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contempo.jazz (San Francisco/London)

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The Awakening
The Awakening
Price: 6.00

27 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Waiting for that one great record that his impassioned and soulful voice deserves., 26 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Awakening (Audio CD)
James Morrison may be considered as one of the U.K.'s premier soul talents, but the Warwickshire singer appears to have a bit of a downer on his career of late, having recently stated that he's "sung too many love ballads", and that he hated making his last album, Songs for You, Truths for Me, after being pressured by his former Polydor label to repeat the formula of his million-selling debut.

With several songs relating to his alcoholic father's death on his third effort, "The Awakening", the husky-voiced guitarist appears to have rectified one of his issues, but despite the presence of Suede's Bernard Butler as producer, it's difficult to hear how he's made any attempt to deal with the other.

Seemingly designed to make Radio 2 listeners hearts flutter, "I Won't Let You Go" follows the same heartfelt, acoustic, tearjerker template as his previous two lead singles; the toe-tapping Motown pastiches "Beautiful Life" and "Forever" show that Morrison's retro leanings are still very much apparent, while there's even a "Broken Strings"-style duet with Jessie J on the orchestral, midtempo "Up".

Pleasantly inoffensive and lushly produced as they are, they don't exactly live up to the radical reinvention that his rather dismissive comments indicated, and it's only on the funky R&B beats and Michael Jackson-esque chorus of "Slave to the Music", and the sparse, gospel-tinged blues of "Right by Your Side", where Morrison begins to show some of the invention that was allegedly so heavily restricted on his previous effort.

However, lyrically, he's never been better, with the heartbreaking themes of loss on "In My Dreams", "6 Weeks", and "Person I Should Have Been", the latter based on a poem inspired by the last conversation he had with his late father, more than fulfilling his ambitions of "wanting to go a bit deeper and find more substance".

But until Morrison manages to infuse some of this raw honesty and emotion into his sound, he's always going to struggle to create that one great record that his impassioned and soulful voice deserves. J. O'Brien
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2011 8:51 PM BST


Rrakala
Rrakala
Price: 8.62

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful., 26 Sep 2011
This review is from: Rrakala (Audio CD)
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, who is blind, is the Aboriginal answer to Stevie Wonder. Born on an island off the coast of Arnhem Land, northern Australia in 1970, he never learned Braille and has only a few words of English, but the expressiveness of his singing - though his lyrics are in Yolngu - goes straight to the heart in whatever linguistic context it is heard.

His voice is wonderfully smooth and sweet, and his self-accompaniment on the guitar (left-handed on a right-hand-strung instrument) gently powers his songs along, backed by the Saltwater Band.

His first album, "Gurrumul", put him straight into the stratosphere, with sales topping 140,000 in Australia alone. Sting described him as having "the voice of a higher being", while the Sydney Morning Herald hailed him as "the greatest voice this continent has ever recorded".

"Rrakala" looks like breaking new records. The first song is a freewheeling celebration of the tuna which leap and dive in the waters of Arnhem Land; the title of the second - being the name his Gumatj people call themselves - celebrates their solidarity and shared ancestry.

"Let's all sit together, watch the sea, contemplate the changing tide" begins the next song, with his voice descanting over delicately-added backing vocals. Here he plays a nylon-string guitar, and his overlaid work on piano and brushed drums testify to a high level of musicianship.

Every song reflects his belief in the eternal interconnectedness of his people and their environment: it all passes in a sweet trance. M. Church.


Marc Broussard
Marc Broussard
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 13.34

2.0 out of 5 stars A little generic., 15 Jun 2011
This review is from: Marc Broussard (Audio CD)
Sometimes a perceived step forward is a leap backwards in judgment. In singer and songwriter Marc Broussard's case, his self-titled fourth album -- and his second for Atlantic -- this is exactly what transpired.
On 2008's Keep Coming Back [Us Import], Broussard decided to strip his sound back to something that resembled the one he projected on the road.
He employed longtime collaborators Calvin Turner and Justin Tocket to produce a back-to-basics set of all-original material. There the sound was rough and ready out of the box and showcased the unique character of his Bayou rhythm & blues vocals.
It struck a bigger chord with critics and audiences than his slicker previous offerings did.
Broussard and Atlantic decided to up the ante commercially on this new album.
They enlisted producer Jamie Kenney (who co-wrote and arranged the album's songs, played keyboards, and basically ran things; he is primarily known as a contemporary Christian music producer).
He understood (as did Broussard) the label's plan to launch its artist as a pop crossover talent.
The album's first single, the pre-release "Only Everything", with its 21st century clash of programmed synthesizers and loops, compressed drums, and ghostly trace of old-school soul, did very well at Hot AC stations across US.
It's also indicative of the way the entire album sounds. While virtually nothing could remove the Bayou from Broussard's voice, Jamie Kenney and Atlantic did their level best.
"Lucky" contains some rote traces of old-school rhythm & blues in the guitars, and the inclusion of an all but buried horn section, but it's so covered over in production layers that the singer's voice and the cloying melody in the refrain just bleed it of anything resembling real emotion. "Yes Man," with its fingerpops and clichéd snare and bass drum, sounds like it could have come from a Jonas Brothers record (but it isn't as catchy).
Even the ballads, like "Let It All Out" and "Our Big Mistake", sound like Broussard its trying to find something in his words to transcend the sterile studio gimmickry.
He fails. "Emily" seemingly lifts an ELO riff note for note before it descends into a trite, unimaginative pop chorus.
Atlantic, Broussard, and Kenney may get lucky in the marketplace: the singer may be able to ride the fickle waves of popularity for a short time (though even that's debatable).
These songs and performances are so generic, they're all but impossible to distinguish from one another, let alone be remembered for anything. T. Jurek
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 23, 2011 10:53 AM BST


I Remember Me
I Remember Me
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: 2.25

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good album! She shines throughout., 25 April 2011
This review is from: I Remember Me (Audio CD)
Jennifer Hudson's debut was not a flop, not by 2008 standards.
It went gold and, thanks to being nominated alongside a mostly undeserving set of contemporaries, took the 2009 Grammy for Best R&B Album. However, a considerable amount of ill-suited material combined with obstructive guest appearances made it something of a misfire.
If the album was truly worthy of a Grammy, "I Remember Me" better run the ceremony's R&B table in 2012.
There is no lightweight pop, no beatbox-based Timbaland beats, no audible Auto-Tune -- no messing around.
Even the adult contemporary material -- the songs that function strictly as a platform for Hudson's powerhouse vocals -- packs more punch.
Most of the songwriters and producers who return from the debut, namely StarGate, Ne-Yo, and Harvey Mason, contribute positively here.
The shrewdest move was involving Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, and Salaam Remi.
"Angel", a euphoric testimonial written by Alicia Keys and co-produced by Keys and Swizz, sounds like it could have been made for Teena Marie, recalling "I Need Your Lovin'" while switching between tapping snares and a smacking four-four beat.
Keys and Swizz also team on "Everybody Needs Love", a hard disco throwback that is 80 percent slip-and-slide drums with a gorgeous, prancing chorus.
On "Don't Look Down", Keys and Remi (with Swizz handling the programmed drums) provide a boisterous and uplifting backdrop for one of Hudson's most gospel-rooted performances.
Remi also produces a bold interpretation of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse's "Feeling Good" that surpasses every vocal version not recorded by Nina Simone.
Another welcome alliance comes from R. Kelly, whose "Where You At" (produced with Mason) is the type of song on which Hudson thrives most -- the album's own "And I Am Telling You", confident but scorned and on the brink of bugging out.
At their best, Hudson and her collaborators provide the kind of mature R&B that is not felt merely in the mind, throat, chest, or hips but the entire body. A Kellman

Favourite tracks: "I Got This", "Where You At", "Angel", and "Everybody Needs love".

Ultimate Collection
Love Songs
Jennifer Hudson
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 30, 2011 1:57 PM BST


Tell Me Once Again (Hybrid - plays on all CD players)
Tell Me Once Again (Hybrid - plays on all CD players)
Price: 14.45

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warm, honest delivery!, 25 April 2011
Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett have been among Carol Kidd's admirers in the past, and she just goes on getting better.
Along with the musicianship and vocal warmth, there is an unpretentious honesty about her approach that can bring even the most everyday song to life.
Nigel Clark's acoustic guitar - harmonically subtle, rhythmically firm, endlessly resourceful - complements her so well that this set comes over as 12 genuine duets, not singer plus accompanist.
The composers range from Irving Berlin to Stevie Wonder, with one Kidd-Clark original slipped in modestly, halfway through.
D. Gelly


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