home   site updates   review digest   reviews   featured artists   discussion   links   about us  
 
Description
While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Content
Iona
Clive Nolan and Agneiszka Swita (Caamora)
Annie Haslam
HB
Tina Dico
Loreena McKennitt
Kiss & Fly
Daize Shayne
Rajaton
Ilsabe O'Connell
Katie Davis
Mediaeval Baebes

Links
Digest Index
More Digest Entries
Previous Digest Entries
Instrumental Digest
 
The Circling Hour CD Cover
Image © Open Sky Records 2006

More Iona:
Woven Cord (1999)
Open Sky (2000)
The River Flows (2002)
Southampton (1997)
Rotherham Rocks (2002)
University of London (2004)
Veil of Gossamer (2004)
Songs for Luca (2003)
Iona (DVD) (2003)
Iona - Live In London (DVD) (2005)

 

(20 August 2007) The Circling Hour (Open Sky Records (UK) Records OPENVP11CD, 2007) is the latest studio album from the progressive/Celtic rock group, Iona. A group who have existed since the late 1980s, and have presented a number of releases that range from their self-titled debut release Iona, which focused upon the Island of which the band based their name, to live recordings with the All Souls Orchestra, such as can be heard on Woven Chord. After 2000's release Open Sky the band went on a hiatus of sorts, yet returned with a live DVD release filmed in London that surfaced in November 2006 and hopes of proving to their loyal fan base that this latest album, released last year, was well worth the wait.

The album opens with Joanne Hogg's serene vocals drifting over lush waves of keyboard before the thunderous wall of Frank Van Essen's crashing drum work, Dave Bainbridge's frenetic guitars and Troy Donockley's Uilleann pipes join the fray in a passage that truly catches your breath and takes you by suprise. The drums soon calm to a more steady pace and Joanne's hauntingly beautiful vocals return and carry the song onwards. From this opening song "Empyrean Dawn" alone, what is instantly apparent is the breadth and space each member of the band is allowed to showcase their talents. The production is perfectly crafted, by Dave Bainbridge himself, so as to not drown out any instrument which is a vital tool towards the overall sound, in particular Joanne's flowing vocals which are allowed to soar atop the rich and powerful instrumentation.

"Children Of Time" holds a swaying drum pattern and delicate piano backing yet is lifted by a euphoric chorus which again presents Joanne as a truly exceptional vocal talent. One who compliments these organic sounds to perfection. "Strength" presents an uplifting lyrical message as Joanne sings of the beauty of this world and its gift to us if we wish to appreciate just what it can give. An inspiring piece which retains a steady pace and relaxed feel throughout and again Joanne helps carry the song to that next level. Eleven minute epic "Wind Off The Lake" again showcases Troy Donockley's pipe skills as a they entwine with Dave Banbridge's melodic guitar work to create a Celtic-infused jig-like feel to the song. Closing with layered vocals and the tinkling of wind chimes, this one would certainly get a crowd moving if performed live with it's electric pace and breathless energy.

The second half of the album, whilst not quite as strong as the stellar opening, continues to present a highly moving blend of exciting instrumentation and spectacular vocal work. Opening piece "Wind" to the three-part instrumental "Wind, Water & Fire" features heart-wrenching violins sweeping through soft layers of mournful keyboard before drifting into "Water," the second part of the trilogy. In an attempt to retain the feel of each element that the song portrays, the sinking feeling of floating amongst the waves is created via echoing drum work and graceful vocals which rise and fall as the drumming grows in its volume and intensity before exploding into the final part, "Fire." A furious rush of fast-paced guitar lines and pipes carries the song forward as they glide alongside the fierce clattering of drums.

Album closer "Fragment Of A Fiery Sun" is the shortest piece on the album. Clocking in at a mere 2.45 minutes it's the perfect way to close an album of this nature, as Joanne's opening whispers from "Empyrean Dream" are repeated in a final closure, amongst a stunning mixture of subtle piano, shimmering keyboards, and the straining notes of a violin. It's a truly emotional ending, and one which leaves the listener in a state of awe and reflection at the end of the roller-coaster ride this album has taken them on.

Iona have managed to create something quite special within The Circling Hour. Throughout the album's 65-minute length, the space and room given for each instrument is balanced to a level where the listener feels enwrapped inside a world of sound as each layer drifts and becomes immersed within the next. Dave Bainbridge's melodic guitar work is as inventive as ever whilst Troy Donockley's pipes add an extra dimension to each song, never overplayed or feeling out of place. Joanne Hogg proves herself to be a powerful front-woman, with her voice drifting from soft and serene whispers to soaring rushes of strength, when the music rises in it intensity.

Most importantly, the album retains an aura of beauty and indescribable magic within its tapestry. One which is captured through the carefully crafted and diverse song-writing and inspiring lyrical content. Lyrics which are filled with refreshing hope and promise for the world we live in, an ideal companion to such organic and earthly music. It may have taken them half a decade to create it, but with The Circling Hour, Iona have forged what is possibly their best album to date yet. Surely then, it was most certainly worth the wait.--Jim Hall in Derby, England and Russ Elliot in New York

 
Closer CD Cover
Image © Attic Records 2006

Clive Nolan and Agneiszka Swita
Clive Nolan and Agneiszka Swita
Image © Attic Records 2006

More Clive Nolan:
Strangers on a Train (1997-1998)
Jabberwocky (1999)
Marked For Madness (2001)
Hound of the Baskervilles (2002)
From Ignorance To Ecstacy (1991)
 

(12 February 2007) Clive Nolan has a passion for female vocalists, therefore he oftentimes writes and produces progressive rock music that accentuates their unique abilities. In 2006 he met the everso attractive Polish singer Agneiszka Swita. After some initial work together he announced the launch of "Caamora" and their collaboration on the monumental Sheproject scheduled for completion in the summer of 2007. A five-track EP illustrating the direction of their work, entitled Closer (Attic Records (UK) ATTIC001, 2006). If the EP is indicative of the work in progress, Clive has certainly found in Agneiszka an extremely promising and talented vocalist for Cammora and the She project.

Classically trained, Clive Nolan is a long-standing progressive rock music professional known to many enthusiasts worldwide for his work with bands such as Arena, Pendragon, Shadowlands, Strangers on a Train and collaborations such as those with Oliver Wakeman on Jabberwocky and Hound of the Baskervilles. Nolan worked with Tracy Hitchings on her solo album From Ignorance To Ecstacy and on the two Strangers On A Train albums and with Michelle Young on several projects, notably her solo album Marked For Madness. He is a long standing advocate of Musical Discoveries mission and helped plot the publication's original course.

The Closer EP opens with a new arrangement of "Half Moon Street," previously recorded by Shadowlands on the Through The Looking Glass album. Agneiszka's dramatic and powerful vocal adds a freshness to the dramatic track. Listeners will also find a reworked "Sacrifice" from Strangers On A Train's The Key , originally sung by Tracy Hitchings, on the EP. Agneiszka's version is equally dramatic but the singer's extensive range delivers an exquisite alternative that is certain to delight Strangers enthusiasts.

Three all-new tracks serve as an appetizer to their work as Caamora. Backed by Clive's piano melody and gentle keyboard washes, "A World Somewhere" is a lovely ballad that demonstrates Agneiszka's stunning voice both in range and control. "The Bonding" is a more robustly arranged upbeat number that, in addition to Clive Nolan (keyboards), and like "Half Moon Street" is accompanied by Mark Westwood (guitars), John Jowitt (bass) and Andy Edwards (drums). The singer soars atop the rocking progressive arrangement.

The EP concludes with the theatrical--think West End-ish--title track "Closer." Enthusiasts familiar with Nolan's Stranger On A Train recordings will immediately recognize the style of the track. Agnieszka's vocals rise emotionally above the piano-laden arrangement. The EP is available at the Caamora website.

Clive Nolan, Agnieszka Swita, Caamora and their new label promise an epic album and DVD. We are confident that they will certainly deliver an exciting and dramatic progressive rock box set later this year. At just over 23 minutes, "Closer" is brief, but excellent, and an EP that will certainly whet the appetites of those anxious for another main course from these talented artists.

 
Woman Transcending CD Cover (Leonardo da Vinci © Annie Haslam 2006)
"Leonardo da Vinci" acrylic on canvas
painting © Annie Haslam 2006
Image © White Dove Records 2006


Annie Haslam
Annie Haslam
photo by Cindy Desau
Image © White Dove Records 2006

More Annie Haslam:
LIVE Studio Concert (2006)
Renaissance Live (2001)
BBC Sessions (1999)

 

(27 December 2006) Woman Transcending (White Dove Records (USA) WD-000-05, 2006) includes sixteen rare recordings by Annie Haslam spanning the period from 1974 to 1998. Many of the songs make their debut on this album, and Annie has thoughtfully included extensive credits in the gorgeous sleeve notes adorned with her own artwork. The cover features an extract from her acrylic on canvas "Leonardo da Vinci," painted earlier this year. The album spans much of the artist's vocal career to date, not only chronologically, but also in singing style and perhaps even in her personal outlook.

Annie Haslam is the five-octave soprano singer that fronted the 'classic lineup' of the progressive rock band Renaissance (website) from 1971 until 1986. Her first solo outing was Annie In Wonderland, an album recorded with Roy Wood during a Renaissance hiatus in 1975. She continued her solo career with a series of albums including, for example, the classical standards with Betty Thatcher lyrics featured on Still Life (1985), a range of original material on Annie Haslam (1987) and the highly acclaimed Blessing in Disguise (1994).

Originally from Lancashire, England, Annie has amassed a strong and extremely loyal following worldwide. Based near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania today, she has performed all over the Northeast, Europe and as far abroad as Brazil and Japan in the last decade. With Mike Dunford, Terry Sullivan and others, including Rave Tesar and David Keyes of her own band, she re-ignited Renaissance during 2000-2001, contributing to Renaissance's final album, Tuscany and their Japanese tour that produced a double live album as well. In addition to a series of successful solo albums that followed her earlier solo work, the artist also contributed to a wide variety of albums by other artists, charity benefits and today is a well-established painter.

The Woman Transcending album opens with three previously undisclosed tracks that, based on the date and location, would have been recorded in the run up to Blessing in Disguise. The first track and album opener is an upbeat track and is entitled "Circular Motion." Annie's powerful soprano vocals soar above instrumentals provided by Rave Tesar (keyboards), Mark Lambert (guitar), David Keyes (bass), Larry Fast (synthesizers and production) and Joe Goldberger (drums). "Parachute to You" is a much slower and lighter ballad but is followed by "Echo," a song that reveals the inner dynamic of the 1992 Annie Haslam Band that consistently drew fans to Annie's Northeast tours.

The album continues with two recordings produced by Rod Edwards made in London in 1985. Edwards provides keyboards and bass while David Dowle contributes drums to support Annie's lush vocal work. The lovely ballad "You Don't Know a Good Thing" is sung atop arrangements of gentle keyboards and light percussion. The track features the vocal reverb and choruses full of lush orchestration, an occasional guitar solo, and Edwards' backing vocals. The sound is aligned with material recorded at the time. "Communication" is a stunning and upbeat progressive rock track that was revealed with several others on radio broadcasts in the mid-1980s. The refined version included on this album is a treasure because of the tremendous vocal work as well as the powerful arrangement.

Annie's work with Carl Perkins' family, Debbie, Stand and Greg, includes two short and tender ballads recorded in Jackson, Tennessee during 1998 that make, as far as we know, their debut appearance on this album. Annie spoke fondly of her work with the Perkins clan in several interviews. "Beyond The Blue" includes stunning lead vocals, lush layering effects and rich Country & Western-style arrangements that certainly demonstrate Annie's versatility. Annie's emotional performance singing the easy listening style of "One Last Time" is certain to take listeners' breath away.

"So Sad" (Don Everly) is the oldest recording on the album, dating to 1974. An emotional and short ballad, labelled by Annie as a 'rough mix,' features her stunning lead and harmony vocals. It was recorded with Dick Plant playing guitar and is reminscent vocally of Annie in Wonderland. The silliness of Sir John Betjeman's poem "Hunter Trials," is delivered in a tune produced by Rod Edwards and the legendary UK disc jockey Mike Read for the Poetry In Motion various artists collection in 1990.

Originally released only as limited edition single for charity benefit in 1995, the progressive-styled "Lily's In The Field" makes its debut album appearance on Woman Transcending. David Biglin created the outstanding arrangement and production of this song. A stunning number vocally as well as instrumentally, it was the first song Annie released alongside Steve Howe's acoustic guitar work. Although Annie did further work further with Steve, the only other track released was a cover of the complex track "Turn Of The Century" on Tales From Yesterday that she has performed in concert many times since.

Annie performed and recorded several songs with Raphael Rudd before his untimely death in April 2002. Originally introduced to Raphael by Pete Townsend, Annie's beautifully arranged harp-based ballad "Willow Song" from 1979 was originally released on his 1996 double album The Awakening. Annie's crystalline vocals are reminiscent of "The Sisters" and "The Captive Heart" from Novella. Annie's version of "My Eternal Love" from 1994 produced by Tony Visconti includes the lush arrangements and layered harmonies of Blessing In Disguise.

Annie included two tracks from her work with Warwick Embury in 1986. "Decisions" is a rock-oriented 'rough mix' with instrumental arrangements and multi-tracked vocals comfortably fit alongside the sounds of Nevada and the early-1980s Renaissance recordings. "Shadows" is even more upbeat but is similarly arranged and, recorded in 1986, will be reminscent to long-standing enthusiasts of tracks on Renaissance's Camera Camera and Time-Line.

The album concludes with the absolutely stunning ballad "Reaching Out" from The Intergalactic Touring Band (LP 1976, CD 2003). The track was written and produced by Wil Malone and features Anthony Phillips on guitar with a supporting cast that includes the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Harry Rabinowitz. Annie's vocals soar and echo above lush string-based orchestral arrangements and her own harmony vocals in this evocative song that originally concluded the first side of the star-studded progressive rock LP.

Woman Transcending is an incredible collection of recordings and great tribute to Annie Haslam's vocal work. While four of the tracks have been released elsewhere and one has leaked into the fan community, the remainder of the recordings have likely never been heard by even the most ardent fans. Read another review here. The album illlustrates Annie's artistic development with recordings that span from early in her solo singing career into the mid-1990s and surely shares her innermost reflections. Woman Transcending is only available through Annie Haslam's website. Visit her at this URL: www.anniehaslam.com. We can't wait for another installment!

 
Enne CD Cover
Image © HB 2006

More HB:
Interview and Photos

HB - Frozen Inside - CD Cover
(English Version)
Image © Bullroser Records 2008


Image © HB 2006


 

(28 December 2006, updated 01 November 2008) Something totally different for awhile, something seen here never before. HB is a Finnish gospel band founded in 2002. For those readers who are being introduced to the name for first time, HB stands for "Holy Bible." However, the band leave the HB name open for individual interpretation. The band is fronted by the stunning soprano Johanna Aaltonen. The lineup is completed by Antti Niskala (guitar), Samuel Mäki-Kerttula (drums), Tuomas Mäki-Kerttula (bass), Janne Karhunen (guitar) and Eeva Asikainen (piano). Although the band have recorded only in their native language at the time of this review, their English language release of Enne was finally released as Frozen Inside in 2008.

In their first album Uskon Puolesta (On Behalf of Faith) (2003), the band was still searching for and exploring their own style. The style has now evolved with the new album leaning more towards heavier sounds. The new music is also influenced by movie soundtracks. Listeners will certainly find striking similarities with Nightwish, Within Temptation, Epica and After Forever, that is, metal-edged rock fronted by soprano vocalists. Our interview with Johanna and Antti provides further background on the artists.

In the spring of 2006 HB self-released their second album Enne (Omen) (HB (Finland) no catalog number, 2006) to great critical acclaim. The album is performed entirely in the band's native tongue. Clearly the album will strengthen HB's position in the Finnish "gospelheaven." Heavy guitar sounds, big orchestral strings and choral voices are the key elements of HB today in their new album. All tracks were composed and written by Antti Niskala and they make the album rare and exeptional, music lifting it up to top of Finnish gospel music. It is just a pity that they only sing in Finnish. Finnish language is not the easiest of world's languages to understand. Regardless of your own origin, you will identify Jesus and God in the original lyrics of HB. Believe or not, these guys are pure Christian rock and glory.

The Enne album actually demonstrates a range of the band's musical styles and demonstrates the artists' versatility. Although fueled by the dynamic metal edges popularised by Nightwish with powerful soprano vocals and choirs atop the crisp instrumental arrangements, the band equally play a couple of sombering ballads. We especially enjoyed the gentle "Intro" that opens the ten-track 47-minute collection because it disguised some of what would emerge beyond it but still provided a small hint that modern and heavy Scandinavian would emerge as the album developed. Johanna has a tremendous voice with a wide range and the power demanded to soar above the rich guitar-based arrangements.

The album's tracks include: "Herralle Kiitos" (Thanks to the Lord), "Hanki Elämä" (Get Life), "Uskon Siemen" (Seed of Faith), "Valvokaa" (Stay Awake), "Tie" (Road), "Yksin Armosta" (About Mercy), "Kunnia" (Glory), "Ratkaisu" (Solution), "Jeesus on Herra" (Jesus is the Lord). Although the titles are Christian, don't be fooled; this is a stunning and modern Scandinavian-influenced metal-edged rock album fronted by soprano vocals.

HB is touring Finland with an ever increasing number of gigs. The weekly performances are mainly arranged by religious communities or various societies, however the band is touring in schools as well. Their new music requires a massive back line and nowadays the band is equipped accordingly. HB delivers message which is straight forward. The lyrics and speech during gigs stop audience to listen in front of God. HB is making an exeption among all the gospel bands you may know. Their gigs have shown; either you like them or you don’t. There is no compromise with this band's style. HB is definitely a must listen to Musical Discoveries audience.--Mauri Osterholm in Helsinki Finland and Russ Elliot in New York

 
In The Red CD Cover
Image © Defend Music 2006

Interview and Photos (2006)

 

(30 December 2006) Denmark's Tina Dico makes her debut count with the epic and beautiful In the Red (Defend Music (USA) DFN80008, 2005). While critics around the world fawn over major label artists like Coldplay and U2, this little indie has beaten them both to the coveted number one spot in her native country.

Tina Dico is perhaps best known for her work with Zero 7. She quickly made a name for herself as the co-writer and vocalist for two tracks on the producer's sophomore effort, When It Falls. She also spent nearly all of 2004 in front of Zero 7 fans as she toured with the band.

That was then and this is now though and Tina Dico's latest solo effort, In The Red proves her powerful force in music. Her beautiful voice is accentuated perfectly by her strong songwriting, bringing to mind a number of artists but never manage to sound like any of them wholeheartedly. We recently had the chance to talk with Tina about In the Red and more. Read the results of our interview with Tina completed earlier this year.

While it's tempting to think, "pretty girl, singer/songwriter, nice voice--must sound like Fiona Apple or Tori Amos," don't fall prey to the cliché we have created around female singer/songwriters. Tina Dico offers a sound that is comfortably accessible and brilliantly poetic without the angst of injustice and girl power bubbling underneath.

Musically this is a singer/songwriter oriented album, placing the utmost importance on Tina's soft, yet powerful voice, as well as her intimate lyrics. There is a country influence as well that permeates many of the songs. The subtle influence comes across in much the same way that it does in Sheryl Crow's music. It's definitely a country influence, yet it doesn't necessarily sound like a country song. You can also feel some electronic influence (of the ambient variety, not the dance floor variety) in certain spots.

"Room With a View" is one of the many highlights on In the Red. Its semi-straightforward acoustic guitar and voice approach really highlights Dico’' naturally soulful voice. The title track is sort of a down tempo anthem that feels heavy, yet at the same time manages to offer a message of hope amidst the pain.

"Nobody’s Man" is one of the few angst ridden songs on the album. On it Dico offers a pushier sound while keeping with the intimate feel of the rest of the album. The opening and ending tracks are key features of any album and In The Red opens with one of the album's weakest songs, unfortunately, but redeems itself somewhat by closing with one of its strongest.

"Long Goodbye" takes the album out on a high note with its domineering vocal work and off-kilter timing. It is easily the most victorious sounding song on the album and you feel good when it ends. Overall this is a wonderful album that plays brilliantly from the first song to the last. Fans of artists like Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, and maybe even fans of someone like Kate Bush will find a lot to love on Tina Dico's In the Red.--Mark Fisher in West Virginia

 
An Anciend Muse CD Cover
Image © Quinlan Road 2006


Loreena McKennitt Image © Quinlan Road 2006

Loreena McKennitt Image © Quinlan Road 2006

 

(14 January 2007) The Canadian singer-songwriter Loreena McKennitt has been making great music for quite a long time, and she is also very well-known for her ambitious and fearless explorations of the various cultures, histories and people's everyday life across the world, mainly in Europe and Asia. These explorations have then been a main stem for the music she has made, helping the various cultures to be more known in other parts of the world in a very enchanting and interesting way.

Loreena's method of exploring the world before telling about it musically, is not very common thing to see in the music business these days, so many enthusiasts admire Loreena's way of working. And consequently there have been high hopes for Loreena's new album, An Ancient Muse (Quinlan Road Music (Canada) and Verve (USA) B0007920-02, 2006). Loreena has, once again, created a tremendous project with all the travelling, talking to various people, reading things and finishing the creative process for her music and lyrics with other musicians around her.

Although Loreena earns full marks for the tremendous effort in gathering the various ideas and stories for the new album, those less familiar with her work may find it difficult to reach the core of the music despite of all that hard work and the very detailed backgrounds that Loreena has written about each of the album's tracks. Of course it is great to have diverse influences on the album like Loreena does, but, somehow the great ideas that lie behind of each piece of music have been transferred to the music with great complexity. In other words, although the lyrics on this album are quite cohesive, the music is significantly more diverse. It is therefore a timeless album and one that will reveal and evoke new personal experiences on each subsequent listen.

On the album Loreena journeys through the ancient worlds of Byzantine, Greece, Turkey and other more or less oriental areas, which once were said to have been places where some of Celts have been living some centuries BC. The mystic feeling has successfully spread itself to the entire album as quite many different scales have been used as well as a lot of ethnic musical instruments, colours and rhythms, but, at the same time the pop-ish drumbeats and especially the usage of the electric guitar(s) are giving the music a more modern touch. In terms of melodies, there is much more repetitition on this album when compared to Loreena's earlier music, which may place the album furtherinto the pop world than the artist intended. Having the ethnic percussion and other ethnic instruments is a richness here, but the standard pop drums and electric guitars may not belong in this kind of music unless of course Loreena was planning to make her material more accedssible.

Loreena is very well-known from her trademark of making long and progressively styled music, and this album makes no exception of that. But, with the repetition and the melodies, the increased run time of the pieces does not help the inexperienced listener digest the material any easier. Did Loreena run out of ideas during the creative process, extending length with repetition within the same piece of music? There are segments that rescue the album from becoming neither too self-repetitive nor too experimental. While it is great to have diversity and development from the ideas of the previous albums, somehow the pieces on this album that represent the good old Loreena McKennitt style are the ones that really stand out, especially for experienced listeners.

For example, we particularly enjoyed the great chorus on "The English Ladye And The Knight", the lilting beats of "Kecharitomene", the introduction of the Swedish key harp called "nyckelharpa" instrument as well as the melodic, soaring vocals on "Penelope's Song" (in my opinion especially the Swedish key harp should deserve a more permanent place in Loreena's music!), and the great, touching melody of the album-concluding "Never-Ending Road/Amhrán Duit", as these all represent Loreena McKennitt and her music at its very best.

Loreena will be featured in a PBS special with material from this album during the spring of 2007 and a DVD will likely follow. While the first listen the album may leave some listeners with mixed feelings, the album reveals more of itself with further plays as listeners discover the diamonds that make the listening experience a true exploration of Loreena McKennitt's latest travels!--Suvi Kaikkonen in Oulu Finland and Russ Elliot in New York

 
Kiss & Fly EP
Image © Kiss & Fly 2006 
 

(30 December 2006) Kiss and Fly is an open musical project, fruit of the French collaboration between Tristan (author, compser, arranger) and varied artists, authors, singers, joined together to create skin deep emotional music. The meeting point of refined melancolic trip-hop, pop and subtle soundtrack ambiance emerges. Stunning female vocals glide above the ambient sounding electronic arrangements in this 18-minute, four-track EP (KIS01, 2006).

Tristan's vocalist(s) are most reminscent of early Chandeen. The EP opens with the track "Strange Mood." Rhythmic arrangements give way to soaring vocals and the gentle lyrical delivery of a male singer before the gorgeous female vocals enter the song with the delivery of her English lyrics. Trip-hop beats and male vocals duel with the crystalline soprano throughout the track.

Extremely cinematic, theatrical and electronically layered, "My Darkest Dream" features a powerful female vocal lead with layers of harmony vocals that work very well atop the gentle arrangements. Echoes introduced through the layers are mixed perfectly. Although slow paced, the track has tremendous dynamics both in level and frequency.

The EP's third track is the powerfully performed electronica-styled "Fading Out." Ryhthmic textures underscore the lovely female vocal lead across the piece building tension in the verse before gently exploding in the very lush soundscape and vocal layers of the chorus.

"Overnight" is the extraordinary instrumental piece that concludes this installment from Kiss & Fly. The track is far more complex than those that precede it with classically influenced dark soundtrack-like string textures and piano introducing the work. The pace and orchestral depth pick up mid-track as the second movement begins, immediately evoking an image of the EP's artwork. A rhythmic passage with choir textures emits an element of brightness as the final movement brings the track and the EP to a dramatic close.

Kiss & Fly are gathering significant attention from enthusiasts worldwide from this EP as well as remixes provided to further promote the project. We are very anxious to hear a full album from thest artists.

 
Live Your Dreams CD Cover
Image © BCS Records 2006

Interview and Photos (2006)


Live Your Dreams Custom CD Cover
Custom CD Cover (from amazon.com)
Image © BCS Records 2006


 

(01 January 2007) Daize Shayne is already one of surfing's hottest stars as well as an internationally recognized model. These days though, Daize has her sights set on making her presence known in the world of rock and roll. A visit to her website clearly illustrates the artist's versatility. And she is out there being seen! Read more about the artist in this interview conducted with Daize during 2006.

A fourteen track recording, primarily of cover tunes, and a supporting promotional DVD was shopped around by New Game Media in 2004. Her first, release is entitled Live Your Dreams (BCS Records (USA), 8 98916 00099 9, 2006), is comprised of fourteen songs ranging from tender ballads to full on rockers.

After releasing her debut (acoustically styled) album independently, Daize hooked up with producer/manager Ken Tamplin. Tamplin isrenowned in his own right for his solo albums, Shout, Tamplin, and his amazing guitar skills. Deciding to focus on a more rock oriented sound Daize is currently shopping her new music to labels.

In the meantime she has become the first female artist ever to be endorsed by Dimarzio pickups, she performed at the Republican National Convention, and she appeared in the Albion Entertainment film The Still Life which is not too shabby for an independent artist!

Produced and co-written with Ken Tamplin, lead and backing vocals on Live Your Dreams are provided by Daize. The pair also do all the guitar work with one exception and Tamplin laid down the bass lines. Daize's lineup also includes: Jimmy Paxson (drums), Howie Simon (guitars on "Everything I Own") and Ed Roth (keyboards). While the album's rockiest numbers are enjoyable, Daize's ballads best demonstrate the artist's capabilities. The track, "Miss You," with its stunning backing harmonies and light arrangements for example, is an absolute standout.

The primary content of the album is what Daize calls "stadium" rock, although a few ballads grace the ones and zeroes on the CD. Daize shows good potential for the industry and has the hard drive, striking good looks and making of the vocal chops to succeed in music. Let's see what the future brings this young woman.--Mark Fisher in West Virginia and Russ Elliot in New York

 
Rajaton Sings Abba CD Cover
Image © Plastinka Records 2006

Rajaton Image © Plastinka Records 2006

More Rajaton:
Live (2003)
Nova/Boundless (2000)
Sanat (2002)
Joulu (2003)
Kevat (2005)

Rajaton Image © Plastinka Records 2006

 

(14 January 2007) Mama Mia, what an album! For ten years the Finnish flagship of a cappella music, vocal ensemble Rajaton, has been a success both on their home soil in Finland and abroad, in terms of constantly sold-out concerts and in terms of receiving gold and platinum awards from their record sales. This is not any wonder, especially when listening to Rajaton's unique way of doing a cappella music with great taste and taking it constantly into new levels.

The latest Rajaton album though, introduces a slight difference to the group's previous repertoire. First, it is not 100% a cappella this time. Instead, the group has an entire symphony orchestra and some additional musicians supporting them. But, this does not make the music to sound any worse, in fact this kind of music deserves a "fuller" approach just like what has been made so that the music comes really to its justice. The group's latest album is entitled Rajaton Sings Abba with Lahti Symphony Orchestra (Plastinka Records (Finland) PLACD043, 2006).

The second difference then lies in the music itself. So far Rajaton's music has been completely new pieces, many of them written particularly for them by some of Finland's leading composers among others. But, as the title of Rajaton's latest album suggests, the album contains nothing but covered music of Abba, the phenomenal Swedish winner of the Eurovision Song Contest from 1975. Making an all-covers album means always a huge risk-taking, as one would never know what the public reaction might be, but as Rajaton's past live concerts with the Abba material have all been nothing but total sell-outs both in Finland and abroad, it seems that there must have also been at least some public demand for the album to be made and released as well, as not everyone have been that lucky to get tickets for those very few concerts that have been done with this material. Obviously arranging these big concerts is logistically a huge project in itself, so that's why there have been only some performances of the Abba material so far.

As said, it is never easy to make an all-covers album, but, when listening to the outcome of the collaboration between Rajaton and the orchestra featured on this album, the world-renowned Lahti Symphony Orchestra, one cannot but admire the very seamless work they do together, as a team. Two of Rajaton's male singers have also taken part to making the arrangements of the chosen Abba songs, so the entire team of musicians do indeed know what they are doing here.

Of course such things can be preferred as "sterile, impersonal calculation", but it is never too easy to be balancing between pure copycatting and doing one's own versions of what people are used to hear. I know that there are people who do not like this kind of cover albums as they might be "too much of copycat versions" or "too far away of the originals", but, this album avoids both pitfalls very well indeed. Or, in other words, the music is both faithful to the unique, personal style of the original Abba group, but yet still Rajaton and the others have successfully added their own marks to the songs to give the listener something new to discover when listening. A beautiful example of these skills is Rajaton's rendition of "The Winner Takes It All", where the soprano Essi Wuorela really comes to her own, managing to touch the listener from deep within.

The album also includes tremendous versions of other Abba classics: "Dancing Queen," "Ciquitita," "Money, Money,Money," "One Of Us," "Voulez-Vouz," "Does Your Mother Know," "Head Over Heels," and Mamma Mia." Also listen for "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!," "Thank You For The Music," "Fernando," and the fabulous rendition of "Waterloo" that concludes the album.

Another difficulty is usually the task of choosing the correct pieces to be covered, but Rajaton and the rest of the team have succeeded in this as well. So good has the choice been that it sounds as if the Rajaton versions were the originals! As everyone involved in the album making knew what they are doing, it is easy to notice that everyone have indeed been involved in the project with all of their hearts! Therefore, I am refusing to pinpoint any more tracks of this album in particular, as the whole album is a real tour-de-force in its originalness, inventiveness and cohesiveness.

And, therefore, it is not a wonder that even this Rajaton album went gold (with over 15,000 copies sold) just less than two weeks after its release, and received the platinum award (with over 30,000 copies sold) just before Christmas 2006, only a bit more than one month after its release here in Finland. So, in case you discover the album being for sale or the group having an Abba performance with Lahti Symphony Orchestra near you, just "carpe diem" (seize the moment) and give yourself a real musical treat, because these masterpieces are definitely not to be missed!--Suvi Kaikkonen in Oulu Finland and Russ Elliot in New York

 
Little Lost Cause CD Cover
Image © Good Taste Products 2005

Interview and Photos (2006)

 

(30 December 2006) Ilsabe O'Connell's Little Lost Cause (Good Taste Products (USA) B001965, 2006) was one undoubtedly one of the strongest independent releases of 2005 and certainly one of this author's favorites. Ilsabe's soft Americana approach is both a breath of fresh air from the general music market and a gem in the Folk/Americana market. The album has a raw and honest feel to it that immediately beckons you closer and by the time the album ends you feel like you have taken the most wonderful journey.

It was a pleasure to be able to catch up with Ilsabe to find out more about her as well as her music and to introduce her to you. We recently had the chance to talk with Islabe about her new album and more. Read the results of our interview with Islabe completed earlier this year.

Berlin born, Kansas raised Ilsabe O'Connell proves herself to be one of Americana music's brightest stars on her debut release, Little Lost Cause. This album has all the makings of a memorable collection, it has wonderful songwriting, intriguing lyrics, and just enough raw edge that it doesn’t let you forget that Ilsabe is talking about real life. This is a true gem for fans of Folk, Americana, and Singer/Songwriter as O'Connell flawlessly exhibits both respect for tradition and massive amounts of talent.

"Tonight on the Carnival Midway" is a powerhouse of folk as O'Connell delivers an ode to the midway freak show (a theme that is threaded throughout the album from songs to artwork) that is appropriately sad but endearing all the same. "Over Your Head" is another highlight of the album, although more straightforward lyrically, its beautiful guitar work perfectly compliments O'Connell's voice. When her voice harmonizes near the end of the song it just melts you and the solo is perfect.

"Blow Me Away" is a traditional sounding piece complete with old time country reverb that is delivered with so much heart; you’d think it was made during the golden years of the genre. The title track is maybe the oddest of the bunch as far as music goes but when it finds it groove, it perfectly complements the intimate lyrics.

I can't say enough good things about this album. It is certainly one of the best releases I have heard this year, independent or otherwise. Little Lost Cause is beautiful, intriguing, lost, hopeful, and creative all at the same time. Ilsabe O’Connell is an artist that you should be watching if you like any of the aforementioned genres.--Mark Fisher in West Virginia

 
Terrible, Terrible CD Cover
Image © Katie Davis 2004

Photo © Jen Clark 2006
The Milk Studio

 

(20 January 2007)Terrible, Terrible (1 83426 00004 2, 2004) is the 2004 four-track debut EP release by Seattle-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Katie Davis. Her vocals reveal a clarity and emotive sound. She has been working on completing a full length CD, but doesn't expect to be finished with production until some time in 2007. During this year, she plans on traveling around the world and returning with new sad songs to rock her fans.

Her striking acoustic guitar combined with her mesmerizing and poignant vocals allow the listener just a taste of her melancholic songs. Her ballad approach reminds you of Alanis Morissette and she certainly has a straight-hitting sound. Her introspective and hauntingly beautiful songs--the kind you hear in the movies over kissing or crying scenes--liken her to other straight-voiced ladies like Beth Orton, Feist, and Jenny Lewis.

She has earned unprecedented national press, MTV and worldwide radio play, and a packed schedule of live shows with national touring acts. In early 2005, Katie played her first solo shows to small but delighted crowds in the beer-soaked dive bars of Seattle's Pioneer Square. And by 2006, Katie enjoyed her first four-story marquee at the Showbox, a musical institution and one of the northwest's biggest theaters.

Her sad song lyrics are very touching and she is captivating as a storyteller. Katie said, "Sad songs are my favorites. And that’s just what comes out when I sit down to write. At shows, I try to break it up with covers from ACDC and Guns N' Roses. You'd be surprised--it's always the happiest people who love my saddest songs."

Katie's music is understated on this EP, but her heartbreaking vocals evoke assorted emotions of pain to joy associated with life's everyday relationship drama. She has a sincere tone that anyone can identify with in their own life situation. All of us can relate to the sentiments she so touchingly expresses.

Katie's music reflects an honest and pure sound, and she boldly attacks every phrase and strumming of the guitar. She maintains breathy, sensual vocals that set the emotional mood. The sampling of songs leaves you wanting for more and she shows great potential with her gift of voice and raconteur. Terrible, Terrible proves to be "Wonderful, Wonderful."--Audrey Elliot in New York

 
Mirabilis CD Cover
Image © Nettwerk America 2005

Mediaeval Baebes click to enlarge
Image © Nettwerk America 2005

More Baebes:
The Rose (2002)

with Delerium:
Nuages Du Monde (2006)
Poem (2000)

 

(20 January 2006) The luscious Mediaeval Baebes have elaborated on their beautiful chorale sound in their fifth album, Mirabilis (Nettwerk America (USA) 0 6700 30415-2, 2005). The title is derived from a Latin word with pre-Christian or pagan origins that was used in the Mediaeval period to describe a supernatural force on the fringes of this world. The Baebes certainly transport the listener to another world with their Latin, Gaelic, and old English hymns.

This octet is comprised of singers Maple Bee, Teresa Casella, Marie Findley, Cylindra Sapphire, Katharine Blake, Audrey Evans, Emily Ovenden and Rachel Van Asch. They have a range of rich harmonies that seem to envelop the soul. The music renditions are very enchanting and hauntingly beautiful.

The Baebes have expounded upon their previous chorale sound, bringing about a sound that has ancient roots and weaves a rich tapestry of beautiful resonance. Katherine Blake, founder of the Baebes and musical director, is still the principal composer. The Baebes are currently adding to the diversity of the sound by continuing to create their own material. The group utilizes a combination of period and modern instrumentation which synchronizes with the layers of these talented women's vocals.

The eighteen track CD still magnifies the Baebes signature sound and adds new approaches to keep their music fresh by adding elements ranging from Mediaeval traditional folk sounds to an African type percussive chant that has an hypnotic quality. Emily Ovenden's "Temptasyon" excels with its soaring three-part harmony and lush accompaniment of modern and ancient strings. The Baebes cover of "Scarborough Fayre" certainly has their special touch and is a wonderfully melodic addition to the CD. One of the album's standout tracks is the opening, serene "Star of the Sea." "Come My Sweet" has a more modern, dance edge. The eight songstresses easily show their versatility of sound.

The ensemble's music seems doesn't categorize easily and falls somewhere between classical and pop, new age and folk. The women maintain a sensualism that combine elements of Western European myth and folkloric tradition. They have added a new language to their repertoire by singing in Swedish for the first time on "Märk Hur Var Skugga."

The intense layering of lush vocal harmonies which support the lead highlights their passionate arrangements. The listener can escape to a dreamy otherworld with the sophisticated vocals and captivating instrumentation. The mysterious and haunting undertones abound throughout this CD which continue to lure the listener to another time and place.

The Mediaeval Baebes delicious blend of layered vocals, ethereal sounds, and enticing instrumentation expresses the essence of this talented ensemble. They have a time-proven and trusted approach to their musical selections and certainly live up to their Mediaeval name. Their sound beckons the listener and the music sweeps you away to another time and place. Mirabilis takes you on a fantastic, magical journey that shouldn't be missed.

 
» return to top «
last updated on:                   0.00342 seconds to generate