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Here Lies Love
Here Lies Love
Price: 14.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly seamless song cycle, 6 Nov 2010
This review is from: Here Lies Love (Audio CD)
This is excellent, who would have thought a song cycle about Imelda Marcos and Estrella Cumpass featuring a cast of hundreds (well about twenty) would be so enjoyable. It's melodic, dancey in places and even though there's so many vocalists the joins don't show and you could almost think the songs are sung by the same two or three people. Sharon Jones does stand out for me because she injects some soul into the proceedings. There are great songs here and the narrative joins up.

I obviously bought this because it is a David Byrne collaborative album. However, if someone had played this to me blindfolded I would have no idea that it was composed by David Byrne (American Troglodyte and it's Moroderesque bassline touches not withstanding)just that it was a superior piece of work. There is enough variation across the album with some songs featuring orchestral or horn arrangements. Some of the songs are quite funky and some are disco(ish).

The production is perfect for the material and I didn't find it clunky whatsoever. In fact I was hardly aware of it. Sometimes you just want to listen to a song without wondering where the snare drum sound came from, where the drum loops were recycled from, or what synthesisers were used

However, I feel I have to address the disco, not disco question dredged up elsewhere. Does it matter if some tunes are disco or not. Is disco still a dirty word in certain quarters? At the risk of being labelled alongside other reviewers here as well meaning but misguided my ears tell me that several of the songs here do in fact feature approximations of disco rhythms and arrangements (Don't You Agree, Every Drop Of Rain, How Are You) some of which had already existed for several years before Saturday Night Fever came along and some of which were recycled in the eighties. And this is palpably not modern day electronica, it wouldn't have been modern day electronica 20 years ago never mind today, in fact it's not electronica at all. I will admit the last couple of years has seen numerous artists going all eighties retro and filching bits and pieces of synth pop and revisiting the early days of timecoding, hardware sequencers, Roland microcomposers ,MIDI,almost affordable polysynths and who knows what else but with the security blanket of modern DAWs. So whilst the production here might be in tune with a general trend it's a million miles away from the cutting edge of electronic/computer music. But then again I don't think for a minute that David Byrne and Norman Cook wanted this to be at the cutting edge of anything.

This is a sequence of songs that works as a whole. This is superb, it certainly surprised me. This is one the albums of 2010.


A Crimson Grail (Version For 200 Guitars)
A Crimson Grail (Version For 200 Guitars)
Price: 13.06

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So this is how 200 electric guitars, 16 bass guitars and percussion sounds, 6 Nov 2010
Scored for 200 electric guitars, 16 bass guitars and percussion this is a recording from the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival in 2009. The informative sleeve notes tell us that the guitars are divided into several sections each with their own tuning. In this way simple parts are built up into a whole.

I think listening to this at home confers its own advantages and disadvantages. Obviously you don't have the spectacle or the feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of musicians, hundreds of guitar amplifiers and the ensuing volume levels, but on the other hand you can let the sound envelope you without being distracted visually.
It's quite hard to describe the mechanics of what is happening here as I am largely hearing the sum of the parts (as intended) rather than the parts themselves. But anyway here goes...

The first part of the piece begins with a gentle drone with no harmonic or melodic movement. After a period of time basses begin to pulse in the murk underpinning scratchy guitar chords before it builds to a crescendo.
The second movement sees the gradual formation of a wall of sound constructed from a few chords.
The third part featuring very simple insistent riffs overlaid with powerful chords and higher pitched drones has a sense of forward momentum whereas the first two parts are relatively static. It builds hypnotically to a euphoric crescendo with almost choir like overtones.

All well and good but what does it do for you. Well I find it calming, the swelling and falling sounds creating its own environment. Apart from the usual minimalist suspects its impressionistic beauty reminds me of both Debussy (La Mer) and Ligeti (Atmospheres). It is music to escape into, music that alters your perception of your environment,music to let your thoughts drift to and is beautiful. It does require you to lsten to the full hour or so of it to get the full effect but it is worth it.


Seasons Of My Soul
Seasons Of My Soul
Offered by Giant Entertainment
Price: 3.75

64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Personal Songs That Resonate, 3 Nov 2010
This review is from: Seasons Of My Soul (Audio CD)
As the title of the album signposts this is a collection of Rumer's highly personal songs but the songs certainly resonate with me. Whilst there isn't the lyrical ability of a say, Joni Mitchell or Suzanne Vega here, the words are elegant and moving. The lyrics are effective in their portrayal of universal themes; loss of loved ones, loss and finding of love, isolation.

With regards to the the songs as a whole there are numerous comparisons that can be made, Karen Carpenter, Judee Sill , Carole King, early Laura Nyro, even Joni Mitchell in a couple of songs, and a host of others. I agree with some of the previous reviewers that that some of the material and its delivery is reminiscent of Dusty Springfield. The production is certainly of a classic vintage and quite Bacharachesque in its lightness of touch but it's faultless. And as to the Carpenters comparisons, I can't think of an original Carpenters albums that is strong as this, there is none of the cheesiness that Richard Carpenter sometimes brought to bear. And these are (apart from the David Gates song) Rumer's own songs. The songs are all beautifully song, it's approachable but it's quite moving in places and there's a lot of naked emotion in this album. It might not cheer everybody up as it is underscored with melancholy but that only helps it to work as a cohesive album. Beneath the surface sheen there is considerable turmoil being worked through. So if you want a nice 100% happy album you're in the wrong place.

Oddly, the album opens with what is possibly the weakest track "Am I Forgiven" is my least favourite song on the album. It's pleasant enough but doesn't give any indication of the riches to follow. I suppose though it makes for a relatively gentle introduction. The sequence of songs from "Thankful" to "On My Way Home" is breathtaking though and is both harrowing and uplifting. And that sequence makes it hard for me to fathom the accusations of blandness that are littered about in some of the reviews. It's not often you get such subtle songs about grief, bereavement, abandonment, resilience and emotional rebirth. Not the usual territory for relatively mainstream music I would guess.

There is an artistic integrity and nuanced delivery in play here that isn't commonplace for such easily accessible work.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 12, 2010 10:28 AM GMT


Bang Goes The Knighthood
Bang Goes The Knighthood
Price: 12.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Standards Maintained, 28 May 2010
Resolutely unfashionable and impossible to categorise, this is another superb Divine Comedy album. There are no radical departures from previous albums and the usual Divine Comedy touchstones and influences are all here (Brel by way Of Scott Walker, Francoise Hardy type pop, gentle orchestrations, delicate piano ballads). Divine Comedy albums have always benefitted from superb orchestration, from Joby Talbot on earlier albums to Andrew Skeet on this album.

Lyrically, as per previous albums, there is a mixture of pathos and humour. The title track seems to concern maybe a politician or other careerist professional whose life is so pointless they take secret harbour in being dominated or humiliated sexually. Neil Hannon pulls his usual trick of not condemning the protagonist whilst cataloguing their weakness. The Complete Banker, as the title would suggest, though does give Neil's ire a good workout whilst the Lost Art Of Conversation manages to namecheck both Capability Brown and Frank Lampard.

When A Man Cries is the most affecting ballad here. It's followed by the most throway song Can You Stand On One Leg which begins with a piano riff that seems awfully reminiscent of the Carpenters Close To You. Album closer I Like is short, sweet and catchy.

Whilst overall there isn't the relatively focused sound of Regeneration or quite the adventure of say Fin De Siecle or Absent Friends this is yet another solid showing. (And the Duckworth Lewis Method album was pretty stong as well)

Neil Hannon is such an enduring songwriter that he can write these reflective and humorous songs without sounding trite or, heaven help us, quirky. He can even make a song such as At the Indie Disco seem as self conscious and awkward musically as the indie disco participants revealed in the lyrics.

Recommended.


Dark Hope
Dark Hope
Price: 8.21

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reasonably entertaining but arrangements verge on the bland, 25 May 2010
This review is from: Dark Hope (Audio CD)
I agree with a previous reviewer that there is a metronomic feel to this however I don't think the fault lies with Renee Fleming,I think the producer David Kahne is culpable. I think Fleming performs these songs well, doesn't sound as if she's singing in a strange idiom and the songs themselves are a relatively brave selection. I think overall this is enjoyable despite some shortcomings.
The shortcomings are that these songs are set in the blandest of settings, all tastefully restrained guitar figures and syrupy synth textures. Taken in bit size chunks it is quite palatable but over the course of an album it can become sickly. Would also have been nice for the instrumentation to vary somewhat. Couldn't they have done one song with just voice and piano, or voice and guitar etc? Or made better use of tempo changes? Real strings are used in places but it still sounds like there's a sugary synth pad competing in the same frequency range.
And when we get what should be euphoric background vocals they just sound incredibly polite.

Just wish they taken some chances. You have a world class singer, brilliant material and she's straitjacketed by the arrangements. There's a factory feel to this as if every song has started from the same template. The two songs that work best are those by the Arcade Fire and the Mars Volta and these seem to form the centrepoint of the album. The version of Cohen's Hallelujah is okay and at least Renee understands the lyrics but it doesn't come anywhere near the benchmark interpretations of Jeff Buckley and John Cale.

Despite my reservations I do actually quite like this - maybe given time I'll be able to forget about my frustrations with the arrangements and just enjoy the songs and the vocal performance.


Love Is Strange [Digipack]
Love Is Strange [Digipack]
Price: 14.96

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Folky, Introspective, Bluesy, Rootsy and Generally Excellent, 19 May 2010
Having listened to this several times now in a short space of time I feel ashamed that I initially thought of this as a Jackson Browne album rather than a Jackson Browne/David Lindley album.
Also when I pre-ordered this CD I was slightly worried that this might be a live recording too far after Jackson's excellent solo acoustic albums. However, the prowess of Lindley on various instruments gives this recording something different. Recorded in Spain this album sees Browne and Lindley joined by Tino de Geraldo (percussion). On some tracks extra musicians feature.
Song selection? There are some songs here associated with Lindley which i wasn't familiar with but which work well in this context. And given the strength of the Browne catalogue, it would be quite hard to select anything other than brilliant songs from that side of the partnership. It's good however to see Call It A Loan, which was my favourite song on Hold Out getting a run out.
Although it is a long album (approx 2 hour), there is enough variation in how the songs are treated to prevent listening to it as a whole being a chore. Sit Down Servant is a spritely run through the spiritual, whilst Sydney Carter's the Crow On The Cradle, with fiddle and whistle, sounds Celtic. Take It Easy is reincarnated here as a folk stomper. Mercury Blues with Lindley's Hawaiian guitar and singing to the fore is a slice of shuffle beat Americana. In fact although there is the introspection you would expect in such songs as For Everyman a large chunk of this album has something of a folk feel to it and the sound of musicians simply enjoying themselves without falling into self indulgence. Well apart maybe from Love Is Strange/Stay which goes on a bit too long for my liking.

Apart from Tu Tranquilo which is sung by Koko Veneno, the second disc features impeccable versions of some of the most enduring classics from Browne's early albums. Restricted to just vocal, piano, guitar and percussion Late For The Sky is still as powerful as it was all those years ago. These Days sung by Luz Casal has apparently quite a lot of mileage left in it.

I also have to mention the recording quality, which to my untutored ears, seems exceptionally well balanced. With its varied approaches to the songs this Spanish tinged recording is well worth a listen.


Wear It's 'At
Wear It's 'At
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 10.16

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Seventies Pop That's Aged Quite Well, 1 April 2010
This review is from: Wear It's 'At (Audio CD)
I had this as a vinyl record as a teenager, listening to it almost 35 years on the thing that strikes me most is the lack of filler. Although it's not the most adventurous music you'll ever hear and the lyrics are, at best, perfunctory, it's perfectly valid pop music. If you know and like the singles( Sugar Baby Love and Tonight) I think you'll like this album. Although it stylistically nods to the fifties and the sixties it does sound like it was made in the seventies. These songs feature a number of different lead vocalists and are all well sung with strong harmonies. The two extra tracks are actually quite good. And Sugar Baby Love is still brilliant. Informative sleevenotes round off a good value artefact. Three stars cause it's not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but it is enjoyable and there's enough variation to enable listening to the album as a whole without getting bored.


Quiet Nights
Quiet Nights

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Understated but rewarding, 4 Jun 2009
This review is from: Quiet Nights (Audio CD)
Hmm... this seems to have polarised opinion. Strange thing is that I do agree with some of the points in the negative reviews. The songs on this album seem to move at a glacier's pace and Diana's voice is hardly raised above a whisper throughout. However, I like this approach to these songs, find the album works as a whole and find Diana's performance is fine and never boring. The song selection is fine too, including a few songs that I already adored in their similarly gentle Astrud Gilberto/ Stan Getz incarnations.

For all, or maybe because of, its understatement this is not an album you can listen to in the background - it's so understated it would just fade into the wallpaper. However, if you immerse yourself in it I think you may find it rewarding.

As another reviewer has pointed out the orchestrations are reminiscent of Gil Evans work on those classic Miles Davis albums such as Porgy and Bess, and Sketches of Spain. On some songs the sound is impressionist and seems to hang in the air at points.

Maybe this is an album that there's no middle ground for and you either actively like it or actively dislike it.


Will You Be Staying After Sunday
Will You Be Staying After Sunday
Price: 9.63

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure minty goodness, 7 Oct 2008
Another gem from Rev-Ola, this is a collection of songs chockfull of harmonies from a five piece Baltimore group. It's obviously informed by groups such as the Mamas and Papas and the Fifth Dimension but it has its own charms and there are some particularly strong songs on here. The title track is pure melodic bliss. Other welcome songs include "Don't Wake Me up in the Morning Michael", "Pink Lemonade" and "Walking In Different Circles". There are both album and single versions of some of the songs. With typically informative Rev-Ola liner notes the quality of the songs, the superb singing and orchestration make this a worthwhile purchase for aficionados of the sunshine/baroque pop genre.


Tracy
Tracy
Price: 10.40

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars We want more Ron Dante, 7 Oct 2008
This review is from: Tracy (Audio CD)
One of my favourite singles as a child was "When Julie Comes Around" by the Cuff Links. It had a dramatic sparse intro, a bit of vocal, a bass phrase, before there was a thwack of drums and the rest of the group (except I know now that it wasn't a group but more of a studio concoction) came in. Almost 40 years later, idly flicking through Record Collector, I see a Cherry Red ad for the Cuff Links' 'Tracy' album. And a week later here I am listening to a strangely schizophrenic bubblegum album which veers from the upbeat ("Tracy", "When Julie Come Around") to the melancholic "All The Young Women", "Where Do You Go". The songs are largely written by the Vance Pockriss songwriting team with all the vocal parts sung by Ron Dante who, for the 0.1% of people reading this who don't know, also sung the vocals on the Archie's "Sugar Sugar". This won't change your life but for those of us of a certain vintage it's a hugely enjoyable shortcut to a golden age of pop. The lead single "Tracy" is so simple but so effective. Of course at the time I owned the Julie single I had no idea who Ron Dante was. It was only many years later that I learned that he was a bubblegum pop legend who fronted more than one group. As to the album as a whole - although this is very entertaining I have to be honest and give it three stars as there is some filler and an ill judged cover of "Sweet Caroline". It's certainly worth listening to though.


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