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 Updated: 7/02/14 | © 1999 - 2014 Cool Bunny Media | Da Cool Bunny sez 'Spank that Plank, Baby!'
 
#8
The Glimmer Room - 2 Up 2 Down
(www.the-glimmer-room.co.uk)

The days of issuing music just through the traditional method of vinyl or CD and via high street shops is changing, and this new EP from The Glimmer Room is a case in point. The four tracks that make up this release are only available from the web site, where you can download the four tracks and cover artwork. I'm not sure on the pricing, so check on the site.

As for the music, well, this pretty much carries on from The Glimmer Room's recent album Tomorrows Tuesday, available on the Neu Harmony label [click here to read review] - rather smooth electronica with a slightly funky dance beat. Track one is Every I Die For You, synth orchestral pads take us into a rather chilled out soundscape with some lovely melody lines that also include some ethnic voices to give it an eery feel. Great track! Without You I Wouldn't Have No One To Leave, is the next track and uses a similar multi-textured backing but with a load of voice samples of conversations. Rather strange, but continues the ambience created by the first track. Track Three is Tomorrows Tuesday, a ten minute long remix by Gydja of the album title track. This is much funkier, with a more pronounced [but thankfully not braindead techno] beat, again it features samples of ethnic voice chants, and small flourishes of world music elements. Final track is Sweet Smell Of Cloves, something of a brooding track, with a proper vocal and remixed by Macondo, it has a slight Gothic feel to it.

Future activities for The Glimmer Room include a special track for the next issue of Sequences magazine's cover CD and a remix of track by the French group Air.

All in all, this is a fine 'mini' collection that one can use either to extend the previously mentioned album or as a sampler before buying it. Either way, 2 Up 2 Down is a fine example of the music that Andy C of The Glimmer Room is producing. Go to www.theglimmerroom.co.uk and order your copy today - you won't be disappointed!

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Michael Brant DeMaria - Siyotanka
(MDM5812)

Michael Brant DeMaria - Siyotanka

Siyotanka is an ancient Native American legend about a special flute used in courting rituals and this album, by flautist Michael Brant DeMaria, is a musical depiction of this legend. It is, in fact, the soundtrack score for a stage play about the Lakota legend. So we are in the realms of 'new age' and 'world music' here. This is certainly a quietly powerful album, the music simply stated with minimum fuss and over-instrumentation: a selection of different key traditional flutes, Indian percussion and synthesisers are all that are needed to portray this in a dignified manner. It has always struck me how dignified Native American music is compared to most of the Hollywood portrayal of these people and culture. Siyotanka has an elegiac feel, that undeniable aura of being lost in time and space that much Native American music has. Shed of its dramatic pretence this album also functions well as a highly atmospheric soundscape and a relaxing way to wind down at the end of the day. I've not come across that many records of music based on the Native American culture, but of those I have heard I think this one racks amongst the best.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.siyotanka.com

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Frank Carlberg - Tivoli Trio
(Red Piano Records RPR 14599-4403-2)

The inspiration for the thirteen tracks of this album came from visiting amusement parks and fairgrounds during pianist Frank Carlberg's childhood. Most of the music on Tivoli Trio is an attempt to recreate the sounds and feel of those experiences. I think whether Mr Carlberg was successful will be in the ears of the listeners. The music on the album sounds to me like post bop and free form jazz, but it does share the discordance and dissonance that are part and parcel of the ambient sounds heard in a fair or amusement parks. With Mr Carlberg on piano, John Herbert on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums, the sound is quite sparse and surprisingly intimate. Track titles include Fanfare, Tricks, Rumble Mumble, Highwire, Tumbles, Harlequin, The Chase, and more, all offering a sniff of the circus. I particularly liked Bill's Hat, it has a martial beat to it and sounds a bit like the circus parading through the town. While the sound is jazz trio, the musicians do also create some effective fairground-like sound effects, especially on John Herberts' bass strings. Two For Tea is a witty inversion of and musical joke based on the classic Tea For Two. I didn't really start off enjoying this album, but the more it played the more it worked on me and while I'm not sure how often I will play it in the future the album does have some charms hidden in there amongst the avant-garde overtones.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.redpianorecords.com

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Various Artists - Yo! Hot Latin Funk From El Barrio
(Harmless HURTCD041)

The popularity of latin music has been on the rise in recent years, thanks to the likes of Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez and other fluffy pop jitterbugs. But anyone who really loves latino music knows that this is just the glossy 'Hello' Mag end of the spectrum. The real latin music is that derived from salsa, son and other street styles drawn from the streets of Cuba and countries of Central America. Yo! Hot Latin Funk From El Barrio is a collection of some of the hottest latin funk from a variety of New York-based artists recorded back in the late 60s/early 70s, and let's not mince words here - this album rocks like shit and you'll have steam rising from your cd player if you play this immaculate compilation.

The reason for my unreserved enthusiasm is that this album shows just how infectious latin music became when it was mixed with the afro-american soul and funk rhythms that were bouncing around New York. The music here is just as rooted in Harlem as it is in the Bronx, and many of the tracks are covers of soul and funk orginals by the likes of Sly Stone and War. This compilation is also a great introduction to some of the best names in latin music: Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Bobby Valentin, Jimmy Sabater, Joe Bataan, Cortijo & his Time Machine, La Crema De New York, The Latin Blues Band and many others. There are fourteen tracks waiting for your exploration, so I suggest you get the Bar-B-Que cooking, get the friends in, the booze flowing and put this on. Guaranteed success!

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Lisa Downing - A Delicate Balance
(Vision Quest Entertainment 5159LD3)

For me the music that falls into the 'new age' category usually end up as one of two differing opinions - it is either inordinately bland or smug, or it is of a higher order of quality and should be classified as modern classical music. With pianist/composer Lisa Downing's latest album A Delicate Balance I feel it should be listened to as 'classical music; - by that I mean that its roots are inherited from the depths of European romantic classical and traditional music. While I am not suggesting that Ms Downing is an equal to say, Chopin or Rachmaninov, her music certainly holds up well emotionally and melodically in that tradition. A Delicate Balance is a collection of twelve piano only instrumental tracks based on emotional events in Ms Downing's life - several are specifically drawn from the life of her son. That, of course, does give the music an emotional weight that you seldom find in other music. Of course, one can read too much into the heart of the music, and simply enjoy it for what it is. However, the personal notes on each track by Ms Downing in the inlay booklet do indicate where her emotions were at during the composition of the music. With track titles such as The Gift, The Bedtime Song, Lost, Slow Dancing etc., you can see the emotional weave of this album. I think A Delicate Balance will appeal to listeners who wish to find some emotional resonance in the music, and will appreciate the sound of a piano played with skill and love.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.lisadowning.com

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Ness - Up Late With People
(High Pilot Records)

Okay, here's one that came out of the blue through the mail - hailing from Chicago, Ness certainly believe that the age of the guitar has returned in big time style. Their debut album Up Late With People has huge great wedges of crunching guitars amped up to 11 and sounding like they have been fed through every sort of effects box going.

This album is indeed full of potential and just listening to the first few tracks reveal that the band have a wide-ranging record collection that must include the Kinks, Beach Boys, Who, Led Zep and pretty much any band that has really mattered over the last half century. That, and the previous work experience of some band members playing with the Webb Brothers and John Cale on their recent albums has definitely honed Ness into a band raring to go in the only direction that matters - up!

Ness are Rick Ness, Phil Young, Bill Swartz and John San Juan, plus a variety of band friends helping out on some of the tracks. On an album that rocks so well as this one it is difficult to single out tracks for special mention, but the opening track Where The People Kick It is an excellent calling card and ideal choice as first single from the album. This is followed by Let's Vaporize, which may have a more varied arrangement but is equally full of energy and attitude. And then their is the epic length title track that lasts for thirteen minutes and showcases the band and their influences in an impressive way.

It's quite refreshing to hear an album that is honest and takes no prisoners in its quest to rock like shit. With albums of this quality coming out at the start of the year it augurs well for 2004 to be the year that real music returned.

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The Britton Brothers Band - Uncertain Living

It is not uncommon to find brothers performing in the same jazz band - the Brecker and Marsalis duos come to mind immediately. And so we come to a new [to me] duo: John Britton on trumpet and brother Ben on sax, both also composed a number of the tracks on this, their debut album. The eight tracks on Uncertain Living fall into that post Miles Davis fusion, with a hint of funk and plenty of space for the musicians to spread out. The other musicians in the band are Chris Potter on sax, Jeremy Siskind on piano, Taylor Waugh on bass and Austin Walker on drums. Track details are as follows: Extra Fuzz, Anticipation, June Humidity, Molo, Uncertain Living, Come Thou Fount, Mr John McNeil and Ducks In A Row. I have to admit that isn't really my taste in jazz, but the music on this album is definitely in your face post bop with plenty of hard blowing and commitment from the musicians. What I do applaud are the additional features to be found on their website [see url link below], where you can find karaoke playalong versions of several tracks, transcriptions of some of the solos, and a compilation of practice techniques the musicians use. Obviously a very useful resource for young jazz music students. One wishes other musicians were more generous in sharing their music in an educational way. While Uncertain Living may not press my buttons I certainly think it deserves notice from jazz fans and music students alike. The music within is played with verve and style, and worthy of exploration by those who enjoy the more experimental byways of modern jazz.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.thebrittonbrothers.com

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John Fedchock NY Sextet - Live At The Red Sea Jazz Festival
(Capri Records #74102-2)

This has to be one of the most exotically recorded albums I have encountered - this album was recorded live at a jazz festival held at an oasis at Eilat, Israel. The album opens with a strident and full-powered This Just In - the music is hard bop in style, but there is a strong melodic content, and a good sense of the musicians having fun. This track is over eleven minutes long and gives ample time for every musician in the sextet to shine in the solo spotlight. The sextet comprises of John Fedchock on trombone, Scott Wendholt on trumpet and flugelhorn, Walt Weiskopf on tenor sax, Allen Farnham on piano, David Finck on bass and Dave Ratajczak on drums. Of the six tracks most are lengthy workouts, which should please jazz fans who like to get into a track's groove. All are written by John Fedchock save for Caravan [Duke Ellington] and Moon Alley [Tom Harrell]. For a live album it is well recorded and engineered - the audience applause is there when it should be for atmosphere but it doesn't intrude into the music. In fact, I'm not sure if this was recorded indoors or out, whatever, the sound quality is excellent. Hard Bop isn't really one of the forms of jazz that I enjoy but I have to say that Live At The Red Sea Jazz Festival is the exception to the rule - it's propulsive good humour and vigorous musicality make it an album no real jazz fan should miss out on. As debut albums go this is of very high rank.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.johnfedchock.com

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Feast of Fiddles - Live '01
(Feast of Fiddles CDFOF001)

This is one of those 'star' collaboration albums that used to be so loved by the record labels back in the 70's - they were usually fatuous and overbloated marketing exercises to jack up the sales of fading stars. Thankfully that isn't the case here, Feast of Fiddles is a 'supergroup' made up of the cream of British traditional folk music, and everyone left their egos at home. This album is a collection of live tracks recorded during the band's short tour in 2001.

The band itself is quite a stellar one, the line-up on fiddles includes Phil Beer, Ian Cutler, Peter Knight, Tom Leary, Chris Leslie and Brian McNeil - with most of these doubling [even tripling] on other instruments as well. The rest of the band includes Hugh Crabtree on melodeon, Dave Harding on bass, Dave Mattacks on drums, John Underwood and Martin Vincent on guitars. The fiddle music here spans most traditional genres, folk, country and bluegrass - highlights include Orange Blossom Special, plus several medleys of traditional English tunes. On the whole this is a great collection of tracks show-casing the talents here and the spectrum of British tradition music. It's a shame that the album isn't a recording of a complete concert, the fades between tracks tends to emphasise the bittiness of the selection, whereas some of the between song repartee would have been quite atmospheric. That aside though, this is a superb album and you should certainly book a ticket if they arrive at a concert venue near you.

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Alison Kitchen - Mercy Dancing

Alison Kitchen - Mercy Dancing

An album from a woman singer/ songwriter new to me but recommended by her producer, guitarist John Morgan, as 'worth a listen' - and he was right. Superficially Alison Kitchen sounds a bit like Joni Mitchell, though the songs she is performing on Mercy Dancing seem to be more spiritual and based on the idea of faith, and it has to be said musically less overtly funky jazz-influenced than Mitchells'.

There is quite a cast list of supporting musicians spread across the dozen tracks here, and they offer backing scenarios that range from the spare to the lush and orchestral. Whatever the backing, Alison Kitchen's voice soars over it all, perhaps a little too high flying at times for my tastes but she is always in control and doesn't subscribe to the Whitney and Mariah school of more notes per second.

I can't in all honesty say that any of the songs stand out above the rest on the album, except for perhaps Looking For You, which has a wistful, hopeful feel to it, and the country-fried Drive All Night. If you enjoy singers such as the previously mentioned Joni Mitchell, or Joan Armatrading and Tori Amos then I think you might like to try this album.

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Van & Borner - Miracles

This arrived on a CD-r disc so I'm not really sure if this disc is the full commercial release or just a collection of sample tracks. What I do know is that Van and Borner hail from Poland and consist of Barbara Zielinska-Van and Sabina Borner [who has since left the band, so they now perform as VAN] plus several guest musicians. What I am hearing is extremely ear friendly electronica, not too far removed from what Code Indigo do, with added touches that remind me of Vangelis, Jarre, Mike Oldfield and Steve Hillage. Above all, this is extremely tuneful music, most of the tracks pack good melodies in with the ambient backings, and I have been playing this album at least once a day since it arrived.

The card sleeve lists fifteen tracks, but the cd player only shows nine and I don't think the album details relate to Miracles at all but to another band called Loom. Which means I'm very in the dark as what the tracks are called. However, I am very impressed by the musicianship on show here and I would love to hear more of Van.

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B.B. King - King Biscuit Flower Hour Records Presents B.B. King
(70710-88038-2)

B.B. King - King Biscuit Flower Hour Records Presents B.B. King

The title pretty much says it all here - a live recording of blues legend B.B. King from 1978, arguably one of his many peak periods in his long and distinguished career. Being from the late 70's there are guest appearances by Johnny and Edgar Winter and George Benson, and while this adds to the hip factor they do little to the musical value of the tracks they appear on. Plus the schmoozing to the whooping audience is a little wearing when all one wants to hear is the blues. But then I may be carping here as this is, of course, just one of hundreds of gigs King performs in a year and this is as good a record of his show as you will probably find.

The gig starts with a blistering Caldonia and slows to a simmering How Blue Can You Get which showcases the horn section nicely. A raw and hollering Goin' Down Slow features the Winter brothers before George Benson comes out for I Got Some Help I Don't Need and Just A Little Love, a pair of lengthy workouts that add Benson's jazzy guitar to the blues mix. The final track is King's signature tune The Thrill Is Gone and then he's gone, onto the next gig in the diary. So, not a bad snapshot of a blues legend at his peak and giving the audience what they want. One for the fans.

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John Wubbenhorst & Facing East - Facing Beloved

I quite like music that mixes elements from various genres and regional ethnic sounds together into something new. Nowadays this sort of music is labelled as 'Fusion' and this new album by John Wubbenhorst & Facing East certainly fits the bill. Simply put, Facing Beloved is a mixture of jazz flute and guitar mixed with various types of Indian percussion and rhythms, and the musicians have also added other ethnic elements such as traditional Irish dance music into the pot.

Facing East comprises John Wubbenhorst on Indian and western flutes, Subash Chandran on ghatam and vocals, Ganesh Kumar on Kanjira, Steve Zerlin on bass, and Jorge Zamorano on guitar. And I have to say that the quality of the musicianship is very impressive indeed, while the overall ambience is jazzy improv with an eastern flavour it veers from delicate to swinging at the drop of a hat. The music itself is also inspirational as all the musicians are followers of an Indian mystic, so there's a spiritual side to it as well.

The ten musical tracks here, the eleventh is a short speech by the mystic, offer a wide range of moods, from slow meditations to frenzied [well, almost] workouts where the Indian drums take over. New age blandness this certainly isn't.

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Ran Blake / Christine Correa - Out Of The Shadows
(Red Piano Records RPR 14599-4404-2)

This new album, a first together for pianist Ran Blake and vocalist Christine Correa, is extremely stark sounding, thrusting block chords of sound over which Ms Correa's melodramatic vocals soar or dive. Some of the songs are familiar but performed in such a diametrically opposed way to the originals that they sound completely different. Too radically different for my tastes. All fourteen songs are treated this way and I have to admit that listening to this album was a chore rather than a pleasure. The performers may be finding dramatically new emotions in these songs but it didn't make for an agreeable listening experience. I'm willing to be in the wrong here and perhaps there is an audience for musical explorers such as these. Fine. I hope the album finds its audience but I, regrettably, won't be coming back for seconds.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.redpianorecords.com

Lisa Hilton - American Impressions
(Ruby Slippers Productions 1015)

This is the fourteenth album by pianist and composer Lisa Hilton and the fourth received here at the Borderland. Gradually over these four albums Ms Hilton's music has shifted from an acoustic instrumental jazz to a more improvisational and experimental style. American Impressions is the culmination of that shift in styles - the twelve tracks [ten originals, two covers] certainly have a much edgier feel: more music lab than music club. In fact, the general tone of the music here is contemplative, as if the musicians are searching for that 'lost chord'. The general theme of the music of "impressions of everyday life in America", and the music certainly reflects what one imagines life in the USA to be like. Hustle, bustle and the two-Dollar shuffle. Ms Hilton has a trio supporting her, these musicians are: J.D. Allen - sax, Nasheet Waits - drums, and Larry Grenadier - bass - all musicians who have recorded with her before. The music on American Impressions is resolutely low-key and cerebral - this is not an album for dancing or even smooching. I suspect that many of its listeners will be other musicians seeking out the pianist's nuances and hidden meanings. That said, Ms Hilton is an impressive musician [as are her colleagues] and it is impressive that a musician is recording music for the mind rather than the feet. The twelve tracks are: Too Hot, Anatomy Of The Blues, When It Rains, Subway, Accidental Romance, Rainy Night House [Joni Mitchell], Waterfall, Slow Down, Underground, Echoes Of Harlem [Duke Ellington], Don't Stop, American Suite. American Impressions is a striking recording, its agenda is affectingly detailed, and will reward listeners if they give it the time for several listening sessions.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.lisahiltonmusic.com

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Arturo Mayorga - Lucid Dreams

This CD arrived without any kind of press kit of background information, so I hope the assumptions I make in describing this album are the right ones. Arturo Mayorga is a pianist/keyboard player and composer based in New York, and I am assuming he is of Latin origin. Lucid Dreams is his new album of instrumental music - there is a vocalist [the ethereal Daniele Hager] involved but it is of the lyric-less accompaniment and adds an diaphanous element to the music. Now, as for the music itself, I guess you may want to call it 'New Age' for want of a better description, but I feel Contemporary Instrumental or even Contemporary Classical is a more fitting and apt description. The music, spread over eleven tracks, is melodically rich and utilises woodwind and strings to accompany Mr Mayorga's keyboards. Guitar and drums add more colour and occasional flashes of rhythm. There too many musicians involved to mention them by name in this space, but the musicianship and commitment is high and the sound is very special. The music doesn't feel like it fits a time or space within any musical genre - it does have a dreamlike aspect to it though. And it reminds me a little of the music of the British musician Richard Wileman and his band Karda Estra. Both of these composers eschew rock or pop pastiche and have developed their own musical language to the point where the musical language is unique. I think Mr Mayorga's music is arguably a little smoother in style. The eleven tracks are: Find Me Again, Mystery, Looking, Serendipity, Eastern Pulse, Reflejos, You Know It's You, One More Day, Latent Words, Within A Glimpse, If We Don't Who Will? Lucid Dreams is an album that grows on the listener through repeated playing and is quality throughout. Highly Recommended.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.arturomayorga.com

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Carl Weingarten - Panomorphia
(Multiphase Records MP CD117)

Carl Weingarten - PanomorphiaThe term 'Ambient' when used for music has always intrigued me. Back in the 1970's when Brian Eno used the term for his amorphous instrumental music it was a new word and quite a daring one. And, it has to be said, made a lot of sense when describing his wispy sounding confections. Since then the term has been added to almost every musical genre to give some sense of a musical style that still has its roots in the original form but is a bit left field and experimental. Panomorphia is the new album by guitarist and composer Carl Weingarten and it is described as being 'ambient jazz'. Actually, I think that is a pretty apt description - thanks to the drums and bass giving these soundscapes a beating heart and some propulsive rhythm. However, with the drifting loops of guitar sequences and sonic effects these tracks still have a foot in what Eno envisaged, and what Robert Fripp created with his Frippertronics. Mr Weingarten along with a few musicians have created seven lengthy soundscapes, all of them dreamlike and perhaps a little drone-like as well. Thanks to using loops and effects the instruments all have an 'out there' feel, and make me think of a soundtrack for a particularly laid back version of the Twilight Zone. Along with Carl Weingarten on slide guitar the other musicians are: Celso Alberti - drums/percussion, Michael Manring - fretless bass, Jeff Oster - trumpet/flugelhorn. The seven tracks are: The Simian River, Tango, Flow Of Stars, Bluescapes, Panomorphia, Tapper, The Ship The Dream. I have to say that as a fan of ambient music I found Panomorphia most appealing - it has a sense of timelessness which isn't going to date it easily. But better than that is the sheer musicianship of all involved wheich breathes life into a style of music that can sometimes be a tad sterile. Highly Recommended.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.mphaserecords.com

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Freddy V - Easier Than It Looks

Freddy V - Easier Than It LooksIt isn't often that I stop what I am doing while listening to a review CD and start listening seriously, but I did when the funky sax started blowing on Freddy V(igdor)'s new album. Easier Than It Looks is one seriously funky and soulful old school R'n'B album, not surprising when you understand that Mr V has been the sax player and horn arranger with the venerable Average White Band for over ten years. I remember the AWB from their original hit strewn period back in the 70s but hadn't realised that they still were on the road. The debut solo album features members of the current AWB plus a song by AWB founding band member Alan Gorrie. Well, as I said, I stopped doing what I was doing and listened to the whole album with a mounting sense of pleasure. This is a seriously musical album, one designed to get your feet and head tapping, if not dancing - and I must admit to my more sensitive-minded readers that seeing me dance is not a pretty picture! Any tears that came to your eyes would be from my trampling all over your feet. The album contains twelve tracks, mostly instrumentals but a few have vocals by the wondrously voiced Klyde Jones, a lady with some serious soul pipes. It doesn't really need to be said that Mr V's tenor and alto sax performances are muscular and blood stirring - the man knows what the listener wants to hear. There are a lot of musicians playing on this album, too many to list, but I shall mention the core musicians: Mo Pleasure - keyboards/bass, Terry Lewis - guitar, Rocky Bryant - drums, Ike Stubblefield - organ, plus a host of others. The dozen tracks are: Sumthin Have Got 2 B Did, Rush, Let's Go Round Again, The Dance We Do (Kirkish), Nashville, Any Other Way, What Kind Of Man Would I Be, You Can't Have It All, Sandbag (For Hiram), Lisi, Finally Home, Sumthin...(reprise). Easier Than It Looks is a hugely entertaining album, old school for all the right reasons, and Mr V's own written tunes compare well with those from the AWB songbook. If you still play those old Crusaders and Spyra Gira albums then this is so for you. This is just such a wonderful and fun album, one of the best of the year so far and highly recommended.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.freddyvmusic.com

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Fred Fried And Core - EnCore

Fred Fried And Core - EnCore Guitarist Fred Fried is no stranger to The Borderland, I think I reviewed his eighth album Core 3.0 last year - EnCore is his ninth album in a long and very varied career as a musician. Mr Fried plays a very characteristic acoustic guitar, its eight strings add an edge when it comes to finding new audio colours and chord sequences. With his band Core [bassist Michael Lavoie and drummer Miki Matsuki], Fred Fried serves up a distinctive type of jazz, acoustic and gentle on the surface but with shifting time signatures and other subtleties that mark out his compositions as being very distinctive and extremely Fred Fried. Despite being unfussy, the music on this album swings gently and there is space for all three musicians to weave short but incisive solos hanging off that wonderful sounding guitar. All the eleven tracks were written by Mr Fried, their titles are: The Gathering Storm, Karenina, Three Fall, Sing Me A Puzzle, Currents Above Currents Below, Spring Overture, The Road Taken, Come Each Simple Idea, The Circus Left Town, Little Tears, The Threads That Hold The World. Overall, this is quite an intimate album, with just a trio playing for your ears and mind there are few distractions to stop you focussing on the guitar. Indeed, I think EnCore is an album for acoustic guitar aficionados of all stripes. They will find so much here to enjoy. Recommended.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.fredfried.com

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Paquito D'Rivera Presents Alex Brown Pianist
(Paquito Records SSC4552)

Alex Brown is a jazz pianist quickly building a reputation on the American jazz stage. I think this is his debut solo album and it is quite an impressive and lively affair. Performing as part of a septet, the music is rich and rhythmical, rooted in many of the different strands of jazz, including Latin and swing. As well as performing on the album Paquito D'Rivera produced it, owns the record label and has mentored Alex Brown, so that explains why he is in the main credits. That aside, almost all of the nine tracks have been written by Alex Brown, and it is all killer and no filler. I particularly enjoyed the more overtly Latin American tracks, these swing and sway quite exotically while flexing a lot of muscle. Accompanying Mr Brown are: Paquito D'Rivera - alto sax/clarinet, Vivek Patel - flugelhorn, Ben Williams - bass, Eric Doob - drums, Warren Wolf - marimba, Pedro Martinez - percussion/batas/congos/vocals. The nine tracks are: Prologue, Warm Blooded, The Wrong Jacket, Lamentos, Elektric, Waltz, Buleria, Leaving, Just One Of Those Things. Paquito D'Rivera Presents Alex Brown Pianist is an impressive debut solo album, though the musicians surrounding Mr Brown are equally superb and fully deserve notice. I think this is a band that blow hot enough to trigger the smoke alarms when performing on the bandstand. This is a CD well worth seeking out and adding to your music collection.

For more information about this artist, album and availability visit: www.alexbrownmusic.com

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David Wahler - A Star Danced
(Darius Productions 72051)

David Wahler - A Star DancedWhile A Star Danced by David Wahler is classified as New Age on the album digipack cover I think it will equally appeal to the electronica fan as most of the music here is synth and sampler based. Over the album's fourteen tracks the overall sound is rather dreamy and relaxed, but there are subtle rhythms throughout, sometimes hidden amongst the multiple layers of electronic keyboards. There is also some very lovely acoustic guitar played by guest musician Brent Gunter on The Seeds Of Time. As you would expect from the album title the sound and the mix is quite spacious and perhaps even celestial, without becoming too 'spacey'. I think fans of Yanni, Gandolf and Kitaro should find much that is appealing here - widescreen soundscapes, mellifluous melodies and a deep sense of relaxation - especially on tracks like Reverie, Come Gentle Night and Vespera. There are also personal concerns, Yvonne is about a friend of the composer fighting cancer, so the music is steeped in an intimate meaning for Mr Wahler. I think this is a beautifully melodic album full of music of contemplation and, yes, perhaps even healing, if you believe that music can heal. For me it is just a collection of enchanting music, and that is important in and of itself. Highly recommended.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.davidwahler.com

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Christopher Boscole - Inner Voyages

I've previously had the pleasure of listening to and writing about an earlier album of Christopher Boscole [see Presents of Angels], so his new album, Inner Voyages, is very welcome. Christopher Boscole is a composer/pianist whose music has as much of a classical feel to it as it is 'new age'. I guess that Inner Voyages is as much music about exploring one's inner self as it is about the obvious maritime connotations of the cover illustration, though I would swear that I could hear seagulls faintly crying in the background of track two, the title track. The music on this album is rather grand, sweeping piano lines of melody, hugely romantic in the classical tradition, and also hinting at movie soundtrack style - the sort you'd hear in some of the great black and white movies of the golden era. That romanticism can also be found in the track titles: Spanish Dreamer, Princess Taiping, Sea of Spirits, Land Of Sea And Sky, and of course Heart Of Romance. I see that from the notes enclosed with the CD that Mr Boscole takes some of his inspiration from classical composers Erik Satie and Debussy, alongside Beethoven and Chopin, which makes sense as the music on this album is full of old fashioned melody and, dare one say it, good tunes. I think Inner Voyages is a thoroughly pleasant album, one that piano aficionados will find very enjoyable.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.christopherboscole.com

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Rosanne Cash - Rules of Travel
(Capitol 7243 8 37757 2 9)

Rosanne Cash - Rules of TravelThe trend with Nashville 'country' music is for bigger sounds, more flash and a general aptitude to overdo everything. Thankfully, this new album by Rosanne Cash bucks the trend and goes far in the opposite direction. What we have here is an intensely personal album, with minimal instrumentation and whole lot of heart. Cash goes for dignified understatement throughout on a set of intimate songs about love and loss made all the more poignant considering the recent death of her mother, June Carter Cash, and the frailty of her father, Johnny, who makes possibly his last [though I sincerely hope not] recording on a duet here.

There are several other guest appearances on this album alongside Johnny Cash: Steve Earle, Sheryl Crow, and Teddy Thompson. And thankfully these are all sympathetic to the song and the singer, so do not overshadow the main performance.

Rosanne Cash's vocal style is a little similar to that of Mary Chapin Carpenter: close-miked breathiness, a sophisticated one-to-one directness that is very appealing. She also has some of the twangy sharpness of her half-sister Carlene Carter, so it's a very rich and attractive mix, which allied to the sympathetic instrumental backing produced mostly by multi-instrumentalist and producer John Leventhal, makes for an album of great maturity. But I hasten to add that this is not a gloomy album, the tone is optimistic,or at least hopeful, on most of the songs [the majority written by Cash solo or in collaboration with John Leventhal] and it even swings, albeit at a stately pace on occasion. A very fine album that deserves to be heard beyond the country audience.

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The Albion Band - An Evening With... (Talking Elephant TECD041)
Ashley Hutchings - 5 (Talking Elephant TECD037)
Various Artists - Grandson of Morris On (Talking Elephant TECD038)

These three albums all have a single common factor - they all feature the talents of folk/rock bassist Ashley Hutchings and the various groups of musicians he's been involved with over the last thirty years or so.

Grandson of Morris OnSubtitled "Dangerously Live & Seriously Rockin' without the aid of a safety net, but with the aid of modern computer technology", An Evening With... is a new live album that should bring back memories of the bands' gigs during 2000/1. As always with bands under the leadership of Ashley Hutchings the envelope of what is considered folk music is continuously being pushed back - in this case the inclusion of sax player Pete Zorn adds a new jazz/free music colouring to the band sound. Having followed the Albions on an occasional basis for many years via their albums this new live album is something of an eyeopener as the songs here may have their roots still in traditional folk but the sound is now much smoother, incorporating jazz and rock stylings into the mix. This is most noticeable on Chief Seattle's Reply/Time To Ring Some Changes. But the band's roots are still deep in the fertile soil of British traditional music and the whole album reflects this with the band on good form throughout. Indeed, at times it is almost impossible to classify what type of music the Albions are playing - I like to simply call it rock music for grown-ups...

5 is a trawl through the Hutchings archive for unreleased gems and live recordings, and features the work of Fairport Convention, The Sawdust Band and, of course, The Albion Band. Recordings date back to 1967 with Fairport's If I Had A Ribbon Bow, followed by a lovely version of Who Knows Where The Time Goes with Sandy Denny on vocals from 1969. One of the rarities is a version of Cell Song from the Fairport song-cycle Babbacombe Lee performed by the Albions in 1978. The Albion band material spans the 70s up to 2001, including topical songs such as Cookery Is The New Rock 'n' Roll and much more. These seventeen tracks span a wide timespan and can only scrape the recordings of these seminal bands, and the wide-ranging influence Ashley Hutchings has had on the way traditional folk music has grown up and become something to be respected and not mocked like it used to be.

Back in 1972 Ashley Hutchings and the cream of that period's folk-rockers released an album called Morris On - it was a groundbreaking album in that it embraced the culture and dance tunes of the Morris Men, those strange looking coves you'd see dancing in the village squares. It became a classic album and now here is the sequel, Grandson Of Morris On, thirty years on. Once again Ashley Hutchings is in the producers' chair and providing the bass on most tracks, the musicians include Simon Nicol, Ric Sanders, Chris Leslie, Phil Beer, Ken Nicol, and a cast of thousands. As before the album consists of great uptempo dance tunes and songs interspersed with readings and interludes. Grandson Of Morris On is one of those jovial albums that stealthily creep up on even the most rabid anti-folkie and convert them by attacking that most weak part of the body - the feet. Once they start tapping to the infectious music you are in deep shit!

These three CDs provide a pretty good starters set for anyone interested in either the work of Ashley Hutchings or the Albion Band. For the long term folk-rock collector 5 is a must, it has performances available nowhere else and many rarities, and the Live album is a pretty good snapshot of the Albion Band in the new millennium, while Grandson Of Morris On is the album with the broadest appeal for the newcomer wanting to dip a toe into British traditional folk music. Yer takes yer choice and pays the piper...

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Various Artists - The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Original Soundtrack
(Castle Music CMTCD474)

Rocky Horror Picture ShowThis is one of those albums that really defy reviewing for the simple reason that the musical this movie is based on has become a cultural reference point for millions - as has the movie version on an international level. What probably isn't so widely realised by the movie buffs out there is that for many of the cast this was their first movie or at least their breakthrough to stardom. On this soundtrack you get the vocal talents of Meatloaf, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Richard O'Brien, Charles Gray, Patricia Quinn and Little Nell. And of course this album contains all the classic tracks: Science Fiction/Double Feature, The Time Warp, Sweet Transvestite, I Can Make You A Man, Over At The Frankenstein Place... If Richard O'Brien is remembered for one thing in his life it will be this joyous and extremely camp musical - with its enthusiastic embrace of 50s rock and roll culture and sci-fi monster movies it has become a classic, helped not least by Tim Curry's scene chewing performance. So the bottom line is if you are a fan replace that tatty old vinyl LP with this digitally cleaned up CD and sing along to the great songs. Oh yes, and if you think Thelma And Louis was Susan Sarandon's finest hour check out her tonsil gymnastics on Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.

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Ellen Rowe Quartet - Wishing Well
(PKO Records 054)

Wishing Well is an album of many moods, not least contemplative or perhaps even mournful, when you play track one, For That Which Was Living Lost. This opener is slow and long, over nine minutes, and it is certainly an atmospheric one with its extended flugelhorn solos by Ingrid Jensen. The track has more of an ambient feel to it than jazz. Thankfully the mood lightens on the next track, Lewisburg Bluesy-oo, a more upbeat 'Boppy' piece altogether. And so opens the debut album by the Ellen Rowe Quartet. The band are Ellen Rowe on piano, Andrew Bishop on tenor and soprano saxes, Kurt Krahnke on bass, Pete Siers on drums and guest spots by the above mentioned Ms Jensen and Andy Haefner on tenor sax. Overall, the ten tracks showcase a very tight band not afraid to mix moods across the album and raise the temperature or cool it down to arctic levels when required. The remaining tracks are: Night Sounds, Tick Tock, Longing, Sanity Claus, Wishing Well, Seven Steps To My Yard, For Donald and Alone Together. Wishing Well is an album you can't second guess, each track is very different in tone and feel, which makes for interested listening. For a quartet with guests the overall sound is quite beefy, the musicians making the most of the space they are in and soloing intelligently. While there are some uptempo tunes within the album most have a sad, pensive feel to them, making this album more suitable for a listening to intimately, rather than for partying. Whatever way you listen to the Ellen Rowe Quartet, this album is a first-rate debut.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.ellenrowe.com

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Ann Sweeten - Sapphire Days
(Orange Band Records OBR061891)

It would be easy to dismiss the new album by Ann Sweeten of being just another 'New Age' instrumental album, but I think that Sapphire Days rises above this with the quality of the music and the performances. According to the press release that came with the CD Ann Sweeten has been immersed in music since she was a child and has eventually become a highly qualified musician and composer.

Ann Sweeten - Sapphire DaysSapphire Days is based on the notion that we all have special days worth remembering and enjoying again and again in our memories. This emotional response is tied in to a love of nature and the environment which has helped to create the dozen or so instrumentals on this very melodic album. What I like most about the album is the simplicity of the music and the production - essentially there is the piano and a soft background of string synths so low in the mix to be barely discerned at times. So the focus is on the piano playing of Miss Sweeten, and I have to say that she can 'tickle the ivories' in a very pleasing way. This album is extremely restful, there are no shocks to the system, the style is almost 'old school' classical, indeed at times I keep thinking I can hear snatches of Chopin or Schumann in there...

I can't really decide on selecting a few favoured tracks for special mention here, the album works so superbly as a whole that I can't believe anyone would just play it piecemeal. This is an exceptional, highly musical album and recommended to anyone with shattered nerves that need calming.

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Brian Setzer - Nitro Burnin' Funny Daddy
(Surfdog SD-4022-2)

The name may not mean too much to you, but Brian Setzer was the duck-tail quiffed guitarist/singer with rockabilly revivalists The Stray Cats back in the 80's. And I'm happy to say that this new solo album carries on in the same way, though the rockabilly brief has widened to include country, blues and rock, all mixed into an exhilerating sound.

The album roars off to a great start with Sixty Years, the best blues that ZZ Top never recorded, followed by Don't Trust A Woman (In A Black Cadillac), a riff-fest that would make Jimmy Page smile with nostalgia! When The Bells Don't Change is a rockabilly/bluegrass hybrid that gets the feet going, while it slows down with That Someone Just Ain't You, a blues ballad guaranteed to get you and your girl into a clinch. Rat Pack Boogie is a spritely instrumental reminiscent of Les Paul [sans Mary Ford]!

And so it goes, a dozen tracks of prime quality music played with virtuosity and good humour - and not a little showing off. Setzer is a dynamic and nimble fingered guitarist and a fine singer and this album deserves a lot more airplay and sales than it will probably get. So my advice is buy Nitro Burnin' Funny Daddy for someone you love and stand back...

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Tangerine Dream - The Bootleg Box Set Vol 1
(Castle CMXBX880)

Tangerine Dream - The Bootleg Box Set Vol 1Over their many decades of performing Tangerine Dream have released many live records and it seems from this box set that their fans have been equally busy with clandestine tape recorders. Somehow an accord has been reached between the fans and the band and this first tranche of seven officially sanctioned CDs is the result. The box contains five gigs that date from late October 1974 through to June 1976, and locations as diverse as Sheffield, London, Croydon, Bilbao and Berlin. In many ways these recordings represent the golden age of TD, with Edgar Froese, Chris Franke and Peter Baumann in the lineup, and highlight a band for whom every gig was an exercise in improvisation - it is only in the latter concerts here that the sequencers and some pre-programming start to appear and TD start to move away from their cosmic ambience into something new.

Make no mistake, these are real bootleg recordings and the audio quality reflects that - at the best they are earwitness documents, with all the attendant noise that microphones in the audience will pick up - though thankfully the 'yee-haw' factor is mercifully missing from most of these recordings. You are hearing what the fan in the middle of the auditorium was hearing. At worst, as on CD2 of the Bilbao gig one wonders why it was included as the audio quality is completely dire thanks to what sounds like severe tape degradation.

The bottom line is that this box set is for the devoted fan and not the newcomer to the music of Tangerine Dream. These recordings are documents of work in progress, with many of the musical themes improvised here eventually evolving into material on their official Virgin albums of the time. On that level they are a fascinating and indispensible record of TD's golden age..

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Jeff Ball - Songs Of Winter
(Red Feather Music RFP1017)

Jeff Ball - Songs Of WinterI have to admit that I have a few blind spots when it comes to music and one of these is Christmas carols, and all the sentimentally cliched mush that purports to be representational of that season. Call me Scrooge, call me a miserable bastard, but this sort of Hallmark card ordure just leaves me cold. And so we come to an album of instrumentals with a Christmas and Winter theme by a musician new to me called Jeff Ball.

Ball is a master of the American Indian wood flute, and I have to say that on this hearing it is an extremely mournful, even ghostly, sounding instrument - a tool for summoning up revenants of the past. The contents of the album are certainly varied: a number of traditional carols - Silent Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Holy Night, a couple of traditional folk tunes in Greensleeves and Auld Lang Syne, a rather silver-toned version of the Beatles' Across The Universe, and a few home-grown compositions.

The Indian flute is a haunting sounding instrument, devoid of the embellishments you hear with the european classical version. It certainly gives all the above tracks a distinctive sound, even with the 'new age' backing instruments on this album. Jeff Ball is a superb musician and manages to get the very best out of his instrument, but I have to admit that most of this music left me unmoved. It lacked the spark needed to revive these hackneyed old tunes [original compositions excepted, of course].

I realise that I'm being extremely biased here, but my loathing for Christmas is deep grained and any album of carols in any style was on to a no-hoper here on The Borderland. However, if you find pleasure in Christmas music then I think you would appreciate the different approach on this album. I suggest you go to http://www.redfeathermusic.com and sample any demo tracks there before making your own mind up.

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Peter Frohmader - 2001 (Nekropolis Records NCD 009)
Peter Frohmader - Advanced Alchemy of Music (NCD 007)

Peter Frohmader - 2001Peter Frohmader is a veteran of the German music world, having been a composer and mult-instrumentalist for thirty years. I've only really encountered his music [up till now] via his collaborations on Electroshock Records with Artemiy Artemiev. So the opportunity to hear him solo was a very attractive one. 2001 is a very electronic album in all the best senses of the word - it's full of synths, sequencers and samplers, and the music is both wild, dangerous and unpredictable. What it isn't is the now bog standard drum and bass dross that clutters up the cd racks in the shops. 2001 reminds me a little of Brian Eno when he is in full 'on' mode, rather than his ambient one. Yet 2001 is resolutely musical, the ten tracks offer some extremely fiery soundscapes that mix ambience, industrial backdrops and brain-drilling rhythms in equal measure. It's difficult to pick out one or two tracks that stand out from the rest, the album shares a cohesiveness that is positively frightening. But I was rather partial to the rather flighty Etheral Dance, the pulsing Cell with its action movie-type theme, and gamelan-inspired Java Talk. There's a trend in modern electronic music to be 'chill', whatever that is supposed to mean, but 2001 bucks that trend by being as in your face as it can without resorting to discordancy and inscoherence. It is an album full of life and with a deep love for life.

Looking at the cover for Advanced Alchemy of Music you could be forgiven for thinking that the music on this album has a surreal gothic feel to it - I guess that the gothic typeface enhances that feeling. The black and white cover art [by Peter Frohmader] also has many gothic elements to it. However, the music on the cd is made of sterner stuff - in fact it's quite a heady brew of electronica, ethnic beats and melodies, jazz improvisation and some industrial noises to top it off. For some reason I keep getting visions of David Lynch's movie Eraserhead while listening to this.

The opening track has a vast Tower of Babel feel to it, with pounding beats topped by layer upon layer of weirdness. Golden Dawn starts with what sound like tablas and an acoustic guitar, a gentle interlude before a martial rhythm appears and some excellent electric guitar rings in. This track has a circular motif to it, like Ravel's Bolero it slowly builds up into a restrained crescendo, with various interesting dips along the way for all sorts of wayward and unexpected instruments. The remaining four tracks all have a similar feel, mixing strong rhythm tracks with lashings of alien sounding percussion to soaring guitar lines, samples of ethnic instruments and voices vie with atmospherics and ambience. Advanced Alchemy of Music is a very striking album, the music might not appeal to everyone, it has its peculiarities that make it very difficult to pin down - easy listening it ain't, but an exciting musical journey into a very strange aural world it most certainly is.

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: http://www.peterfrohmader.de

Postal Contact: Nekropolis Records, Kriegerstr.7, B81545, Munich, Germany.

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Darlin' And Rose - Tomorrow, Yesterday (DNR-1403)

Darlin' & Rose - Tomorrow, YesterdayBig admission time - I love country music! It probably knocks my 'cool' rating to hades and back, but I've always had an affection for country, especially the stuff that comes from anywhere other than Nashville. Give me Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Commander Cody or JJ Cale and I'm away... In my opinion the globalisation of the 'Nashville' sound has bastardised and neutered the soul and energy and all that good stuff that makes country music get under the skin. So I originally approached this cd with a certain amount of trepidation... Thankfully, Darlin' And Rose have gone down the rootsier country road, and this is a fine album of country ballads and rockier moments.

Darlin' And Rose are Sylvester E. Bowen and Nisha, a fine pair of musicians who have worked seperately and together over many years. In many ways this is traditional country music, playing up the lyrical and musical themes that make the best country music so damned infectious. I'm rather reluctant to select individual tracks as highlights because the whole album is a joy - it's rare to find an album that is 100% rock solid with no filler tracks. Darlin' And Rose are backed by a very savvy and sympathetic band who hit the spot on every track, and on the really rocking tracks there is some serious swinging going on.

Country music has always had a strong following here in the UK, and if this album managed to get some radio play it could do well. If nothing else Darlin' And Rose restore my faith that there is life in country music beyond the overhyped bluster of Garth Brooks and his ilk.

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Darlin' & Rose - Darlin' & Rose (DNR-1401)

Darlin' & RoseThis was the debut album by Nisha Catron and Sylvester Bowen, who record as Darlin' And Rose, and as with their most recent album, Tomorrow Yesterday [see above], it's a goodie. Now, I have to admit that I have become very disenchanted with what Nashville-based labels call Country music. It's become a glossy and homogenized music, bland in the extreme and leached of almost all that made it country in the first place. But not here - Darlin' & Rose are country with a capital 'C', so the music is full of pedal steel guitars, mandolins, acoustic guitars and all that good stuff that makes country Country! Ironically, it was recorded in San Diego, California, not exactly the heart of country music.

Both Nisha and Sylvester are quite evocative songwriters, so this album is full of good original material written together or individually. Opening track Honky Tonk Eyes kicks the album off with a gentle swinger of a song, enriched by Nisha's deep-pitched vocals. Sylvester sings the next song, I'll Only Be Yours, his lighter-toned voice backed by some lovely pedal steel and fiddle. To be honest it's a bit of a pain trying to select the best tracks for mention as this is one of those albums that slips by so enjoyably that the run-off on the final track comes as a surprise. But I will admit that the effervescent Two Dimes And A Quarter has been on repeat quite a lot as has the very bluesy My Tears Have Gone To Pain.

The mixture of Nisha and Sylvester's voices with the excellent musicianship of the session band certainly make for a quality listening experience and proves that there are people still making great country music. Oh yes, and my feet were tapping like hell all the way through!

For more information about this artist and album and availability visit: www.darlinandrose.com

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