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Michael Mouse (Leeds, UK)

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional!, 5 May 2005
This review is from: Happenstance (Audio CD)
What an absolutley delightful surprise this album was. I've never heard of her before, and someone mentioned if I liked Fiona Apple and Martha Wainwright to give this one a go - and it was very good advice indeed.
Rachael's breathy smoky voice is the perfect fit for the late night style of the album - definitely an album to listen to with the lights down low and a bottle of wine.
Hints of country, blues, soul and jazz are subtley used to almost unnoticable effect, but really do add to the overall sound. The lyrics are mainly about walking in and out of love ('Be Be Your Love' (the type of sheer class that I'd expect from someone like Fiona Apple)and 'Quiet' two ends of the love spectrum).
The layers in the songs are wonderfully built up - 'Collide' and 'Letter Read' start with a haphazard piano melody and 'Edith' builds with dark brooding bass line and whispered vocals.
Rock styled 'Worm Me Down', Nyman-esque instrumental 'Moments With Oliver', jazzy 'I Want You' and all the other tracks I've mentioned are highlights - but the whole album is well above par.
I'll pass on my friends' advice - if you're waiting for Fiona Apple's new album - this will more than fill the wait.

Martha Wainwright
Martha Wainwright
Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £7.90

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting stuff!, 5 April 2005
This review is from: Martha Wainwright (Audio CD)
I was intrigued to see how Martha would enter the music scene - after her brother's fantastic previous albums. The pressure of expectation and comparison must have been enormous.
Judging by the album, if she's nervous about being such pressure, it doesn't show in the slightest.
Comparisons are mixed - on one hand they couldn't sound any more different if they tried. Martha's folk sensibilities and Rufus's flamboyant arrangements are miles apart. However, both have a fantastic grasp of writing deep and meaningful lyrics without cliche and create interesting and original music - they are both on top of their games. Tales of acceptance, love, death, loss, inadequacies - wonderful stuff if you like that type of stuff (and I DO!!!).
The arrangements and key changes sound really fresh on this album - and it sounds natural and not done to be clever. Martha's voice is also quite distinctive (it has a soft raspy quality), and fits the predominantly folk style of music perfectly.
'Bl**dy Mother Fu**ing A**hole' is reported to be about her relationship with her dad - and it's a stunning spitting rant which is certainly one of the albums highlights, and one of the best "F**k you" songs I've ever heard.
'Whither I Must Wander' is a beautiful traditional folk song, and really shows off a softer, purer sound in Martha's voice.
Other personal highlights are 'TV Show', 'Far Away', 'This Life' and 'These Flowers' - but the whole album is truly wonderful.
An incredible disarming debut, and I can't wait to hear more from her.

Bleed Like Me
Bleed Like Me
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.69

21 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a let down..., 4 April 2005
This review is from: Bleed Like Me (Audio CD)
I'm a huge fan of Garbage - and I was really looking forward to this album.
I guess I'm quite disappointed. Version 2.0 had some great lyrics, superbly textured musical arrangements and top class style. This just seems lacking in all those things, and it's difficult to review the album without feeling that something - quintessentially garbage - is sadly lacking.
It is a heavier album - and the guitars and drums are turned well up. Unfortunately, the chords and key changes are really quite boring. It sounds quite stale. Even Shirley doesn't sound that good either - her voice is usually such a strong and distinctive instrument, but in some songs it's drowned out or off pitch.
All in all, it's okay. I was tempted to give it two stars - but loyalty got the better of me... It's well below the standards I'd expect from them, but I suppose it's an okay album - but already I don't want to listen to it anymore.
If you love Garbage, I'm sure you'll buy this album regardless of what I say (and I hope you get more from it than I did). If you're new to the band, buy Version 2.0 instead.
Approach with caution!

The Emancipation of Mimi
The Emancipation of Mimi
Price: £1.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than her last effort!, 4 April 2005
Yes - this is a better record than her last one.
Mariah has always dueted or featured other artists on her records, and sometimes this worked brilliantly (the whole Butterfly album) and sometimes not (Charmbracelet for one). This album falls somewhere nearer Butterfly - with noticably less collaborations than recent efforts and more of Mariah on her own (and it's a better album for it).
The storming opener of a track 'It's Like That' is a great compromise between her old fans and her prefered (more 'street') direction.
Fans of the old Mariah will like the slower, less 'steet' songs such as 'I Wish You Knew', 'Circles', Joy Ride', 'Fly Like A Bird' and 'Mine Again' - all very reminiscent of her earlier stuff in both vocals and music style.
Fans of hip Mariah will lllloooovveeee the aforementioned opener 'It's Like That', 'Get Your Number' (fantastic pop tune!) and 'Shake It Off'.
Somewhere between the gossip, glitz and reported tantrums IS a true star. There just aren't that many people (besides the also temperamental Whitney) that are on her level of superstardom (whatever that means...).
I'm a fan of Mariah Carey - but it's still four stars. It's certainly not even close to her best, but still a good album.

Offered by Books-and-Sounds
Price: £4.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Same Old Erasure - FABULOUS!!!, 24 Mar. 2005
This review is from: Nightbird (Audio CD)
Erasure have been with me off and on throughout my music-appreciating lifetime. They've written some of THE defining pop songs of my generation, and I stand up and applaud the fact they're still writing brilliant material together.
They've had a severe dip in recent times, and I certainly was worried they'd never return to past glories. Fortunately, they have. I know the whole 'return to form' is such a cliche, but it's absolutely fitting in this case.
I had the very good fortune to see them live in concert a few weeks ago (thanks Ken!) and they played a good number of songs from this album, and they translate exceptionally well in front of a live audience ('No Doubt' and 'I Bet You're Mad At Me' were just amazing). I left that concert feeling on top of the world.
The five stars isn't a balanced review - I admit that. There's nothing new with this album - it's Erasure by numbers. If you don't like Erasure, you never will, so go look elsewhere. If, like me, you used to like them - please give this a go - it's a wonderful album. It's easy with the deluge of new acts to forget about older acts - but these guys run rings around the competition.
Andy Bell has never sounded so good (and from the concert - has never looked so good also!) - his voice is just amazing. I've got SO much respect for him.
Class tracks here are 'No Doubt', 'Here I Go Impossible Again', 'Breathe', 'Dont Say You Love Me' and 'I Bet You're Mad At Me' (one of the finest songs they've ever done).
I will await the next album with anticipation now!

I Am A Bird Now
I Am A Bird Now
Price: £9.85

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly breathtaking, 5 Mar. 2005
This review is from: I Am A Bird Now (Audio CD)
The torch revival continues...
This album stopped me dead in my tracks.
Antony is truly blessed with a remarkable and unique voice - baratone and falsetto, bold and frail, mournful yet hopeful all at the same time (with a fantastic Nina Simone style warble).
Fortunately, the backing doesn't let it down either - the sparse arrangements (especially the wonderful piano compositions) help accentuate the sheer power of Antony's singing. The opener - 'Hope There's Someone' is just stunning (one of many stunning tracks) - goosebumps every time.
These are wonderful torch songs - my idea of HEAVEN! I certainly haven't heard anything like this for a long while - I guess the nearest I could get would be of a fusion of Alison Moyet, Nina Simone and Rufus Wainwright (who guests in fine form on 'What Can I Do'). The other guest stars add something special and necessary to the tracks rather than detract from proceedings.
The closing 'Bird Gehrl' is a fitting end to a perfect album. Antony the Diva deserves to soar.
I could quite easily cry my eyes out listening to this album - it's just so beautiful.

Offered by digitalmediadistribution
Price: £12.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting, 23 Feb. 2005
This review is from: Eveningland (Audio CD)
I firstly have to thank the first reviewer of this album - rucla - for giving such a good review I went out and bought the album purely on the recommendation.
I can't add much to that review, except another five stars.
The blend of delicate strings, the soft country style and simply beautiful, enchanting lullaby vocals (the singer occassionally conjures the ghost of Karen Carpenter (a MASSIVE complement) in the tone of her voice) make this a truly gorgeous album.
The title track 'Eveningland' is a purely instrumental masterpiece (think Craig Armstrong) - my only disappointment of the album is that this track is cut short in it's prime!
Yes - it's slow - but there's such depth and texture to the songs ('My Father's Waltz' and 'Receiver' are two personal faves). Fans of hardcore drum and bass need not purchase this.
Crack open a bottle of wine and immerse yourself in this absolute treasure.

Free Yourself
Free Yourself
Offered by Todays Great Deal
Price: £3.52

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Start, 29 Nov. 2004
This review is from: Free Yourself (Audio CD)
Fantasia blew me away from the first time I heard her on American Idol 3. She sounded like a superstar, she looked like a superstar. I had extremely high hopes for this album.
The biggest dilemma for what to do with Fantasia was obvious from the end of the competition - Soul or RnB. The younger market (i.e. RnB) won here. Fans of Fantasia from her American Idol 3 performances should approach with caution - with a couple of exceptions, the backing band and vocal rawness is gone, and beats and polished production are in.
My biggest regret is that the producers (and maybe even Fantasia herself) have turned what could have been the NEXT Aretha Frankin into just another RnB/Hip Hop singer in an already crowded market.
Sadly (and I really regret having to say this) - this album doesn't live up to her American Idol performances. Most albums start great and trail off towards the middle and end - this is almost the opposite. The opening 'Ain't Gonna Beg' isn't the start I'd have liked - it's a little sterile and not the statement of intent it should have been. 'Free Yourself' is better, but there's just no meat to it either. 'Truth Is' is again just okay - just more slow RnB by numbers. I'm no record producer - but whoever came up with the track order needs a slap.
Track 4 - 'Selfish' is where things pick up (finally). Finally a bit of that Fantasia attitude comes through, with an unusual melody (courtesy of Missy Elliot).
From here - it's all good. 'Summertime' is a great rendition - with an excellent arrangement. It's the first time on the album you think "WOW - that girl can SING!". Trademark vocal gymnastics, emotion and sheer class. The other AI3 song - 'You Were Always On My Mind' is good - but it doesn't compare to her show performance (I'd have preferred less arranging on the backing).
As for the rest of the new tracks, the loud and proud 'Baby Mama', slow beat 'Got Me Waiting', band beat and clap funk 'It's All Good', old soul sound 'Good Lovin'', 'Don't Act Right', introspective 'This Is Me' are all good tracks - and it's taken me a long time to appreciate that (it's almost odd hearing Fantasia singing songs I'm not familiar with).
The final track, the single 'I Believe' is, in my opinion one of the standouts. Okay, it may be clichéd and too pop for some, but it certainly shows off Fantasia's voice to it's absolute full (goosebumps every time I listen to it). For me, there just wasn't enough on this album that comes close in style or performance.
I'd have loved to have heard just a few more AI3 songs on here (surely there was some room for 'What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?' and 'Something To Talk About'!!!).
I started reviewing this with an idea to give it two stars, then three and now four stars. It IS a grower of an album, so give it the attention it deserves like I did - it's worth it!

The Invitation
The Invitation
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.39

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing new but still worth your time!, 5 Oct. 2004
This review is from: The Invitation (Audio CD)
Okay - the comparisons have all been mentioned... Coldplay, Elbow, Radiohead, Snow Patrol, Travis, Keane etc and I'm not going to argue with any of them.
If you want something new, I doubt this will tickle your fancy. If you like the bands I've just mentioned and don't mind hearing more like them, this is a really great record.
It's not just piano and guitar by numbers. There is some quite imaginative structure to these songs and some very subtle but effective key changes in all the right places.
The singer's soft voice is on a par with the singers in the bands mentioned (better than some actually) and the musicians play expertly, suitably and perfectly for this genre. My only criticism is that the album lacks a degree of bite due to the singer's perpetual frailty - 'Thru The Glass' one of the few tracks where the band pick up the pace and attempt a rock out is somewhat impeded by the falsetto.
Hopefully it won't become the soundtrack to dinner parties across the land - it really deserves to be listened too. Perfect timing in it's release also - the album has a very autumnal feel.
Personal faves on the album are 'Into The Fire', 'Gone', 'The Salt Wound Routine' and the beautiful 'Automatic'.
If you missed the guitars from Keane's album you'll adore this.

Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Close but no cigar..., 24 Sept. 2004
This review is from: Voice (Audio CD)
This album is somewhat of a disappointment. It's good, but I expected a FIVE star album! It takes a while to get into - on first hearing I thought it I didn't like it at all.
For the record, I think Alison Moyet is fantastic. I absolutely adored her last album Hometime, and I was awaiting more original work with eager anticipation. Here we have a series of orchestra and big band backed 'classic' covers (the instrumentation and production is wonderful by the way).
The problem with singing 'classics' is that we've all heard them many many times before and each have our own favourites (nobody will replace Dusty Springfield's rendition of 'Windmills Of Your Mind' in my ears, nor 'What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life' after hearing Fantasia Barrino on American Idol 3 TOTALLY own this song!!!). Even Alison Moyet's distinctive voice isn't enough to add anything 'new' to some of these tracks - 'The Man I Love' is one such track that falls into this category. However, 'Cry Me A River' actually sounds quite fresh (but nothing you've not heard before).
So - are there any five star tracks? Yes. It's the non-'classic' tracks that work better. 'Almost Blue' is utterly superb (but then I'm not that familiar with the original). 'Dido's Lament' and 'La Chanson des Vieux Amants' are also worthy of mentioning.
I must say also that I bet this album works SO much better when she sings it live.
I've changed the rating from three to four to three to four alot while writing this. I guess I'm being kind giving this four, but with a voice like Alison's I guess she deserves it, but I'm trying to be fair and critical, so a respectably good three it is.

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