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While this website has become known for its in-depth album and concert reviews, the digest contains concise comments on new music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy. Click on album covers or label names for links to further information. Click on the title to view the article.

Scarlet's Web
Big Sky
Lacy James
Liv Cummins
Inside Scarlet
Roma Downey
The Good China
Tara MacLean

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Tacye Lovefeast CD Cover
Image © 1999 Radikal Records 

(08 April 2000) The debut album from Tacye is entitled I Don't Need A Gun (Radikal Records (USA) RAD 90002-2, 2000). Produced by Mike Bennett, the album is the first to actually be issued as a two-CD set, with one including an electronic mix and the other an acoustic mix of the same seventeen track titles. The unique concept actually works very well from both listening and marketing perspectives-a single album that will appeal to two distinctly different listening tastes with a common thread. The vocal work on both compact discs is stunning in every respect, with lush sensuality even surpassing the cover image. Soundbites are available at the artist's mp3.com and at Radikal Records websites. Further biographic information is available at the artist's official website.

Both CDs are technically superb with lush instrumental arrangements and incredible soaring vocals, reminscent at times of Kate Bush and at others of Enya and other well-known recording artists. Tacye has a stunning voice with power, range and style reflecting years of proper training.

The "Acoustica" CD is mixed lighter, with clear solo and multi-tracked vocals arranged without any sort of a club feel. But it is far from being completely acoustic in nature. Thoughtful instrumentation including piano, synthesizer, guitar and bass join crisp percussion to perfectly compliment the stunning and evocative lead vocal work. Songs work together to make a cohesive album, easy to absorb end-to-end without ever feeling repetition across the variety of tracks. The music is neither new age nor pop. It is a worldly mixture of adult alternative sounds that are certain to appeal a wide range of female vocal enthusiasts.

The "Electronica" CD has a definite club feel to it, with instrumental and vocal arrangements being far lusher, thumpier and more suitable to a dance atmosphere. Production quality is certainly tops clearly demonstrating that the recording wasn't just thrown together in a remix studio. The vocal arrangements and mix are impressive with equal clarity and levels as on the "Acoustica" CD. Tacye's lead vocals continue to soar well above the instrumentals with each element of the music complimenting each other effectively. What perhaps is the most stunning aspect of this unique two-CD set is the way that the artist and producer have been able to create two such different atmospheres from the same seventeen tracks.

Radikal has payed particular attention to the album's packaging and illustration with stunning sensual imagery accompanying the two compact discs right down to the artwork silkscreened on the individual CDs. Listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com here. The "In My Dreams" maxi single contains "electronica," "acoustica" and two other remixes of the track. You can order it here. Tacye's debut album I Don't Need A Gun is one of the best new releases of 2000. Worth a cross-country journey, it is absolutely a must listen!

Scarlet Web's Demo CD Cover
Image © 2000 Scarlet's Web 

(02 April 2000) Scarlet's Web is a new solo project from Lucid's lead singer and songwriter, keyboardest Theresa Musser (Scarlet). She was with Anywhere But Here earlier. We were provided a six-track demo in advance of the artist's first full-length independent release scheduled for later this month. A nine-track digital audio music CD is currently available from the artists' mp3.com website.

Scarlet's music blands melodic vocals to hypnotic beats. The result is an adult alternative almost-pop sound with sensitive lyrical content. Music Connection Magazine described her voice as "soft as silk yet powerful at the same time." We could not agree more. Most comparable to Sarah McLachlan, others have compared her favourably to Enya and Everthing But The Girl.

"Where I Stand" is a jazz-influenced rock number with soaring and sensitive vocals supported by rich keyboard arrangements and crisp percussion as well as thick backing vocals. A bluesy vibe with an almost spoken vocal texture drives the track "Didn't Know." Layers of vocals in the chorus provide a contrasting texture within the track. "Soul Mate" is a sweet ballad with a jazzy coffee house edge; it is sung primarily over piano and is illustrative of the artist's vocal and expressive range.

The track "Melancholy Serenade" is a highly accessible track with powerful instrumental arrangements, lots of backing vocals and a lovely mid-register vocal lead. Steve Plunkett's production is evident in the final mix with vocals way up despite the instrumental arrangements' thickness. "Fragment" is equally accessible, but with lead and backing vocals mixed much higher up—in your face—it is certain to please female vocal enthusiasts. Our demo concludes with "Pretend," a slow and sensitive yet dance-oriented ballad, with lots of melodic keys and crisp percussion supporting layers of vocals. The lead vocals are crystalline and mixed way up, where they belong.

Clearly the Scarlet's Web demo is indicative of an exciting full length release. Interested listeners are encouraged to sample the artist's D.A.M. CD in the meantime. A nice listen!

Lucid's DAM CD Cover
Image © 2000 I Love Lucid Music 

Prior to Scarlet's Web, Theresa was the lead singer of Lucid where she co-wrote and also played keyboards. Lucid's four year old self-titled album contains twelve rock tracks featuring her stunning vocal work; two digital audio music CDs are available from the band's mp3.com website. Unlike the contasting textures of the Scarlet's Web project, Lucid's songs all move right along and are either pop/rock or new wave in their construction. Fans of Madonna and Blondie will certainly enjoy their music. Lead and backing vocal work is stunning and arrangements feature lots of guitar with riffs spanning both instrumental and vocal excursions.

We asked Scarlet about the album and she told us, "I would say the better tracks are "Sweet Life," "Mystic Girl" and "Sorry Sister"." These tracks are indeed the best of the lot, each with stunning lead vocal work, mixed way up above the instrumentals. "Sweet Life" opens the album with lots of instrumental power, but the lead vocal is crystalline and like the artist's other work, mixed way above the backing. "Mystic Life" has a similar characteristic yet the guitar parts are thicker and more pronounced. Again the lead vocal is crystalline, powerful and inspiring. Our personal favourite is "Sorry Sister" which has the basic construction of a ballad but the instrumental and vocal dynamics give it a slightly harder edge. The chorus is lovely.

The album contains a great collection of memorable pop and rock songs each with stunning vocal work, excellent instrumentation and effective arrangements. It works well as an ensemble, and perfectly illustrates the power and range of the band's lead vocalist. Clearly stunning from a female vocal perspective, Lucid's album is worth further exploration and provides a wonderful introduction to this tremendous vocalist!

Big Sky Standing On This Earth CD Cover
Image © 1997 Skysong Productions 

(02 April 2000) The debut album from Minneapolis-based Big Sky is entitled Standing on This Earth (Skysong Productions (USA) SPCD1001, 1997). The band also have a 10-track digital audio music CD entitled Diamonds and Other Gems available at their mp3.com website. The latest CD features eight tracks from their debut album as well as two previously unreleased tracks entitled "Fire in the Water" and "Thousand Diamonds."

From their website, "Big Sky plays adventuresome, beautiful rock music with melodies and lyrics that want to live in your head. Shining vocals, otherworldly ethno-sounds, and rocking grooves combine for a truly unique style." They've got it just right: the band's tracks are progressive and well arranged, fronted by stunning lead vocalist Johnna Morrow. She also contributes acoustic guitar, flute and bells to the band's lush arrangements. Steve Sklar produced their debut album and plays lead guitar and provides backing vocals, including Khoomei (Tuvan Throat-Singing; check it out on "Siberia"). Joe Miller plays drums, Mark Roemer plays fretless bass and Michael Pelz-Sherman plays keyboards.

While Johnna has the style, power and range to sing lead parts entirely solo, multi-layered vocals are used extensively throughout the album to add texture to their sound. The album opens with the rousing track, "Into The Sun," where vocal work is backed by lush instrumentals mixed to great effect—listen to it through headphones for the full treatment. Guitar riffs and piano compliment each other nicely. "River in the Pines" is a lovely folk rock tune with a piano and string melody supporting Johnna's crystalline solo vocal lead. "Standing on this Earth" is an epic tune, dominated by soaring lead vocals offset by sensitive backing vocals in the choruses. Here the power and range of the band's lead vocalist is effectively supported by lush supporting instrumental arrangements. "Miss Innocence" is a 70s style folk rock tune with keyboard parts brought into the 90s. With variation as a developing theme, the band swings with the track "Vivid Dream."

Epic and orchestrally symphonic in its instrumental arrangement, "The Wind" is a vocally strong track perhaps most illustrative of the power and dynamic that Big Sky offers their listeners. The flute part within the track adds a lovely texture and is most notable. The track "Mind" takes another turn with its sax-based instrumental and jazzy vocal lead. The guitar and sax riffs during the instrumental bridge are tremendous and illustrative of Big Sky's flare for big arrangements. The track "Big Sky" is a lovely and sensitively sung solo ballad. Clearly featuring Johnna's crystalline lead vocal, the song is backed primarily by piano although the arrangement is rich with guitar and keyboards as well. "Long Way Home" continues in a similar vein, growing to epic progressive proportions with thick instrumental arrangements joining a stunning and soaring lead vocal.

The feelings of motion evoked in "River in the Pines" return in the rocking tune "The Innocent One." Laced with rich keyboards, especially in the chorus, soaring solo vocals are supported by vocal harmonies. The album closes with the vocally intense calling of "In The Valley," perhaps the most illustrative of Johnna's vocal range, power and crystalline quality.

Diamonds and Other Gems opens with Big Sky's two previously unreleased tracks. With obvious recording differences, "Fire in the Water" is typically Big Sky, moving like "River in the Pines" and "The Innocent One," with lush progressive instrumental arrangements and lots of vocaly harmonies. Lots of percussion along with thick rocking guitar arrangements and a balance of solo and harmony vocals characterise "Thousand Diamonds." The remaining eight tracks on the album are for all intents the same as those on the band's debut album.

We especially enjoyed Big Sky's Standing On This Earth which is a stunning album in every respect. Excellent songwriting, lush instrumental arrangements and stunning crystalline vocals work perfectly in a progressive rock setting. Their digital audio music CD is available at a bargain price and with two bonus tracks is likely a must for completists. The production quality of the bonus tracks does not stack up to their debut album. Certainly worth a long distance—perhaps even cross-country—journey, their debut album is a must listen!

Alastor Nothing For Anyone CD Cover
Image © 1999 Alastor

Alastor Javelin Catcher CD Cover
Image © 1996 Alastor

(02 April 2000) Atlanta-based traditional rock and roll band Alastor contacted Musical Discoveries following our coverage of Sue G. Wilkinson's recordings. Their latest album, Nothing For Anyone, is another self-produced recording with eight tracks featuring the vocal work and songwriting of Elizabeth Elkins. Alastor's music is not the type that typically attracts Musical Discoveries' editors but we found their two albums a good listen and serving to expand our coverage of emerging artists in the rock and pop genre. In addition to lead vocals, Elizabeth also plays guitars while Scott Roberts plays drums, gutars and an occasional bass part along with backing vocals. The third band member is Brillo who is responsible for bass guitar parts.

In an earlier review of the ablum, Hal Horowitz wrote, "Crooning, shouting, purring, and sometimes even singing, like an uncomfortable combination of PJ Harvey, Kim Deal and Patti Smith, Alastor's singer, songwriter, guitarist, frontwoman Elizabeth Elkins demands your attention. And she'll grab it one way or another." He continues, "On their second album, Elikins and her stripped down rhythm section, which includes the multi-talented Scott Roberts on drums, guitars and bass, backpedal to the late '80s when the Pixies (whose "Debaser" Alastor covers on one of their latest album's two extra hidden tracks), were challenging the mainstream with their mainstream with their controlled melodic fury."

The band's debut album Javelin Catcher from 1996 was produced by the band with Ed Burdell. We found the sound of the album simpler, a bit more melodic, and the vocal work generally softer and clearer. Horowitz also wrote, "Elkins is less musically agressive than Black Francis and his merry men, but she pushes the same buttons. With crafty tempo changes adding to a slightly funky backbeat, Elkins' tunes like "American Universities" beckon you in while simulateously keeping the listener at bay with murky lyrics like "twenty words are hanging in the still white air" which sound like they mean something, although it's impossible to fathom that." You can find samples at the band's mp3.com website.

Alastor's sound revolves around thick electric guitar and the no nonsense singing style of Elizabeth Elkins. While she certainly can sing, she has a distinctively hard edge, certainly contrasting her physical appearance (see the band's website for photos). They must be a wonderful live act. Those interested in a sharp contrast to much of the music typically reviewed here should pay the band a visit and check out one of the band's websites for audio samples. Talented musicians, their two self-produced recordings are worth exploring and a nice listen!

Lacy James Lovefeast CD Cover
Image © 1992 Mereminne Productions 

(02 April 2000) Musical Discoveries' editorial staff regularly compare new and emerging vocal talents to Kate Bush. From Philadelphia, "A host of multicultural influences come into play in Lacy James' debut album Lovefeast (Merriminne Productions (USA) MM001, 1992). Similar in nature—but not necessarily in style—to singers like Ofra Haza, Sinead O'Connor and Enya, James' style is delicate and ethereal, with a molten core and a clear, strong delivery." Another reviewer wrote, "James includes various musical styles, mostly Middle Eastern, on the Lovefeast album, and her voice does remind us of Kate Bush, to whom she's been complimentarily compared." Her music is dramatic and dreaming with vocals soaring above the atmostpheric instrumentals that mix a variety of ethnic nuances into the arrangements. Like Kate Bush, Lacy James is also a professional dancer. You can find audio samples at her official or mp3.com website.

While not all of James' songs will elicit "soundalike" comments from Kate Bush enthusiasts, certainly the tracks "Foolish Heart/The AntlerCrown" and "Moon Of Fire" will do so. Soaring vocals join effective instrumental arrangements and crisp percussion to inspire the listener and delight female vocal enthusiasts. We found the title track equally inspiring with layer upon layer of vocal with effective but less thoroughly arranged sparse instrumentals. Many of the other tracks draw on world sounds of various cultural origins and include the rhythmic "Silverback" and sparse "Badful Badful (The Stolen Child)." We were reminded of Julee Cruise in Lacy's track "White Lion" with its vocal musings, light instrumentals and soft overall arrangements.

One of the most enjoyable tracks on the album is the rocking tune "Vengeance Is Mine." Here, lush instrumental arrangements accompany crisp production and stunning soaring vocal work in a very evocative and pop rock-oriented number much like we've heard from German artists Chandeen (review). "Song Of Songs" on the other hand might be more favourably compared to the gothic-oriented sounds of Love Is Colder Than Death with vocals soaring way above sparse yet rhythmic instrumentals. "In The Garden" is performed much in the accessible style of "Vengeance Is Mine" combining many of the artist's influences into a highly accessible and melodic result. Soaring Kate Bush-style vocals join rich instrumental arrangements and interesting effects. The album concludes with the lovely track "O Master," most reminscent of Julee Cruise in both vocal and instrumental arrangements and certain to please ethereal female vocal enthusiasts.

You can order Lacy James' album Lovefeast at amazon.com. The music and dance of Lacy James are certainly worth further exploration, especially for Kate Bush and Julee Cruise fans. Soundbites available at her official and mp3.com websites provide an excellent platform to begin the journey. Worth further exploration, her debut album contains ten well-produced tracks of varying textures certain to please discerning listeners—a very nice listen!

Liv Cummins Exactly CD Cover
Image © 2000 22 records 

(09 April 2000) In the case of Liv Cummins' album Exactly (22 Records (USA) 22-1012, 2000), one would be best not to judge the music by the album cover. We're told by the producer that it was meant to show her "wackier side." Liv is an accomplished singer and songwiter as well as an attractive young woman—a better photo is available on her website.

Originally from Minneapolis, Liv began performing in Los Angeles after attending Skidmore in Saratoga and is now currently based in New York City. Liv is vocally similar to Kate Bush yet lighter with a more contemporary and creative along the lines of rising star Michelle Young, her new seventeen-track album Exactly produced with partner Sandy McKnight is certain to appeal to a wide range of female vocal enthusiasts. You can listen to soundbites at the artist's mp3.com website. Liv's debut album, Some Days remains in print and is available from the artist directly.

Exactly is an album of varying styles. Short well-written folk-rock songs, pop numbers and ballads comprise the vocally laced album. Liv's vocal work is soft and sweet, evocative and sensual, and highly polished. Well produced instrumental work includes guitars, cello, bass, lush keyboards including Hammond organ parts and crisp percussion. Vocals are naturally mixed way up, yet they are sung softly with only rare soaring excursions. Frequent use of multi-tracked backing vocals adds to the overall texture of the album's sound.

We especially liked the range of styles included on the album and the balance between folk-rock, almost-pop, ballad and even an occasional jazz-oriented number such as the stunning "Hurry Up Your Love" with its uniquely sensual lead vocal part. The highly accessible, almost-pop track "Deal" is especially notable and actually perfectly suited for radio. The album's ballads are most like one would expect of Kate Bush and, with heartfelt performaces, are the most vocally stunning songs included. A multi-tracked and equally heartfelt contemporary cover of "I'll Be Back" (J. Lennon/P. McCartney) is especially memorable.

Liv Cummins' Exactly is an excellent album with great vocal work that should be explored further. Artwork includes full lyrics and performing credits as well as a couple of non-descript photos. With soundbites available both at mp3.com and cdbaby.com, online listeners can easily do so. Liv's album Exactly can be obtained at cdbaby.com. Worth a journey, the album is a very nice listen!

Anet Tortured CD Cover
Image © 2000 Dream Control Music/Socan 

(08 April 2000) Likened by some to Edith Piaf, Radio Head, Kate Bush and even Garbage, award winning singer songwriter Anet has managed to reach the spotlight with a hit song "Tortured," also the title of her debut album on Dream Control Music (SOCOM, Cat. No. 7 6700 61539 2, 2000). Earlier songs have been included in films and television series and other artists' recordings. Anet is based in Vancouver, BC. From her mp3.com website "A Diamond Award Winning Singer/Songwriter of "Sinking Like a Sunset", from Tom Cochrane's multi platinum selling album "Mad Mad World" and a two time winner of the Socan Songwriter award for Song of the Year, Anet has also been nominated for a "Juno" (Canada's version of a Grammy) in addition to various awards and accolades throughout the world." The new album is best classified as 'alternapop'—it fits into neither alternative nor pop genres but actually fits into both.

Rock instrumentals dominated by guitar back lead and often multi-tracked backing vocals. Music is highly accessible and will most likely appeal more to teens than adults. Vocals are sung or slightly spoken and the music most closely aligns to that featured regularly at MTV. The lead vocals are lovely and at times are sung sweetly and evocatively while others they are rough and raunchy demonstrating the artist's ability to vary styles dramatically.

Tortured is not the typical album reviewed at Musical Discoveries in many respects, however, the interesting instrumental arrangements include Celtic strings at times, which should expand the appeal of the album to our audience somewhat. A couple of tracks difficult to categorise included the rap-like "Cursed" and multi-genre "Astronauts" and "Friends" which were equally difficult to appreciate. Straight rock tracks, including "Tortured," "Stop Shooting Me," "Normal," and "Stuff," are actually quite good but will most likely appeal to younger audiences. The album also includes two more club-oriented dance mixes on the tracks "Die 4 You" and "L'Etat D'Amour."

Heartfelt ballad-like rock tunes accompanied by guitar and strings are the highspots of the album. With embedded soaring vocals and a range of singing styles, these include the stunning tracks "Realness" and "Whore." "For The Moon" is a heartfelt, yet almost spoken, sensitive ballad that closes the album. The multi-tracked backing vocals add a lovely texture to the track.

Anet's debut album Tortured is an excellent introduction to this multi-dimensional female recording artist. While the ballads were the highlight of the album for us, clearly the rock, dance and rap-like numbers will appeal to a broader audience. She is an attractive lady and the photos within the album's artwork clearly illustrate that while providing complete lyrics and recording credits. You can find ample soundbites at her mp3.com website and order one or both of her digital audio music CDs there. You can order Anet's album Tortured from amazon.com here. Clearly worth further exploration, Tortured is a nice listen.

Inside Scarlet Red CD Cover
Image © 1999 Velvet Ink Publishing/Records 

(08 April 2000) Las Vegas rock band Inside Scarlet released their debut album Red (Velvet Ink (USA) IS-0004, 1999) over a year ago but are gaining popularity via online listening forums. Fronted by Sharay Larsen (vocals, guitar) and Heather Tampa (vocals, bass), the traditional four-piece rock group also includes Mike Cromer (guitars) and Brian Festone (drums).

Chris Ripley wrote, "Inside Scarlet is one of the premiere local bands in Las Vegas. Their unique, yet distinctive sound sets them apart from the pack. When you hear and watch this band you get the feeling you will soon be paying high ticket prices to see them in a major venue or stadiums. Inside Scarlet is definately making a name for themselves in Las Vegas and certainly has the potential to become a major act in the music entertainment industry." A visit to the band's brilliantly designed website provides a peek into their style.

Inside Scarlet and their debut album Red continue to broaden the industry coverage of Musical Discoveries. The female vocal thread is clearly the major element of this group's music, but the tunes are largely harder, than other artists and albums reviewed at this website. Both Sharay and Heather are vocally very strong with their lead parts clearly driving the band's sound. Most of the album's songs rock in one way or another, some being more accessible than others. "Midnight" is a particularly memorable number with vocals far outweighing the supporting generally lighter-than-the-rest-of-the-album guitar-laced instrumentals.

Even the band's ballads have an edge. "Gently" is song evocatively yet powerful guitars provide a sharpness and rocking feel to the basic song construction. "Leap Of Faith" is similarly constructed. Contrast this with an almost-spoken vocal in "Stick," a track that would be comfortably placed in any one of the popular teen-oriented Warner Brothers' television shows. We found the vocal layers in "Summer Sky" especially sweet in the verses, illustrating a slightly softer side to the band's sound. "Fly" is filled with musical constradictions: here jazz, swing and rock all meld together with screaming guitars and sensuous vocals binding the song together. Lush guitar work dominates the instrumental riffs.

The title track that is meant to close the album is one of two that highlight it. Listen to the two vocalists sing this lovely duet together over acoustic and electric guitar, with instrumentals that build up as the song develops. The second part of the song, equally accomplished in its construction is sung by the two vocalists over exotic acoustic and electric guitar, bass and the lightest percussion. The vocals and instrumental work in this track are lovely—the best on the album.

Full songs can be downloaded from Inside Scarlet's mp3.com website. You can read further reviews, hear further soundbites and order Inside Scarlet's album Red at amazon.com here. The band's debut album Red is filled with contrasts and as a live act the group are certainly worthy of further exploration. See the band perform if you get to Las Vegas. Distinctly more rocking than many of the albums reviewed here, it will appeal to a broad audience. It is indeed a nice listen.

Roma Downy Healing Angel CD Cover
Image © 1999 BMG Entertainment 

(08 April 2000) With music written and/or arranged by Phil Coulter, Roma Downy's Celtic-influenced Healing Angel (BMG Classics (USA) 09026-63551-2, 1999), is a lovely album that stretches Musical Discoveries' coverage in an altogether different direction—the spoken word. The attractive Roma Downy, an Irish woman with a lovely spoken voice and gentle accent, is the star of the popular television series Touched By An Angel. Healing Angel contains 15 tracks, all with rich instrumentals and several with lovely vocal parts. Coulter's latest album Highland Cathedral is reviewed at Musical Discoveries here.

Besides the spoken vocal parts of Roma Downy, the album features tremendous vocal performances by Aiofe Ni Fhearraigh, Brian Kennedy and others. Aiofe sings Coulter's arrangement of the traditional "Be Thou My Vision," a track that has also recently been recorded by Máire Brennan (review) and Joanne Hogg (review). Aiofe's version here is tremendous in every respect.

Roma Downy's spoken parts are sensitive and heartfelt and well supported by tremendous instrumentals provided by a bevy of major Irish recording artists. Brendan Monaghan plays uillean pipes, Frank Gallagher plays whistle and solo viola and Alison Hood plays solo cello. Further supporting instrumental work is provided by The New Chamber Orchestra led by Michael Darcy.

The female vocal numbers are tremendous in every respect and Aiofe Ni Fhearraigh's vocal work is also featured in the tracks "A Simple Prayer" (vocalise) and "An Irish Blessing" (lovely sung part). The music perfectly suits her voice. Her self-titled solo album (Gael Linn(Ireland) CEFCD 172, 1996) performed with Máire Brennan and other major guests is also worthy of further exploration.

Phil Coulter wrote, "As a record producer you rarely get to work on a project as rewarding as this. Writing the words, or adapting them from old Celtic prayers and other texts, was a spiritual experience in itself. Composing the music to enhance them was a joy, from the very first note to the final orchestral cadence. And putting it all together in the studio with Roma was the kind of job most producers would die for."

Healing Angel is a lovely album of Celtic instrumentals accompanied by sensitively spoken words by a major television star. Aiofe's three solo vocal numbers are the highlights of the recording. You can order the album at amazon.com here. Artwork accompanying the CD contains lovely images of the artists and a complete set of lyrics. Certainly worthy of further exploration the album is a very nice listen!

The Good China CD Cover
Image © 1998 The Good China 

(08 April 2000) The Good China is a rapidly emerging alternative rock band from San Diego, CA featuring the stunning vocal work of frontwoman Ren Zenner. Their debut self-titled album (The Good China (USA) TGC 54321, 1998) includes a short introduction and eleven full-length well-produced alternative rock tracks. Check out soundbites at the band's band's mp3.com website.

Self-produced by The Good China, the technical production quality of the recording is tops, with vocals mixed clearly and well above the balanced instrumentals. Gilbert Kuory plays guitars, Ricth 'Bloody-Bone' Shefke plays bass and Dave Marinesi plays drums. Lead and backing vocals are provided by Ren Zenner. She has an incredible voice and looks to match as a photograph within the lovely booklet accompanying the CD illustrates. Complete lyrics are also provided. Although they don't like comparisons, the band's sound can be favourably aligned to the new lineup of 10,000 Maniacs.

Even though "Leave The Light On" is a ballad, it is richly instrumented and thoroughly arranged with powerful vocals making for a interesting contrast within a song. The band's most accessible number, typically as their demo (downloadable from mp3.com for example), is "This Is Your Life" where evocative and melodic and spine-tingling vocals join well-arranged guitar and lush keyboard instrumentation. "The Machine," "Funny These Things" and "D-Day" are rocking numbers with heavier guitar-based instrumentation, soaring vocals and lovely melodies.

Gil Koury's guitar work is a main feature of "Falling Down" whereas lead and lovely multi-tracked vocals remind us that we're listening to The Good China. We especially liked the sensitively sung solo vocal parts and supporting saxophone in "Strange." Ren's vocal work dominates in "Late Again" and "Another Day" with lead being effectively balanced by backing vocal work. Both guitars and vocals are actually reminscent of Leger De Main's sound (review). The album concludes with the rocking "Burning Up" which features an almost spoken-style vocal, lots of guitar and crisp percussion. A sultry jazz-influenced sax-laced bonus track is embedded within the final track beginning at approximately 4:10. Soaring vocals and accompanying instrumental arrangements are tremendous.

The Good China's debut album is a great collection of vocally-laced numbers featuring the everso talented Ren Zenner. Clearly the band are at the beginning of their musical career and have a bright future. Worth a cross-country journey for further exploration, especially for the vocal work, the album is a must listen!

Tara MacLean Silence CD Cover
Image © Nettwerk Productions 1996 

(01 April 2000) Tara McLean's debut album Silence (Nettwerk (Canada) 0 6700 30106 2 7, 1996) was recorded when the artist was in her early 20s. Like her most recent release (review), the album is comprised of adult alternative vocally-laced tracks featuring the sensitive and evocative work of this very attractive young woman.

Electronic and conventional instrumentation are used to back tracks of varying styles. "Evidence" is a pop-oriented dance beat track with sensitive soaring vocals mixed well above electronic instrumentation. A slide guitar part on "Let Her Feel The Rain" elicits a slight country atmosphere in anotherwise folky rock track with sensitive whispy vocals. "That's Me" and "More" are two of the album's lovely ballads where Tara MacLean clearly shines. "Silence" is a blues track sensuously sung evocative track with vocals soaring above everso light instrumentation.

A sultry coffee house jazz atmosphere is the backdrop for the almost spoken vocal track "Red." Tara's soaring vocals are spine-tingling and completely illustrative of the power and range of this stunning artist. "Holy Tears," "For You" and "In The Wings" are among the most sensitive of the album's ballads sung with only the lighest instrumentation. "If You Could" picks up the pace everso slightly with even sweeter vocals and a lovely melody certain to please a wide ranging audience. The album's final listed track is a lovely acoustic version of "Let Her Feel The Rain." A bonus track that follows contains a string-based instrumental of the same song.

Tara McLean's debut album is lighter and softer than her followup, featuring a vast collection of sensuous and heartfelt ballads. The package contains a lovely booklet with complete lyrics, production credits and photographs of the artist. You can listen to soundbites, read other reviews and order the album from amazon.com here. Worth further exploration and a journey, the album is a very nice listen!

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