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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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Can't Watch Yourself Dance CD Cover
Image © 1999 \r\nHidden Star Publishing  

(26 February 2000) The debut album from singer songwriter Esther Valentine is entitled Can't Watch Yourself Dance (MadamRex (USA), 1999). It is comprised of seven richly instrumented and vocally staggering tracks written and arranged by the artist. Esther's core group includes: Garrison White (acoustic guitar);Gregg Montante (electric guitar, production and mixing with Ken Allardyce); Robbie Myers (drums and percussion); Joe Caccavo (electric bass); Robin Rader (flute); and Connie Deeter (stand-up bass). Vocal performances, instrumental arrangements and production quality of the recording are absolutely tops. Additionalbiographic information and photographs are available at Esther's website. Soundbitesare available from hermp3.com website.

With stated influences including Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush,The Beatles, Elton John and similarities including NatalieMerchant, Loreena McKennitt, Enya and Linda Rondstadt, onecertainly expects the artist's first album to exhibit vocal virtuousity—Can't Watch Yourself Dance delivers from the first, it's title, track. The vocal lines and supporting flutewithin the mainly acoustic instrumental mix are highly memorable,drawing the listener into the recording. Although the genre ofthe varied yet rocking "I Can't Keep Jennifer Waiting" and"Lost Emotion" differs from Kate Bush's typical sound, Esther's sensitive vocals are quite reminscent of the well known artist's in this terrific track.The layers of backing vocals in the choruses are especially notable.

While the album is vocally oriented, the instrumental arrangementshave actually been given equal emphasis, adding to the overall qualityof the album. "Dreaming" is lighly arranged with flute andstrings carrying the backing for Esther's most sensitive vocal leadand a similarity to Jeni Saint (review). Esther's vocal harmonies in this track and the highly accessible "When the Idol Falls" with its richer instrumental production, soaring lead and thicker backing vocals are wonderful.

"When Your Eyes Stop Talking" is lovely highly emotive ballad sung over the lightest instrumentation that builds to complimentsoaring vocals as the song develops. Perhaps most illustrative of Esther's vocal dexterity, it is a stunning track. The albumconcludes with the brief multi-tracked a capella "If My Complaints Your Passions Move."

Esther Valentine's Can't Watch YourselfDance is a stunning tribute to a rising west coast talent.Vocally strong with tremendous instrumental arrangements therecording is certainly worthy of further exploration—a must listen!

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