album review and artist reflections
More Colette Baron-Reid:
I Am / Grace Review and Interview (2004)
review, interview and HTML © Russell W Elliot 2001
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Published: 28 Nov 2001 | Last updated: 28 Dec 2004
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Colette Baron-Reid's second album is an ethereal collection of eleven tracks entitled Magdalene's Garden (EMI Music (Canada) 7 2435 27813 2 4, 2001). Richly produced by Eric Rosse, the album clearly features Colette's evocative vocal parts across a vast range of styles. She is supported by a broad range of acoustic and electronic arrangements from an equally wide selection of talented artists. Read Musical Discoveries exclusive interview with Colette below.
"Worlds collide on this record: western pop, mixed with hints of trance, dance music, Celtic and middle eastern music, provide the musical backdrop to songs that address love in its deepest forms. Unconditional love, destiny and free will, forgiveness, the sacred and the profane, sensuality and sexuality." Our readers will clearly hear similarities to Aeone (review) and Mae McKenna (review) when listening to the album.
Vocals have been mixed way up across the album's tracks where Musical Discoveries readers appreciate them. Layers of harmonies support a sensuous and evocative lead vocal track. The album's more ethereal tracks have new age textures supporting Colette's vocals and include the stunning title track and "Fine Line." The lovely soft rock track "Fine Line" is reminscent of Mae McKenna's work on Nightfallers.
Listeners will delight in the way that different styles have been combined within a track. Examples include the R&B and Indian blends within "Look Around" and the hip-hop / ballad blend of "Wide Open Spaces." A similar but even more upbeat blend is evident in "Forgiven." The contrast between Colette's soaring Sarah Brightman-style lead and the backing vocals is dramatic. The evocatively performed heartfelt ballads "Breath Of You" and "Mercy" must be listened to with headphones to appreciate the producers attention to detail in the arrangements.
Upbeat electronic arrangements add to the pop accessibility and radio friendly sound of the Madonna-style "What You Believe." The lovely contrast between the lead vocal line and the sweet harmony backing vocals is quite remarkable. Lushly arranged, the ballad "State of Grace" is dominated by Colette's strong, almost spoken vocal with sung parts soaring well above the instrumentation. The album concludes with Colette's hearfelt, stunning and vocally intensive interpretation of Neil Young's "Old Man." Certainly worth a cross-country journey, Colette's album Magdalene's Garden is a must listen!
Musical Discoveries:Please tell us a little bit about your background prior to Magdalene's Garden and the time between your last projects and the latest album.
Colette Baron-Reid: Ever since I was a small child—I think my first memory of it when I was four—I knew music would be my path. Music was deeply placed in my soul and moved my blood and gave me reason to breathe. I was playing guitar and piano to my parents' European folk records and singing in the church choir and in my school choir as soon as anyone heard I could squawk out a note.
I went to a private girls' school in Toronto where young ladies are groomed for "society " although the only thing I wanted to do was listen to music smoke cigarettes and drink underage and flirt with boys—much to everyones' horror! I spent my time writing songs and playing along with my musical idol, Joni Mitchel, isolating in my teenage angst.
My parents sent me to university to be a lawyer and I ended up haunting the stairwells with my guitar—great acoustics—skipping classes and then after quitting ran off with a band to be a backup singer with this fabulous woman who had been a lead in the original production of Hair. I went on to sing in various rock bands and funk bands which were popular in the late 70s, all the while searching for myself in music.
I really had become so lost as a human being in those days I had become an alcoholic and got heavy into cocaine no matter how many people came around to give me a leg up—and there were many opportunities since I had talent—managers, great songwriting partners, a couple of potential record deals. But drugs and alcohol really took me places that I never intended to go. So I watched all my dreams as a singer/songwriter swirl away as I hit bottom.
It was only after I got clean and sober in 1986 that I was able to return to music with a clear perspective and I threw myself in full force. I had a fabulous time with an all girl group called ISIS that I founded with all original material. We had quite a good local following in Toronto but again found the "deal" always out of reach.
One of the girls died of breast cancer and it was a terribble tragedy for me. I went on to continue to record and write as a solo artist and kept trying until I had just had it with the business—nothing panned out—so many false promises, so many almost-deals, so many roadblocks. My parents had died—one right after the other—and there was trouble in the family. I was just keeping afloat until one day I just decided to quit.
I had made a name for myself over the years in a strange and weird wonderful way that I had never expected as a clairvoyant reader and it had become apparent to me that as I was in so much demand to use my other talents to help people that perhaps it was a sign to give music up since the experience was getting too hard to keep it up. So I quit for good—or so I thought. But I always say "Man plans and God laughs." Sometimes our route is a spiral and not a striaght line. So I threw myself into what was so obviously in front of me.
For the first six years of my doing this I told people "I don't really do this, I'm really a singer." It was kinda funny how I wanted to be "either," "or" and how reluctant I was to be clairvoyant since in my mind it conjured up all the stigma of fortune telling etc. I had to really work on accepting that I had this gift and it was very very real. But more about that later.
I had recorded a whole album in New York that never went anywhere with a songwriter / producer there and just when I decided to stop was really when the doors started opening. I had taught a workshop on meditation and the chakras for a number of years at that point. So I decided since I was never going to get anywhere as an artist that I could put my talents to use in another way I went on to create Journey Through The Chakras (EMI Music (USA) 724352445721, 1998) with Mars Lasar, a platinum-selling New Age artist/producer that had worked with Seal, Herbie Hancock and others (order here).
Journey Through The Chakras became a very popular spoken word meditation CD in Canada in all the New Age bookstores and it drew attention from EMI music via my former manager Steven Ehrlick, now their head of business affairs. At this time, I had my own spirituality column in Canada's only major fashion mag Flare and simultaneously had been filmed for a movie called Hand of Fate, a documentary on six spiritualists from around the world who share the gift of "sight" including the Nechung State oracle of the Dalai Lama, myself and four others.
Eric Rosse, who was Tori Amos' original partner and producer, did the Hand of Fate soundtrack; Tori sang the title track. I met Eric when the film premiered in New York. It was one of those freeze frame moments when I saw him and his wife Chandra. I knew then that I would be involved musically again and somehow through him. It was so weird because in my section of the film I talk about having to give music up for my clairvoyant work and how painful that was. Eric allowed a piece of music I had written called "Stones of Fire" and the only lyric you can actually make out was the line in the chorus "This is how the Future is seen "—pretty wild
Anyway to make a long story bearable, EMI picked up Journey Through The Chakras as a licence deal. I asked, EMI President and my hero, Deane Cameron if I could approach Eric to do some new agey trance/dance thing I had conjured up in my head and he said, "yes." That is obviously not what happened. Eric and I immediately started writing songs. We wrote "Forgiven," "State of Grace" and "Breath of You." I completely freaked out when I got home because this was not what I was supposed to be doing.
I had a whole speech prepared for the label—I thought they might drop me—it was kinda funny how I was sweating when I played the music and then Deane turned around and basically put me back on the plane with a budget and said, "Go finish." He single-handedly changed my life in that moment. It was actually him, Steven Ehrlick and Eric and the list goes on—divine synchronicity!!
And Magdalene's Garden was born and I—at 42 years of age—walked back into my life-long dream never believing it would happen for me. I'm so proud of this record. In it I found my voice and seriously I feel somehow a part of me that had been damaged and lost had been restored—pretty miraculous, I'd say.
Who are your favourite artists/bands? Who else do you find yourself listening to all the time?
My favorite artists are Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, U2, Sinead O'connor, Peter Gabriel, anything remotely Celtic, Stone Temple Pilots, early Genesis, Incubus, Train, Afro Celtic System. I'm listening to Stevie Nicks' Trouble in Shangri La (review) all the time in my car and the new U2 CD. The Prayer Circle is another and I love Sheryl Crow, I totally love George Clinton, and yes, even some Madonna. I have such a strange eclectic taste in music; if it moves me, I love it.
How did you develop your vocal styles? Can you elaborate on your your musical 'training/education'?
No training here; I had some piano lessons, but don't play well. I'm self-taught on guitar and don't read music but I can sing you all the parts I hear in my head. I had a few voice lessons but I probably don't sing correctly.
The album is actually very varied in the style of music. Who do you feel has influenced this sound?
You know I don't quite know how to answer that as Eric and I wrote and recorded the whole thing in seven weeks. We built sounds as we went. We both love Middle Eastern and Celtic music; world influences here were intended and I wanted my record to reflect what moved me.
I think Loreena McKinnett was a big influence on me as was Kate Bush and Eric was a huge part of this and he brought his own persona to the table. His influence is noticeably absent on Tori's latest projects. We were capturing our moods as as we were creating.
Please explain the various sequences you go through when writing your music and tell me a bit about the studios that you use in different stages.
This is good as we did the whole thing in Eric's home studio in a tiny room in his house in Los Angeles so the only process that happened was Eric gave me a track of musical ideas. Then I would go to my hotel, come up with some ideas, come back we would work it together and structure the song and lay it down. I wrote the chorus for "Wide Open Spaces " lying by the swimming pool while some rap act staying at the same place was writing their lyrics at the other end. "Mercy" was written and recorded in a couple of hours.
Most of what happened was Eric layed down the musical beds. I would take it from there and then we would finish it together; mostly my lyrics, melodies and vocal arrangements with his music. It was a collaboration made in heaven. We called in favours as the label gave us such a small budget. Matt Chamberlain added drums, Steve Caton came in for guitar and bass, Paul Bushnell on bass. The recording was mostly programming and Eric, not due to budget restrictions, but because we thought musically it was better. Hopefully next time we'll get to use more live players.
The best story though was how I found the Roumanian singer on "Look Around." I went for a bikini wax and she was my esthetician! I had her sing for me in the parking lot and hired her on the spot—she was awesome!
Would you elaborate on your career outside music?
I have been a working clairvoyant counselor for 13 1/2 years and through word of mouth only have developed a client base spanning 20 countries. I read over the phone and sometimes in person. I see pictures and images and hear stories in my head, kinda like remembering things about the person even though I don't know them. I discover their past events, their present and their future. Then I see the patterns that they are creating through the law of attraction. Basically it's about how fate and destiny interplay with free will choice.
I am adamant about our individual personal responsibility for the life we create and hope my work supports people to become more conscious. The future is mutable although one can predict probabilities and potentials. But that is one big conversation for the book I'm writing now. I love what I do even though I was so reluctant at first. I am so incredibly grateful that something so difficult to live with—that made me feel so freakish and weird and awkward—has turned out to be something I see as grace from God/Goddess.
Where did you find the inspiration for the lyrics of the songs you've written?
My life, my emotions, my beliefs and all my experience is written all over Magdalene's Garden. "Mercy" is about my mothers' death and my self-torture and need to forgive myself for not doing enough and the way the universe still forgives us. "State of Grace" is about the eternity of the cycle of life. "Breath of You" is about my trust in finding a soulmate to share my life with and what it will feel like when I meet him.. So often I wonder what I might have to do without and be grateful anyway.
"Fine Line" is about boundaries and how they got so blurred for me emotionally when I still loved someone who walked away from me. It was weird as it was a premonition I had that actually came true months later. "Forgiven" is about the baggage we all carry around but how redemption really is possible—that the past can just be the past— and we can rewrite our stories. The title track of Magdalene's Garden was inspired by the mythology of the relationship betwen Christ and Mary Magdalene, to me embodying the relationship between sex and spirit—flesh and soul—and the invitation to bring them togehter in right relationship between a man and a woman.
The album represents a coming of maturity for me. It is about my own redemption, my trust and my faith, and that strength can be found in being vulnerable. And wow, did I get vulnerable and exposed on this record!
Please tell me what you think about your live performances and the audience's reaction to your on stage personna.
My live performance is great. I have an acoustic show with an awesome band and it really interprets the album in a beautiful way. I love performing live and the audience response is great. It is one of my strong points. I really want to tour but since September 11th a lot of things have slowed down. I'm hoping to tour in the new Year. I still need a good manager though and I can feel that one is on the way.
Is there any video?
Not yet. I am hoping to get US release and that might get a video played. Perhaps the next single will give me an opportunity.
Please tell us your thoughts behind the artwork of the album. Do the images have some special personal meanings to you?
The Artwork was done under the supervision of EMI, Artwerks out of Vancouver and me. I saw the Delerium artwork and loved it. I wanted it to look like a cross between the Garden of Eden and The Mists of Avalon. I think they did a lovely job, including metaphysical symbols. I'm very happy with it.
How has the internet influenced your musical career and the promotion of your music. Do you think that your website will bring you many new fans?
Honestly the Musical Discoveries site is the one I'm hoping will bring me new fans and, judging by the international hits I'm getting on my website now, the internet is probably the most influential tool a new artist has nowadays to access an audience and so vastly important especially to someone like me. To say that I am grateful for this interview is an understatement.
Love and light,
Colette has assured our editors that she's stay in touch with Musical Discoveries. With a destined US release in the near future, the international success of Magdalene's Garden is certain to be followed with further recordings in the months and years to come! Watch this space.
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