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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.

Sarah Brightman
Grey Eye Glances
Filippa Giordano
Rosemary Pure
Terry Oldfield
Cousteau's Dream
Before Dark

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La Luna
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nAngel Records

USA Track Title EEC
01 La Lune -
02 Winter in July -
03 Scarborough Fair 02
04 Figlio Perduto 03
05 A Whiter Shade Of Pale -
06 He Doesn't See Me -
07 Serenade 06
08 How Fair This Place 07
09 Hijo de la Luna 08
10 Here With Me 05
11 La Califfa 04
12 This Love 01
13 Solo Con Te 10
14 Gloomy Sunday 11
15 La Luna 12
- She Doesn't See Him 09
- First Of May (Live) 13

(20 August 2000) The latest album by Sarah Brightman entitledLa Luna (Angel Records (USA) 7243 5 56968 2 3, 2000) releasedin the United States on 29 August, continues much in the vein of thestar's prior albums Eden and Time To Say Goodbye(Timeless in Europe and other territories). A classicalcrossover album in every respect, La Luna, with itsmoon themes, has something for every one of Sarah's fans. Cover versions of folk and pop songs perfectly compliment her modern interpretations of the more classical Aria-oriented tracks.Once again produced by Frank Peterson, the album clearly blends sounds from the Dive and Fly era with the artist'smost recent releases. Sarah Brightman has long led the way in the classical crossover genre and has been joined byEmma Shapplin (review),Aria (review),Izzy (review) and Filippa Giordano (review).

The Angel Records version of La Luna differs slightly from the German pressing both in running order and tracks includedto best address the American audience. Most notable is the differing lyrical viewpoints between the complimentary ballads "He Doesn't See Me" (USA) and "She Doesn't See Him" (EEC). This stunning track blends contemporary sound with Celtic orchestration. The four additional tracks on the American version make it more accessible, emphasising the contemporary side of the classical crossover genre.Musical Discoveries readers that have long requested areview of Sarah Brightman's work should appreciate this (pre-release) album review.

The album's classically derived tracks are performed graciouslywith operatic vocals soaring well above the orchestral instrumentation. Examples include "La Califfa" (Lady Caliph), Beethoven's "Figlio Perduto" (Lost Son), Handel's "Solo Con Te" (Only With You), andRachmaninov's "How Fair This Place"/"How Fare This Spot" sung in Russian; it is joined to a Frank Peterson instrumental introduction entitled "Serenade" which includes Sarah's lovely soaring vocalise.

The most accessible tracks on the album include Brightman-styleanthem "Here With Me" and uptempo rocking tune "Winter In July". The inclusion of Sarah's stunning cover of Gary Brooker's "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" this time with rich orchestral arrangements perfectly compliments "A Salty Dog" on Dive. Sarah's cover of "Scarborough Fair" is sensitively sung over light instrumental arrangements. The song was recently covered by Gypsy Soul as well (review).Sarah's singing in the lovely uptempo classically derived piece entitled "Hijo de la Luna" (Son of the Moon) is most reminscentof Kate Bush's style.

Slow ballads ("La Lune," "He Doesn't See Me" and "This Love") are sung tenderly and evocatively, backed with a well-produced blend of traditional and modern arrangements. The bluesy jazz smoky piano bar undertones of "Gloomy Sunday" add to the unique sound of the album.The American version of the album closes with the title track, anFrank Peterson adaptation of a Dvorak classic that blends classicalconstruction with Brightman's operatic soaring vocals and slightlycontemporary arrangements. A hidden track within "La Luna" includesa unique Brightman acoustic interpretation of "Moon River." Interestedlisteners will have to wait until about 5:15 on the counter for itto begin.

The booklet accompanying the compact disc of both EEC and USAversions is as stunning as the music. Produced on high gloss paperand loaded with stunning photos by Simon Fowler (all available on Sarah's website), it containslyrics both in the language sung and their translations. You canorder the American version of La Luna from amazon.comhere as well as the import versionhere. Sarah Brightman's earlier albums are also available at amazon.com.Diverse in its content, well-produced in all regards with stunning vocals certain to delight our readers, La Luna is wortha trans-Atlantic journey and is a must listen!

If I Was
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nSojourn Hills Records  

(20 August 2000) Grey Eye Glances albums Songs Of Leaving andFurther On (both originally released under the band name Sojourn)were followed by Eventide and Painted Pictures on Mercury Records. An additional EP sold exclusively on the internetentitled One Day Soon was the band's last release on MercuryRecords before it was merged into a larger label. To ensure theircontinued growth, the band recently purchased back rights to materialproduced while they were with Mercury and released four additionalspecial compilations of rare and live material that was sold via the internet to their most dedicated fans. The band are currently financing their next album by selling tracks individually as downloadable mp3 files.

The first collection of six of these tracks has been released as an EP entitled If I Was ... (Grey Eye Glances (USA) JED0112, 2000). It was recorded at The farmhouse—the band's new 24-track digital studio located in West Point, PA. A second EP is due at the end of 2000. Fronted by lead vocalist Jennifer Nobel, the band also includes Eric O'Dell (bass, trumpet, vocals) Dwayne Keith (piano, organ, melodica, vocals), Brett Kull (guitars, mandolin, banjo, vocals) [Echolyn] and Paul Ramsey (drums, percussion). While the EP is professionally pressed and well recorded, the production quality is reminscent of the band'searliest two releases, with the lushness and rich bottom end typicalof the Mercury era gone.

With only one track co-penned by Jen Nobel, the other five are written by Dwayne Keith either himself or in various combinations withKull and O'Dell. Earlier Grey Eye Glances albums included more JenNobel writing credits. The vocals are again stunning, and the bandhave mixed them way up, as in their earlier releases. Jen's fans willbe well pleased with her vocal work. on If I Was .... Artworkis professional prepared and full lyrics are included.

The EP opens with the title track "If I Was" which is similar to"Painted Pictures" in its rhythm. The brass section adds a lovelytexture to arrangement. Vocal work is evocative and balanced with the individual instrumental parts. Harmony vocals and a wellplayed electric guitar part provide a perfect backdrop to Jen's sensitive vocal in the soft rocking "Moonlight." The sweet andsensitive ballad "In" is softly sung over light acoustic arrangements, perfectly demonstrating the talent of the band's leadvocalist. Instrumentals build for "Even," a typically Grey EyeGlances tune, are well played. The song blends a crystalline lead vocal part with orchestral sounds in the background as energy within the track builds.

"Ordinary Day" is a very upbeat and equally accessible track with melody carried by keyboard and lead vocal offset by a lively guitar part. Crisp percussion and bass puctuate the sound. We were reminded of "Halfway Back" from first listen. The EP concludes with "Hollow,"opening as a delicate and lightly instrumented ballad. Jen's sensitively soft vocals intertwine with searching guitars and delicate percussion andbuild with harmony vocals as the song develops.

The latest release by Grey Eye Glances is certain to thrilltheir following. The band are making great progress towards an independent full length album release, and this EP is a notable step in the process—one to be appreciated by those that prefer CDs to mp3 files! Although not generally available until Septemberthe band's fans can order the EP as a prerelease via the GEGwebsite or by calling toll-free 877-916-5862.Enjoyable in every respect, especially with the return to a self-produced sound, the EP is a very nice listen!

Filippa Giordano
Image © 1999\r\n\r\nSugar Music  

(20 August 2000) The latest album from Filippa Giordano is a self-titled twelve track recording (Erato/Sugar (Italy) 3984-29694-2, 2000). Giordano's music is underpinned with classical influences, yet blended with pop sensibilities, it lies firmly in the crossover genre.Indeed, eight of the new album's tracks are Filippa's own interpretationof well-known arias while the remaining four are more accessible,contemporary vocal sensations. While she began recording as a pop artist,recent influences have been classical. Her vocal work is crystalline and comparable to both Sarah Brightman (review), Emma Shapplin (review),Aria (review) andIzzy (review). Filippa's soaring crystalline vocal excursions reveal extensive talent and training.

The album features long-time operatic favourites as "Vissi d’arte" from Tosca and "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi, both byPuccini, "Addio del passato" from "La Traviata" by Verdi and "CastaDiva" from "Norma" by Bellini. "Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix" from"Samson & Dalila" by Saint Saens, and the Habanera from "Carmen"by Bizet; all are rich in passion, but performed absolutely natural. A short version of "Casta Diva" opens the album whilst an extended version concludes it. Giordano's owninterpretatoin of "Ave Maria" rounds out the classically derivednumbers. Gary S. Dalkin wrote, "Using a conventional orchestra sometimes supplemented by electronic keyboards and occasional drums, the production achieves a slick and glossy chart-friendly sound that will find favor with fans of Whitney Houston and Céline Dion.It's doubtful that serious opera aficionados will care much for Filippa Giordano, though music lovers in general may well find the album an attractive entry into the sometimes-forbidding world of the classical diva."

The four contemporary songs illustrate another side of this stunning vocalist's talent. The Ennio Morricone-Roger Waters "Lost Boys Calling" from the 1999 Golden Globe-winning movie The Legend of 1900 is the first following the classical numbers and is most reminscent of Céline Dion's work. "You Are The One" is the first of three contemporary tracks by Fracesco Sartori. Although contemporary in its construction, it is anthemic in style, most reminiscent of Mariah Carey's early work both in vocal delivery and overall sound. "Dissonanze" (Mondo Trash) continues in a similar vein combining rich orchestral arrangements with evocatively soaring vocal excursions. A soft emotive ballad entitled "Maria (By The Sea)" balances soaring vocals with light orchestral instrumentation. Constructed as an anthem, the track also compares favourably to Céline Dion's work.

You can read further reviews, hear sound samples and order Filippa Giordano's self-titled album from amazon.comhere. Artwork accompanying the compact disc positions the classicalnumbers and contains several lovely photos of the attractive artist.Crystalline vocals, well arranged orchestration and tremendous production contribute to the stunning quality of Filippa'slatest album. Certain to please enthusiasts of classical crossoverfemale vocal work, the album is worth a cross country journey. Ourreaders will agree with us: it is a must listen!

Some Days '98
Image © 1998\r\n\r\nThe Rosemary Pure

See Your Star
Image © 1999 The Rosemary Pure

(20 August 2000) The debut album from The Rosemary Pure, entitledSome Days '98 (The Rosemary Pure (USA) trp1098, 1998), is comprised of thirteen "post-alternative" rocking tracks laced with vocals from the band's two female singer / guitar players Kiki Parry (lead vocals) and Joanna Coopersmith (lead guitar). Andrew Hendry (guitars) is also credited on the band's recordings.Based in central New Jersey not far out of the reach of Philadelphia, the band is rounded out by rhythm section Neil Odell (bass) and Chip Morrow (drums and percussion). In addition to the band's debut alubm, a six track EP entitled See Your Star (The Rosemary Pure (USA) trp8.99, 1999) is also being distributed at the band's live performancesand sold via their website.

The band's debut album has quite a few (short) upbeat and "melodic, driving, kinetic indie pop/rock" tunes. While they are not self-labeledas a new wave band, we were reminded of groups operating in that genre on morethan one occasion while studying the album. Sweet two-part vocal harmonies dominate, yet they are complimented by lovely guitar work and crisp percussion. The Rosemary Pure are first and foremost a rock band—dynamic and well-playedinstrumental bridges balance the otherwise the band's vocally-laden sound. With all of the band's energy, a live show must be quite an experience.The vocals are awesome.

Several of the songs on the debut album can be easily distinguished fromthe others. The vocal work in the folk rock tune "I Can See Her Now" has an especially well-blended texture and despite the lushness of the instrumental arrangements, the harmonies work especially well with vocals mixed way up, the way we like them most. A similar sound emerges in "Tired," and like "I Can See Her Now" we were reminded of The Cranberries' sound.The significant contrasts within "Under Waves" were not only well playedbut they were most remniscent of the progressive sound of UK-based band Fula (review) especially by Kiki Parry's leadvocal. Some Days '98 is a great album and must be listened to a few times to really appreciate all of the intricacies within its tracks.

The band's latest project, an EP (pressed on CD-R) entitled See Your Star, has six tracks with the last track being an acoustic version of the first one. The band have obviously moved on, becoming instrumentallytighter with harmonious vocal work sounding even more like The Cranberries. "Mermaid" is an upbeat, new wave-tempoed song, with glorious two-part harmonies. The acoustic version is lighter, and accompanied only byacoustic guitar and light percussion, unprocessed lead and harmony vocals naturally dominate. Songs are more intricate with tempo and moodchanges within them trending the band into a song-based progressive rockdirection at times. "Surrounded" joins "See Your Star" and "Every Hour"in overall tempo while being vocally subdued in comparison favouring the instrumental arrangements in prowess. "Higher" is a slower track more characterised by soaring vocal harmonies and Fula-like progressive textures.

You can read further reviews and order The Rosemary Pure's CD Some Days '98 from amazon.comhere. While further information is available at the band's officialwebsite, you can visit their mp3.com website for free downloadsand further information. The Rosemary Pure'ssound is certain to appeal to alternative rock enthusiasts. Vocally rich,rocking sounds make the sound enjoyable and the more accessible tracksand the ballads are very attractively produced. The debut album's artworkcompliments the compact disc while the lack of liner notes and a lyricssheet is disappointing. Says lead vocalist Kiki Parry, "I work at Discmakersand my job is to design CD packaging for bands. I really enjoyed designingmy band's own CD, it was fun." Despite being done in a home-basedenvironment, the recording quality is very good and overall production quality of the album is exceptional. Certain to appeal to ouralternative rock readers, both the album and followup EP are a very nice listen!

Chiwoniso-Ancient Voices CD Cover
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nTinder Records  

(03 September 2000) The debut album from Chimoniso Maraire, entitledAncient Voices (Tinder Records (USA) 42859372, 2000), originallyreleased in 1998 on the Lusafrica (France) label, is available as a domestic product for American audiences. Ten worldly tracks blend the artist's stunning crystalline lead vocals with richly producedinstrumental arrangements. Lyrics are a mixture of English and other langugages, primarily from Zimbabwe.

Chimoniso, regarded as the star of a new generation, won the RFI prize for the most promising new singer in Africa in 1998. Her album combines traditional trance-music of the mbira (tuned metal strips attached to a sound board, and plucked with the thumbs) with modern arrangements supported by the band Andy Brown & the Storm.

Ancient Voices is a blend of new age, world and more accessible popsounds and is certain to please a broad spectrum of audiences. Arrangements, while worldly at times, are equally contemporary. Chimoniso has a wonderful vocal range, resting in a spot between Maggie Reilly and Miriam Stockley, with excursions soaring into higher octaves as well. The album is rythmically oriented towards easy dance beats although far more easy listening thanMiriam Stockley and Mae McKenna's work on Shabala.

"Madame 20 Cents" combines reggae rhythms with accessible tunes while stunning soaring vocals in both English and native tongues are supported by lovely harmonies. The guitar solo during the instrumental bridge and arrangements demonstrate the prowess of the supporting band. Loversof Miriam Stockley's tribal style vocal layers or the sounds of Phil Sawyer'sBeautiful World will be enthralled with the tracks "Mai," "Nhemamusasa," "Iwai Nesu" and "Wandirasa." Contemporary jazz-oriented tracks include "Ancient Voices," "The Way Of Life," "Tamari" and "Look to the Spirit"which has a slight reggae beat and a lovely flute part. The album closes with a soft rock tune entitled "Everyone's Child" sungprimarily with acoustic guitar and mbira accompaniment. The instrumental bridge is richly produced with traditional sounds. Vocal work is sweet, evocative and crystalline and demonstrates the artist's viruousity.

You can find further reviews, hear several sound samples and order Chiwoniso's album Ancient Voices from amazon.comhere. This album balances stunning vocal work with world, new age and pop instrumental arrangements. It is easy to understand why Chiwonisowon the RFI prize for being the most promising new African singer. Hervocal work, song writing is perfectly complimented by the superb productionof this debut album. Clearly worth a cross country journey we think it isa must listen!

Various Artists, One CD Cover
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nWord Entertainment  

(03 September 2000) Chuck Nelson's various artist compilation One(Word Entertainment (USA) 080688603427, 2000) has been produced to supportWorld Youth Day. The album cover is linked to the official site (but theserver is frequently overloaded). Israel Button wrote,"Initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985, by the year 2000, World Youth Day draws approximately two million youth to Rome, Italy. The purpose of World Youth Day is to answer the call for Christian unity, and build up the relationship between youth and the church. Word Records has partnered with the Vatican's World Youth Day committee to help with entertainment and promotion for the event. This compilation disc is a first step in the process, featuring songs that explore issues of unity with Christ and with others."

Both male and female vocalists are featured. Twelve tracks by a broad selection of secular recording artists spans an equally vast spectrum of Christian contemporary styles. The CD features selections by an all star lineup including: Rachael Lampa, Aaron Neville, Sixpence None the Richer, Máire Brennan, Booley, Winans Phase 2, Burlap to Cashmere, Jaci Valasquez, Gabriel's Harp, A Ragamuffin Band, Cindy Morgan, Luis Fonsi and Salvador. The song "Emmanuel" is the official theme song of the World Youth Day 2000; two versions are included within the album—one entirely in English andthe other in Italian, Spanish, French and Portuguese (we think!). Both are sweetly sung tender ballads led by male and supported by female vocals.

We most enjoyed the contemporary rocking tune "Heart Of Every Man"by Gabriel's Harp. Sweetly sung female backing vocals contrast the male lead and instrumentals perfectly. The pop rock tune "Love" is a moving remix by Sixpence None The Richer dominated by electric guitar. Leigh Nash's sweetly sung vocal part is especially enjoyable; vocalise in the orchestrally arranged chorus demonstrates her true virtuosity. The album's token Celtic-oriented track is a classic Máire Brennan ballad with a lovely calling whistle part entitled "Peace Has BrokenOut." Her stunning performance illustrates why she is one of the top Irish female singers today (review).

Salvador's "Ain't It Good" is one of the album's Latin tunes. They have agreat brass section which contrasts well with the song's keyboard parts."Basic Instructions" by Burlap To Cashmere also has a latin flavour—anupbeat track, it works quite well. The rhythm and texture of A Ragamuffin Band's "Il Tuo Strumento" is quite Brazilian especially with the symphonic instrumental arrangements. The album's only R&B-oriented tune is "It's Alright" by Winans Phase 2.

Tender ballads include Rachael Lampa's emotional "There Is Still A Dream" performed with Aaaron Neville and the highly evocative and sweetly sung "With Me" by Jaci Velasquez. "The Last Supper" is a balladperformed as a duet by Cindy Morgan and Luis Fonsi to light accompaniment,primarily provided by acoustic guitar. Morgan is a wonderful vocalistwith a sweet and sensitive voice; we'd certainly like to hear some more of her music.

You can find further reviews, listen to sound samples and order One from amazon.com here. Clearly with the tracks spanning a vast range of styles andfeaturing contributions from some excellent performing artists the albumis worth further exploration. Check out the online samples and let usknow if you agree. We think it's a very nice listen!

Across The Universe CD Cover
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nNew World Music  

(04 September 2000) Terry Oldfield's 19th album Across The Universe(New World Music (UK) NWCD 489, 2000) "is about the yearning to be free thatbecomes so much a part of Human Condition as we travel the pathways of liberation."In contrast to his earlier projects, three of the five tracks feature stunningvocal contributions from sopranos Juliana and another named Karen Debbonnaire.Instrumentals are played and arranged by Terry Oldfield and include parts onlow whistle, flute, piano, percussion and keyboards. Further instrumentalsinclude shakuhachi, temple bell, pan pipes. Peter Rosser contributes pianoto "Sun In My Eyes" and "When", to which Rhonda Oldfield contributes backingvocals.

With only five tracks to the album, each one is epic in proportion. Relaxing new age, soundtrack-oriented instrumentals dominate the mix but lovely vocals contribute to the expressive texture of the album. Juliana's lovely soprano vocals inspire the listener on the title trackballad that opens the album. Crystalline clear and flute-like in texture,the lyrics are sung over soft electronic accompaniment before fluteand low whistle parts begin. The track builds in depth with rich new age sailing-oriented arrangements that pass the melody from voice to whistle to keyboard. Juliana's voice is most reminscent of Eimear Quinn in clarity, style and texture. A children's choir (Lana and Hallam Robinson and Eilidh Debbonnaire) adds texture to the chorus as the track comes to its conclusion.

Steven Page wrote, "'From the Heart' has a feel to it that is similar to that of Terry's earlier albums CascadeReverence. It opens with some wonderfully peaceful natural sounds. Terry's flute comes in and you immediately find yourself drifting with the music. It most definitely tugs on your heart strings and fills you with all kinds of emotions."

The album's third track "When," while full of woodwind textures, iscomplimented by the whispy tone of Karen Debonnaire's lead vocal and the layered vocal choir. Sung in the style and textue of MárieBrennan, Enya or Shanon (Ronan Hardiman's project), it is a lovely new age ballad with several movements each rhytmically different that will delight female vocal enthusiasts. The new age ballad "Sun In My Eyes" is vocally even richer, with Karen demonstrating the crystalline texture that she can achieve over light flute and acoustic guitar accompaniment. The interplay between lead vocal and flute melodies isdramatic and evocative. The instrumental "Down to Earth" features a lovely reprise of the title track and concludes the album.

You can find further information, listen to soundbites and order Terry Oldfield's album Across The Universe at his official websiteand at the New World Music label website. A new age album with plenty of female vocals thatshould entice Máire Brennan, Enya and Shanon enthusiasts, it should be explored further. Worth a journey it is a nice and relaxing listen!

Cousteau's Dream CD Cover
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nReal Music  

(04 September 2000) Terrence Yallop, founder of Real Music, formedthe EarthSea Institute to promote global environmental awareness. Hislatest compilation is a benefit album entitled Cousteau's Dream(Real Music (USA) RM4114, 2000) that features thirteen tracks fromthe most popular new age artists. While largely instrumental, thealbum includes selections from female vocal fronted artists as well.Nautical themes dominate electronic and traditional instrumentation;production, artwork and packaging are tops as we have come to expectfrom Real Music releases. "Ranging from tribal to operatic, poignantto passionate, Cousteau's Dream is a musical voyage of hopeand inspiration fo what one person can do to change the world."Several ocean sound passages within the album evoke the producer's desired effect.

The album's instrumental selections include two electronicexcursions from Vangelis ("West Across The Ocean Sea" and "Eternity"), Kamal's "Shakuhaji Tales" and Richard Burmer's "Sun's Comin' Out." Instrumentals are rich and blend nautical themes with new age arrangements. No new age compilation would be complete without a contribution by keyboard impressario Yanni or his Japanese counterpart Kitaro. Yanni's richly orchestrated "Secret Vows" from Out Of Silence (1987) and Kitaro's nautical Japanese flavoured "Nageki" are both included. Female choir sounds interplay with the flute (effect) melodies in Kitaro's track. Kenny G's unmistakable saxophone delivers the lovely melody in "Theme From Dying Young." "To Sleepon Angel's Wings" by Kevin Kern is played softly on harp which gives it a Celtic feel. "Future of the Sea" by Frederic Delarue concludes the album blending whale sounds with lightelectronic instrumentation.

Aria's "Un Bel Di" (from their debut recording) is perfectly situated on this compilation with operatic vocals joining new age style tribal rhythms. "Stella Maris" by 2002 from River Of Stars(review) is an upbeat track and perhaps therichest vocal number on the album, with lots of harmonies and light strings—violin, acoustic guitar and harp—and flute carrying portions of the melody. A delightful track with construction and vocals thatmake it very Enya-like. A richly produced vocal choir joins an epic range of orchestral and ethnically oriented instrumentation in Tim Wheater's "Circle's Edge" from his 1999 album Incantation. Vocals effectively exchange melodies with low whistle and other instrumental parts and should delight Miriam Stockley's fans. Heidi Fielding's soaring soprano vocalise dominates the otherwise orchestral arrangements of "Lachrymosa" by Michael Hoppé.

You can find further reviews, listen to sound samples and order Cousteau's Dream from amazon.com here. From each purchase of a CD, approximately $2.50 will be donated by Real Music's non-profit EarthSea Institute to the Cousteau Society andorganizations with similar goals of protecting and preserving the earthand its inhabitents. A notable compilation of new age tracks certainto please enthusiasts of this genre, we think it's worth furtherexploration—a relaxing listen!

Highlander - A Celtic Opera CD Cover
Image © 1999\r\n\r\nB. C. Electrola  

(04 September 2000) Roger Bellon and Harlan Collins' Highlander- A Celtic Opera (B.C. Electola (USA) 001, 1999) is a professionallyproduced recording in every respect. It has a running time of over 70minutes. The project was written, composed and produced by Bellon and Collins. Bellon also composed the music for Highlander The Seriesand Highlander The Series - Volume II. Although (to our knowledge) the opera has not been staged, the recording and accompanying package isfar more than a demo, although it may have been developed for that purpose initially. Clearly the album is catching on with intense audience interest expressed by comments made in the offial website's guestbook.

The story spans a period from circa 1600 until the modern day,takes place in Scotland and Paris and involves six characters: Duncan MacLeod (Steve Amerson), Aurora (Karen Fineman), Frtagern (Sean Wright), The Witch (Adelaide Sinclair), Mirrdhen (Virenia Lind) and Dr. Rodia (Paul Stowe). Although labeled an opera, the parts are clearly performed in a modern West End or Broadway musicalstyle. Instrumental arrangements are orchestral and are richly producedin every respect. The album certainly presents the image of a soundtrackfrom a major musical. Professionally sung and performed in every respect,the album leads us to believe it would succeed in the theatre district.We especially enjoyed the vocal parts sung by Steve Amerson andKaren Fineman.

Solo parts and those with the company are well sung and evocativelyperformed. The variation in mood as the story unfolds is expertly delivered. A modern West End musical-style story tells of the immortal life of Duncan MacLeod and his first love Aurora who diesin the first act. Set in Paris, a modern miracle brings about her rebirth in the second act, but her love of another man drives Duncan back to his homeland. She joins him again in the third act, however,evil returns and slays her once more. The story blends bliss with strife in a highly dramatic setting. It is well supported musicallyboth with the singing parts and orchestral arrangements.

You can order the album, listen to samples from it and read further about the story at their official website.The album blends classical operatic treatments with contemporary Celtic themes. The full libretto is in English and is easy to follow. Production quality and packaging of the album are superb. A wholelot less expensive than an evening out in the theatre district, thealbum is worthy of further exploration—a very nice and dramatic listen!

Damita CD Cover
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nAtlantic Records  

(04 September 2000) The debut self-titled album from Damita Haddon is available on Atlantic records from September 26. With her gospel R&B singing style, Damita inspires, moves anddelivers the "Truth" and the beauty of "Life," or thepassionate questing of "Why." Inspired by her faith,Damita's emotion has become a trademark sound. The Detroit native is no novice. She's sung with ArethaFranklin—"It was a humbling experience, having one ofthe greatest singers in the world ask me to sing withher"—a seasoned stage performer and the wife of Gospelstar Deitrick Haddon.

Fresh out of high school, Damita toured with the Gospel theater production Mama Don't. She realized that thiswas what she was meant to be doing with her life. Now witha new group of R&B producers, Damita could create the soundshe was looking for. Damita says that it "added the hotsauce—the pepper—to the mix. They helped give me theurban street edge."

Damita recognizes the source of her trademark sound. "The songs on the album lyrically can go both ways. Theycan either be about a loved one or God. But no matter what kind of music you're singing, you know that God hasplaced this finger or even his fingernail upon it. It's something you just can't copy."

"Why," "Truth," "Life" and "Spirit Inside" have thisstrong R&B edge to them that makes you want to moveto the music. However, if you sit and listen to thewords carefully, Damita's voice tells the meaning ofher music and its very powerful. "Cavalry" sets the firstfour tracks apart from this one. The first ballad on the album is a beautifully sung religious song that bringsout Damita's voice. The upbeat track "Hold On To Your Faith" adds a gospel choir and rich instrumental arrangements that blend nicely with Damita's voice. The track clearlyemerges from the rest as one of the best on the album. "I Can Feel Him" has a more of an R&B beat where her styleis most reminscent of R&B artist Monica. The words oneach of these tracks are very powerful, are delivered bythe artist evocatively and shouldn't be taken lightly.

"If I Ever" and "Won't Be Afraid" are upbeat balladsmore of an R&B style than Gospel. However the Gospelcomes out again in the words of the songs. "Real Friend"takes Damita's faith into the song and shows that Christis her way and her faith. "The Wedding Song," "Day GoBy" and "Holdin' On," all ballads, are sung by Damitamore in a soul style than anything else. It is a beatiful flow of voice and words that are so movingto the human ear.

Damita is very interested in reaching fresh ears and the hearts and minds of the young. "I'm sure they'll like the music," she says, "because they'll know I haven't forgotten them. And they want to be heard. Music plays a big part in how kids react. We've got to communicate. Sometimes you can get a little too"urban" or sometimes a little too "mature." That's why the album strikes a balance."

Produced by leading cutting edge hip-hop Atlantaproducer Arif Martin and husband Deitrick Haddon, Damita adds the diverse depth and grace that isneeded for a world class album. You can order Damita's self-titled album, read editorial reviews and hear soundbites at amazon.comhere. A well-produced R&B Gospel crossover album, it is a very nice listen!—Deborah J Elliot

Before Dark Daydreamin' CD Cover
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nRCA Records  

(04 September 2000) The debut album from Before Dark entitledDaydreamin' (RCA (USA) RADV 67691-2, 2000) was released inJuly. Before Dark—Mia, Arike and Jeni G—deliver a mix of R&B and hip-hop on their debut album and share the same goal of living eachday to the fullest and striving to achieve as much as possible beforethey are too old. This goal is the meaning of the group's nameBefore Dark.

Before Dark had two hit singles in 1999—"Come Correct" and "Baby."Those two songs set the stage for the rhythmic tune "Monica." Before Darkhave made a video for this track and is airing on The Box Music Network.Daydreamin' is a mixture of harmonic voices fast beats, slow jamsand passionate lyrics. Even though the group says they still have a lotto learn about. "We may be young and inexperienced in the deeper aspectsof love relationships," says Arike, "but we know how it feels to reallycare about a guy, and the happiness and pain that goes with it. It comes from honest feeling and real emotion, but not necessarily actualexperience."

The "Jazzy Interlude: Going to the Movies" sets a base for what weare to expect from Before Dark. We hear that these girls are uniqueand we are introduced to what they can do in "How Could You." Thistrack is fast and upbeat; the harmonic voices blend together perfectly."Monica," the most recent track released off of the album, is anotherupbeat track. The song is much smoother and brings out the R&B inthe group's sound. These two tracks deal with popular issues of "she's trying to take my man" or "how could you do this to me."

"As Far As They Know" is another upbeat song that is more hip-hopishsounding like the musical artist Pink. "Baby," another upbeat song,brings back the R&B flow in Before Dark. "Always On My Mind." thefirst ballad on the album takes an R&B beat to it with the the threevoices making perfect harmony. The tracks show that Before Darkfeels true emotions for love with powerful deep meaning words. Thepassionate R&B ballad "It's All About You" seems as though it takes areal love situation and it was put into a beautiful song. Harmonyfueled, the song relaxes just before the interlude into "ComeCorrect." This upbeat song is much more hip-hop based and muchless harmonic voices but it shows the versatility of the group.

"Tough Love" is a powerful R&B rocker, hungry for love and emotionwhile the title track "Daydreamin'" is a beautiful harmonic mid-tempomasterpiece. "She (Could Never Be Me)" is a moving track that blendsR&B and hip-hop together with three lovely voices evocatively singing from a deep emotional experience. "Push-N-Shove" and "Back Around"conclude the album blending vocal harmonies with hip-hop beats.

These super talented young ladies possess strong, wide-rangingvoices, an energetic, fresh visual presentation and the determinationto succeeed, all of which are sure to take Before Dark further intothe limelight. You can order Before Dark's Daydreamin', read editorial reviews and hear soundbites at amazon.comhere. A well-produced R&B album, from an up-n-coming female trio, it is a very nice listen!-Deborah J Elliot

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