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Album Review and
Connie and Mike Ianieri are a recording couple from Cinnaminson, NJ, a small town not far from Philadelphia, where bands like Second Story, Grey Eye Glances and October Project began their progressive rock history. With venues like the Theater of Living Arts (TLA) (review), the area is a magnet for progressive rock enthusiasts and regularly attracts the newest to the most established performing artists. With musical styles ranging from orchestral through jazz and into progressive and alternative rock, the duo has produced some exceptional music. Our review of Connie's six-track album Three Faces Of Eve incorporates an exclusive Musical Discoveries interview with the artists. With songs written by Mike and Connie, the album was produced, recorded and mixed by Mike.
Mike enjoys progressive music from Yes, Genesis and ELP. He also told us that he likes the jazz of Pat Metheny and Chick Corea as well as classical music like Copland or Stravinsky. He has a Bachelor of Music from Glassboro/Rowan University. Dramatic, symphonic and very lush in their arrangements and power, his Orchestral Works should be further explored. Mike told us about how he was influenced when writing with Connie. He said, "You can hear elements of Yes and Alanis Morissette/Glen Ballard. The use of the drum loops and real drums has always been a favorite of mine. Glen Ballard uses this on Alanis's music. The ballads are influenced by the female piano/vocalist types like Sarah McLachlan. The vocal harmonies have a Yes (review)influence to them." The influences come through in the recording, and similarities to Yes, Kate Bush and Esquire are quite evident. Mike plays drums, bass, keys, guitars and mandolin on the album.
Connie told us, "I'm influenced by Sarah McLachlan, Paula Cole, Dave Matthews and John Lennon because they all write or wrote from their heart. It may be masked in poetry, but it's real." She added, "Alanis Morissette and Dave Matthews are my favorites to listen to." When asked about her vocal training, she told us that she'd been singing a long time, "I started singing at about three years old to the backs of chairs [laughs] ... and never stopped singing. I'm sorry, I don't have a fancy answer, but it's just I open my mouth and that's what comes out." Connie also sings with Mike's Big Bang! jazz project.
Three Faces Of Eve opens with the lush and very dynamic Yes-like progressive track "Hello." Layer upon layer of vocal harmony, crisp percussion, thick orchestral arrangements and deep keys contribute to the big sound while the vocal lead in the verse can be compared favourably to Aeone (review). Choruses are much more Yes- or Esquire-like. Timed for university radio airplay, the track is certain to please enthusiasts of these similar sounding artists.
We were very interested to learn about Connie and Mike's song writing process. Mike told us, "We work aloneójust the two of us in our home studio. Usually I will write the music first then have Connie write lyrics and some melodies. Connie writes alot of the ballads on piano. It's mainly done on computer and ADAT. I overdub the live drums and guitars. All keys are in the computer."
Connie commented, "There is a deeper thing that happens to me when I'm writing the lyrics, especially this project. This project was very introspective and cleansing. So when I was writing I didn't want to get too mushy or so deep the listener wouldn't know what the heck I was talking about, so I had to be careful. I still had to delve into myself and find out exactly what I wanted to say and stay clear and concise. It was the first time I took that far a look inside. Sometimes you don't always like what you find."
"Maisy" is an alternative rock ballad backed by expanding orchestral arranged progressive keyboards and lush multi-tracked choruses, much in an Esquire-like style. Connie's vocal work in the verses has a Kate Bush or Michelle Young (review) edge to it. Verses and choruses sharply contrast each other. "She's No Mystery" is a traditional ballad with lots of vocal, illustrating the range and power of Connie's voice and is backed almost with keyboards alone. Multi-tracking provides additional depth and contributes to the texture of the track. Connie also performs the lovely Rhodes/piano part on the track.
Written by Mike and Connie in 1989, "Black" is a ballad with obvious West End or Broadway musical influences. Sung sensitively with lots of energy, range and emotion, the track builds to include lush and powerful keyboard-laced symphonic instrumentals similar to those heard in Mike's Orchestral Works. The vocal work is stunning, climbing way above the instrumentals and crisp percussion.
"The Show" is a thickly arranged progressive rock track with lots of vocal and other effects that add to the song's dramatic sound. A tribute to Connie's vocal virtuosity, influences from a broad range of vocal and instrumental artists and styles are evident as the six-plus-minute song develops.
Connie and Mike have been doing some jazz fusion gigs with his Big Bang! project. He told us about their plans for live performances of Connie's work, "We're currently putting together the live version of the Three Faces of Eve music. Members from Second Story will be in the line-up as well as a second drummerómy brother John. It should be a very high-energy show!"
Mark Gollihur from Second Story is pretty excited about the prospect of performing on stage with Connie. He told us, "Scott, John and I are going to be a part of her backup band when Connie starts playing live. Cool, huh?"
The album concludes with the sweetly sung and sensitive ballad "Did I Miss Something." Highly accessible, dramatic vocal work and light orchestral work is reminscent of the West End or Broadway musical sound. The lovely song is a tribute to Connie's vocal and Rhodes/piano playing talent.
Three Faces Of Eve is a self-produced recording. We asked about the package and Connie told us, "I wanted the three women on the cover, I think the ones we picked are beautiful. We did the art work. I'm sure a label could smooth and polish it over, but I think we got the spirit of the project across." The artwork came out really nicely and includes lyrics, with effective use of backgrounds and lovely artwork throughout.
We asked them to comment on the world wide web and Mike told us, "There is currently no official website for Connie's music. We are on mp3.com. And my BIG BANG! music also has a website." Worth a visit on its own merit as well as the influence it's had on Connie's music ("Black"), enthusiasts will also find Mike's Orchestral Works and jazz fusion Big Bang projects interesting.
Connie said, "If it weren't for mp3.com, our music would get heard only when we played out. We met you through the internet so, right there, it goes to show you. When it's finished, I'm sure that it will bring me new fans!"
Mike added, "My only experience with music on the internet is from mp3.com. I think it is wonderful. It gives a chance for independent artists like ourselves to get our music heard worldwide. I have gotten many new fans and nothing but great compliments from my music on the web."
Clearly Three Faces Of Eve is a fantastic introduction to two very talented recording artists. Mike's work should be further explored via samples available at mp3.com and his Orchestral Works is an album certain to please instrumental music enthusiasts. Connie's six-track album is a wonderful debut with stunning vocal work, great songwriting and well played instrumentals. Worth a cross country journey, it is amust listen!
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