Image © 1999 Sherreece
Album Reviews and
With stated influences and a style compared to Enigma and Adiemus, new age, electronic and sexy grooves performer Sherreece has a growing international following. Several of the tracks from her most recent album have been acclaimed in her local New Orleans as well as with internet audiences. Both releases feature sensitive and stunning vocal work, but our readers should note that er latest album is much more new age oriented than her debut which has more of a pop vocal and dance theme (think Exposť and Madonna). This article includes reviews of both Sherreece albums and incorporates the results of an exclusive Musical Discoveries interview providing a unique insight behind the music. Lots of further information is available at Shereece's official website. You can find an extensive array of streaming samples and downloads at her mp3.com website.
We asked Sherreece about her musical background. She told us, "I started singing when I was a little girl, about five years old. My father encouraged me to sing. He bought me a microphone and small PA to practice on. He would make me sing to his friends at night after they would get off of work." She continued, "I was in school plays whenever there was a role that required singing. Due to my vocal ability I was given the lead role in my Jr. High School production of Grease. By the time I was a teenager I was singing with bands working fairs, festivals and in area nightclubs."
Sherreece is currently based in New Orleans. She told us about the events that led to her move there and the beginnings of her career. "My sister had taken a job that had moved her to New Orleans. Soon after graduation I left home in South Carolina and moved to New Orleans. There I soon was singing in a band in local clubs. We did mostly covers but always did an original song here and there. I started recording and selling the songs on CDs and cassettes. Soon people were requesting my songs instead of the cover songs the band was doing. At that time I knew I needed to make my songs my number one priority."
Wild Life. The debut album from Sherreece was produced in conjunction with Wayne Rogge (keyboards and guitar) and features twelve pop vocal- and dance-oriented tracks. Entitled Wild Life (St Roch Records (USA) 1005, 1997), music from the album is highly accessible and most suited for radio and/or club play. Sherreece is joined by Byron Santo (keyboards and bass), Ton Dantin (drums) and Wayne Rogge. From first play we were reminded of 1980s girl pop band Exposť, while some of the vocal work is much more reminscent of Madonna. In fact, we had to pull out Exposť's CDs to refresh our memory of their music. All songs are written by Sherreece and Wayne Rogge except "After All" which is written by Wayne and Byron Santo. The lovely cover image "Le Femme and Feline" was done by Olivia.
The album's most moving songs have a dancy flavour and dominate the album. They include "Love Me Tonight," "Playing With My Heart," "Give It Up" "I Wanna Be With You," and "Desire." Similar flavours are evident in "After All" and "Everything's Changed." While "Music Is My Life" continues in the same vein, substantial attention has been given to the arrangements; the guitar work is highly notable and the instrumentals receive more attention than on many of the other tracks. "Freedom" is an epic dance number most suited to the club scene.
Band arrangements achieve depth from extensive keyboard work and crisp percussion. Powerful vocal work varies between highly accessible soaring pop styles and the evocative slightly raunchy sensuality most evident in "I Wanna Be With You" and the theatrical textures within "Love & Sex." Male backing vocals contribute the texture in several of the tracks while Sherreece's layered backing vocals round out and add depth the choruses.
"Remember" is a stunning easy listening style ballad that shows a more melodic and symphonic side to Sherreece's music but continues to illustrate her stunning voice. We were most impressed with Sherreece's vocal work in the accessible ballad "Hot Night Cool Love." A certain favourite, soaring vocal excursions perfectly contrasted the hearfelt lyrical passages.
We asked Sherreece about her musical influences and what led to the development of her own sound. She told us, "The obvious musical influence was Enigma. Ironically, Wayne Rogge, one of my writing partners had already been using similar instrumentation techniques and we were all into the use of sampled choir with different keyboard pads. I think this is the most obvious in the song "When I Die." She continued, "Since we were from New Orleans we had been influenced by the numerous artists that were playing traditional New Orleans R&B. My other writing partner Byron Santo who plays bass and keyboards put together the drums loops to utilize the R&B grooves. You can hear this in songs like "Get It On" and "Your Love Is Killing Me." When we recorded live drums, my drummer, Tom Dantin, then played his interpretation of the drum loops."
Sherreece listens to a broad variety of groups currently. We asked her about her current preferences and she told us, "Enigma and Yanni are my favorite New Age artists. I love the concept albums by Queensryche and DreamTheatre. I also love the Euro-Techo Pop vocal groups like 2Unlimited and LaBouche."
Like many of Musical Discoveries' featured artists, Sherreece developed her style by combining formal training with her own creative instincts. She told us, "I received vocal lessons back when I was in Jr. High School. The teacher had just moved to South Carolina and did not have a southern accent. She was able to get me to pronounce words correctly. My style just sort of developed by itself. I never really tried to copy anyone however, when I was doing covers I always tried to sing the song similar to the original artist. Now when I record my own songs I occasionally can hear little bits of those influences."
New Age Dawning. Sherreece's second album is comprised of ten tracks, illustrates the development of her sound and was released on January 1, 2000 on St. Roch Records (Cat No. 1007). Produced in conjunction with Wayne Rogge and Byron Santo, the album features the same lineup as her debut. All songs are written by the production trio. Arrangements are more symphonic and vocal processing is more robust in several of the album's tracks.
Songs deal with love, sex, life and death and the sensual experience is enhanced with the illustrated foldout lyrics sheet including a bunch of highly evocative images. Vocal work is once again absolutely stunning, often soaring to great effect.
"Genesis 2000" is a symphonic introduction to the title track, a highly accessible new age, pop vocal mix. Tracks blend nicely one into another, with the lovely dance-oriented "Garden Of Eden" immediately following "New Age Dawning." Heavily processed male vocals add substantial texture and depth to the sound. Dance textures are again evident in a couple of the tracks including the sensual "Get It On" and the heavy instrumental "In The End." The dark "My Dearest Marquis" is a spoken word track performed over light instrumentals.
We most enjoyed the symphonic sound of "Your Love Is Killing Me." Soaring vocals are perfectly complimented by thick instrumental arrangements. Instrumentals and dense percussion lead the way in the Gothic-oriented progressive epic "Flesh and Blood and Bone." Choral vocal passages provide a nice contrast to the other tracks on the album. A bluesy, New Orleans sound is combined with orchestral arrangements in "When I Die," a gentle ballad featuring Sherreece's stunning vocal work. We would have preferred the vocals to be mixed a little higher as the percussion is a bit much in spots. "Tomorrow" concludes the album and captures the entire range of sounds on the album from thick Gothic textures to upbeat pop-oriented vocals. The lead vocal is stunning, bright and hopeful.
We asked Sherreece about her songwriting and collaboration with co-writers. She told us, "I collaborate with Wayne Rogge and Byron Santo on all of the songs. We donít sit down to write songs. The songs will just sort of happen to one of us." She continued, "Whoever gets the initial concept will bring a rough draft of the song for each of us to embellish upon. You never know who is going to have what piece. Sometimes I get the lyrics and Wayne may get the music. Other times Wayne may get some lyrics and some music and I might add lyrics. Byron generally comes up with music."
The advent of affordable equipment has led many artists to establish home studios. Sherreece told us, "About when I started recording the songs for New Age Dawning I had set up a room in my house to serve as our music room. We usually record the music in midi on the keyboard. After the music is generally complete, I record scratch vocal tracks and live drum tracks. We record the live drums to midi so that we can also copy, cut and paste them as needed."
She continued, "Since we use the Roland VS880, we may copy, cut and paste until we get the final arrangement. Each song is a little different. Sometimes we donít have to cut or paste at all. Once we are ready for the recording studio, we will transfer the midi and digitally recorded tracks. I sing the vocal tracks and we will add guitar or any other acoustic instruments as needed."
Sherreece is fortunate to have music as the central focus of her life and it is her career. Besides music, Sherreece told us, "I have a personal interest in is physical fitness. I am in the gym four or five days a week. I am a Tae-Bo instructor at the gym where I workout. I enjoy this but it would never be my career choice."
We were most interested to learn about Shereece's live performances. She told us, "I have a new show for New Age Dawning. To keep things mysterious we use back-lighting, lots of fog and lasers. This looks really cool. I start out in the silver robe from the CD cover for the song "New Age Dawning." I then change into a variety of outfits throughout the show, one of the cooler outfits is the black patent leather suit that I wear during "My Dearest Marquis" and "Your Love Is Killing Me." I will change into a cape or gothic gown for "When I Die." The show ends with me in something futuristic for hope of the future in the song "Tomorrow."
The artwork asccompanying New Age Dawning is astounding both in it's creativity and production. We asked Sherreece about it and she told us, "Wayne was responsible for this. He is really into art. He had downloaded a lot of art off of the Internet. One day we were looking at it and it was suddenly obvious to us that there was a graphic that sort of fit each of our songs."
She continued, "For New Age Dawning we used a piece that was titled "Eve." Eve is a fem-bot holding a globe which we interpreted to mean 'a new beginning.' The image with the devil seducing a woman seemed perfect for "Garden of Eden." The one with Jesus on the cross was a natural for "Flesh and Blood and Bone." We changed the shape of a stock image from the movie 2001 to symbolize being reborn for the song "In The End." We couldnít find anything that worked for "When I Die." So after the photo session of me wearing the silver robe, Wayne was able to take one of the pix and digitally edit the image."
When asked about the impact of the web, Sherreece told us, "The Internet has helped immensely. We decided to put the album on mp3.com to see how it would do. With very little promotion the songs "New Age Dawning" and "When I Die" each made it into the top 10 of their genre charts." She continued, "I have been able to have my music reach people all over the world. Thanks to the Internet, I have picked up many new fans. So far I have received fan mail from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England, France, Germany and Russia. The possibilities seem endless."
Sherreece's two albums sharply contrast each other with the former being much more pop and dance oriented than the most recent. Stunning vocal work is the common thread between the two albums. Production quality and instrumental work on both is superb. While we enjoyed both albums, we'd recommend readers begin with the most recent album and work backwards when exploring Sherreece's work further. Both albums are presently available from amazon.com. Click on the album covers within this article to order them directly. Sherreece's music should be sought out by readers that enjoy female vocals. Worth a cross country journey, her music is a must listen!
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