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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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AO - Twirl - CD Cover
Second Pressing CD Artwork
Image © AO Music 2008

Miriam Stockley
Miriam Stockley (Lead Vocals)
(click on image for MySpace)
Image © Miriam Stockley 2008

AO - Twirl - Original CD Cover
First Pressing CD Artwork
Image © AO Music 2008


(09 August 2009) The world music project "AO Music" which was started by recording artists Richard Gannaway, Jay Oliver and Sandeep Chowta in 1996, may not be among the most well-known world music acts today. Few of our visitors have probably heard of this group's debut album Grow Wild which was released in 2000, so this is a big pity in my opinion, especially now that AO Music has just released their second album, Twirl (AO Music (USA), 2009) which is certain to draw attention from Miriam Stockley and Adiemus fans.

Luckily, when the group had started preparing this follow-up album some years ago, they were asked to compose music for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, which was a great pinnacle for them to get their music more widely known and heard. Another factor in this global breakthrough has been the arrival of AO's newest member, singer Miriam Stockley, who is very well-known as a backing vocalist for big stars such as Tina Turner, as well as from her wide contribution to the world-renowned Adiemus albums composed by Karl Jenkins and of course, not to forget Miriam's brilliant solo career that is still ongoing. Miriam joined forces with AO Music in 2006, and soon after her arrival the Beijing 2008 Olympics song "On Jai Ya" was born and recorded.

However, the collaboration didn't just stop there, as later on the group had enough material for a sequel album to Grow Wild, this time entitled as Twirl, released in early 2009. AO's new album is not "just a normal world music album". Actually, it is much more than that; a really global feast providing the richest cornucopia of unique and highly innovative music, made with extreme care and with outstanding spontaneity. The approach here is a bit more electric than usually on world music albums, and some of the ethnic instrument sounds have been sampled, but that only gives the music a more modern, up-to-date touch rather than spoiling it by mainstreaming it too much.

Many might also think that combining African, Asian, Indian, Chinese, Australian, Celtic and even oriental influences together means automatically a catastrophical and chaotic result, but Twirl avoids all that and proves such prejudices wrong already from the start. Everything falls into the right place like a big jigsaw puzzle, creating sense of harmony and unity which both remain amazingly intact throughout the entire album. It is very easy for the listener to become part of this harmony, and this is one of the signs of cohesion that only a very few albums like this can obtain.

Furthermore, this outstanding cohesion and the musicians' natural, down-to-earth, innovative attitude makes it impossible to pick any particular piece that could be better than any other of the album's tracks. Obviously some world music "purists" may sneer at the usage of "pop" elements while some else might blame AO of "copycatting" the idea of Adiemus because of Miriam Stockley's strong input, but these things do not disturb me at all as this music is distinctive enough from what has been made in the past.

Although the new AO album Twirl is worth for enjoying right from the beginning to the very last note --especially through good headphones!--it would even be more thrilling to hear it live on stage! Obviously, as the musicians come from different countries such as China, India and Indonesia, it would certainly be quite a logistic challenge to put the concert together, but this kind of vibrant, joyous and uplifting music really deserves a much wider audience than what it has had until the release of Twirl. And, even if the live performances could never become reality, it is great to know that the hopes are already high for another stunning AO Music armchair journey, tentatively to be released in 2010. Let's hope that there would be at least some more exciting albums to listen to!--Suvi Kaikkonen on holiday in Rokua, Finland

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