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Fergal Woods "Axe Victim" (Leitrim, Ireland)
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Raiz
Raiz
Offered by streetlight_records_us
Price: £13.55

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnifico !, 26 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Raiz (Audio CD)
CDs like this don't come around very often ! As can be seen from the Amazon details this recording is a celebration of not only 3 different cultures but 3 brilliant artists whose common bond is the Spanish language. This has got to be the best Spanish language recording I've ever heard because for me it encapsulates everything good about "the loving tongue" (to quote an old song title !) passion, rhythm, joy, soul and a palpable lust for life !

Where to start ? Okay, check YouTube for the video of track 1 "La Raiz de Mi Tierra" (the roots of my land) Next step - press the "buy" tab ! The mix of styles throughout the CD is intoxicating and the 3 voices blend beautifully. It is remarkable that singers from 3 different continents can blend so seamlessly. This obviously demonstrates how much respect they have for each others music. Perhaps the people deserving the most acclaim here are the 2 producers who adapted and arranged the material to allow these songs for soloists to very comfortably become songs for trios.

If you've followed instructions so far you'll have seen the flamenco tune take on a theme straight out of the Mexican jungle where Lila Downs (or the Earth Goddess as I think of her) puts her powerful stamp on proceedings. After another couple of vivacious choruses we move to the Pampas of Argentina where the elegant Soledad introduces a more introspective verse. This pattern continues throughout. These 3 artists best songs have all been improved by the fresh input of their new partners differing styles.

This won the 2014 Grammy for "Best Latin Folk Album" but this award is so deceptive and undoubtedly would put potential listeners in the English-speaking world off buying or even listening to "Raiz"! I personally adore flamenco guitar music but have difficulty appreciating flamenco singing. But the flamenco here is in very manageable doses and contributes so much feeling to these songs that I might even rethink ! Nina has a very lovely release of gentler Flamenco called"Joyas Prestadas" that's well worth acquiring.

I could spend hours writing about the strengths of the songs on show but the real highlights are the powerful personalities of Lila, Nina and Soledad, the beautiful blend of their voices in the most uplifting choruses this side of Paradise, and the seductive rhythms that make this a classic release.

Mas, per favor


Mafalda Arnauth & Atlantihda - Mafalda Arnauth & Atlantihda [CD] 2015
Mafalda Arnauth & Atlantihda - Mafalda Arnauth & Atlantihda [CD] 2015
Offered by silver-tentacle-UK
Price: £15.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Beguilingly Beautiful, 26 Nov. 2015
This is one of the most beautiful records I've ever heard ! I'd never heard of this lady until I saw her name mentioned on a new Fado sampler and on which I'd music by all the other featured artists. I decided to check what I was missing. Went to iTunes to listen to 90 second samples of the songs. Beautiful voice, beautiful songs. 10 seconds after the 4th track started I'd had enough - I pressed the "Buy" tab. I've never done that before for a new artist ! Mind you the heading here equally applies to her looks, but I will do my best to keep focussed on the music !

Before you get the wrong impression - this is not Fado at least not in musical or singing style. The instrumental backing does not contain bouncy rhythms or Portuguese guitar, lyrically and spiritually however Fado it may well be! Mafalda is Portuguese and sings exclusively, as far as I can tell, in that most lyrical language. She has recorded several fado CDs but according to reviews she records a greater variety of styles than normally associated with that genre. This seems to be a one-off project with the named group and it consists of 10 mainly slow tracks but they really defy categorisation and are not overly melancholic or sentimental. This means if you're adventurous enough to disregard the language barrier there is nothing to stop you being enchanted by these songs

Atlantihda are mainly acoustic, with drums, bass, piano, what sounds like at least 2 guitars and, very tellingly, occasional cello. In most of the songs the music revolves around a pedal point (a note that stays constant while chords change around it). This creates a dreamy soundscape which is the ideal background for Mafalda's lovely voice. She sounds at times like the Galician singer Rosa Cedron and indeed this recording is the nearest thing I've heard to Cedron's exquisite solo album "Entre Dous Mares" to which I gave a 5-star review a couple of years back.

Arrangements are well thought out, with percussion used to create varying moods but which never detract from the voice. Because of the absence of upbeat numbers this is probably best listened to after dark or if (like me) you waken early it is extremely soothing and calming music. I'm listening to the album closer "Vida a Pendura" as I write - My God - what a voice !

I wish I understood the lyrics and as I bought the download version I've no background info. A big drawback (but one that doesn't stop me buying music from Iberia) is almost none of the CDs released there have any liner notes in English. Easy recommendation - just listen !


Delírio
Delírio
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Very pleasant listening, 21 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Delírio (MP3 Download)
Roberta Sa is one of my favourite Brazilian singers and I've all her CDs and her outstanding DVD and looked forward to this release. I have to express disappointment. I've listened 3 or 4 times to the download and the recording is lacking in sparkle. There are no outstanding songs and after the (comparatively speaking) experimentation of her last album Roberta has gone back to the rather safe tried and tested sambas and bossa nova formula. The arrangements are tame and quite old-fashioned and she sounds stuck in the same gear throughout.

She possesses a lovely melodic voice without a hint of the pitch problems of singers like Astrud Gilberto and Maria Rita so one drawback may be that her effortless style may be mistaken for a lack of passion. If you've not heard her before chances are you will find "Deliria" a most pleasant listening experience. More use is made here of background voices than on previous releases (which is a plus), the recording is uncluttered, and of course the Brazilian rhythms float and sway, and that will be enough for many people. This however is possibly her weakest album and shows no real progression.

"Se for Pra Mentir" is a fine duet where Roberta's voice is at its sweetest."Felio Carnaval" and "Um So Lugar" are dreamy attractive songs that would melt many hearts and the title track has more energy than its surrounding numbers but the lack of any song that makes me want to instantly hit the repeat button is a major reason for the low rating. Instrumentation is quite routine, unlike her last release "Segunda Pele" which hinted at a progression to new styles. Seek out her CD with the guitar trio Madeira or her concert DVD where she performs over 20 of her best songs with a smile on her face that is totally infectious. There are so many discs of bossa and samba available that "Delirio" doesn't do enough to stand out.

Incidentally, does anyone know anything about an album of hers called "Sambas and Bossas" that a friend downloaded for me a number of years ago ? It's superior to this but officially does not exist !


Company You Keep
Company You Keep
Price: £13.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Music, 21 Nov. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Company You Keep (Audio CD)
I can't believe how few people have reviewed this artists work! This is one of my very favourite instrumental recordings and one of the few CDs that I always play from start to finish! I disagree slightly (sort of) with the other reviewer because "Drawing Down The Moon" does not stand out - beautiful though it is - it's only one of a string of superb cuts each with their own individual beauty, rhythmic quality, inventiveness, you name it and it's here !

Perhaps one reason why Brown has not received the credit she's due is because in this age of internet radio and iTunes musicians who don't readily slip into identifiable genres often get left out.The nearest label I can find for this recording is jazz, it's certainly not bluegrass and the only Celtic traces are in "Rain or Shine" in it's spirit and opening rhythm (which is in jig time) and "The Road West" with it's unquenchable momentum driven in no small way by John Doyle's fiery guitar. Incidentally Brown got this track from a West of Ireland accordion player called Mairtin O'Connor, who is another musical genius (check out the secondhand prices his hard-to-find CDs are going for!)

A quick listen to track one gives a hint that you're in for a bluegrass breakdown but musical surprises await at every corner because John R. Burr's piano transports you from somewhere near Kentucky down towards New Orleans. He is a magnificent pianist and his contributions throughout the album steal the show for me (sorry Alison!) Brown shows huge musical intelligence in songwriting, picking session musicians, even in getting the order of tracks right. Bela Fleck may be the banjo player with the fame and Grammys, and is enormously gifted, but for my money Brown is the superior tune writer.

Variety abounds here and tunes frequently show tempo changes, or when Stuart Duncan adds a fiddle solo the band adapt to go with his flow and explore a new musical by-way. Similarly Joe Craven's mandolin adds new texture and mood when he is given the spotlight. This is another of Alison's strengths as she never dominates the proceedings, she often stays out of song intros, solos are swapped around and one has the impression that she trusts her players so implicitly that there are no restrictions - the music consequently breathes and blossoms.

I could go on in even more detail but you get the picture - now all you need to do is get the CD !


Canto
Canto
Price: £11.46

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Portugal's Rising star, 19 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Canto (Audio CD)
One of the younger members of Portugal's growing ranks of Fado performers Carminho follows up her Gold and Platinum awards with her 3rd release called Canto. It's another hugely accomplished offering with 12 tracks (my version has 2 bonus tracks). Possessing a lovely full rich voice she has to fight through a very crowded field as her country appears to have a well-spring of outstanding female singers. My own favourite is Cristina Branco, and like Branco this artiste has the confidence to break away from the tried and tested formula and Amalia set-pieces that have now surely served their purpose.

Fado has a set musical backing (bass, acoustic & Portuguese guitar) that Carminho is comfortable to supplement (like Misia in particular) with classical instruments (prominent cello), percussion, and accordion which also surfaces to add colour. The song selection here has more upbeat numbers than is normal for Fado and gives a charming rural folk feel to what is a most uplifting disc. No tracks stand out because they all possess the same high quality, but I find the duet "Chuvo No Mar" intoxicating featuring as it does Marisa Monte the Brazilian singer who penned the song. It creates a really lovely mood.

The only thing stopping me giving this the full 5 stars is because I can't comment on the quality of the lyrics, not understanding Portuguese. I can't see anything stopping this 30 year old becoming a major international star - she has the voice, she has the looks and shows great musical intelligence with her song selection and her ease of delivery when breaking new musical ground, Highly recommended !


Directo
Directo

5.0 out of 5 stars Spain's Best Kept Musical Secret, 17 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Directo (Audio CD)
I happened to be in Salamanca a couple of weeks ago and as they still have record shops in Espana I decided to check one out. The sound system had this most compelling voice calling out to me and when I enquired who the singer was the assistant told me it was Vanesa Martin and her live album had only been released that very day. I listened to another couple of songs, each more attractive than the preceding one and decided on the spot to go back and buy the CD the following day. It turned out to be a double album with an accompanying DVD and great value at under 20 euro.

Vanesa is in her mid-30's, very pretty and writes all of her own songs, and is a more than capable guitarist. Like many of Spain's top female singers she comes from Andalucia (as do Pastora Soler, India Martinez and Diana Navarro) but unlike those named she shows no flamenco influences in her music or singing style. Her music is more adult-rock orientated and very easy to digest in big quantities. She's usually backed by a full rock band but it's her melodies and totally committed yearning vocals that I find so attractive. There are a handful of slow ballads where even without understanding a word - well, other than "Corazon" or maybe "Conmigo" - the emotion is palpable and camera sweeps of the audience pick out tear-stained young faces.

The above mentioned crowd sings along at every opportunity and when I enquired a little more about the artist it seems she has sold MILLIONS of cds in Spain and Latin America whereas you can't find a reference to her in Wikipedia (other than a songwriting credit) and even the C.I.A. doesn't know of her existence ! There are a number of duets (very common now with the modern crop of Spanish singers) and while one or two of the male singers are quite ordinary, the duets with the afore-mentioned (and seriously gorgeous) India Martinez and Annalisa are incredibly powerful and intense.

There is over 2 hours of music here with about 20 brilliant songs out of 28. If I could understand Spanish the lyrics could well cause me to revise that figure upwards!. The sound is demonstration quality (the guitarist fluffs a couple of notes but is otherwise fine, violin makes a surprise but telling contribution, while the keyboard player is superb on the slower material). The photography annoyingly over-uses the angled panning technique, but the really big surprise is the melodic quality of Martin's songs. The live versions of these tracks surpass her studio versions (she's released 4 studio cds to date) and the overall package is a huge progression from the live DVD that accompanied her "Trampas" set from 2010.This is a million miles away from Latino MTV pop !

Perhaps playing in her hometown of Seville inspired this superb concert but this certainly whets my appetite for her next release, and I will be keenly watching out for any concert activity in Britain or Ireland. Failing that of course there is always Ryanair - and Spanish sunshine !

Definitely a very worthwhile purchase.


Only To Rise
Only To Rise
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £10.56

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All Rise for King George !, 2 May 2015
This review is from: Only To Rise (Audio CD)
Usually I scoff at reviewers nominating their album of the year before the clocks change BUT ...! This is so good it's going to take something almighty to replace it at the top of my list (just a whisker ahead of Toto XIV) .

As a long-time fan of hard rock I've been aware of George Lynch for ages and been surprised he hasn't won more acclaim and then, I humbly confess, forgotten about him. His first "Lynch Mob" release saw him win similar accolades to Satriani, Vai, Malmsteen and Eddie Van Halen but he never managed to capitalise on or maintain that impetus. Until now.

"Only to Rise" is the third in a trilogy of superb releases that no lover of hard rock should be without. This new lease of life started with the Lynch Mob's "Sun Red Sun" followed up by the collaboration with Dug Pinnick - "KXM" - and now we have another joint venture with top vocalist Michael Sweet. These vocalists have seemingly inspired Lynch to push himself to peaks of perfection that only a handful of guitarists could even dream of.

The main reason I rate George so highly is I'm not aware of any other rock guitarist who accompanies singers with such inventiveness. It's not like "here's my solo, listen to how fast I can sweep pick arpeggios" - Lynch comes up with great riffs (many of his chords are not your standard major or minor voicing) and understands completely how the tension created by adding notes to a chord or playing a short melodic bridge can complement the melody line being sung. His solos are fluid, imaginative and, winningly, never a note longer than they need to be..Even if he were never to play a solo his backing is a model that all guitar players can learn from.

Sweet and Lynch have come up with a powerhouse set of songs and in addition to their own obvious talents have married melody and hard rocking in a way that far surpasses the "80's melodic Hair Metal" label that some lazy reviewers resort to. I won't go through the tracks other than to point out they're quite concise and none outstay their welcome. A couple of the gentler tracks have quite exceptional harmonies ("Me without You" in particular) and even though choruses are very strong and easy on the ear, POP-ROCK THIS AIN'T!!

It's getting harder (and more expensive) to keep up with the glut of "supergroup" releases over the past 3 or 4 years. and easy to miss out on worthwhile releases. Do yourself a big favour and grab a copy of this really outstanding record.


Dog Party
Dog Party

5.0 out of 5 stars Multi-coloured blues, 30 April 2015
This review is from: Dog Party (Audio CD)
Blues with bite is another way of describing this release. The jazz-fusion giant has turned his attention to his off-beat take on the blues and has emerged with a near-masterpiece. Many rock fans and guitar fans in general find blues recordings to be repetitive and unimaginative. This could well be the CD to prove that the above is not always the case.

Henderson has a superb grounding in jazz and knows every chord under the sun. This enables him to steer clear of "standard" backing to the blues and his chord voicings alone lift this offering way out of the ordinary.The 10-track selection throws in 2 instrumentals amongst the vocals. There's even an acoustic dobro-led song included to contrast with the gorgeous tones he coaxes from his Strat.

Here and there are found hints at other blues players styles like Robben Ford, SRV and even Robert Cray but that's in rhythmic flavour and overall mood rather than in note selection. Henderson plays with a burning intensity and an unpredictability that is the main reason for my 5 star award. Even 12-bar blues like the opener and closer spend their time convincing you they're not 12 bar blues, and he can play "classic" blues even when the time signature sounds "wrong" (probably because Tribal Tech band mate Kirk Covington rarely reverts to "straight" drumming!).

His vocalists (Covington features on 7 tracks and Erin Maguire guests on "Same As You") do a fine job and it displays the guitarists rather wicked sense of humour that most of the songs are about dogs. Surprisingly the Elvis song "Hound Dog" is to my ears the weakest track on show. Apart from Henderson's superlative playing I don't think I've ever heard more spectacular harmonica playing than Pat o'Brien produces on "Milk Bone". His solo is followed by an outstanding drum break by Covington which then leads to a call-and-answer section between Henderson playing slide and O'Brien responding on mouth organ - extremely effective and very exciting.

Sax and brass section are sparingly used but provide lovely contrast again in 2 or 3 of the tracks. Variety is the name of the game here with some basic 3-pieces, some tracks supplemented by organ, and the afore-mentioned brass and blues harp contributions. The closer "Too Many Gittars" has 5 different guitarists contributing solos - T.J. Helmerich plays the 5th and steals the show!

Some blues purists may well hate this and some reviewers have already expressed their opinions on it's shortcomings but if you are a fan of guitar playing that challenges the accepted cliches and comfort zones then you can hardly do better than check this out !


SOMETHING'S ABOUT TO CHANGE
SOMETHING'S ABOUT TO CHANGE
Price: £12.66

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Fat Strat Cat is back !, 10 Mar. 2015
From the very first few notes this is unmistakably Robin Trower thereby rendering the album title as a "tongue in cheek" joke! Any lovers of his classic power trio albums of the 70's will be on very familiar ground here. What will surprise is the ease and competence with which Trower handles all the vocals himself. Granted he does not have the voice of the late, great Jimmy Dewar, but using all his experience he has made sure to come up with songs that don't make big demands on his singing ability.

Tracks are mostly slow to mid-tempo blues which allow Trower to wrench those trademark soulful sustained bent notes from his Strat. The CD comprises a dozen tracks and clocks in at 55 minutes. Robin also plays bass but keeps this contribution at a very basic level throughout.

The album starts promisingly with the excellent title track and then a slow boogie called "Fallen" which features 2 lovely "lazy" solos. Next track "Riff #7 is funkier, but Trower's less than outstanding voice means that the album lacks that "lift" that would make it something special.

A couple of slower blues in middle of the track list provide some variety and vaguely hint at earlier glories (like "For Earth Below") but overall the feel is too laid back for me. It's the sort of album that works better if you just play random tracks now again because it lacks any real dynamic contrast.

The strength of this album lies in Trower's gorgeous guitar tone and superb feel but this is most likely only to satisfy his die hard fans. The song-writing on display here is quite ordinary and the lack of up-tempo numbers creates a "samey" sound where nothing really stands out as memorable.

Recent converts have a wealth of great albums from his early career to check out - this release never reaches those exalted heights. Newcomers should rush to pick up his "Original Album Series" featuring re-mastered versions of his first 5 albums for the price of a single disc!

Thank heavens Trower is still with us as many of his contemporaries like Johnny Winter, Gary Moore, Alvin Lee, Jeff Healey and Pete Haycock have sadly passed away in the last few years. For my money there isn't another guitarist on the planet who can play slow blues like him but this is not indispensible Trower. 3.8 stars.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2015 9:11 AM GMT


Please Come Home
Please Come Home
Offered by MediaMerchants
Price: £11.08

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very fine recording, 26 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Please Come Home (Audio CD)
Lonely Robot is the name of the new John Mitchell project. The multi-talented Mitchell who is guitarist with current bands It Bites and Arena and has been a prime mover in several other groups, has come up with what appears to be another concept album. His last It Bites release was the nostalgic "Map of the Past" but this release could be subtitled "Map of the Future" as it sounds like the soundtrack to a sci-fi thriller on the lines of "Blade Runner" (showing my age here!)

The special edition issue has 75 minutes of extremely high quality music with 11 tracks and 3 remixes. Mitchell, who is a self-declared fan of 80's pop, has enlisted some surprising contributors to the project in the form of Peter Cox (from Go West) and Nik Kershaw, while Heather Findlay of Mostly Autumn chips in with some lovely vocals. But it is unquestionably John Mitchell who steals the show having written all the songs and handled all the production and mixing etc.

Mitchell is an excellent songwriter and extremely articulate with most impressive lyrics to compliment his hugely accomplished guitar playing (lots of guitar goodies spread across the recording). Songs are varied and take centre stage unlike many prog rockers who concentrate on the instrumental side of things with constant time changes and lyrics that often come across as optional extras. The duets with Cox and Findlay on tracks 3 & 4 are very strong songs and the following title track is even better, and at just over 8 mins. is the CD's longest track (with varied musical themes as well as sections featuring keyboardist Jem Godfrey of Frost! fame)

Spoken words are interspersed throughout the album linking the futuristic theme. "A Godless Sea" features his trademark soaring guitar and a simple piano motif underpins a heavier backing track. This device is repeated a number of times throughout the program. "Construct / Obstruct" is a more commercial song than its predecessors and could have easily made it onto an It Bites album. Mitchell's voice here sounds not unlike Peter Gabriel and for good measure he pulls off a couple of stunning guitar solos.

"Are we Copies" poses a deep philosophical question and again would make a superb sci-fi soundtrack. Incidentally the booklet artwork shows JM kitted out in a spaceman's suit at a number of well known London backdrops! The last couple of tracks on the album proper are a bit of an anticlimax and for me the album just misses out on the full 5 stars (mainly because personally I would have preferred a few faster tracks) but is fully deserving of a hearty recommendation.

The 3 remixes work very well and I prefer the ambient mix of "Human Beings" to the original. The "piano mix" of "Why do we stay" has a more prominent role for Marillion's Steve Hogarth which again outscores the main track. The "ocean mix" of "A Godless Sea" will appeal to fans of electronica but to my ears is over-produced.

This is darker music than It Bites (shades of Kino are more apparent) but there is much to enjoy here and Mitchell is incapable of coming up with anything less than totally engrossing and stimulating. Fans will not be disappointed.


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