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M. Thompson (Leeds, England)

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Very Best Of Jazz FM Vol. 2
Very Best Of Jazz FM Vol. 2
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £24.98

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jazz FM's Greatest Hits - An Overview of the Past Year, 13 Feb. 2003
This 34-track compilation tries its hardest to serve up a varied, wide-ranging collection of smooth jazz, but in doing so notably causes its own downfall. With much of the smooth jazz well running decidedly dry, this overview of the genre’s latest offerings proves there’s not a great deal of new material actually worth offering. Hence, this set is weighed down by no end of material which stoops down to that all-too-familiar inane, humdrum tackiness that many would brand elevator music. Too bad it couldn’t be omitted.
There is interesting material here, though, but much of this we've heard before. Peter White, Fourplay, Dave Koz and Paul Hardcastle add a touch of talent, while soul numbers from the likes of Barry White, Toni Braxton and Soul II Soul make a welcome re-emergence. That the compilers cunningly separated each of these better tracks some distance apart to pep you up momentarily is, I think, very possible. Ultimately, however, bland doesn’t quite win through, but it is close enough to moderately discredit an otherwise quite reasonable compilation.

A Night In Paris
A Night In Paris
Offered by westworld-
Price: £10.09

55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Established, classic pieces given a breath of fresh air., 21 Jan. 2003
This review is from: A Night In Paris (Audio CD)
First things first, if it weren't for the intermittent periods of audience ovation you'd swear this were a studio recording rather than a live one. The sound quality is excellent throughout while maintaining an all important live edge. In such a setting, Canadian jazz vocalist Diana Krall gives each song she performs room to breathe, allowing for some rather electrifying, virtuosic improvisation moments with her talented band. Throughout, the performances are some of Krall's most jazz-sounding yet, indicating she seems to really understand and feel jazz.
As ever, choice of repertoire sees Krall taking the safe and familiar route, which you might argue is starting to make her sound somewhat 'established', yet never tedious. There is no need for concern. In ten years time if her albums sound like this there will be few complaints. Krall's voice - developed, adaptable and oh so finely tuned - is an extremely complementary lead to her band. In addition, her piano performances are nothing short of brilliant. The improvised sections flaunt Krall's great rhythmic and technical aptitude, while her solo introductory piano solo to "Devil May Care" reveals a keen grasp of restrained, subtle jazz. Moreover, she sings and plays piano at the same time, which adds to the overall shape, form and versatility of each piece.
The most interesting thing about this album is the charm and spirit that Krall manages to inject into long-standing and endlessly covered songs. She makes them entirely her own. The improvised sections lend a hand to this also, making A Night In Paris sound remarkably fresh and new. In the gorgeously serene "Let's Fall In Love," Krall's seductive, sensuous voice smoothly graces the jazz harmonies, while tracks like "'Deed I Do" and "I Love Being Here With You" best suit the band's great rhythmic panache. Meanwhile, the Billy Joel-penned "Just The Way You Are" is a studio recording generously treated with Krall's sumptuous, subtle musicality. An album, then, that is well worth investigating. The entire concert sounds excellent and delivers jazz how it's intended - live.

The Greatest Hits 1970-2002
The Greatest Hits 1970-2002
Price: £12.46

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic. Enduring. Reg strikes back with a revised Best Of., 27 Nov. 2002
Any thorough Best Of that Elton John releases is always going to be something of a mixed bag, due in part to the artist's colossal canon of material. This release is wisely timed, a year or so after Songs From The West Coast, an album that has managed to become something of a Goodbye Yellow Brick Road II. Almost. As an audience, our ears are now retuned to the expansive sounds of classic Elton and reacquainted with chewy Bernie Taupin verse. Our bubbling hunger for more, then, is suitably satisfied with at least the first CD of this double-disc set.
Throughout, John's neat vocal phrasing and skilfully-executed piano playing sound open and roomy, qualities distinctly perceptible in every single bar of Rocket Man. Candle In The Wind (not so much a homage to Marilyn Monroe as a social criticism) is one of a handful of examples where the lyrics turn provocative: "Even when you died/Oh, the press still hounded you," John slates, awash with empathy and shrewdness, despite him "never [knowing her] at all". It is with such probing celebrity/Hollywood interest that he delivers the rather jerky Bennie and the Jets, a fantasy tale of a female rock star. His adaptive voice rides each song with spirit and ambition, and by the time it reaches Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting, it is capturing the exuberance of his then hedonistic lifestyle. Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word, which ends the first disc, is a pensive song that sees John in a mature, reflective light, a mood mirrored musically by sparse, almost forlorn, chord structures and a charming trickling piano interlude.
In Disc 2, though, his material alas shifts from classic magic into a decidedly syrupy province that is renowned as his eighties' and nineties' diversion. Nothing in the bulk of this second half is agonizingly dire (in fact, it never really comes close), and if many other artists had produced such music one wouldn't bat an eyelid; but compared with the melodramatic sheen of Someone Saved My Life Tonight and coming from the rocket man that could once rock with the best of them, the music sounds somewhat robbed of artistic ingenuity. Consequently, it all starts to sound pretty tame and, even more unsettling, run of the mill by his former standards. Love songs like Blue Eyes may very well be palatable, but will hardly keep George Michael awake nights.
It is, however, on a note of splendour with which one leaves this collection. This Train Don't Stop There Anymore serves as a sort of grand showcase whose lyrics stage an allegory of Elton John's heyday status: "I used to be the main express/All steam and whistles heading west/[...] Riding on the Storyline/Furnace burning overtime." Too right.

A New Day Has Come
A New Day Has Come
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Change in Musical Trend Has Come for Celine Dion..., 10 Oct. 2002
This review is from: A New Day Has Come (Audio CD)
What has everyone got against Celine Dion? Nobody ever seems to confess to buying her albums, yet someone must be topping up those millions of copies sold. And she possesses an astounding voice whose vocal range is truely overwhelming. Okay, so maybe singing the bawling Titanic love theme did nothing to strengthen her case, but no matter. In Dion's first album since re-emerging from a glorified retirement, we are presented in A New Day Has Come with a woman who feels fulfilled and rewarded. An album, then, that is obviously introspective and personal (see the centre foldout page of the inside booklet), focusing on the joys of children, and the like.
The most noticeable thing about this album is its dissimilarity to her best English language album by some way, The Colour Of Love. Leaving the realm of adult contemporary long behind her, Dion flirts with street cred in Rain, Tax (It's Inevitable), while adopting a Cher-like style in Sorry For Love. Fortunately, the power ballads are few and far between, aside from the rather histrionic I Surrender. Instead, the album is a collection of diverse, fresh material that mostly pleases. The first two singles, A New Day Has Come and I'm Alive, are examples of this, the former clearly centring on her young son but without being over-sentimental or soppy. Only on tracks like Prayer do the lyrics get too overemotional: "Let the children engender the rain / as the river runs through fields / forever subsiding their pain". Ignoring such moments, the album is otherwise fine, with songs such as Right In Front Of You hinting at possible future single status. All in all, a divergent assortment of material which Dion mostly manages to pull off, be it light rock, dance, jazz/blues, pop, R&B, or ballads.

Jazz FM Presents Dreamin'
Jazz FM Presents Dreamin'

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Escape into your imagination with the perfect soundtrack…, 15 Sept. 2002
This album follows in the footsteps of its two predecessors, Driftin’ and Breezin’, and is a stellar collection of contemporary smooth jazz as featured on jazz fm. It blends cool vocal jazz from the likes of Luther Vandross, Pete Belasco and Boz Scaggs with sophisticated and refined instrumentals. Amongst the finest of these are Lee Ritenour’s & Dave Grusin’s ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ and Jeff Lorber’s ‘Ain't Nobody’, along with the excellent Allon Sams track, ‘The Sun Will Shine’, a vibrant mélange of piano and vocal jazz.
Don’t be put off if you are unfamiliar with the artists on this CD. It is truly a heady, mesmerizing, mellow compilation of the very best names in contemporary smooth jazz that will leave you playing the CD time and again. Okay, so it may not contain the more provocative material of the Inspired series, or those albums released on the Hed Kandi label, but with diversity like this you won’t even notice. Useful liner notes from resident jazz fm DJ Steve Quirk and excellent sound quality make this album a credit to your collection.

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