonstrate the individuals' talents and add a critical element to the progressive sound. Aleena's backing vocalise parts within "End Of The Rope" contrasted against Stolt's vast guitar excursions are also especially memorable.

Outstanding production quality, superb arrangements and evocative vocals characterise the second Kaipa album after their reburth. Further information on the band and various downloads are available from the band's website. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Keyholder is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and is certainly a must listen!

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