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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I love how the garden grows, and I love the garden rose", 14 May 2007
By - See all my reviews
This review is from: Imagine Our Love (Audio CD)
Fey lyrics, winsome nouveau folk, chamber music and an overwhelming sense of serenity and optimism. All fronted by a classically-trained hippie with the voice of a Californian angel and a stunning range - and who in every promo shot I've come across is seen outstretching her arms as if to embrace the world (always wearing frou-frou dresses, often with fairy wings). Her name is Becky Stark, and it's probably one of the least appropriate surnames ever. She is here to bring peace and love to the world. So far, so horrifying.

Now for the good news. Contrary to what you might expect, Stark's vocal performance is understated, and all the more impressive for it. Such is the strength of her voice, she doesn't have to drag out syllables to make them sound like sentences or resort to kitchen sink melodrama. The delivery is absolutely perfect. Likewise, the approach to the lyrics and music is also minimalist and subtle, almost hypnotic to the extent that you forget this spellbinding voice has just repeated the same lines over and over on 'My Shadow is a Monday'. Lavender Diamond's debut is all about lush and soulful tunes, and every song delivers. Imagine Our Love will at times remind you of The Carpenters, Burt Bacharach, The Sundays, Joan Baez and, perhaps, Joanna Newsom, while at others you'll simply feel like you're listening to fairies, elves and pixies performing at the bottom of your garden on a midsummer's evening.

This album will brighten your day.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imagine my love, 1 July 2007
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Imagine Our Love (Audio CD)
If you said that Lavender Diamond sounds like a sparkly, ubersweet little band who plays hopeful pop.... you'd be right.

Fortunately the Angeleno band aren't just restricted in that. Their debut album "Imagine Our Love" is G-rated chamberpop, sure. But it's wrapped in a warm blanket of exquisitely pretty instrumentation, beautiful vocals and a feeling of wistful hope.

Gentle drum and bells segue into an anthemic piano melody, with Becky Stark wistfully crooning, "Oh no, it's such a sad and grey day out/when will I love again?... Oh no, we are turning as we go/into a world of stone..." Not only is it a mournful cry for personal love, but apparently tackling the loveless world outside.

"Garden Rose," on the other hand, fully embraces the chamberfolk description -- weepy strings painted over a gentle acoustic guitar. "I'll never stop a bullet/but a bullet might stop me/I'll never drink the ocean/but the ocean might drink me..."

Then in an about-face, they go all chamberpop in the bouncy, chipper "Open Your Heart" ("Well the streets are low/when you have to go/where are you running to?"). The songs that follow tend to be somewhere in between -- gentle folk, wind-wispy pop, soaring delicate little ballads, and occasionally a thumpy little piano-rocker. The only real misfire is "Like An Arrow," an awkward tribal-thump pop song.

Normally I can only take a small amount of cheery, sunny happiness at once. So it's something of a tribute to "Imagine Our Love" that I can listen to the whole thing in one go -- it sounds like the crystalline little sister of Midlake.

It also staunchly avoids the typical trappings of pop-rock, like electric guitars and bass. Instead, we have some truly ethereal, weeping strings and trickling piano. Sometimes they're played on their own, and sometimes with an acoustic guitar to keep things from just floating away.

And Stark really makes the songs shine by pouring her clear, sweet vocals through them like rays of sun. What's the problem, then? Well, the songs she sings tend to be rather simplistic (see "I'll Never Lie Again," repeated ad nauseam), though they show flickers of songwriting skill. ("You can see this road is forever/so let's dance without any fear..."

Though hampered by their simplistic lyrics, Lavender Diamond excels in every other way in "Imagine Our Love." If they wrote more complex songs, it would be perfect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give your ears a warm bath, 27 Jun 2007
ChrisD (Eastbourne, UK) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Imagine Our Love (Audio CD)
Mentions of hippies and "peace and love" music may have you heading for the horizon. After all, it's all drug-hazed lyrics, oceans of reverb and 20 minute sitar solos, isn't it? Well no, not if California's Lavender Diamond are anything to go by. First there is the voice. Becky Stark is a singer of simple but effective technique, relying (thankfully) on straightforward, crystal clear vocals rather than histrionics or melisma. That's not to say her voice is not expressive: it most certainly is - she can quickly move from a whisper to full steam ahead power, and reach high soprano with consummate ease. Her voice grabs your attention by tapping you politely on the shoulder, not smacking you round the head. Fans of Neko Case, Shivaree's Ambrosia Parsley and Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis will surely approve. The rest of the band's playing is top-notch too - Jeff Rosenberg's acoustic guitar strumming, Ron Rege's drumming and in particular the piano playing of Steve Gregoropoulos complementing their singer without ever threatening a takeover.

Then there are the songs. Simple, achingly tuneful country-folk songs that quietly burrow into your brain and stay there. Lyrics are often repeated, but it's what Stark does with those lyrics that counts. Listen to the way repetition of the simple line "when will I love again?" on opening track Oh No transforms it from a simple rhetorical question to a crescendo of heartfelt longing simply by a change of pitch in Stark's warm upper-register tones. Open Your Heart is as boisterous as Lavender Diamond get. "Alright now, dance!" say the liner notes. "Don't be afraid!" Indeed, don't be - you're not likely to sprain anything. Album centrepiece Dance Until Tomorrow is a beautiful six minute plus epic dedicated to Stark's sister and the best showcase for the singer's talents, her voice nearly reaching the stratosphere at times.

One word of warning - don't listen to The Garden Rose if you're feeling emotionally fragile. The sheer beauty of the melody and pure clarity of Stark's voice will have you blubbing into your hankie in no time. And that, let's face it, could be embarrassing.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dont just imagine their love, revel in it., 12 May 2007
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Imagine Our Love (Audio CD)
It starts with what sounds like the drum beat to Queens "We Will Rock You" on valium .The cover has songs for you to listen ,sing , hear ( Are listen and hear the same thing?) and the lyric sheets have illustrations of quite mind boggling tweeness attached . Singer Becky Stark is photographed on the back cover , arms aloft in supplication saluting the sketched in stars around her. Alarms started ringing for this listener , the words hippy dross were on the tip of my typing fingers.

And yet listening to "Imagine Our Love" completely -twice in quick succession reveals an album that while it sometimes skirts perilously close to mawkishness is full of a sense of wonder , some magnificent songs and the superb vocals of Becky Stark. I think I'd raise my arms to the heavens if I could sing like that too.

The band have described their songs as mini pocket symphonies and it's certainly true that the melding of ornate orchestration , to the guitars , piano and percussion the band themselves provide gives the music that sumptuous , multi-layered feel . It's not exactly a radical approach but when it's done as well as this it's difficult to resist. After the opening drum motif "Oh No" transmutes into a gorgeous two note strum .Stark with Jeff Rosenberg providing backing vocal counterpoint sing s "When will I love again?" stretching their registers to near breaking point. Becky Starks vocals on "Dance Until Tomorrow" are truly extraordinary , reaching , or seeming to anyway , the zenith a human voice can go . She's a rare talent is this singer. She can go from a creamy croon - the lilting lullaby like "The Garden Rose" to a humbled whisper-the sublime ballad "Find A Way"- where she also stretches her intonation like gossamer elastic for the chorus- to almost serene pure pop -"Open Your Heart". She even goes all celestial and choral on "When You Wake For Certain".

Of course it wouldn't matter a jot how good a singer Beth Stark was if the songs were lousy but every track on this album has something that sinks a hook into the listener . "I'll Never Lie Again" is so good it could have come off Julee Cruise's album "The Mysteries Of Love". "Like An Arrow" adds in tribal beats of Orangs excellent "Herd Of Instinct" to a hypnotic melody while "My Shadow Is A Monday" is just a gloriously effortless pop song , the sort of thing Randy Newman would write if he had joined St Etienne ."Bring Me A Song" is deliriously sugary , too sweet for many a palette I would guess , but the way Stark lets those little dips in the vocal melody glide makes it irresistible ..well to anyone partial to little melodic dips anyway." Here Comes One" is the sort of swoonsome incandescent pop song that should be blaring from radios nationwide.

Lavender Diamond have made a seriously brilliant debut album , fulfilling all the promise they had shown with their "Cavalry Of Light" EP. It's extremely summery music , bringing to mind sun dappled tree's golden meadows , that sort of thing but most importantly it can distribute that sense of well being and awe to the listener and that's a truly special thing to be able to achieve. I predict some will find this disarmingly easy to resist but they are missing out. Drop the cynical carapace and a wonderful album emerges. Don't just imagine their love , revel in it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Can't we all just get along?, 21 Jan 2010
This review is from: Imagine Our Love (Audio CD)
Peace and love, so it is claimed, has been almost exclusively the property of the nineteen sixties political pop culture movement. While it may have captured the imagination of a whole generation back then, it has since been pushed to the background by a long succession of international conflicts which banished the idea as nice but ultimately impractical for a contemporary way of thinking.
But Lavender Diamond seem to have woken up in the wrong decade and see no reason not to continue the message. Thus anyone with even a shade of suspicion over such hippy-ish thoughts as the afore-mentioned peace and or indeed love should bear caution before proceeding with the band's debut LP Imagine Our Love. It's hard to imagine anyone with such steely regard getting much further than opening the CD case whereupon you are met with the inlay picture of the lead singer Becky Stark, arms aloft in prayer like joy amongst a flurry of stars, a content and hopeful smile on her face. It's clear from this point exactly what kind of territory we are in.
Unsurprisingly, Lavender Diamond's sound matches their ideals perfectly. Pianos, acoustic guitars and some basic thump-y drums form the core of the band and they are regularly augmented by string sections and other complementary orchestrations which sore to match the beauty of their melodies. It's a very natural sound, with barely an electrical instrument in sight, save the bass and keyboards provided by producer Thom Monahan. Special mention at this point must be made of the reverb. Layered all over every single track, it's as integral a part of the album's sound as Becky's softly operatic voice. Usually such interferences can spoil the production of a record, especially in this day and digital age where the possibilities are limitless but the results are often limited. But here the reverb does little more than bathe their songs in a luscious glow that wonderfully complements their sound without ever becoming gimmicky.
First single Open Your Heart, The Garden Rose and Find A Way are all immediate classics and there's little in the way of a wrong foot to be heard during the entire fifty minutes or so. Bring Me A Song tends to lack the demand to be heard and Dance Until It's Tomorrow ambles on a little longer than necessary; but neither manage to offend or detract from the general ambience on offer.
Given its thematic foundation, it's unlikely that Imagine Our Love will be for everyone. But that's a shame because it's a solid twelve songs that takes you on a real journey, emotionally; without ever getting boring, despite the apparent simplicity of its nature.
Sadly, the band appeared to have disappeared since the album's release and there seems like little hope of a follow up. But luckily we have this fantastic record to remember them by. One that's as undeniable as it is upbeat and lingers on in the listener's heart long after the last splash of reverb has echoed away.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bloody hell this is good!, 4 Mar 2008
Raquel (Los Angeles, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Imagine Our Love (Audio CD)
Her voice is stunning. A couple of tracks are quite anthemic - Oh No for example. It is a sort of haunting folk but with a good modern feel to it. I like a singer called Bobby Baby - kind of along the same lines but Bobby is more upbeat. These are much more melodic. The album sleeve is really lovely too. Very easy to listen to. Yes. Yes. Yes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth buying, 28 Nov 2007
Red Rob "Red Rob" (Blackpool, Lancashire UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Imagine Our Love (Audio CD)
I can't really add that much to what has already been said, but this is an interesting album.

Some of the songs are a little too airy-fairy, twee and lacking in substance, but the overall experience is very pleasant indeed.

Imagine cornfields swaying in the sun, butterflies fluttering about and birds twittering. In other words, a perfect summer's day.

Death metal this ain't.

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Imagine Our Love
Imagine Our Love by Lavender Diamond (Audio CD - 2007)
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