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J Bowman

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Gonna Take A Miracle
Gonna Take A Miracle
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £10.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Miracle, 29 May 2006
This review is from: Gonna Take A Miracle (Audio CD)
Music gives resonance to memory. "Gonna Take a Miracle" is Laura Nyro giving voice to her childhood, singing with Labelle as freely and unselfconsciously as she had sung with harmony groups on the street corners and subway steps of New York as a girl. Each song covered on the album is transmuted, transfigured by the spirit of Laura's joy so that she owns it completely.

Laura seems to call the songs with the spontaneity of a jam session, adding to the semi-mythical aura of the one-take masterpiece. Laura always claimed to be a fan and student of Miles Davis - she must have been familiar with the legendary sequence of albums he recorded with his first classic quintet in the mid-`50s. Miles recorded five albums' worth of material in three days of recording, treating the studio almost as a club date at which his new band were to burn through the standards-book setting down classic readings take by take.

Laura's connections with Labelle's harmonies, Gamble & Huff's arrangements and MFSB's musicianship had a similar effect, if on a slightly less apocalyptic scale. The difference here, and what gives GTAM its unique power, is the mood of nostalgia - the love and longing for a place and time that cannot be replicated - which imbues the album. Laura approaches these Motown, doo-wop and girl group songs as opportunities for reverence and reconstruction. "Don't forget the Motor City!" she urges the listener in the work-out of `Dancing in the Street', as if Berry Gordy's legacy ever could be forgotten, as if she herself weren't participating in the shift in soul's power base from Detroit to Philadelphia, as if her life depended on it.

Love is the key throughout - love for the writers of these songs and the idea of being a songwriter, love for the songs themselves, and for the singing of them and for what they represent.

The Sensual World
The Sensual World
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £6.28

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising sensuous introspection, 12 Feb. 2005
This review is from: The Sensual World (Audio CD)
Partly because her Best Of compilation only covers the period ending with her 1985 masterpiece Hound Of Love, forever fixing Kate's "official" canon as her first five albums, and partly due to the unprepossessingness of what one might (although I suspect only I actually do) refer to as Kate's "late-mature-period" works, The Sensual World has never resonated as loudly with the casual fan, the general listener, as her earlier classics.
After the stridency of HOL, TSW sounds almost like a retreat, an exercise in sensuous introspection. Many of the album's most successful moments (of which, of course, it has more than its fair share) are songs which announce themselves quietly, requiring repeated listens before the intricacies of their arrangements finally unravel themselves. Take, for example, 'The Fog', which sets off at a kind of electro-bossa nova lope, mixing in waves of strings and eventually electric guitar (interspersed with samples of speech) to create its haunting, hesitant, beauty.
Not every track is a success - 'Heads We're Dancing" is probably a folly too far - but when a songwriter is capable of crafting a creation of the simplicity and compassionate genius of 'This Woman's Work' and then singing it with the kind of Deep Soul-level of emotion which Kate seems to bring to every vocal performance, we can forgive her odd failure.
And when Kate does take risks more often than not they pay off: her use of the Trio Bulgarka is, in places, inspired - if you listen to the acapella first half of 'Rocket's Tail' I strongly suspect you're hearing the germ of Bjork's subsequent experimentation with Inuit choirs and more recent all-vocal album. As always, Kate is the master of space, giving her songs room to breathe - check out the short instrumental breaks in 'Never be Mine', or the ending of 'Deeper Understanding', for example.
Conversely, and proof of Kate's continuing development as a singer, is the feeling of claustrophobia evoked on the album's last track 'Walk Straight Down the Middle' as she sings "Can't move my arms/ Can't move my legs/ Can't say no I can't say yes...", seemingly through paralysed lips. Mesmerising.
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Hounds Of Love
Hounds Of Love

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An album of sky-scraping genius..., 30 Jan. 2005
This review is from: Hounds Of Love (Audio CD)
... on which Kate tames the wild romance of her early work, realising the electric promise of the transitional Never for Ever and harnessing the extravegancies of The Dreaming to create her defining masterpiece.
Songs like cathedrals to her God-like voice.
Abandoning the banshee-falsetto of Wuthering Heights, Wow, Babooshka etc. Kate the mature vocal technician steps forward, staking her claim amongst the greatest. Listen as she sings out the pearl-like beauty of her tone in the opening line of Cloudbusting: "I still dream..." Listen to her extemporise as The Big Sky rolls out, scatting, screaming wailing ululating. Listen as throughout the album the first hints of that devastating vibrato start to creep into her arsenal.
Hers is a voice unrestrained by time and space singing to the past, to the sky, to God, to the Earth from space, to a lover from the aferlife, through songs like incantations, like whispers of dreams she's shared with the listener in a previous incarnation.
High flown maybe, but an attempt to match the ambition and achievement of this incredible production from an incredible artist. Another "I bought the CD and took it home and listened to it and it was really good and I listen to it all the time now" doesn't do justice to Hounds of Love, as though Kate were another Madonna, another Gwen Stefani...
Oh, and of course it's all much more fun than I've made it sound, with Kate's backing vocals often undercutting the seriousness of what's going on up front (check out her barking refrain on the song Hounds of Love, which always seems to me to refer back to and parody the earnest fairlight riff of Running Up That Hill). Kate always did have a superb sense of the absurd, a healthy English awareness of the ridiculousness of the overblown which ties even her most extreme concepts at one level or another to everyday experience; And so in And Dream of Sheep, drifting unfathomably alone at sea on the borderline of sleep and death, the singer's one wish is for her radio, to hear those "friendly voices".
None have followed in her wake.

Offered by Bridge_Records
Price: £4.06

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Greatest hip hop group of all time?, 20 Feb. 2001
This review is from: Stankonia (Audio CD)
Outkast are often passed over by UK hip hop purists because they come from outside NY/LA, but over four consistently great albums they have proven that they must be ranked alongside De La Soul, Gangstarr, NMA etc.
Not only is the production on this funky masterpiece eclectic and excellent, taking in drum and bass and miami bass, rock and all forms of hip hop from 80s style beats to ultramodern shuffle, sometimes switching mid-song; what is scary is the quality of the rapping, from Dre especially.
Although BOB and Miss Jackson are the obvious singles, check out Dre's flow and the beat change on 'Humble Mumble' for a summary of the group's skill, and then go back and check out the rest of their albums. You will not be disappointed

Price: £4.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A Soul Masterpiece, 6 Aug. 2000
This review is from: Voodoo (Audio CD)
Voodoo is the result of the influence of the black masters of the sixties, seventies and eighties (jimi, marvin, al, prince etc.) being used by the masters of the nineties (D', brother quest., premier, charlie hunter, raphael etc.) to create a product that goes far beyond ancestor worship.
If you want to know what actually went into making this album (trust me, it makes the experience of listening to it even more enjoyable) check out Brother ?uestion's Album Reviews in the Roots Section at okayplayer.com
The most exiting thing about this album is that it's part of a new soul movement in black music that incorporates many great vocalists, musicians and songwriters. With artists of the quality of D'Angelo, my guess is that we ain't heard nothing yet...

First Come First Served
First Come First Served

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Sleep, 6 Aug. 2000
This review is from: First Come First Served (Audio CD)
If you're not into Kool Keith yet, then here is not the place to start - get Dr Octagon or the Ultramagnetic MCs album. But if you're a fan and you're wondering whether to get this, then I would recommend it. It's not quite of the same quality as Dr Octagon, but the concept is entirely different - gone are the hospital and porno references. This is Keith on some straight-up Horror-core, animal-loving low-budget environment fantasy type ish, and it deffinately grows on you. Oh yeah, the production is alright - it serves its purpose, but the focus is always on Dr Dooom and his lyrics

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