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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.

Eden's Bridge
Hayley Westenra
Amy Bee
Lizette &
Troy Donockley
Martin Orford
Paul Schwartz
Jody Quine

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New Universe CD Cover
Image © Sony Music Entertainment 2003

Lori and Micah
Wilshire Photos Sheryl Nields
Image © Sony Music Entertainment 2003

(07 December 2003) Refreshing vocals and inspired lyrics of husband and wife team Micah and Lori Wilshire make this newcomers CD, New Universe a dynamic pop/rock album. Wilshire’s roots stem from Nashville, but they recently relocated to LA to develop their musical career. New Universe has diversity and tracks that stand out with appealing harmonies and melodies.

The couple has a background in the religious pop genre, but this CD is all about love and romance. The first track, "Special," engages the listener with Lori's soaring vocals and acoustic guitar, supported by Micah's electric and bass and Dan O'Neill on the drums. The song is about the duo's life when they arrived in LA. "We'd be in traffic every morning on the 405 freeway going to these soundstages. After a while, it was the same old grind. The words 'looking for a hallelujah' in that song are about finding your purpose, finding freedom, and joy."

Some influences for Wilshire come from their penchant for the Beatles, classic soul and Top 40's pop music, with the Beatles influence somewhat evident when listening to "I Know What You Did." There is variety and progression in their songs, with "Turn It Around" enjoying a more upbeat tone, while "Nothing Left To Lose" serves to illustrate the singer's tremendous versatility and range.

The songs on the album are all originals written by Lori and Micah with the exception of the standout track, "Tonight," where they collaborated with Dennis Matkosky. Wonderful string arrangements were added to this song, as well as the lovely duet "In Your Arms," highlighting the sensual qualities expressed in their music. Their strong songwriting ability is evident throughout, and complemented by Micah's vocals and guitar, this album is certainly melodic, upbeat and heartwarming.--Audrey Elliot

Read further reviews listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. We enjoyed the latest album from Wilshire and certainly think it should be explored further.

Salt Box Lane CD Cover
Image © Harland Music 2003

More Harland
Interview and Photos

Shelley Harland
Image © Harland Music 2003

Phoelar CD Cover
Image © Harland Music 2003

(09 November 2003) Salt Box Lane. The second album from (Shelley) Harland is a collection of thirteen electronica-styled transfixing songs. Fans of Delerium (With whom Harland has just wrapped up a US tour singing alongside Kristy Thirsk) and other angelic female vocalists would do well to pick this album up.

Originally hailing from London, Harland moved to Brooklyn New York where she recorded Salt Box Lane. Presently, Harland is writing and working with various producers and has recorded vocals with Junkie XL and Joshua Ryan. Her collaboration with Delerium entitled "Above the Clouds" can be downloaded from iTunes for $0.99.

On Salt Box Lane, Harland has done a superb job of balancing fine pop aesthetic with languid and sensual musical textures and a dreamy siren's voice. Most of the songs on Salt Box Lane pulse steadily with late-night percussion and arpeggiated synth sounds.

Songs like "If your feeling different" and "Sleeping under stars in bloom" hearken back to mid-80s synthpop in the vein of Erasure or Maggie Reilly. In any case, the songs themselves are charming and highly addictive pieces of pop pleasure.

At other times, Harland's highly inventive style recalls Tori Amos, Kristy Thirsk and Kirsty Hawkshaw, relying upon melancholic piano. "Junk Misery," with its intense minor-key chord progression and bare-bones piano, is just such a song.

Occassionaly, Harland explores the realms of drum-n-bass a la SOlar Twins or Baxter. "Pounding" is a rhythmic adventure with breakbeat percussion layered over a lovely melody. Especially nice is the orchestral breakdown in the middle section of the song.

One of the best songs on Salt Box Lane is the haunting and heavenly "Treehouse" which would no doubt garner signficant attention if it were released as a single. Equally enjoyable is the calypso-touched "Lull," which is a warm and satisfying finale to the album.

Salt Box Lane is a more mature and nuanced album than Phoelar and signfies a marked development in Harland's songwriting skills. Without question, Harland's greatest musical assets are her clear and pretty voice and her fine melodies. Considering her recent collaborations and the increased notice of fans, Harland's future looks to be bright indeed. Salt Box Lane is an excellent recording that is highly recommended.--Justin Elswick

(09 November 2003) Phoelar. Harland's debut album is a more experimental and somewhat darker piece of work than her follow-up project. To be sure, Harland's exquisite and melodic voice can still be found on each of the tracks on Phoelar. However, the instrumentation is less predictable and many of the songs veer into the synth/goth genre.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, though--in fact, it is arguable that Harland's voice is more passionate and intense on Phoelar than on Salt Box Lane. Harland has noted that the debut is a more "raw" collection of songs. Nevertheless, some might find it more satisfying than Salt Box Lane.

The thirteen tracks that comprise the album are each distinctive in their own right, but several songs are worth mentioning. The ubeat "Circle" is reminiscent of Rose Chronicles with its dark/light textures. While the main guitar rift is instantly catchy, Harland's vocal performance lends the song a slightly manic quality.

Harland displays her industrial influences on "Snake" with its trippy repeating synth line and psychedelic vocal line. Strange, but somehow pleasing. "Lovers Greed" is a fantastic track that captures the creamy and urban vibe of a Quaterflash or The Motels song. Some songs, like "Phases" foreshadow Harland's subsequent transition into a more electronic sound and are more traditionally pop oriented.

The closing track "Imperfect Hostess" deserves mention because it is such a striking song both in melody and instrumentation. A dash of Portishead and a touch Tori Amos (minus the surreality and creepiness of both) equals a truly ingenious song. Overall Phoelar is probably not as strong of an album as Salt Box Lane. Notwithstanding this fact, Phoelar does include some very good songs that make the album worth owning.--Justin Elswick

Isle Of Tides CD Cover
Image © Jude Music Ltd 2002 

(28 November 2003) Isle Of Tides (Jude Music (UK) JMD 023, 2002) is the most recent release from Eden's Bridge. The Yorkshire-based band draws on Celtic roots and is certain to appeal especially to Iona enthusiasts. The compact disc is comprised of ten pieces, with the title track, an extended suite, actually being in eight individual segments. Visitors will have first read of Eden's Bridge in our review of the Songs For Luca compilation by Iona's Dave Bainbridge; that album included the song "Open Sea" which also features on Isle Of Tides as its second track.

Eden's Bridge is fronted by the voice of Sarah Lacy who also contributes piano, bohdran, guitar and church organ to the arrangements and shares writing duties with her younger brother Richard (piano, bohdran, whistles, stylophone, drums). The lineup is completed by ex-Iona drummer Terl Bryant, David Bird (guitars, basses, cittern, keyboards, theremin) and Jon Large (bass, piano, percussion). For this recording, guests include Capercaillie's Michael McGoldrick (Uilleann pipes, low whistles), Simeon Wood (flute, quena, bamboo flutes) and The St Michael Singers. The band's material has a progressive Celtic texture that compares most favourably to Iona both instrumentally and vocally. Sarah has a lovely voice, with a sound and texture reminscent of Joanne Hogg, especially in the arrangements on Isle Of Tides.

Isle Of Tides draws the listener in from the first notes played by the band in the ballad "Looking Down." Rich Celtic-influenced arrangements featuring Uillean pipes and thick bass underpin Sarah's delicately delivered vocal line. The album continues to develop atmosphere with "Open Sea," a great track with whistle complimenting Sarah's tenderly sung lead vocal. The band builds strength in the progressive instrumental arrangement combining Uillean pipe, organ, keyboards and bass in the track "Creator Of Creation." That Sarah's voice can still outpower the instrumentals is a testament to her virtuousity as well as the outstanding production quality of this album. The Uillean pipe solo within the track is just tremendous.

"Keep Me Sailing" is a lovely ballad arranged primarily with piano and it features lovely vocal harmony layers. The piano and whistle solos during the bridge perfectly compliment Sarah's emotional delivery of the lead vocal. "The Earth Waits" continues to develop the thematic texture of the album with well-blended arrangements supporting various guitar excursions and Sarah's evocative vocal. "You Carry Me," a short hymn supported primarily by organ, immediately precedes the album's epic title track.

"Isle Of Tides" is an eight part suite. It opens with the choir singing the short piece "Who Would Build An Abbey Here?" unaccompanied. Acoustic guitar accompanies Sarah in "Sail Away," another outstanding track sung tenderly with lovely vocal harmony layers. Additional instrumentals are added as the superb track develops. It blends into "From Here, Today" almost seamlessly, and then into "Adrift" and "Release" with its jig-style whistle and Uillean pipe instrumentals, in a similar manner.

The second half of the suite begins with "My Hope Is Still Save With Thee," a lovely ballad accompanied by lovely whistle melodies and then underscored by the full band, continues to allow Sarah's lead vocal to shine and soar above the arrangement. The guitar solo during the bridge is tremendous. The interplay of voice and flute in the acoustic "Still Small Voice" form a musical pathway to the building instrumental of "The Turning" and then the lush guitar-based and atmospheric "Journeys End" that concludes the suite.

The accessible upbeat melody in "Where You Search," coupled with Sarah's evocative lead vocal, lush harmony vocals and superb acoustic arrangement make it the album's standout, and a perfect compliment to the title track suite. "Thanks Be To Thee" is the final vocal number of the album. A hymn accompanied principally by piano, it also includes a lovely whistle melody within the arrangement. The album concludes with the atmospheric textures of the instrumental "Boat Song."

Isle Of Tides is certainly a dramatic and well produced album by Eden's Bridge. Sarah Lacy's vocal work is superb throughout and must be heard to be fully appreciated. Certain to appeal to enthusiasts of Iona, Joanne Hogg and Clannad, this tremendous album should be explored further.

Pure CD Cover
Image © Decca Music Group Ltd 2003
photograph by Simon Fowler

More Hayley Westenra
Interview and Photos

(16 November 2003) Hayley Westenra has rapidly become one of the world's female singer sensations during 2003. Presently aged only sixteen, her debut international classical crossover album Pure (Decca Music Ltd (UK) 475 330-2, 2003) reached the number three spot in the UK charts only weeks after release and at this writing has exceeded platinum in the UK, 4x platinum in the artist's home country of New Zealand and is about to take Japan by storm. A North American release is expected during spring 2004.

Pure, produced by Giles Martin and arranged by Sarah Class, comes on the heels of Hayley's self-titled album recorded when she was only thirteen and follow-up My Gift To You (a Christmas album recorded at age fourteen) successes in New Zealand. Read all about Hayley's background and the making of the album in our exclusive interview illustrated with Simon Fowler's photographs. Our album review follows below.

As one would expect of work by Giles Martin (son of Sir George Martin), the production and recording quality of Hayley's album is nothing short of superb. A perfect blend of traditional orchestral and modern instrumentation results in wonderfully balanced arrangements that support, never overcome, the singer's crystalline soprano voice. While some might compare the material to that of Charlotte Church, Hayley Westenra is truly a unique recording artist. The majority of the material is evocatively sung in English and only hints of operatic arias remain in the album's thirteen stunning selections. The producer's arrangements more closely approximate the work of Paul Schwartz than those that worked with other classical crossover artists reviewed here.

In the spirit of providing accessible music for everyone, Hayley's album includes selections from contemporary classics as well as modern easy listening and rock-flavoured pieces. Adiemus / Karl Jenkins fans will be delighted with Hayley's treatement of "Benedictus" from The Armed Man. We were thrilled to hear Hayley's brilliant rendition of Ronan Hardiman's "Heaven" and her spine tingling cover of the Kate Bush hit "Wuthering Heights." Hayley's solos emerge in each of the tracks either with self-backing or choirs to add texture where needed to complete the arrangement.

Several traditional pieces were arranged by Sir George Martin for Hayley. These include "Hine e Hine," "Pokarekare Ana" and "Amazing Grace." Hayley's heartfelt delivery is superb. Others were arranged for the album and Hayley's voice by Sara Class. "Beat Of Your Heart," written by George Martin and Giles Martin especially for the singer, is a lush ballad, delivered tremendously, with obvious hit potential.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.co.uk here. A link to amazon.com will be provided when the album is released in North America in 2004. Hayley Westenra is a wonderful young female vocalist that is destined to go the musical distance.

Here I Am CD Cover
Image © Amy Bee 2003 

(27 November 2003) Amy Schofield is a singer / songwriter based in Oxfordshire, England. She has a Diploma in Music and Technology as well as fourteen years of experience--starting work at the tender age of 15--in both studio recording and live work playing the London circuit. Brought to the attention of Musical Discoveries by a close friend, the first demo recording by her new group, the Amy Bee Band, is comprised of five tracks. Amy is relaunching herself within the Oxfordshire area with new material as part of a vocal/acoustic duo.

The five self-produced tracks demonstrate her talent for singing and songwriting as well as influences of Dido, Everything But The Girl and, to a lesser extent, Norah Jones. "Reverie" is a trip-hop, electronically programmed track, with spoken vocal distortions complimenting the singer's naturally evocative Dido-like style. This modern blend works well and provides a good introduction to Amy's work. "Tide" is a rockier number with keyboard washes, thick electric guitar excursions and crisp percussion providing a significant contrast to the opening track. Vocal layering adds depth and texture to the overall sound.

The CD's title track, "Here I Am" is clearly the standout track of this recording. Amy sings two contrasting vocal lines during the chorus that illustrate her range and depth of vocal delivery. The instrumental arrangement and vocal production in this track are certainly the best on the demo. "Deep Inside" is a good and gently accompanied mid-tempo track. As with "Here I Am," Amy sings two significantly contrasting vocal lines, here atop some funky instrumentals. "Some Day" begins acoustically and develops electronically with keyboard and electric guitar joining the arrangement. Vocal textures and acoustic guitar in the bridge are tremendous. A gentle ballad, it demonstrates the breadth of Amy's virtuousity.

Amy's "Here I Am" demo recording provides a good insight into the singer / songwriter's raw talent. Further work in a professional studio with the addition of independent production will likely enhance what she has to offer her listeners. This demo has been a great listen and we can't wait to hear Amy's first full length album.

This Is CD Cover
Image © Blue Lemon International 2003

More Lizette von Panajott
Interview and Photos
Spektrum Album Review

(27 November 2003) The debut album from Lizette & entitled This Is (Blue Lemon International (Sweden) BLCD 003, 2003) is a thirteen track collection of vocally intensive rock tracks. In the year-long run up to the release, the band provided mp3 downloads of some of their pre-mastered material as a teaser for their internet visitors and our editors have been listening to it for some time. The production album is certainly an improvement that will delight listeners.

Led by Lizette von Panajott (interview), who some readers will recognise from Spektrum (review), vocalist and additional keyboards, the 'Lizette &' lineup is completed by Magnus (guitars), Ockee (keyboards), Alex (drums) and Tomas (bass). Guest spots by Hansi Cross (guitar), Lawrence Steel (guitar) and Johan Nordgren (drums) are also noted. The majority of the material was written by Lizette although she was ably assisted by Tom Aragon and Tomas Johansson on "Breathe" and "Nothing" respectively.

Comparisons to other material need to be set aside when writing about the music on This Is. Although our experience with Lizette's vocal work was previously confined to contributions to the Spektrum album, her vast experience base (see interview) has obviously been combined to produce a project of tremendous proportions. And in sharp contrast the recent array of albums by emerging female vocalists that flood the commercial space, This Is has a serious rock attitude. Powerful instrumentals compliment, not only underscore, layers of Lizette's vocal work in a variety of different styles.

The title track begins the album with powerful and rhythmic guitar, crisp percussion and almost-spoken elements of vocal work. Building instrumental textures in "Breathe" compliment Lizette's melodic vocal work which increase power as the percussive texture of the song develops. Edgy lyrics in the heartfelt "Wasteland" expose the lead singer's songwriting talent. Richly arranged and rocking choruses compliment the ballad-style verses.

The album is one of significant contrast both across and within several of the individual tracks. A great example is "Alright," a gentle and everso delicate vocal number with a heavy guitar-laden rocking and vocally processed bridge. The layers of scat supporting the soaring lead vocal and various tempo changes in "Better" further demonstrate the singer's virtuousity. We especially enjoyed the keyboard work in the track as well.

"Evil" may take some listeners a few plays to fully appreciate the track, yet layers of vocals and thick instrumentals with contrasting bridges and breaks add interest to the album. It represents a clear delineation between the first and second half of the album.

"Within" is a tender ballad with a unique electronic arrangement. It serves as a natural introduction to "Bright Side Of The Moon," a progressive rock masterpiece and the album standout. The combination of great vocals, tempo and style changes contribute to the result.

The style of "Mother" is similar to "Alright" in that the track begins as a ballad but develops, with layer upon layer of vocal harmony, into a bluesy rocker. "No One," "Did I" and "Must I" are a trilogy of thickly arranged and percussive (even dance club-styled) numbers. Expansive guitar-laden instrumentals are perfectly integrated with lush and cinematic vocal layers. The album concludes with the epic (9:24) length number "Nothing." Mostly instrumental, Lizette's sensual lead and harmony vocal layers join at the six-minute mark and build tension and release as the track and album come to a conclusion.

Lizette &'s This Is is an album of tremendous proportions and significant contrasts. With styles ranging from the gentlest "Within" through the progressive textures of "Bright Side Of The Moon" to the rocking energy of the trilogy of "No One," "Did I" and "Must I," it should be explored further.

This Is is released on Blue Lemon International (Sweden) on 2 December 2003. The "power to the artist" label also works with and does PR work for Aleena, lead singer on two tracks from Kaipa's Keyholder (review). Our review of Aleena's solo material and an exclusive interview with the singer are planned for publication during January 2004.

The Pursuit Of Illusion CD Cover
Image © Lanternmusic 2003

Troy Donockley
Troy Donockley | Rotherham Rocks
Image © Chris Walkden 2002

(27 November 2003) When Troy Donockley originally contacted Musical Discoveries to ask if we would like to review his latest album The Pursuit Of Illusion (Lanternmusic Ltd (UK) LNTNCD1, 2003), we jumped at the chance. Troy is, of course, one of the world's premier multi-instrumentalists, having won the award from The Classic Rock Society in this category previously. Although still fully engaged with Iona, this is his second solo project. We met Troy in 1997 (review), again in 2002 (review) and continue to follow his work. He has contributed to the recordings by other artists including Maddy Prior, Joanne Hogg (review) and Mostly Autumn (review) to name a few of those reviewed previously at Musical Discoveries.

Troy suggested that we listen to the album initially in a quiet room with a glass (or bottle) of burgundy (or maybe merlot). After a few listens, it's clear why. This is not an album to be listened to in the car. Regardless of where or how the album is enjoyed, it is certain to delight enthusiasts of Celtic- or progressively-styled instrumental projects. That two (three really) of the songs include the vocal work by the stunning Joanne Hogg will serve as a special bonus for many as well.

The album was a massive project for Troy and required him to travel to points far and wide for recording and mixdown. The story as told to CRS Rock Society editor Martin Hudson in a recent interview involved transporting his studio gear to the various locations around Englandto record the material. Troy ventured to the USA to work with longtime fans that offerred state of the art mixing facilities that would do this material justice. Others allegedly hope to apply future lottery proceeds to stage the project live!

Pursuit Of Illusion is indeed primarily an instrumental album with several of the tracks having enormous soundtrack quality in their sound. In addition to Joanne Hogg's vocal contributions, Troy was also ably assisted by Iona members past and present including Terl Bryant (drums, percussion) and Nigg Beggs (chapman stick). A variety of other guests contributed strings and woodwinds while the York Cantores provide choir parts to several of the tracks.

We especially appreciated the Celtic touches across the album in strings, percussion and woodwinds and made note of the tremendous whistle melodies that Troy is long known for. The choir parts are equally lovely and work perfectly in Troy's compositions. Troy's own vocal work is equally delightful; it in fact joins oboe, choir and organ in the thematic opening number "Conscious."

Joanne Hogg's lead vocal in the standout title track is positively and completely awe-inspiring and is indeed a tremendous contribution. Yes, we did play it over and over. Jo's joint vocalise with Troy in "Floating World" perfectly blends with the rich and broad spectrum of instrumentals within the number. And her soaring lead in the short song "Fragment" atop the textures of the York Cantores is just tremendous. Her voice drifts in and out of the arrangement as this rich vocal number develops.

The album concludes with the epic second part of "The Colour of the Door," a multi-dimensional number that combines rich and involved tempo shifting instrumental arrangements with various vocal elements. Troy plays Uillean pipes, low whistles, tin whistles, guitars, bouzouki and keyboards as well. Neil Drinkwater's dramatic piano part, joined to Troy's Celtic winds and Terl's percussion in one of the expansive bridges are all most notable. The Emperor String Quartet and York Cantores Choir--especially the soprano during the concluding segment--contribute additional textures to this tremendous piece.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order Troy's Pursuit Of Illusion from amazon.co.uk here. While significantly more instrumental than his work with Iona and Joanne Hogg, his second solo project is a tremendous album.

Classical Music and Popular Songs CD Cover
Image © Giant Electric Pea 2003 

(30 November 2003). A tremendous collection of sounds is available to progressive rock enthusiasts on Martin Orford's Classical Music and Popular Songs (GEP (UK) CD1026, 2000). Our editors were introduced to the album by Terry Sullivan, drummer for Renaissance during the 1970s through their album Azure d'Or. The album features a ten tracks certain to appeal to a broad audience and delight Asia, IQ and other symphonic rock band enthusiasts. Since receipt of the album, it has been in heavy rotation at Musical Discoveries' headquarters.

In addition to Martin Orford who features on keyboards, piano, flute, mandolin and vocals, the album includes contributions from a vast array of artists including Gary Chandler (electric guitar), Steve Christey (drums), John Jowitt (bass), David Kilminster (acoustic guitar), Steve Christey (drums), Paul Cook (tambourine, John Wetton (lead and backing vocals), Tony Wright (sax), Michael Holmes (lead guitars), Paul Cook (drums) and Peter Nicholls (lead vocal).

Classical Music and Popular Songs has a timeless quality to its sound. That the production quality of the album is absolutely second to none only adds to its appeal. All vocal work on the album is male, and while that might put a review of it out of place at Musical Discoveries, the album is so strong that it deserves our (and you all as our readers) attention. About "The Field Of Fallen Angels" that opens the album, Orford writes, "An uptempo song in a progressive rock vein, but with some obvious influences from British folk music. I thought it would be interesting to use traditional instrumentnts such as mandolin and bagpipes to suppliment the usual rock band instrumentation." It is a great track.

Orford plays acoustic guitar, very Steve Howe style, in "The Picnic." "A Part Of Me" is most reminscent for us of the grand stadium sound of Asia, perhaps owing to the incredible vocal work of John Wetton and Gary Chandler's melodic guitar parts. "The Days Of Our Lives" also has a big Asia influence. A gentle and simple ballad, it is a great song. The sax solo in the bridge adds a great texture. The upbeat and rocking tune "The Final Solution" and the tremendous power of "The Overload" both appear to have a strong IQ influence.

One of the album's standouts is certainly the powerful 1970s style rock instrumental "Fusion." Martin Orford writes, "A very old instrumental with a Baroque influence, written while I was at school, some 25 years ago." He continues, "If it sounds like an archetyal 1970s progressive rock, it's because that's exactly what it is." It is a stunning number, one that listeners will play over and over.

The album features some great symphonic progressive material with stong classical influences. Such is the case with the stunning solo piano number "Quilmes." This sound further develops with the rich orchestration of the tremendous and classically influenced masterpiece and standout track "Tatras." The album concludes with the final number, "a serene and peaceful instrumental inspired by the timeless atmosphere of rural Hampshire, where I live," writes Orford. Led by keyboards, the rich arrangements are a testament to the artist's virtuosity. The melody of the song fills the listener with hope and as the full band joins, we are reminded of the progressive roots of the artists involved.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Martin Orford's Classical Music and Popular Songs is an album of tremendous depth and excellent production quality.

The Seventh House CD Cover
Image © Giant Electric Pea 2000 

(30 November 2003) The latest release by Britain's IQ is a six track project entitled The Seventh House (GEP (UK) GEPCD 1028, 2000). It is, by our count, the fifteenth album by the group. For those just discovering IQ, the band is currently comprised of Martin Orford (keyboards, backing vocals), Paul Cook (drums, percussion), Michael Holmes (guitars, guitar synthesiser, keyboards), John Jowitt (bass, backing vocals), Tony Wright (sax) and Peter Nicholls (lead vocal, backing vocals). All players contributed to Martin Orford's Classical Music and Popular Songs (review).

IQ's sound on The Seventh house will remind some of latter day Landmarq. Pieces contain reasonably complex progressive passages with dramatic tempo and other textural changes between the movements. Such is the case with the opening number "The Wrong Side Of Wierd," and over 12-minute track that illustrates the depth and breadth of the band's talent. We especially enjoyed the interplay of progressive keyboard and guitar solos within the symphonic arrangements and Peter Nicholls various vocal textures.

Soundtrack textures weave in and out of the arrangements of the symphonic progressive track "Erosion." The vocal production quality is stunning, evocatively rising above the orchestral keyboards and developing guitar-based foundation and various solo excursions of this stadium style rocker. The epic 14+ minute title track ("The Seventh House") continues to illustrate Nicholls' virtuousity, and the band's as well, particularly in the production quality of the arrangement from the acoustic introduction to the thick and melodic mid-section. Instrumental solos within the track are especially reminscent of riffs played by Argentina's Nexus (review).

"Zero Hour" is a somewhat shorter but no less complex number. Keyboard washes perfectly compliment lead vocal and acoustic guitar melodies that blend perfectly with the instrumentals that include one of Tony Wright's saxophone solo during a bridge between two of the song's movements. The reprise of the opening melody includes a killer guitar solo.

The virtuousity of the band is clearly demonstrated in the range of textures presented in "Shooting Angels," a stadium style rocker that develops from humbler opening foundations. Crisp percussion and thick bass perfectly compliment the melodic guitar and keyboard in the arrangements never overpowering Nicholls' lead vocals. The dynamic guitar and sax solos are also notable. The album concludes with "Guiding Light," which opens as a lovely ballad with allusions to Asia's sound, accompanied by acoustic guitar, piano and various keyboard washes. The rocking IQ texture--with vast electric guitar and keyboard solos--continues to develop as the track moves towards the glorious vocal passage that concludes the number.

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. IQ's The Seventh House, their fifteenth album is a great symphonic progressive album. Even without female vocals it should be explored further!

State Of Grace II CD Cover
Image © BMG Music 2003

Image © Lisbeth Scott 2000

(22 November 2003) Paul Schwartz, the man who brought us Aria, Revolution (review), Aria 2 (review), State of Grace (review), and the Paul Schwartz Project Earthbound (review), albums, has returned with his latest classical crossover album State of Grace II: Turning to Peace (Windham Hill (USA), 82876-53017-2, 2003).

Without doubt, State of Grace II proves to be Paul Schwartz's most affecting and beautiful release to date. Paul Schwartz once again teams up with stunning vocalist Lisbeth Scott (Dove review, website) who imbues the music with incredible depth and emotion. Legendary guitarist Carlos Santana also makes an appearance. The Crouch End Festival Chorus lend their voices to create an expansive and rich backdrop for the music.

Largely focusing on latin texts, the songs on State of Grace II represent expressions of faith, hope, sorrow and love. Musically, the material features ethereal orchestration, ambient downtempo beats and lovely choral sections. Songs like the breathtaking and divine "Turning to Peace," "Fear Not," and "Let Me" allow solo vocalist Lisbeth Scott to really shine. Her highly acclaimed vocals are perfectly fit to these contemplative piano and string pieces.

Other songs like the gorgeous "Suscepit Israel" are more cinematic in nature. The soaring and angelic strings, harp and choral singing combine in a way that is truly majestic. One of the best tracks, "Et Misericordia" is a variation on "Veni Redemptor Genitum" and "Angelica," which are featured on the first State of Grace album. The harmony vocals combined with softly flowing violins and cellos are beautifully chilling.

Some of the tracks like "Quia Respexit" and "Magnificat"roam into the land of Ibiza-chill with slight flavorings of jazz and trip-hop. In sum, State of Grace II is actually a better album than its predecessor. Paul Schwartz seems to be getting better and better as a composer and his melodies are more engaging than ever. Lisbeth Scott gives a heartfelt and sincere performance, and the Crouch End Festival Chorus sound incredible. State of Grace II is a perfect blend of old and new sounds and deserves a broad audience.--Justin Elswick

Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, State Of Grace II is a must listen!

In A Lifetime CD Cover
Image © BMG Music 2003 

(08 November 2003) The name Clannad stands for an abbreviation of Clann As Dobhar, in English Family from Dore (Gweedore, Co. Donegal). This group from Ireland has been successfully existing for over thirty years now, and in addition to enhancing the status of Irish language which they use as their mother tongue, they have also been able to boost the strong Irish music culture even further. Not forgeting the fact that Clannad has been a springboard to the solo career of the lead vocalist of the group, Máire (Moya) Brennan as well as her sister Enya who was performed in Clannad in 1979-1982. As a mark of the success, the group has been able to win numerous major music awards such as Bafta and Ivor Novello, as well as make music for many movies and television series.

One part of Clannad's anniversary as a band is the release of a new collection entitled In A Lifetime, as well as reissuing some of their older studio albums with new remixed songs as bonus tracks. This collection covers the material from Clannad's first big hits (such as the duet"In A Lifetime" with Bono of U2 and "Theme From Harry's Game" which was a number one hit in the UK in 1982-1983) to the "Robin of Sherwood" TV series (starring Michael Praed) music as well as music from latter albums Anam (1990), Lore (1996) and Landmarks (1998).

Although this compilation is not Clannad's first, it certainly deserves special attenton. Whereas previous compilations have covered mostly the group's earlier career and the more traditional songs and pieces, this one spans from years 1982 to 1998 and continues the series of the group's compilations. Band members--Máire and her brothers Paul and Ciarán as well as her uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan--have chosen their own favourites for this compilation.

Of course many long-time fans of Clannad, Máire and Enya may already have almost all of the original albums and other compilations as well, but this one contains some great tracks that may be difficult to obtain elsewhere. These tracks include "What Will I Do" from the film Message In A Bottle (1998), a great duet between Máire and Paul Young, "Both Sides Now," from the movie Switch (1991), a piece called "Christmas Angels," originally released as a single in 1997 as well as the new, great remixes of some Clannad songs (and Máire's collaboration piece "Saltwater" with Chicane) on the bonus disc of the Limited Edition. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. So, no matter if you are new to the band or a long time enthusiast, this compilation is really a must listen!--Suvi Kaikkonen

Jody Quine
Image © Jody Quine 2003

More Jody Quine
Interview and Photos
Balligomingo Review
Star Review

Vic Levak and Jody Quine
Vic Levak and Jody Quine
Image © Jody Quine 2003

(15 November 2003 updated 27 December 2012) When Jody Quine contacted us with news that she and producer Vic Levak had recoorded a three-track demo we couldn't wait to hear it. The Hollywood Demos recording is now available from BandCamp. Click on the image to browse Jody's website.

The three track Hollywood Demos begins with "Crazy," a delightful upbeat rock track. We asked Jody about it. She said, "The song is about me becoming successful but having left somebody behind, back home and realizing it's just not as good without him there. But instead of giving it all up, asking him to follow me, cause I miss him like crazy." She continued, "It's for the guy I'm still seeing now. I wrote it when I was in LA on a two month writing sabbatical, and I missed him. He never came to me, but I'm back home now and the friendship continues." She concluded, "I's cool to have written a song for somebody and have it be a complete recording and watch him listen to it--like an amazed child with a new toy."

The CD continues with "Hollywood," a characteristially Jody Quine-style ballad with lush arrangements. We just adore the way Jody sustains the notes. We asked her to tell us more about the song. She said, "Again, it's about being in LA for those two months, and living on Franklin a block away from Hollywood Blvd, right by Mann's Theatre. And the desperation of it all, so palpable." She says, "And for me too, knowing what I want and so badly. I was naming my need, instead of insisting I just want to make music. I call out the desire for fame, and embrace it in song." She concluded, "It's my favorite of the three."

The EP concludes with "For Bradley," an acoustic ballad with absolutley stunning vocals. While "Hollywood" might be Jody's favorite on this recording, her voice is most expressive and sensual in this track. She shared her thoughts about the song with us, "It is about a very good friend of mine who shall remain nameless. His his fiance sat up in bad one night after six weeks of engagement and told him it was over. No working it out or discussion. Over. His heart was understandably crushed." She continued, "I wrote that song for him. And now that he's moving on, he says it's a reminder of how her leaving was a good thing cause she wasn't the one." She remarked on the situation, "In my books she was no where near good enough either and was worthy of a right slap upside the head and an ass kicking to boot. It is a very sad song and I think one of the best ones I've ever written."

Jody Quine is one of our Women of Balligomingo and a singer songwriter we can't wait to hear more from. Visit her website, check out her debut album and also her work on Balligomingo's Beneath The Surface. We can't wait to hear more from her collaboration with Vic Levak.

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