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Annette Cantor - Songs To The Earth
I don't think I've come across an artist whose surname is so appropriate for what they do. Annette Cantor is a soprano producing music for the new age market, but whose music could also cross over to the contemporary classical market too. She delves into the ancient Christian tradition of Gregorian Chant and mixes it with the sound of the Native American flute and chants, for a sound that is quite extraordinary. Intended as music for healing and meditation, Ms Cantor created this music while undergoing her own healing period after being diagnosed with cancer. I think it's safe to assume that this music aided in her own recovery. The seven tracks are Gaia Dreaming, Water Blessing, To The Great Mother Of Compassion, Ave Generosa, Healing Prayer, Forest Meditation, and In Gratitude. The musicians involved in the recording are: Patrick Shendo-Mirabel - native American flutes and vocals, Michael Kott - cello, Mark Clark, Mike Chavez and Gregory Gutin - percussion. Songs To The Earth is perhaps a bit esoteric for the average listener, but it has a haunting charm and Ms Cantor has a ravishingly beautiful voice. This is not an album for audio wallpaper, but something to sit down and listen to, become lost in its charms and calm the raging emotions within.
Available from Amazon MP3, CD Baby, iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody and other retailers for download or as a CD.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.annettesings.com
Underground is the third album by pianist Lisa Hilton reviewed here at The Borderland, and it is a much different prospect compared to the previous solo albums. This time she has a band and the sound is surprisingly muscular and harder than before. While the sound on the previous albums was 'sweeter', here it is much more masculine and post-bop jazz in style and texture - i.e., there is a strong element of discordance running through many of the tracks. The music is strongly impressionistic - not sure why but I am getting mind pictures of desolate landscapes while listening to this album. The musicians playing with Ms Hilton are: Larry Grenadier - bass, Nasheet Waits - drums and JD Allen - sax. Of the nine tracks all but one are composed by Ms Hilton with the final one, B Minor Waltz being written by Bill Evans. The remaining tracks are: Underground, Boston+Blues, Jack & Jill, Someday Somehow Soon [an extended take is added as a bonus track], Just A Little Past Midnight, Blue Truth, and Come & Go. I have to admit that I find the music here a bit too grim for my tastes but that is just me and I'm no 'grand' arbiter of taste. I'm sure that there is an audience who will enjoy this album, and there is no doubt that Ms Hilton is a very talented composer and pianist.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.lisahiltonmusic.com
I normally avoid nostalgia like the plague, but just hearing the theme from this classic tv serial brings back my youth with a rush, and I suddenly feel the weight of my 47 odd years. Anyone who was a child in the mid 60's will probably remember this French-sourced tv serial - especially as Auntie Beeb ran it every summer holiday. Based on the Daniel Defoe novel, the score was composed by Robert Mellin and Gian-Piero Reverberi.
Considering that most 60's tv shows used little music outside the main themes, I was amazed to find over 75 minutes of music on this CD reissue (30 minutes of which had been only recently rediscovered. What we have here are the original recordings (not re-recordings) of the music, and one must congratulate Silva Screen's production team on both their detective work and the massive clean-up that the tapes needed before they could be used. The music surprisingly holds up very well away from the visual cues, some of it is cod-baroque in style, but most is original and extremely listenable (it also helped that the main theme was so damned insidiously catchy that you end up whistling it everywhere!). Highly recommended for those nostalgic for their youth.
This cd came in a plain cover so I have no idea who or how many make up King Chango. That aside, I can tell you they play a vibrant, joyful mix of latin, ska, reggae, and rock, with a little sly rapping on the top. But primarily this is music from the latin side of America. The Return Of El Santo has twelve tracks, all of them great for parties - they'll get anyone up on their feet for a jig or three [even me, I suspect!]. If you can get your head around Buster Bloodvessel's Bad Manners adding latin to their ska mix then this how King Chango sound. If you don't fall under the spell of opening track Finalmente then I doubt that you'll like this album - every track is a self contained party just waiting to happen... Put another way, if we were having the summer we should have and there was a barbecue on every street corner this is the album that should be the soundtrack to that scene.
I've never actually heard any of Sharon Shannon's music before receiving this album, and on a few listens I can tell that I've been missing something special. The Diamond Mountain Sessions [DMS from now on] is one of those multi-collaboration affairs with several Irish and American collaborators: Jackson Brown, Steve Earle, John Prine, Hothouse Flowers, Carlos Nunez, John Hoban, Dessie O'Halloran, The Woodchoppers, Liz and Yvonne Kane. It takes the generally well-worn theme that Irish music has spread across the world and been absorbed into local cultures. Nothing new there, of course, but this new album just reinforces the fact that all musicians will want to be reincarnated as Irish!
DMS succeeds on any level you care to apply to it - it's a great party album with enough variety and dance tunes to keep any old hoofer happy: A Costa De Galicia, Slan Le Van, The Pernod Waltz, The Hounds of Letterfrack. It also rocks like a demented bugger - just listen to Steve Earle roaring out The Galway Girl to see what I mean. And then there's one of the best tv themes ever - the wildly weird Irish sit-com The Fitz. Folkies will find Jackson Browne's A Man of Constant Sorrow to their tastes.
To cap it all the album was recorded in the best place you can imagine, an Irish pub! Talk about the ultimate in cool...
As an art form Jazz is one of the most immediate and most ephemeral - everything is reliant on the performance and the interaction of the performers, and not just repetition of that performance. So here we have a live recording of a gig by the Walt Weiskopf Quartet performed at a Californian university back in 2008. The eight tracks are mostly composed by the band, with a couple of exceptions - Blame It On My Youth and Love For Sale. The album also acts as a tribute to the impressive drummer, Tony Reedus, who has sadly passed away since the recording. The music is pretty robust post-bop, led by Walt Weiskopf's tenor sax, with Renee Rosnes playing some impressive piano, and Paul Gill on muscular bass. The band's own compositions are: Man Of Many Colors, Little Minor Love Song, Dizzy Spells/Jay-Walking, Blues In The Day, Scottish Folk Song, and Breakdown. Despite being recorded at a university hall, it still sounds like an intimate gig, the audience intent on the music and thankfully free of the 'yee-haw' brigade. The musical invention on display is impressive, and of course hanging over it all is the sadness that this was the final recording by one of the musicians. Without meaning any disrespect to the other musicians I must say that I was most impressed by pianist Renee Rosnes, who made her piano sing hard and sweet throughout. So, Live is a document of a jazz quartet performing at a moment in time, and for that moment they played as one and shone brightly.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.caprirecords.com
Like the Jocelyn Pook Untold Things album reviewed elsewhere, this is another album that is cross-referential, taking its influences from various genres of music and melding them together. In this case it a mixture of traditional folk, roots and classical music. The instrumental palette includes cello, fiddle, melodeon, harp, northumbrian pipes, sackbut, trombone and of course the human voice. The musicians are: Kathryn Tickell, Mary Macmaster, Ron Shaw, Julian Sutton, and John Kenny.
While many of the tunes on this cd are traditional, or written in a traditional style the results are anything but, with some very strange outcomes. Take the first track, Sevens, a lively jig type number where the trombone acts as a drone base for the pipes and melodeon to dance over. Day Dawn begins as a plaintive air until Mary Macmaster's lucent and breathy soprano takes over and begins what sounds like a lullaby, but is actually a Celtic carol. All told there are eleven tracks here and they explore this variety of instrumentation in many ways. As a folk album it is perhaps a little too controlled and static - I can't see it being played at parties much, but there is a lot of beautiful music here, ideal for those times when you need to recharge the batteries after a heavy day.
The pedal steel guitar has been associated for so long with country and Hawaiian music that few people ever consider its possibilities for creating genuinely original music. Bruce Kaphan is one of those who did and who has subsequently recorded an incredibly atmospheric album where the pedal steel almost takes on the mantle of a synthesiser to produce a series of wondrously impressionistic soundscapes. I don't care if this is classified as 'new age', Hybrid is certainly not a blandfest, the dozen tracks here offer some impressive examples of what the pedal steel guitar can achieve. Mr Kaphan plays most of the other instruments himself, but guest musicians provide backup on some tracks on tabla, cello, guitar, piano and bass. It is safe to assume that little of the music on this album hails from anywhere near Nashville - the music, if anything contains 'world music' influences, but sounds pan-global. Evocative track titles include: Põhaka Lã, Maya, Gleaming Towers, Loops For Larry, Arctic Front, Dustbowl Revisited and many more. There are only two other pedal steel guitarists who come to my mind as being as adventurous as Mr Kaphan, they are Britain's own B.J. Cole and Red Rhodes, the man who helped ex-Monkee Mike Nesmith realise his dream of making post-country-rock music back in the early 70s. Hybrid is an album for chilling out to, in other words, lay back and enjoy its mellifluous vibes - the world will seem a much better place after a session listening to this.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.brucekaphan.comMary Chapin Carpenter - Time*Sex*Love
The thing about Mary Chapin Carpenter [henceforth MCC] is whether she is a country gal hailing from Nashville or is she a sophisticated folkie from Washington? Her songs seem to be a mix of both traditions with a dash of rock and and whole lot of Americana as a side order. MCC's latest album is a good case in point, with songs that could be of any genre. Personally I don't care, they are MCC songs and that's good enough for me. Carpenter has one of the best voices in contemporary music: warm, humane, intimate on the ballads, sassy and raucus on the rockers. And she also manages to give her songs a woman's perspective without the usual feminist brouhaha and polemic hysteria.
It also has to be said that MCC is a superb craftswoman when it comes to songs, with many of these staying in the memory long afterwards: Whenever You're Ready, Maybe World [with its Beach Boys harmonies], Simple Life, This Is Me Leaving You. Finally, MCC surrounds herself with extremely sympathetic musicians [including Fairport Convention's ace drummer Dave Mattacks] on this album, and their velvet glove fit makes for some very pleasurable listening. While MCC isn't exactly unknown here in the UK no hits singles and little radioplay does mean she is still a cult act when she should really be much more visible. I'm not sure whether Time*Sex*Love is the album to break through that barrier, but it is a fine example of her work and if you've never listened to her before buy this. You won't regret it - highly recomended.
This is the second Lisa Hilton album I have received here for review, the first was Twilight And Blues which was performed with her band. Nuance is a solo album, just Ms Hilton and her piano and a selection of tunes from previous albums given the solo piano treatment. Indeed, these tracks have been requested by her fans, so you could say that this is a Best Of album in all but name. Ms Hilton has a surprisingly muscular approach to jazz piano, lots of rolling left hand rhythm while playing around with the melodies with the right hand. The majority of the twelve tracks are self-composed, but there is a cover of Thelonius Monk's Off Minor, and covers of The Thrill Is Gone [BB King's breakthrough song] and Wake Me Up When September Ends by rock band Green Day. Ms Hilton certainly makes a big sound with her piano, and gives it a mighty workout with her robust playing. I'm not a great jazz piano fan, I prefer big band styles myself, but one can't be left being impressed by the verve of her performance here and being caught up in the drama of her playing. If you like jazz piano and want to hear someone with a strong style I suggest you give Nuance a try.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.lisahiltonmusic.com
The Portuguese label ThisCo is one of the most idiosyncratic of labels, espousing an anti-corporate ideology alongside its stable of electronic music artists. ThisCology is the latest compilation and it brings together ten tracks of varying styles of electronica - and while most tracks have a dance beat they are all treated with more intelligence than a bog standard techno or house track. Artists included on the cd are Ssssh..., Oxygen, Flat Opak, Head Shot, Rasal.A'sad, A Teia, Low Pressure Syndrome, Mikroben Krieg, Sciencia, and In Tempus. Now, I'm assuming that all of these musicians hail from Portugal [the sleeve notes are enigmatic at best as to the niceties of who is who on these recordings], and it is difficult to differentiate between them as the overall sound and production is generic. That aside, this is a very interesting and challenging collection of tracks that push electronic music forward in some provocative new pathways. On all the tracks the rhythms and synth sounds and samples all display imagination and even wit. If you want to check out Portuguese electronica then this is the place to start.
I've lost count of how many albums Steeleye Span have made over their long and illustrious career. Enough to ensure that they will go down as one of the most influential bands in British pop music. So a new album is always welcome - especially one that opens with Dave Mattacks knocking the shit out of his drums on Well Done Liar - a perfect [and funky] melding of sixteenth century lyrics to rock and roll riffs. Who Told The Butcher is a mellow duet by Gay Woods and Peter Knight, which gets you relaxed before John Of Ditchford, a booming slice of histrionic historic storytelling allied to some serious Led Zep-type riffing from bassist Tim Harries and guitarist Bob Johnson [in his last album with the band]. Another album highlight is Gay Woods vocal on I See His Blood Upon The Rose, soaring over a pulsing, surging rhythm tracks. Simply magical.
And so it goes on - Bedlam Born is one of Steeleye Span's definitive late period albums. A perfect mixture of folk and rock in a beautifully engineered packaged - this is an album ideal for testing out that new hi-fi system. It says a lot that a group of musicians such as these can continue to mine the roots of British traditional music and still find gold after all these years. It's even more impressive that they can then bring their highly accomplished musical skills to bear and make something that is of today. Highly recommended.
This composer/musician is a new one to me, but according to the pr sheet she's worked with The Communards, Meat Loaf, Massive Attack and PJ Harvey - plus she provided the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's final movie, Eyes Wide Shut. As you would expect from an album on Real World there is a strong vein of ethnic musical influences running through out, and this is allied with an orchestral/choral sound more often heard in classical music than rock.
The opening track Dionysus starts with a deep bass pulse overlaid with a string section, a half faded choir and a single woman's voice singing something indecipherable. A cursory listen would make you think of Enya, but this is something different, not as lush or richly overtracked. Extremely stark and eerie. Red Song uses a slightly lusher mix of voices, including samples of arabic chants, very soulful. The sound of the Middle East is more prevalent on Upon This Rock, with the keening wail of an arab priest.
The rest of the album follows the above with a rich mix of medieval chants, classical-influenced strings, treated samples of natural sounds, voices and instruments. It's a very evocative album, but not for background listening like most 'New Age' albums. This has substance and conveys a sense of genuine musical exploration that requires the listener to actually 'listen'.David Byrne - Look Into The Eyeball
(Real World CDVUS189)
David Byrne has had an extremely varied career since leaving Talking Heads all those years ago. Most importantly, like Peter Gabriel, he's championed musicians from other cultures [what the suits call "World Music"] by setting up his own label Luaka Bop. Still, there's time for a solo career too, and Look Into The Eyeball is his latest solo album. Anyone expecting something in the vein of Talking heads will be disappointed - Look Into The Eyeball is extremely easy on the ear, bringing together slick production values, a set of beautiful songs and a strong afro/latin style weaving in and out of the tracks. Though that skewed view of the world and playful use of unusual time signatures remain. One other thing, Byrne's voice was always wayward in holding a note, he could be Jonathan Richman's cousin in that respect, but his voice is very controlled on this album, and I swear he's even crooning on a track or two! Highlight tracks are UB Jesus, Revolution, Ev'ryones In Love With You, Like Humans Do, Desconcido Soy, Neighbourhood - to be honest, there isn't a sub standard track on this album! I really like this album, Byrne has matured and is now hitting the heart with his songs and not just the brain as in the TH days.
This is a straight reissue of Linda Ronstadt's 1982 album which sold a million and grabbed a few grammy nominations. Where her 70's albums were ground-breaking country-rock confections Get Closer is much more AOR - Adult Orientated Rock. A dozen songs by Joe South, Jimmy Webb, Dolly Parton, Smokey Stover, Bert Russell, Kate McGarrigle and many others, spanning golden oldie hits: Tell Him and I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine, to country classics such as My Blue Tears, Mr Radio, and classic ballads such as Easy For You To Say. Plus there are a couple of rockers in Lies and Get Closer.
Get Closer is a very easy on the ear album, but compared to her pioneering early albums it is glossily produced and anodyne - designed for the radio rather than any intrinsic merit of its own. Linda Ronstadt wouldn't become interesting again until she climbed out of the AOR pit and began experimenting by working with Mexican musicians in a series of Tex-Mex albums and with Nelson Riddle on a series of songbook collections.
Okay, so here's the deal - one of folk-rocker Al Stewart's hobbies is drinking wine, so why not combine that with his music and record a new album of songs with the loose concept of wine as the theme. Must have seemed a good idea at the time, and let's face it after quaffing a few bottles of quality chardonnay it must have seemed an even better idea. So here we are with Down In The Cellar, an album of great songs about characters and wine drinking. It's mostly a low key album, acoustic [and there's some gorgeously evocative acoustic guitar playing by Stewart and Laurence Juber] and very intimate. Anyone expecting the epochal tales of Year of the Cat or Time Passages will be disappointed, but there are many delights here: Down in the Cellars, Waiting For Margaux, Under a Wine-Stained Moon, House of Clocks, Toutes Les Etoiles and The Shiraz Shuffle. I know it's a cliche, but find a bottle of something tasty, pop this cd in the deck and relax in the summer heat - and please, none of that poncey spitting it out into the bucket! Wine is meant to be drunk!
The new album by multi-instrumentalist Michael Brant DeMaria is the soundtrack to a play co-written with Stephen C Lott. It doesn't take much to work out that the theme of the play and the music is centred on the magical location of Stonehenge, here in the West Country of Great Britain. The story is about a young woman, Teagan, in Ancient Britain and her route to becoming a shaman. Apart from vocals by Maggie Crain, all the music is composed and performed by Michael Brant DeMaria, and as you would expect if you have heard his previous albums [many reviewed here in The Borderland] they are intensely melodic, inherently dramatic and fall within the New Age genre. The Maiden Of Stonehenge draws on Celtic folklore and musical roots for its soundscape, and thanks to the usage of various period style flutes the sound is ethereal and ghostly at times. Equally ethereal is the voice of Maggie Crain, whose light soprano seems to just float between the speakers as she performs Teagan's 'soul song'. The album contains thirteen tracks and these are: Lost Village, Mysterious Stranger, Enchanted Forest, Chantress, Moonlight Mystic, Trowie Mor, Web Of The Wyrd, Glasfar, Natura, Spring Of Solace, Healing Heart, Anam Cara, Stonehenge. The Maiden Of Stonehenge is one of those albums that may take a little time and more than one play to recognise the complexity and magic of the music. It may embrace the Celtic but thankfully avoids the Irish branch of the genre, which thanks to Enya and Clannad has become a tad over-familiar. As always Michael Brant DeMaria has crafted an album of immense charm and craftsmanship and it is one that will reward repeated listening. Highly Recommended.
Available from Amazon MP3, CD Baby, iTunes and other retailers for download or as a CD. For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.michaeldemaria.com
Trine Opsahl is a harpist of rare talent and with an equal talent as a composer. Her new album, Somewhere In A Hidden Memory, is a collection of fifteen self-composed tracks, the music drawn from the Nordic tradition rather than the usual Irish Celtic tradition. The Nordic harp tradition may lack the Irish folk dance style and be more, let's say Classical in structure. Less 'jiggery pokery' and more atmospheric, reflecting the Scandinavian landscape and the solitude of the region. Ms Opsahl creates magical soundscapes from her fingers, short vignettes of her own mythical [and musical] worlds set across the Nordic hinterlands. The Celtic harp [as opposed to the concert harp used in symphony orchestras] is one of those beautiful sounding instruments that can never be made to sound harsh or unmelodic. It has a drama and magic all of its own, which when added to the talented musician becomes as truly inspiring instrument. That is the case here - Ms Opsahl has a style that eschews the flash showmanship of some harpists, and at times it seems as if the notes are just flowing from her fingers. The track titles are: To Wild Rose, A Star In Heaven Is Born Tonight, Sister Moon, Morning Mist And The Breathing Of Evening, Crossroads, The Light Dances My Love, Brother Sun, Ladybirds And Butterflies, My Way Up High, Love Waltz, True Thomas, Ripples In Water, Somewhere In A Hidden Memory, The Space Between The Fish And The Moon, Be My Vision And Light. Somewhere In A Hidden Memory is classified as New Age or Healing, but I think Contemporary Folk is equally valid. This is a superb album that will reward the listener with many wonders on repeated listening.
Available from Amazon MP3, CD Baby, iTunes and other retailers for download or as a CD. For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.trineopsahl.com
I am writing this in the early days of December and as you will no doubt guess from the title this new album is of mostly instrumental music with a festive theme, though a few tracks could be played at other times of the year. As Christmas music albums go Embracing Winter is quite a jaunty excursion, the fourteen tracks a mix of carols and festive songs. Jim Hudak is a fluent pianist and multi-instrumentalist, shifting moods and instruments at ease. The music on this album is more than suitable for soundtracking family gatherings on Christmas Day while presents are being distributed and mulled wine being passed around. As with all Christmas music, the songs on here are programme music of a high quality, suitable for this time of year and out of place for the rest of the time. Having said that, this is one of the more pleasant festive albums I have heard, with a briskly satisfying lack of overt sentiment and sugar. Which helps bring out the core meanings of each songs. The tracks are a mix of the classics and several originals written by Mr Hudak - the titles are: Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride, Wait For December, Baby What You Going To Be, Silver Bells, Winter Waltz/Acres Of Clams, Let's Trim The Christmas Tree, The Chipmunk Song, Silent Night, Do You Hear What I Hear?, I Wonder As I Wander, Under The Christmas Mistletoe, The First Noel, Remember The Child. If you are looking for a festive album that mixes traditional with a little wit then I commend Embracing Winter to you.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.jimhudak.com
Glimmerings is a collection of instrumental pieces written or spontaneously improvised in the recording studio by pianist Elika Mahony. A woman of the world, literally, these compositions are a musical journey through a life, not necessarily the composers'. Recorded in Beijing, China, this music is simply recorded - no overdubs, multi tracks, or studio trickery. Just a woman and her piano with an occasional cello accompaniment, and some vocal embellishment. Glimmerings is unashamedly a New Age album, the thematic content meditative and spiritual. The dozen tracks are: Commencement, Awakening, Glimmerings, Dawning, Daybreak, Reflection, Summer Storm, Realization, Beloved, Enchantment, Evanescence, Final Journey. If you specifically enjoy piano music then I think you will be literally enchanted by Glimmerings - the music is very melodic and individualistic. There is nothing formulaic about this music, it came from the heart during the studio sessions and it will make you sit up and notice it when coming from your loudspeakers. Recommended.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.elikamahony.com
Ethnomusicology is one of those 'world music' albums where a multi-verse of musical strands come together and create something special. Ekendra Das is a master percussionist and his excellent band World Radio 108 contain musicians from around the world, who bring their many musical disciplines together. America, Latin America, Africa, India and even farther east - it's all in there, moulded into a single unified sound. And what a glorious, invigorating sound it is! Ethnomusicology is an album I have been enjoying a lot. Thanks to the street raps and sound bites from news channels the album almost acts as a musical 'state of the nation/world', and that gives it a depth that few contemporary albums of any genre have. The floating membership of World Radio 108 is quite large - far too many to list here, but Radha Botofasina on vocals and various instruments, Joe Ely on piano and Ali Chere on bass and guitars are amongst the core of musicians on most tracks and their talent shines through. All twelve tracks are written by Ekendra Das, either alone or in collaboration with members of the band. The tracks are: Orisha (Yoruba, Ifapalo Lukumi), Una Promesa, Where Will We Go From Here, Love Divine, Harina Con Sal (Thank You), Never To Return, Regeneration, Highways, A Word, MPM, Percussion Discussion, World Radio. The album is rich in rhythm - as you would expect - but it is also highly melodic, and the vocals are harmonious. The blending of assorted ethnic instruments is so skilfully done as to make them a seamless fit into the overall sound. Ethnomusicology has to be one of the best albums of the year so far and if you enjoy world music then you must hear this album.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.daspercussion.com
(Messy House MH 0102)
The Great American Songbook has long been a rich source for singers and once again a new vocalist [to me] has mined into the fertile seam of musical gems and made her selection. Audrey Silver has a voice of pure gold - a deeper than usual feminine voice similar to that of Sarah Vaughan and Ella. She also has jazz running through her veins, meaning that she swings on the faster songs and breaks your heart on the ballads. I find so many of the new jazz singers tend to go for the higher register and it sounds like squawking to me, but Ms Silver pitches her voice lower, utilising her full register - damn, the lady has a sexy voice! Supported by a trio or quartet of excellent musicians, the lady surfs over them and around them, always on the note and always pitch perfect. The musicians are: Joe Fitzgerald - bass, Joe Barbato - piano, Chris Bergson - guitar, and Anthony Pinciotti or Todd Isler - drums. The songs are: The Song Is Ended, In The Wee Small Hours, Falling In Love With Love, Too Marvellous For Words, I Will Wait For You, So many Stars, Exactly Like You, That's All, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Day Dream, and I Could Write A Book. Dream Awhile is a gem of an album and to my ears a classic of the genre - Ms Silver has a voice full of charm and it is a musicians instrument. By rights this lady should be signed to one of the majors and the album available in every musical outlet so that discerning listeners can buy it. This has to be one of my albums of 2011 - it's just so heartbreakingly lovely.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.audreysilver.com
Out On A Limb is an album of romantic songs performed in a jazz style by husband and wife team John and Kim Samorian. Mr Samorian wrote all the songs and plays and organ on all the tracks, plus provides vocals on over half of the songs while his wife is vocalist on the rest - sadly I don't think they duet on any of the tracks, which is a shame as both musicians have extremely pleasant voices. Most of the songs have a strong narrative element, romantic tales of love lost, found, requited and unrequited. While that may sound a bit 'Mills & Boon' [a British publisher of schlock romantic novels here in the UK], the songs actually hold up well and could act as the narrative for the soundtrack to a romantic movie. As you can see romance is a big feature of this album, and that is actually refreshing because affairs of the heart seem to have been ignored recently by many songwriters. The track titles are: I Ain't What I Used To Be, Magic Morning, The Alphabet of Alcohol, Out On A Limb, Autumn Is Here, I Wish I Didn't Love You, Lonely, When We Loved, Singapore, You Came To me, and Listen To The Rain. The musical style of this album is small combo jazz with a nice swing to it, so even the sad songs wallop along nicely. The band are: Kevin Lutke - guitars, Dave Edwards - bass, Warren Odze - drums. John Samorian and Kim Shriver spend their working lives in musical theatre and that is reflected in these songs, they all have a hint of drama and that knack of encouraging an audience's feet to start tapping. Out On A Limb is such a great feel good album, and is on heavy rotation here at Borderland Towers. Highly recommended and undisputatably one of my albums of 2011.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.johnsamorian.com
The Stream Of Pearls Project is a collection of musical impressions influenced by the way free flowing water - both in rivers and the oceans - affect us. Spread over eighteen tracks and two distinctly separate sections, the music is a cross between impressionistic classical, jazz and gentle new age musings. The two sections are titled North American Watercolors and Outer Banks Crystal Scores. All the music is composed and performed on piano by Claire Ritter, accompanied on various tracks by one or more of the following musicians: Takaaki Masuko - drums and percussion, Jon Metzger - vibes, Ashima Scripp - cello, Toni Naples and Rick Hansen - accordion, and Richie Stearns - banjo. These musicians are used very sparingly throughout the album, and sometimes their presence is quite ghostly. The piano performances certainly have a classical atmosphere to them, there is a feeling of the piano music of Liszt, Debussy and perhaps even Erik Satie being channelled here. It would be simplistic to say that the music simply gives an impression of water flowing and sun rippling on the surface - there is much more here, not least the emotional attachment we humans find in flowing water. With eighteen tracks there is not enough room to list the track titles, save to say that most titles are accompanied by the name of the location that inspired the piece. The music here covers a wide variety of moods and impressions, and Ms Ritter's piano is the confident heart of the album. This is a superb album, creating both a restful and gently stimulating atmosphere for the listener to follow their own creative pursuits.
For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.claireritter.com
I always feel a strong sense of anticipation when I receive a new album from Andy C of A-Frame Media, and especially so when the album is by his alter ego, The Glimmer Room. So his new album, I Remain, is most welcome here at The Borderland. For those who have never heard of The Glimmer Room or its music - where have you been? The Glimmer Room have been releasing a sequence of superb albums of electronica in recent years, all have been memorable for their uniqueness - both in the restrained style and for a sound no-one else can create. And that continues with I Remain - it is an album containing just the one track, but split into nine sections. The music is very ambient and dreamy, it resonates with memories and emotions, wistful and nostalgic yet gently thrusting forward [on the breath of a butterfly] into the future. All music, instruments and chorale voices courtesy of Andy C. If you enjoy the more pastoral of Brian Eno's ambient music then this is for you. This is music of the future yet it resonates strongly with that of the past - for some reason I kept thinking of Edward Elgar while listening to some of the album's more pastoral passages. While the overall tone is slow and atmospheric, some of the sections move into more Tangerine Dream-like soundscapes, more propulsive, melodies evolve and shuffle about before fading into the next sequence. The emotional resonance to the album is revealed in the accompanying DVD single, which puts a section of the album together with historical movie footage of atomic bomb tests in the 1940s and 50s. These images, with their flickering and grainy black and white ghosts and the promise and fears that nuclear energy offered humanity in the future is the key to the music. One wonders at the naive stupidity of those soldiers observing the test bomb explosions without any form of protection save for their tin helmets! The ignorance of radiation - I wonder how many of those seen in the footage are still alive... I am an unabashed fan of the Glimmer Room, I make no bones about that, how anyone can pack so much emotional and melodic 'magic' into just forty-one minutes of music is beyond me - I certainly wanted it to continue when the final notes were fading away. I think I Remain is a classic of the genre and deserves to heard by a much wider audience than it is likely to find. Andy C is one of the few musicians who can bring emotions out of those keyboards. That is truly magical! The album of the year as far as I am concerned
While Good Sign falls into the 'new age' classification I think anyone with a liking for good instrumental music and/or electronic music will enjoy this new album by Davol. A new artist, to me, it came as a pleasant surprise that the album was full of gorgeous melodies and gently shifting rhythms. I think Good Sign would equally be at home played by any club dj in their chill room. Track titles are: Scarborough Days, Good Sign, Going There, Nautikos, A Place Here, Truth 2010, Stay, Goodnight. Davol is Davol Tedder, a wizard of multiple keyboards, brought up on the music of Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre and Vangelis - a pedigree that resonates strongly with me as they are my favourite musicians as well. You may hear some of these influences in the music but they are extremely restrained and the music on this CD is all Davol. The overall feel of the music on Good Sign is good vibes but without the hammerhead beats that make dance music so boring and wearing on the ears and brain. It is also rather pleasant to find an album without some sort of agenda such as spiritual renewal or discovering your karma! This is just a collection of well written tunes played with wit and humour, and great musicality. I really rate Davol and Good Sign - it's one of my albums of the year and is going into my musical collection.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.davolmusic.com
I recently reviewed multi-instrumentalist Davol's latest album [Good Sign - see above] for this website with some enthusiasm, and he has kindly sent me a couple of his earlier albums for review. Of the two albums, Open Book is the older, released in 1998, and it is interesting to see that Davol has always had the knack of popping out great melodic tunes. The ten tracks are all performed by Davol, with Cynthia Myers providing vocals on Within Her Reach, and Byron Hamer on flute on Papali. I guess this is classified in America as 'new age' but it seems like great pop music to me - bouncy, uptempo tunes with lots of acoustic guitar riding over layers of synths and rhythm sequences. This is music really for lifting the spirits, either after work or for a party. Most of the ten tracks will simply leave you with a smile plastered across your face - this is chill out music for those who have no idea what a chill out room is for. The ten tracks are: Appaloosa, Hand In Mine, Gecko, Aquus, The Hope, Sleight Of Hand, Another Day, Papali, Within Her Reach and Adieu. I am not going to pick favourites, I can't - there really isn't a duff one on the CD - buy Open Book and select your own, it won't be hard. And now onto A Day Like No Other, recorded and released in 2005. This album has eight tracks, and apart from a more exuberant sound and more sophisticated use of synth technologies the same knack for a great tune is there. The tracklisting is: Say It, Human, Lucky Day, Necessity Of Love, Just Like You, Of The Valley, Ride, A Star Shines. I think the music on this album has more depth to it, the production values are definitely shinier, and I can understand why Davol's music is so successful on instrumental radio stations - something we don't have here in the UK. I think A Day Like No Other hints at Davol's musical influences [Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Kraftwerk] more strongly. Especially in his usage of synths - the layered sound, use of sequences and loops is more pronounced. I would hate to have to choose between these two albums but I think the latter just shades it by having more of a dance rhythm vibe. But its immaterial really, if you really like strong albums of melodic instrumentals go for either of these - and then get his latest, Good Sign, it's even better.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.davolmusic.com
Prog rock has been undergoing some reassessment recently - a lengthy overview in Mojo and a programme in the Top Ten series on Channel 4 - so this new live double cd from prog rock pioneers Yes seems a rather opportune time to see if they still live up to their reputation.
Well, Yes certainly were there at the beginning of prog rockery back in the cusp of the 1960s/70s, and their high octane mix of instrumental flashery, po-faced sci-fi imagery [aided by seminal Roger Dean album cover designs] and lengthy jams certainly found a ready audience. And even ready acceptance and regular air time on the BBC's arts radio station, Radio 3.
So here we are, thirty years later on, after several line-up changes, but the essential core of the original band are still together: Jon Anderson, Steve Howe Chris Squire, Alan White, and latest additions Billy Sherwood and Igor Khoroshev - sadly no Rick Wakeman this time. House of Blues is a record of Yes's 1999/2000 tour to showcase the last studio album [to date], The Ladder. So these two cds contain a mix of classic Yes back catalogue tracks and new stuff, the highlights being: Yours Is No Disgrace, And You And I, Roundabout, Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Lightning Strikes, The Messenger, Homeworld (The Ladder), Perpetual Change, It Will Be A Good Day (The River).
As live albums go this is a damned good one - excellent sound quality, the band are tighter than a whippet's arse, and the new material is as good as the thirty year old stuff [then again, The Ladder was the best album they've made in many years]. Yes have survived all the passing fads in music and come through sounding stronger than ever, mixing the classics with new material in such a way that it is difficult to tell what was written when - in other words Yes have passed into that twilight zone where their sound has become timeless. Rock on guys!
Australia may well be half a world away [from Great Britain] but its influence is felt in many ways: XXXX lager, Germaine Greer, Rolf Harris, tv soap opera Neighbours and Home & Away, and of course the mighty AC/DC - and now a surfabilly trio called The Tommys. Yes, the land of Oz has finally succumbed to two of Rock's most visceral strands of music: surf and rockabilly. Add a little punk and psycho attitude and some ultra twangy guitar and you have Grow Fins, The Tommys latest album and a masterpiece of twangsome attitude.
The Tommys consist of Jonathon 'Ike' Lickliter on bass and vocals, Rob 'Viva' Lastdrager pounds a mean set of drums and provides vocals, and finally there's Oliver Laurie, king of the Twang. From the pr sheet The Tommys have been together and playing Melbourne's seediest clubs and dives since 1996, breathing in the ambience and refining it into this music. Indeed, the inlay claims that the album was recorded in some of Melbourne's 'shit pits' - just smell that... well, whatever it was it's dead now.
With only seven tracks [eight if you include the 'easter egg' hidden away at the end of track seven] I guess this would be classed as a mini album, but it's one I didn't want to end. The Tracks are: How Am I To Know, Grow Fins, Nowhere Round, Funeral Creek, Thruster, White Eye and Pharoah and the hidden Ring of Fire. Needless to say this album a hi-energy package, each track rocks mightily and this is a great CD to put on while the barbeque is burning the meat.
The Tommys are an Australian rock band that have a great bar band sound that is typified by the tracks on this new single recorded at the Old Bar in Melbourne. There's nothing slick about the Tommys, just good old fashioned acid-fried surf-style rock and roll. The title track is a simple chant and thrash that could almost be Hawkwind but without the synths and spaced-out weirdness, while the final track is a country-Ozified version of Little Old Wine Drinker Me, a Jerry Lee Lewis tribute where you can literally smell the spit and sawdust packing the digital bits... These recordings were captured onto minidisc from the audience, so audio quality reflects that. I'm not exactly sure whether these tracks are commercially available, you could check out the band's web page at http://www.mp3.com.au/thetommys to see what is available for download - plus you could give their excellent album Grow Fins a check out as well [see review above].
It's always intriguing to approach an album by an unknown [to me] band - it's uncharted waters and an all new exploration. No preconceptions. And so it is with OpenCage and their latest album Evolve. The albums starts with a gentle and evocative acoustic instrumental, Evolution, before the songs start with The Last Thing, a mid-tempo electric rocker. Give continues the acoustic feel and I'm beginning to see [or rather hear] reference markers: I guess the immediate one is REM - vocalist Ray Burtoff certainly reminds me of Michael Stipe in his phrasing - but I can also hear the Cars in the pop sensibilities of the songs and their short, concise timings. And while most of the songs have a mid-tempo feel to them, it's the full out rockers that appeal the most to me: Little Things sounds like a #1 single to me [if people still bought singles on the basis of quality over hype, that is]. Day Man excels with some sneakily entwining bass and guitar lines that add a definite funky feel to the track. I Just Don't Get It is the other rocker that impressed mightily. The album concludes with another fine acoustic instrumental, Escape.
Instrumentally, OpenCage impress with a tight, clean sound: a funky bass [supplied by multi-instrumentalist Keith Messner], Byrds-style twelve-string guitar from Bill Sullivan, all deeply rooted in the rock-tight drumming of Chris Cemini. While this may come over to these British ears as west coast rock/soul-lite, there are all sorts of intimations that these boys have been listening a lot to the very best west coast bands of the 60s/70s. All told, Evolve is a varied and very fine album with some excellent musicianship and good songs, and if you are looking for something a little different then try OpenCage.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.opencage.com.
This is one of those albums you fall in love with immediately - it's classy, inventive, has soul and for an instrumental album veers away from sheer technical bravado to let the music breath. The opening track The Gate of Time starts slowly with a ghostly melody that echoes the X Files theme but then wanders into a totally different territory - it then gradually mutates into a lovely piece of jazzy ambience: restrained guitar licks over ambient synth loops. Midnight Summer Rain continues in a similar vibe, all chill out rhythms, voice samples and that wonderful guitar just coolly riding over the top of it all. And so the album continues, one superb track after another - all exuding a musicianship and craftsmanship that you rarely find nowadays. The final track, Sunshine, is particularly fine, a summery piece with a whispery female vocal - very romantic and highly atmospheric.
Charly McLion is a multi-instrumentalist based in Aachen, Germany - he's also a fine composer, as this superb new instrumental album shows. The problem [for me] is to try and describe what style of music it is. It isn't the usually anodyne new age, nor is it fusion - McLion has been around a long time [since the 70s] and he's absorbed all sorts of influences and refined them into something uniquely his own. While this isn't an out-and-out axe hero album the guitar is very much a lead instrument, but cushioned by many layers of synths, loops, samples into something that you'd hear in the chill out or trance rooms in a club. The music grooves gently, no deep drums 'n' bass to spoil the ambience. All told The Nature of the Universe is one of the best albums I've heard in a long time and hasn't been out of my cd deck for a long, long time.
This new album from Kingfisher is by Mark Fox, an American living in Germany. He is operatically trained and that shows in his tightly controlled voice. Accompanying himself on guitar and piano, Fox has written a collection of spiritual songs, performing them in English, German, Latin and Italian - all designed to be listened to in a meditative state. I have to admit that I'm not inclined that way temperamentally, so I can't verify whether this album will sooth your spirit or bring you new insights. The songs are all pretty slow-paced, some almost ambient in the way guitar and voice are used. Audio quality is excellent, especially as it was recorded in concert, though there are no indications of an audience, so it's hard to tell. The inlay booklet provides the lyrics in English and German. This album is designed for a specific type of audience, it's not an off-the-rack album you would buy spontaneously. If you are the more thoughtful, spiritual type of soul then I recommend you try this - if you are looking for pop tunes and hooks stay away.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.kingfisher-records.com
Well, with almost all of the packaging for this CD in Portuguese I'm pretty stumped as to what I can tell you about this album. Musically, this is deep-seated electronica that starts out with a knowing wink to the past glories of Kraftwerk and then heads out into pastures new over the course of its twelve tracks. As far as I can tell the music is composed and created by Carlos Nascimento, and there could be a number of other musicians involved, but my Portuguese is non-existent.
The album starts out rather slowly and dreamily with some low bouncy grooves that, as I said above, remind one of classic Kraftwerk, but the music evolves into something more spatious and spacey, and as the beats go deeper the music turns into something oozing menace, until about halfway through the album when the pastoral beginning is long forgotten and we are in menaceville. Where there was a semblence of melody amongst the beats there is now industrial noise. And while this continues for several tracks eventually peace and sanity return on the final tracks and the melodies continue.
Not sure if I like all of this album, the middle section is hard to listen to with any sense of pleasure, yet the ambient book-end sections are quite enchanting. Explore at your own risk.
As always with albums that arrive from ThisCo there is little or no information on the musicians involved on the CD, only some anti-corporate rhetoric. That aside ThisCo-sourced albums are always interesting and this new album by Rasal.Asad is no different.
On the surface this is a relatively simple sounding album of synthesized ambient backdrops, simple melodies and sampled voices reading poetry or political dogma. Unfortunately, the voices are mixed slightly too low for the words to be clearly discerned, but they do add a sense of otherworldliness to the music. The overall effect of the eight tracks is sheer restfulness, there are no dance beats here - the music simply ebbs and flows in slowly shifting cycles. I rather like this album, the sheer anonymity of it doesn't saddle it with preconceptions, so when you start to hear these superficially simple tunes your guard is lowered and the hidden, complex, subtexts become apparent. A deceptive album that bears repeated hearing.
For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.thisco.net
Numbers are funny things, they can represent so many different things: age, wealth, popularity, sales etc. In the case of this latest album from Maddy Prior it represents her 35th album and the 35th anniversary of becoming a professional musician. This tied in with her 1999 Christmas tour, so instead of a studio album we have a document of that tour - an incredibly special one for Ms Prior because it brought together musicians from all aspects of her career to celebrate that anniverary.
So, on Ballads and Candles the musicians include Peter Knight and Rick Kemp of Steeleye Span, Steve Banks of the Carnival Band, June Tabor [ex-Silly Sisters], Nick Holland and Troy Donockley of her current band and finally her daughter, Rose Kemp.
The album opens with a haunting version of Blacksmith, with Ms Prior singing solo. Next up is a duet with June Tabor, Blood And Gold, which proves again how magical their voices are together. As well as covering her career the shows were also a celebration of Christmas, so the next track is the festive Boar's Head. The carol A Virgin Most Pure follows, and proves that most standard carols sung in church are anodyne in the extreme. And so the albums goes on, a mix of old favourites and festive numbers. Park have crammed on 18 tracks on this cd, and it gives a fair representaion of Maddie Prior's career, and her collaborations.
One can't fault Maddy Prior's workload since she left Steeleye Span a few years ago. There's been at least one new album a year, and here's the latest, as with Ravenchild it has a loose concept - this time a ten song cycle based on the legend of King Arthur. Stripping away the myths and legends [no Merlin, no Holy Grail, and no Guinevere], Arthur is a warlord trying to deal with a country defenceless after the Roman legions left. The songs are mostly low-key, intimate and as romantic as only Maddy can make them - highlights include: Queen & Sovereignty, The Name of Arthur, Veturae Remembering, Tribal Warriors, Once & Future King. There are also some exciting short ambient linking passages [Hallows I-IV] that the electronica fans would love. In fact, while Maddy Prior sings in the traditional folk style the orchestrations underlaying her voice are anything but traditional, mixing synths with the electric guitars, Celtic beats and folk instruments. Along with the Arthur song cycle, there are another five tracks on this cd, some of them having themetic links to the song cycle. This is another fine album from Maddy Prior and her regular band - certainly deserving a wider audience than just the Steeleye Span fans, and it would be nice if it got a bit of airplay as well.
Once again Maddy Prior has produced an album based around a theme [or concept, if you don't mind this most dreaded of hype words] - this time it is based on the family of Henry II and his sons Richard the Lionheart and John, as seen from the perspective of their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Perhaps, not the most well-known period of our history but rich in character and event, not least because the tales of the legendary Robin Hood began at this time.
And so it is with this album where characters from British medieval history come to life in this new collection of original and 'traditional' songs: Thomas a Becket, Salah Ed-Din, John Barleycorn. As with her recent albums Prior's masterful vocals are supported by the multi-instrumentalists Troy Donockley, Nick Holland, Teri Bryant and Katie Holland to create a series of vivid sound pictures that flesh out the lyrics admirably. I'm not sure that Lionheart will attract many new listeners to the Maddy Prior camp, but it stands with the best of her recent work since she left Steeleye Span.
M.E.L.T. 2000 is one of those specialist world music labels focusing primarily on the music of Africa, and this album specifically highlights some of the great new upcoming musicians coming out of the townships. Though titled South Africa: Jazzin' & Jivin' the music on this cd covers a wide spectrum of styles that you can hear on the streets of SA: jazz is certainly there, but mixed into street jive, dance and perhaps the odd reggae rhythm too. To anyone who hasn't heard South African music before much of this cd will be an ear opener for you - the level of musicianship and professionalism of SA musicians is extremely high and ranks alongside any American musician you care to name.
I'm not sure that I'm up to selecting a few tracks from this compilation as highlights as the entire album is one to start with! So here's a name check of some of the musicians involved: Sipho Gumede, Moses Taiwa Molelekwa, Barungwa, Pops Mohamed, Vusi Khumalo, Zim Ngqawana, Madala Kunene, Gathering Forces, Simpiwe Matole, Spector M. Ngazi & N. Shezi.
I was fortunate to pick up a couple of earlier M.E.L.T. 2000 compilations in a sale at MVC and I was blown away by the excellent music on them - South Africa: Jazzin' & Jivin' is no different, there's some great music here that should please anyone with an open pair of ears. Buy with confidence.