Music Monthly: October 2004
Music reviews for October 2004.
This is a great ‘time travel’ album, for those of us struggling with the 21st Century. There is something reassuring about returning to a time when men wore hats, the tunes had melodies and girls were girls.
I have to say that as a rule I don’t like the 50’s big band sound. It can so easily overwhelm the singer, is often difficult to properly record and reproduce and at the end of the day can tend to give all of the melodies an unnecessarily ‘upbeat’ feel. On these criteria I give this recording two out of three, which is high praise for me.
Tim Beverage was fortunate to have Hollywood arranger and conductor Russ Garcia as his mentor, and it shows. The music is beautifully arranged and Tim’s voice comes through strongly and clearly. The recording is hard to fault particularly if you like that Hollywood movie sound quality.
The music is also hard to fault including classics such as I’ve got you under my skin, Can’t take my eyes off you and The Girl from Ipanema. Tim can certainly sing, and has delightfully clear diction. I am just a bit uncomfortable at times when he adds a slight American twang; without it, he could be our answer to Mel Torme: such great control and sense of timing.
This album will be a best seller and deserves to be. It is a great example of the ‘swing’ sound. I personally preferred the bits that had a more laid back late night feel, and I would welcome a follow-up album with more of this sound. John Groom
Ana Caram: Hollywood Rio
Describing voices is not easy. Think of Julie Andrews on Viagra. Think of Patricia Barber on Prozac. Think of a warm afternoon and Linda Lovelace working her way slowly through a hoki-poki ice cream covered in hot chocolate. None of these pictures come close to capturing the unique combination of sweetness and sensuality that is Ana Caram.
A native of Brazil, Ana is over-qualified as a singer with a degree in music and accomplished on the flute and the guitar. As you would expect with this background, she brings a lovely sense of expression and pacing to her work. When you combine that with Chesky’s signature 96/24-bit technology and beautifully simple and clear recording technique it gives an experience that isso smooth and none fatiguing.
What about the music you may well ask? Hollywood Rio refers to the process of bringing the Brazilian sound to songs from the movies. So we are talking classic tracks like As Time Goes By (Casablanca) or The Shadow of your Smile (The Sandpipers). Throw in a laidback but still upbeat jazz twist or two and yes, it does work. This album has been spinning on repeat since I got it. I am so happy, I want to pop out and buy an ice cream. John Groom
For those of us that have followed Mary Chapin Carpenter’s songwriting since the 1987’s debut Hometown Girl, it comes as no surprise that this release, her first of all-new material in three years, covers the gamut of events in her life over that period, including her 2002 marriage (tracks Elysium, River) and ‘9/11’.
The other big change is the move away from longtime producer/collaborator guitarist John Jennings (who, however, continues to play throughout) to the production skills of keyboardist Matt Rollings. This has given an overall more singer songwriter feel to this new release than its Nashville origins would first suggest. I don’t mean there is no slippery dobro (there is), or that the fringe country/folk sound has departed, but that there is more emphasis placed on the lyrical structure of each song with a only a few returns to the cliche structure of verse chorus, verse chorus, bridge, verse chorus (repeated).
Lyrically Mary Chapin Carpenter has always been a cut above the pack, providing a welcome substance to the alt-country scene, while the voice itself is a deeper, more restrained and not at all twangy instrument that is naturally well written for give all the material is self penned. The stand-out track for me after many listens remains the first on the CD, What Would You Say To Me, an infectious little ditty that gets you away from surrounding pressures with a welcoming tug. Some tracks have more substance lyrically, other tracks are more reflective (Girls Like Me), and still others that have a little lyrical twist, but be in no doubt, overall this is a very recommendable release.
Fans need not hesitate, but note the impact is not immediate, a few listens are required before the new set works its magic.
I’m pleased to report that the Australasian pressing is, for a change, sonically the match of the US release, and comes with the benefit of a removable booklet, unlike the American one that is glued in. Allan McFarlane
The more familiar you already are with Cole Porter’s music, the less likely you are to approve of what’s come through on this soundtrack for the recently-released biopic. Seasoned fans of this towering figure of twentieth century popular music will be well aware of Porter’s gift for combining timeless melodies with timeless lyrics – and probably well equipped with a repertoire of inspired interpretations of these songs, (bring on Ella et al).But hopes of re-discovery delights are largely disappointed here.
Lead actors Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, plus chirping chorus, cannot get beyond poncy ostentatiously-enunciated renditions which frequently veer disconcertingly into the cringe zone. And what should have been an impressive roll of guest males (Costello, Hucknall, R.Williams) isn’t much cop either; only Lemar (What Is This Thing Called Love) and Mario Frangoulis, soaring through an up-tempo version of So In Love with Lara Fabian, appear to have the nous to escape the cliché of a svelte pompous vocal treatment.
With the contemporary divas, it’s mostly a different story: Natalie Cole (Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye), Vivian Green (Love For Sale) and Sheryl Crow, with a lush languid interpretation ofBegin The Beguine, all extract emotional range; although Alanis wheedles her way throughLet’s Do It (Let’s fall in Love), sounding like she doesn’t want to, and Diana Krall’s version ofJust One Of Those Things is laconic and sultry to the point of sounding off-hand. Compounding the impact issue is the musical arrangement which too often fails to move beyond the overly understated and bland. As with so many of the vocal performances, we wait in vain for some flourish and spirit. Paul Green
The Jacksons burst on to the US music scene in 1969 as the Jackson 5 with a series of chart topping hits. Lead singer Michael, then not completely mad, was also launched as a solo star in 1971, concurrent with the Jackson 5’s activities. After several years they left Motown and shortened their name to The Jacksons, and continued to have hits.
In a nice example of inter-company co-operation, this double CD contains songs from all periods of their success. The early Motown hits (I Want You Back, ABC, I’ll be There), Michael’s solo hits (Rockin’ Robin, Ben) and later Jackson hits (Can You Feel It, Blame It On The Boogie, Shake Your Body).
This is a well put together compilation. Excellent stuff. Michael Jones
“She was as cool as they got, and as hot as they got” declares k.d. lang, about a woman who sustained a respected performing career that lasted over half a century – reviewed on this DVD in a TV doco style which moves briskly through a medley of filmed performances, stills, and interviews. Keynote themes swiftly emerge: her song-writing skills, her voice/attitude/look/sexuality, and her ability to make every song hers – she apparently “always found the groove”.
And it’s hard to disagree with any of these claims as you watch her at work with a host of frontline figures including Benny Goodman (the utterly engaging swing of Why Don’t You Do Right? from 1942), Mel Torme (A Fine Romance), Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, and a big brassy St Louis Blues with Andy Williams. Lee’s first marriage to jazz guitarist Dave Barbour is highlighted by their daughter, who recalls how at the end of the day dinner wouldn’t always be ready “but the lyrics would”; proof of her song-writing strength is promptly provided by a 1946 studio session of It’s a Good Day, a stand-out number which she delivers with warm effortless charm.
The tributes are paid, the performance extracts flow (though complete rather than edited numbers would often have been preferable), and we’re left with a heartening impression of a singing star who always had her ear open for something different, and who could convincingly move from the sassy savvy likes of Hey Big Spender to the pragmatic disillusionment of Is That All There Is? (“If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing…”). She was a gem. Paul Green
Dino was essentially the coolest lounge singer from the 50’s generation. If this is news to you then please feel free to ignore this review and go back to your rap music. Given who he was, there are only two important questions in a review. Firstly, has it got enough music on the CD from a long and distinguished career, and secondly how well has it been re-mastered? To put you out of your misery, it is a great selection of songs and the re-mastering sucks.
With a generous collection of 30 songs, Capitol has aligned a wonderful collection of classics from both the Capitol and Reprise labels. That’s Amore slides easily into Memories are made of this. Standing on the Corner is still as refreshingly politically incorrect as ever and the whole thing finishes with a lovely upbeat version of Gentle On My Mind.
Given it is a great collection, what is wrong with the re-mastering? Imagine you had only heard Dino on your next-door neighbour’s radio through a concrete wall. The sound is distant and lacking any sense of presence or ‘air’. No this is not an obscure ‘golden ears’ phenomena, the sound of these wonderful recordings on this CD is lifeless. I am told that the noise reduction process, used to remove any trace of tape hiss, probably causes this lifelessness. Pity it also removes a lot of the music. Don’t buy this CD. Instead, go and find one of the earlier collections now available at half price from most music stores. John Groom
Radio Active and Beeb listeners will know Gilles Peterson as the host of ‘Worldwide’, a show dedicated to the latest in jazz/soul/R’n’B/electronic/hip-hoppy sort of things. On this album Peterson has tapped his A-list club contacts to compile a set of unreleased good stuff. The bag is quite mixed, 14 tracks ranging from straight up-tempo acoustic jazz to ambient trip-hop, but the CD retains a laid-back, late-night feel throughout.
Gilles declares himself in search of the perfect beat, but he better keep looking because it’s not here. Still, there’s something for everyone, although it’s also a fair bet that everyone will find something to dislike. For me it was the slightly dreadful hip hop schmaltz of Couldn’t Hear Me from Eric Robertson, and although I’m a Moloko fan, The Night of the Dancing Flames featuring Roison Murphy didn’t inspire either. UMOD’s thumpyPuffin Dance also seemed somewhat out of place, but I can recommend the rest, especiallyBatacumbele care of Deadline vs Batacumbele, Paris Texas by the Gotan Project, and Cinematic Orchestra’s Wheel within a Wheel. You won’t get these tracks elsewhere, and owning this CD will make you at least half a degree cooler than you are now, even if you never play it. Brent Burmester
‘If you didn’t see the show: the perfect substitute for the real thing’ – the traditional Live Album publicity line goes. Yes, maybe…but when it comes to the RHCPs you have to wonder whether the real thing is in fact those sharp studio cuts that ooze cool, any place any time. Perhaps there are good reasons why it’s taken them a couple of decades to pull out a live album. Anthony Kiedis’s voice often sounds strained, there is routine reiteration of many of the standards (Around The World, Scar Tissue, By The Way etc), and a questionable choice of covers (including a mercifully brief and pointless rendition of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, and an equally forgettable trot through Looking Glass’s Brandy). In characteristic RHCP style, some songs (such as Right On Time) mix beautifully phrased passages with discordant grinding and thrashing about, and at their least appealing the band sound like an over-amped Duran Duran.
However, there are plenty of redeeming moments: The Zephyr Song, Californication, Parallel Universe and Don’t Forget Me all demonstrate their capacity to sustain sweeping intense electric music. And in both the opening Can’t Stop and closing Give It Away numbers there are inventive extended interactions between guitar and bass. Of the three new songs featured here, only Rolling Sly Stone bears the trademark of another Chilis minor classic; it’ll be good to hear the studio version. Paul Green
There are various things I want in a jazz singer. Pitch is number one followed closely by the ability to breathe some fresh air into what is often a well worked repertoire. If you can add the ability to swing into this mix you’re onto a winner. For the big prize though I want to feel that all the above traits are coming from within the artist, not something that they’ve overlayed their natural inclinations and talents with. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jackie Ryan.
This one snuck up on me actually. I got it some months ago and I was playing it quietly in the background and thinking, yeah, this is okay. (I think actually the less than exciting cover had led me astray, somehow lowering my expectations.) Then by chance I tuned in for the first phrase of Make It Last, the lyrics of which are nothing special in and of themself, “Hold me close while we kiss”. However after hearing Ms Ryan weave her voice around the notes I was utterly and totally sold. Here was a supple, rich, warm, womanly voice that simply exuded jazz. The best I can come up with for a “sounds like” comparison is one that’s mentioned in the liner notes – a cross between Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan. I know that’s a big call but listen to this album and I think you’ll agree.
I’ve since devoured this album many times, always marvelling at how she bends notes, how she takes a song like East Of The Sun and makes it like no other version I’ve ever heard. She’s able to belt out Ellington’s Jump For Joy in true gospel form or to wind it right back and gently ease her way through Sari which gives the album a wide range of songs and moods. Three backing bands are used, one from Holland, her regular Los Angeles group and her regular San Francisco group. All are very good with the pianist Jon Mayer really shining out for me. To fill it out somewhat Ernie Watts and Toots Thielemans make quite notable guest appearances.
What can I say? There are a lot of people out there singing jazz or jazz influenced music but there aren’t that many real jazz singers. Jackie Ryan is certainly part of that very small latter group. Craig Fenemor
Following the complete disinterest shown by the public in the first Simon and Garfunkel album (Wednesday Morning 3AM) Paul Simon left for England. While in London, Simon recorded several tracks, which were released as this album. Around the time Songbook was released, Tom Wilson, the Simon and Garfunkel producer, thought that the new folk-rock approach might suit one of the songs on Wednesday Morning 3AM. So he added electric guitar, bass and drums to a song called The Sound of Silence and changed Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon’s lives forever.
The Paul Simon Songbook has never been available on CD, so this marks the belated completion of the Paul Simon catalog on CD. It’s a simple recording, consisting of Simon’s voice and acoustic guitar, along with varying amounts of reverb. All tracks are in mono, presumably because the original recording device was a full track (ie, one track) tape recorder.
The songs will be familiar to Simon and Garfunkel fans, as most of the tracks appeared on the next S&G album, Sounds of Silence, with three tracks emerging on 1966’s Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme album. Simon was never the most prolific of composers.
And what songs they were! At least four (I Am A Rock, April Come She Will, The Sound of Silence and Kathy’s Song) are S&G classics, with another couple near that status. Hearing them in this way, with just acoustic guitar accompaniment and shorn of Garfunkel’s vocals, allows these well-worn songs to stand afresh. There are two bonus tracks – alternate recordings of I Am A Rock and A Church is Burning.
Sony Music uses the “Legacy” name for many of their reissues. From what I’ve heard of releases on Sony Legacy, it’s clear that Sony Music feel a commitment to the recorded music legacy that they control. Mastered by the incomparable Vic Anesini (look out for his name – anything mastered by Anesini sounds very good) this CD sounds startlingly good.
Sure, this is a CD for completists only, but if that’s you, then have no hesitation. Michael Jones
The uniqueness of Strawpeople’s first album, Hemisphere, pretty much defined the summer of 1991 for me. Since then Strawpeople albums have become increasingly pop-orientated and I’ve bought and sold a couple in the interim. The lone Strawperson behind the music is Paul Casserly, former bFM DJ, operating in cahoots with a number of Kiwi musical luminaries, such as Fiona McDonald, Mahinarangi Tocker, Jordan Reyne, and Boh Runga. Count Backwards from 10 continues in the Strawpeople style of not-too-challenging beats and samples, a bit of live instrumentation, and girlie vocals, where vocals are called-for.
On the whole this is quite a pleasant listen. The songs tend to follow a formula of slightly insipid verses shifting gear into strong choruses. There’s no essential fast-forward moment, unless you find the remake of The Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way sacrilegious. Those preferring the songs will probably find the instrumental electronica of The Andy Warhol Effectannoying, although it captures something of the pioneer spirit of Hemisphere. So too does my favorite, Wire, redolent of Lamb crossed with Alanis Morrisette. The album tended to weaken after the mid-point, and struggled to hold my attention. I can see this being one of those CDs in my collection that just never seems to get any play after track 6.
Sound quality is average, featuring the soft edges and rounded corners that characterize Strawpeople of late, and vocalists are somewhat distanced by the processing they’ve received in the studio. A bit more edge and energy wouldn’t go amiss. Brent Burmester
Having read a few extremely positive reviews of this release by people I respect I was (somewhat perversely) keen to dish it, pan it, and tell them their ears are finally defective, but to my total bewilderment I couldn’t help enjoy but enjoy it. Maybe we’re all losing the plot but this is a seriously good disc waiting to be discovered.
While it twenty plus years since this pop-duo crowned the charts with some wonderful pure pop – think Burt Bacharach, Matt Bianco or Abba and you’ll get the idea – this release sticks to a proven formula that surprisingly makes for a lot of fun. The undisputed highlight and surely possible single is the horn laden Love Won’t Let You Down, a masterpiece of SOS harmonization and arrangement. Other stand outs were Certain Shades Of Limelight, Caipirinha, From My Window and Happy Ending.
Deliciously uncompromisingly retro if this can get past the preconceptions of radio programmers this has the potential to be the sound of summer. (Remember summer?) Find it, have a listen. I guarantee a smile will cross your dial. Allan McFarlane
First the press release: “Daby relentlessly pursued the grail of a new Afro-centric pop sound. After disbanding Toure Toure, Daby locked himself away for several years to work on his first solo album Diam, collaborating with electronic musician and digital wizard Cyrille Dufay. Daby may be proud of his African roots but he values creative freedom above all else, and shuns any obligation to be more ‘African’ than his heart and soul tell him to be. Diam is a superbly-crafted contemporary pop record, that blend the sounds of Africa, Paris and international pop in equal measure. After being touted to almost every single record label in France, Diam eventually found its way to the offices of Real World Records, who are releasing it worldwide”.
After repeated listening I need to say that unless you want to study some at times quite brilliant guitar playing, then this release sadly has little merit. The impact that ‘world music’ has made over the last two decades is due in no small part to the introduction of numerous musicians and instruments that were largely unknown to Western listeners. To have Toure multitracking and over-dubbing himself vocally and on a variety of instruments surely leaves that potential impact left wanting. If it is a ‘pop’ release then what is it doing on the Real World label?
The songs may well be meaningful but English speaking listeners are given only a brief synopsis and no lyrics. As a contempory pop record this will have little of interest in New Zealand for those that lack the French language expertise required, while the instumental and rhythmic interplay is so lacking that disappointment is here in abundance. Allan McFarlane
The Beach Boys. Creedence Clearwater Revival. The Who. What these three very different bands have in common is the sheer number of compilation albums that have been released for each. Indeed, for the latter two groups, there may have been more compilation albums than studio releases!
So, another year, another Who compilation. So how does this album stack up? Who completists will flock to it, as there are two newly recorded tracks (Real Good Looking Boy and Old Red Wine) from the now two-piece Who. The remaining tracks include the usual Who suspects, ranging from I Can’t Explain to You Better, You Bet.
I recommend against this CD for two reasons. One is track selection, the second is sound.Then and Now is missing several songs found on the 1988 compilation Who’s Better, Who’s Best – probably the best single CD Who compilation released – including Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, Pictures of Lily and Join Together.
But the killer reason is the sound. Since the Who catalog was butchered in remastering a few years back by Jon Astley, it’s never sounded right. (Astley also did a hack job on the Abba catalog).
My suggestion is to find a copy of Who’s Better, Who’s Best. You may have to look in a second hand record store, but you’ll be happy you did – almost as happy as Happy Jack. Michael Jones