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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.

Marina Belica
Mary Fahl
Speed Limit 35
Rain Fell Within
Laura Powers

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Image © 2000\r\n\r\nVirgin Records Ltd  

(22 January 2001) The second album by Isobel "Izzy" Cooper is entitled Ascolta (Virgin Records (UK) CDVE 951, 2000). Theartist's debut album Libera Me soared to the top of the classicalcharts in early 2000 (review). Izzy'ssuccess led to a label change from Decca to Virgin Venture who are paying a lot closer attention to the artist. Stylistically similar to Emma Shapplin, Sarah Brightman, Filippa Giordano and Charlotte Church, the new album continues to explore the reaches of classical-contemporary crossover musical territories. The artist's officialwebsite is full of useful information, an insightful interview, additional photos and soundbites.

Now 25, Izzy began her love affair with music at the age of four. It was then that she picked up her first musical instrument, the recorder, and five years later she had worked through the entire recorder family and also began learning the piano, clarinet and flute. But it was her school choirmaster who spotted her vocal potential at the age of nine, which was to prove a turning point in her musical career. Under his nurturing hand,Izzy went on to gain a place at a specialist Arts Educational School, where she studied music, drama and dance but it was as a singer that shebegan to emerge.

Whilst still a student, Izzy was spotted and signed byDecca Records and found herself recording with the London SymphonyOrchestra and leading producer Craig Leon, who had a track record ofworking with both classical and pop artists. Libera Me wasrecorded at Abbey Road Studios—a world away from Izzy's day job atthe Virgin Megastore—and was a carefully crafted mixture of classicalcompositions and co-written original pieces setting the tone of herdistinct style of rich tones and finels woven harmonies. It reached the No 1 spot in the classical charts within weeks of release and launchedIzzy into the spotlight. Izzy was nominated at Best Female Artist in the inaugural Classical BRIT Awards and chosen to present Bryn Terfel with the Best Male Artist Award.

Again teamed with Craig Leon, the team began working on Izzy's second album at Abbey Road Studios after pouring over hundredsof different songs and arrangements before finalising the selectionfor Ascolta. The album contains unique renditions of classical ariasby Doizetti, Borodin, Puccini, Dvorak, Bizet, Delibes, Monteverdiand Sibelius. In addition to the stunning title track, "Signore Ascolta," Izzy incorporated her own versions of the Celtic "The Lost Lady Found," "Down By The Sally Garden," "Lumi Miei Cari" and "Going Home". We especially enjoyed Izzy's multi-layered performance of the "Be Still My Soul" hymn and "Song of our Homeland" sung to the famous Borodin theme. Ascolta is certainly more richly produced than Libera Me yet it is mixed with Izzy's vocals way up, the way Musical Discoveries' readers prefer! Many of the tracks are recorded withEnglish lyrics as well.

"Recording the second album was a fantasticexperience, Izzy commented. "Not only did I have the support of a vibrant, less traditional record company in Virgin Venture, but I also had the confidence in working with Craig to record what I wanted to, regardless of whether it was conventional or not. It is invigorating to take a song or aria and be able to interpret it in completely your own way."

Izzy's albums are released in Europe however they remain imports to the United States. You can find further reviews and order Ascolta from amazon.co.ukhere. Artwork accompanying the newcompact disc incorporates stunning photography hich can be sampled atthe artist's website. Worthy of significant exploration and a trans-Atlantic journey, we certainly think it is a must listen!

Brain Salad Surgery
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nRhino Records  

(13 January 2001) While Musical Discoveries normally features music with female vocalists, ELP's Brain Salad Surgery is probably one of the greatest progressive rock albums ever made. The new DVD Audio version (Rhino Records (USA) R9 75980, 2000) of the album is nothing short of spectacular and must not be overlooked.

Three versions of the album exist on the DVD. The first is a brand new 5.1 surround remix that will play on any DVD player. The second contains advanced resolution multichannel surround mixes while the third version is the original stereo mix presented in 24 bit 96 MHz advanced audio resolution. Sincea DVD Audio player is needed for the latter two versionswe have reviewed the 5.1 surround mix since it is compatible with all DVD players. The remix was produced by John Kellogg; it was engineered and mixed by Paul Klingberg using the original master tapes.

The DVD opens with "Jerusalem" a beautiful reworking of the traditional hymn in the grand epic style that ELP is known for. "Toccata," an adaptation of the 4th Movement of Ginastera's Piano Concerto, features an impressive percussion movement from Carl Palmer and a stunning arrangement by Keith Emerson. Alberto Ginastera once said, "Keith Emerson has beautifully caught the mood of my piece". On this DVD Audio the sound is so clear that the piano parts actually sound like you're in the studio with the band. The Next track, "Still ... You Turn Me On," is a gorgeous Greg Lake ballad that sounds much warmer and fuller on this release. Lake's vocals and acoustic guitar are brought up much more in the mix and the results make the standard CD version pale by comparison. "Benny the Bouncer" is a cute vaudevillian number and features some fine honkey tonk piano by Keith.

"Karn Evil 9" is a three-part suite that features lyricalcontributions by Peter Sinfield (of King Crimson heritage). "1st Impression—Part 1" features some of the best progressive keyboard work ever recorded. Emerson's use of the Hammond organ and Moog synthesizer along with Carl's syncopated drum work and Greg Lake's superb bass, lead guitar and vocals create such an excitement one can listen to it again and again and never tire of its sheer musical excellence.

"1st Impression—Part 2" is probably the most popular track by ELP with the classic line "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends." This track features the classic fat Moog synth sound that Keith Emerson pioneered along with one of the best Hammond organ solo's ever recorded. This is ELP at their absolute finest. "2nd Impression" showcases Keith and Carl in a jazz setting. Excellent brushwork by Carl along with pristine piano parts by Keith highlight this section. The piece concludes with "3rd Impression," another Sinfield lyrical contribution, which brings the epic full circle. It paints a vivid picture of battle with aggressive solos and great synth effects. "Lucky Man" from the band's self-titled debut album is included as a bonus track.

DVD Audio player owners will also find four short video tracks available.

This album is a true masterpiece of Progressive rock and has something for everyone on it. The lovely 20-pagebooklet that accompanies the DVD includes photos and insightful notes on the "making of" by Jerry McCulley. You can order Brain Salad Surgery on DVD Audio from amazon.com here.The DVD audio remix brings unrivaled clarity to the sound andyou won't believe this album was originally recorded almost 30 years ago. Kudos to the folks at Rhino for going through the painstaking process of remixing this entire DVD from the original multi track master tapes. The astonishing results are certainly worth a transatlantic journey—a must listen! —Scott Bassin and Russ Elliot

Decembergirl EP
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nDecembergirl Records

Marina Belica
Photo Pam Springsteen
Image © 2000 Decembergirl Records

(14 January 2001) The first solo EP to emerge from Marina Belica since the breakup of October Project is entitled Decembergirl(Decembergirl Records (USA) DCE011, 2000). The first 1000 copies areindividually numbered and inscribed by the artist and include 3D glassesto get the full effect of the cover artwork. It is a wonderful EP andraises great interest in a full length album. Of the five tracks,two are penned by Belica alone, one is cowritten with Dana Pomfret,one is an October Project cover and the final track is traditional.Read our full length feature on Marina Belica incorporating anexclusive Musical Discoveries interviewhere.

Marina Belica is perhaps the unsung hero of October Project.Her keyboard and backing vocals added significant texture to the band'ssound as evidenced in video footage released by the band during theirheyday considered by fans as the holy grail. October Project's albumsare still generally available and regularly receive acclaim worldwideto this very day. A comprehensive artist biography is available atMarina's official website.

Marina provides lead and backing vocals as well as somekeyboard and piano parts on the EP and is joined by a variety of guestartists: Joy Askew (guitar and backing vocals), Bill Debron (drums), Matt Garrison (bass), Cheryl Ann Futton (harp), Michelle Kinney (cello), Francois Mouttin (bass) John Peckman (drums) Randy Brecker (trumpet), Dave Richards (bass), Jim Thomo (tympani) and Chris Cunningham (guitar,keyboard, computers), Yuri Matveyev (guitar) and Artjon Yakushenko (violin). Backing vocalists also include Dana Pomfred, Deobra Kewallo.

Emil Adler (keyboards, harmonium), Jim Chapdelaine (electric guitar), David Sabitano (guitar), Urbano Sanchez (percussion) and Julie Flanders (backing vocals) guest on a stunning cover of October Project's "Return To Me". Naturally thereturn of several of the band's orignal members contributes to thefaithful reproduction of the song albeit with Marina's sweeter and more crystalline lead vocal.

Decembergirl opens with an original track entitled"When You Go" written very much in the October Project style. We werereminded instantly of "Where You Are" when hearing the song's arrangementsand drum part. Marina's voice is delicate yet powerful and it is wonderfulto hear her singing lead. "The Wheel" is an upbeat coffeehouse-style track. Layers of harmony vocals contribute add density in the chorus. Instrumentals are richly arranged but achieve a live sound in the recording.

The bluesy ballad "Come With Me" illustrates the evocativesensuality of Marina's voice. The trumpet part is especially notable andcarries the instrumental arrangement poised against the cello. A uniquearrangement of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is the final track on the EP. It is dominated by vocal layers with only a hint of instrumentation untilthe bridge where it echoes the theme established by the vocalsbuilding to a dramatic climax. Sensitive vocals, violin and guitarconclude the piece.

Marina's Decembergirl EP provides a wonderfulintroduction to plans for a full length album. Read our full length feature on Marina Belica incorporating anexclusive Musical Discoveries interviewhere.The EP is destined to achieve widespread critical acclaim and worth a cross-country journey, we certainly think it is a must listen!.

Image © 2000\r\n\r\nNettwerk Productions  

(14 January 2001) The latest album by Delerium entitled Poem (Nettwerk (Canada) 0 67000 30165 2 0) is comprised of eleven world beat-oriented tracks with vocals contributed by various artists, including Leigh Nash, the Mediaeval Baebes, Jennifer McLaren, Rami Kamal, Joanna Stevens, Kirsty Hawkshaw and Matthew Sweet. It is a stunning collection of widly varying styles with something to suit fans of pop, alternative, world and new age genres.

Musical Discoveries correspondent K. Don Baer wrote, "Upon listening to Delerium's new album Poem, I was thrown into a quandary while trying to identify my reactions to this incredible music. With each new song, when I was just about ready to settle on a reaction, the music would take some totally unexpected and unusual twist. I found myself constantly adjusting my emotional response, to keep up with the music.Don't misunderstand me, these remarks are not intended to be taken negatively. On the contrary, I find this album to be truly remarkable for these very reasons."

Like Don, Musical Discoveries editors were intrigued by theband's new album. In fact it rarely left our CD player for the first few weeks of its arrival at our headquarters. "Innocence" featuringvocals by Leigh Nash, the upbeat "Aria" with the Medieval Babes and the highly accessible Phil Collins-style "Daylight" with lead vocals by Matthew Sweet were quickly identified as the album's standouttracks, each with a unique and mesmerising texture. Production qualityof the entire album, right down to the stunning booklet that accompaniesthe compact disc is superb.

Don continued, "I was reminded of a vast and exotic Asian feast. Having spent nearly six years in the Orient, I was afforded the opportunity to sample many different delectable dishes, at numerous feasts. Each serving would be unique and unexpected. But more than that, each bite would discover some new and unusual taste, or a hot and tangy spice. The meals were unpredictable, but when considered on the whole, were more than delicious; they were an experience unto themselves."

"My reaction to Poem is quite similar in many respects. The music is unpredictable, with many individual songs changing with unexpected drama. But the overall organization, the album as a whole, is indeed a most pleasing, emotional experience. The numerous and varied artists who contributed to the album provide that savory musical spice that livens each song. Then Bill Leeb (composer and producer of the album) somehow manages to weave the entire project together."

"If I had to pick a favorite on this album, it would have to be "A Poem for Byzantium", co-written and sung by Joanna Stevens. It is perhaps not the most representative song on the album, but to my ear, is certainly the most desirable. I obtained the Limited Edition, which includes a highly recommended bonus disk as well. It includes four delightful songs, the most exciting of which features a fantastic remix of "Silence", from Delerium's previous album, Karma, sung and co-written by Sarah McLachlan."

Don and our editorial staff agreed that all-in-all, Poemis one of the most unusual and thoroughly enjoyable albums that we have heard recently. You can read further reviews and order the album from amazon.comhere. This album should certainly be explored in detail, especially as a recommended introduction to those who have not heard Delerium before, it is worth a long distance journey—a must listen!—K. Donald Baer and Russ Elliot

Selections from Lenses of Contact
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nRoughmix Inc.

Mary Fahl
Image © 2000 Roughmix Inc.

More Mary Fahl
Lenses Of Contact
Gods & Generals [Soundtrack]
The Guys [Soundtrack]
The Other Side Of Time
Artist's Website

(14 January 2001) The first "official" solo release byMary Fahl since the demise of October Project is a four-track EP entitledSelections from Lenses of Contact (Roughmix (USA) 6 34457 13502, 2000). Mary fronted October Project for their two albums on Epicbut went her own way when the band was dropped after the initial toursupporting the band's second album. A live video released by theband during their heyday-the holy grail amongst October Project fans-illustrates the singer's unsurpassed stage presence and ability to capture an audience. October Project's two albumsare still available and continue to attract worldwide acclaim.

Produced by Jeffrey Lesser, the EP was recorded in New York at RPM Studio. Additional artists include Scott Healy (music direction, piano), Shawn Pelton (drums), Tony Garnier (bass), Glenn Alexander (guitars), Glenn Patscha (keyboards, backing vocals), Larry Saltzman (electric guitars).Lyrics and music are by Mary Fahl in various combinations with others.

While the arrangements are somewhat less lush than OctoberProject, it is hard not to hear the band's sound with Mary's voice leadingthe way. Mary's soaring voice opens the album with "Raging Child" wringingof emotion. Instrumentals are richly arranged perfectly supporting thepower and range of Mary's vocal part. A slow-moving ballad primarilyaccompanied by piano entitled "Paolo" follows. Although the EP is classified as being a collection of rough mixes, this, like the othersis quite good with vocals mixed way up, right where our editors like them;and Mary is in fine form.

"Meant to Say" moves along more quickly while light guitar,keyboard and crisp percussion underscore the lead vocal part. Soaringvocalise is extremely reminscent of Mary's earlier work and it is easyto understand why her voice has been compared to a full body red wine in the delivery. Emotion and sensuality come through with every noteshe sings.

The slow moving and evocative ballad "Redemption" closes the EP. Like "Raging Child" and "Paolo" this track was performed in herearly solo performances, including The Fez on September 29, 1999. Thearrangements are more polished here and clearly this EP has whet ourappetite further for the full length album.

You'll be able to read further reviews and order theEP from amazon.comhere. Downloads are available at the Roughmix website.Clearly a recording for Mary's fans from prior days and one that willattract a broader audience, this EP is worth a trans-Atlantic journey andis a must listen!

The Speed Of Sound
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nSpeed Limit 35

Judilynn Niedercorn (vocals)

(25 January 2001) The first album from Speed Limit 35 isentitled The Speed of Sound. Available from mp3.com exclusivelyas a Digital Audio Music (DAM) CD, the album contains ten tracks thatvary between guitar-laced instrumental onlys and light progressivenumbers with Judilynn Niedercorn's stunning vocal work. Steve Rabeler is responsible for guitars, bass and drum programming while Mitch Gorman provides keyboards, guitars, bass, drum programming, synth programming, and mixing/production.

The Speed Of Sound is a lovely album of average toshort length tracks that collectively form a progressive rock-oriented project. Several of the themes could easily be drawn together into acohesive epic. We were naturally drawn to the vocal tracks however the two-person instrumentals present the lushness of a "full band." Several numbers are extremely reminscent of Renaissance in their construction especially when amplified by the sweet texture of Judilynn's voice; excellent examples are "Siren Song" and "Memoria" which like many of the tracks from the album can be downloaded for free from the band's mp3.com website. Instrumentals span from the light acoustic sound of "Binky" to the driving guitar rock sound of "Throb" and "Phuzz" and experimental nature of "GuiTarPits." The album concludes with a tremendous progressiveinstrumental entitled "HTML."

Hailing from Mt. Laurel, NJ, Speed Limit 35 was formed during the summer of 1997. Mitch and Steve met at work, and discovered they both owned and loved Saab automobiles. Steve had not been jamming with anyone for some time, and out of boredom frequently found himself sitting in front of his TV, accompanying the music of programs and commercials. Mitch had decided he needed a new hobby to occupy his time besides StarWars computer games. Discussions of cars turned to discussions ofguitars, Steve bought a new four-track mini-disc recorder, Mitchpicked up a new acoustic guitar and a synthesizer, singer-songwriterJudilynn joined up, and they've been making music history ever since!

Judilynn told us, "I sent a copy of the Persephone's DreamCD Evening Mirage to Mitch, who I had worked with back in the early 1990s. Mitch shared it with Steve and we agreed to work together on some music that Steve had in his pocket and some music that they had been developing together." She continued, "Steve sent me a tape, and I began to work crafting lyrics and vocal melodies. I was initially insecure in my lyric work, having never had free reign to do what I wanted before. Most bands I worked with in the past were far more controlling than Steve and Mitch are. I was somewhat hesitant with my work for the Speed of Sound."

"Our musical influences are very diverse and far ranging," says Judilynn. "Mitch and Steve both have lots of talent and excellent musicianship. Our creativity plays off each other well, so much so that we get so inspired to keep going that its sometimes hard to finalize a piece. We have begun work on the second CD and I am very excited by the direction it is taking. It is difficult for us to work together being in three different states, but we are working on making the creative process more efficient." We're certainly quitekeen to hear their next album.

Judilynn's voice is truly stunning and her professionaltraining is evident in the gently soaring textures she produces againstthe instrumental backdrop. We were especially impressed with the caretaken in mixing and production to ensure her work is properly featured.The album opens introducing the full lineup with the "August," a lightrock ballad where Judilynn's vocals have been multi-tracked. Her soaring vocals shine above the lightest arrangements in "Siren Song" and the symphonic theme of "Memoria," one of the album's standout tracks.The rocking 'Americana' textures in "Lean A Little Closer" are completely different and demonstrate the trio's virtuosity.

The Speed of Sound is a tremendous debut albumfrom Speed Limit 35. While we would have preferred to have moretracks with Judilynn's vocal work, it's clear, based on the originsof the tracks included, why this album did not. Fortunately a followup is in the works and it's just a matter of time before further tracks with her contributions will be heard. As illustrated in the richly produced "HTML," the band are equally impressive instrumentally. Those visitors interested in Judilynn's vocal work should seek out the now-deleted Evening Mirage by the Pittsburgh-based progressive band Persephone's Dream. Speed Limit 35's work can be sampled at their mp3.com website. The Speed Of Sound is certainly worth a journey and is a must listen!

Stories Untold
Image © 1999 \r\nNarada Productions, Inc.  

(14 January 2001) The third album from Vas is entitled In the Garden of Souls(Narada (USA) 72438-49188-2-8, 2000). It presents a stark but divine collection of songs sure to please fans of Lisa Gerrard, Rasa, and Loreena McKennitt. Vas is comprised of vocalist/musician Azam Ali and multi-instrumentalist, Greg Ellis.

According to the biography at the Vas officialwebsite, Azam met Greg in Los Angeles in the mid-1980's after a concert. The two felt an instant connection and began working in the studio together.The Middle-eastern and Asian influences in Azam's eerie, primal vocalizations are unsurprising given the fact that she was born in Iran and lived for some time in India before moving to Los Angeles in 1985. As with Adiemus and Lisa Gerrard, Azam sings in a self-created language that allows her to avoid the restraints imposed by written language and to fully express the emotions she wishes to convey. Azam also plays the hammered dulcimer and contributes to the percussive elements of the album.

Greg Ellis is a trained percussionist who plays a wide variety of rhythmic instruments (drums, gongs, and bells) as well as keyboards, and dulcimer. After meeting Azam, Greg realized that his days working as a session player for various established bands were over. While understanding that their collaboration would likely produce a sound quite apart from standard popular music, Greg nevertheless decided to form Vas with Azam. Typically, Azam creates the melodic vocal line, and Greg builds the instrumentation around the vocals. Together, Greg and Azam have developed a sound that is both ancient and refreshingly contemporary.

In the Garden of Souls follows very much in the line of the band's two previous albums Sunyata and Offerings. The inclusion of Cameron Stone's cello-playing in many of the songs is a fine addition. The songs on In the Garden of Souls range from the adventurous and exotic, such as the opening title track with its Arabic-styled melody to the fiercely tribal piece "Ceremony of Passage" to the meditative and chilling sound of "Beyond Despair."

Particularly outstanding are the tracks "Unbecome," which sounds like a timeless Persian lament accompanied by a grieving cello, and "The Inward Coil" which crafts an image of urgent travel over endless dunes of sand.

You can read further reviews, hear soundbites and order the album from amazon.co.uk here. In the Garden of Souls is a perfect example of what can happenwhen truly skilled artists poolmusical styles gleaned from their respective indigenous cultures to create a hybrid sound that is novel and exciting. —Justin Elswick

Image © 2000\r\n\r\nDark Symphonies  

(27 January 2000) The debut album from Rain Fell Within isentitled Believe (Dark Symphonies (USA) Dark 7, 2000) is a fivetrack collection of atmospheric metal with operatic vocals. Certain toappeal to fans of Nightwish and Third and The Mortal, their musicencompasses a broad range of stylistic influences including: My DyingBride, Paradise Lost and The Gathering. The band's stated influencesalso include Theatre of Tragedy, Tiamat, Dead Can Dance and Amorphis.Musical Discoveries' editors were drawn to the music by the statedsimilarity to Nightwish and this is evidenced by lead vocalist DawnSmith's operatic vocal contributions. Rain Fell Within, like Nightwishhas effectively integrated stunning operatic vocals with metal-edged progressive arrangements.

Rain Fell Within is based in Northern Virginia (USA) andformed in October 1996. After spending 1997 writing material, RainFell Within recorded a 5-song demo which was not released to the public.Developing upon their symphonic style, in 1998 they released a professionaldemo titled "Solemn Days." The demo received excellent responses worldwide.In late 1998, the beand began writing new, more mature material than"Solemn Days" and began playing live shows. The lineup finally stabilisedin mid-1999. Today the band includes Dawn Smith (vocals and keys), CharlesGore (bass), Owen Davis (guitars), Tim Miller (percussion) and KevinThomas (guitars).

The Believe album is comprised of four epic length,progressively influenced, tracks exceeding eight minutes whilst the closingtrack runs just under four minutes. The opening number, "A False Reality,"serves as an excellent introduction to the band and Dawn's soaring operaticvocal prowess, multitracked extensively throughout to provide supportingbacking vocal textures. The double-bass drum and metal edged guitarsdominate the intrumental arrangements. The intriguing track "Alone" blends evocative operatic—yet melancholy—vocals with harder-edgedmetal instrumentals and lush keyboards. We especially enjoyed the fast paced instrumental bridge and accompanying vocal in the last third of the song. Dawn's incredibly powerful voice rings throughoutthe track and complimenting both singers, she can be favourably comparedto Tarja Turunen of Nightwish.

While comparisons to Nightwish and The Third and the Mortalcan not be avoided, the title track is clearly the closest allusion toNightwish in instrumental performance, hard driving style and Dawn's stunning lead vocal part. Instrumentals are as lush as they are heavy while vocals are clearly beautiful and the contrast works quite well for Rain Fell Within as it does for Nightwish. Dawn's additional backingvocals add substantial to the overall texture of the track. "SorrowBecomes Me" is a slower and somewhat lighter atmostpheric track witha vast range of lovely vocal excursions. The album concludes with thevocally lush "The Sun in my Wound" opening with a heavily layered a capella introduction. This stunning operatic ballad is a lovely tribute to Dawn Smith's soaring vocal work with the lightest instrumental arrangement in support.

Although the album's running time is relatively short bytoday's standards, the quality of the tracks included on Believeis outstanding. Rain Fell Within are indeed a very powerful atmosphericmetal band that demonstrate progressive influences in their work. Wefound Dawn Smith's vocals stunning in every respect and think that thisalbum should be explored to listen to her sing if for no other reason. Interested readers should listen to the tracks at Rain Fell Within's mp3.com website. Worth a long distance journey and extensive investigation, Believe is certainly a must listen!

Image © 2000\r\n\r\nProjekt<  

(20 January 2001) The self-titled debut album from Mira (Projekt (USA) 96, 2000) is comprised of 10-vocally rich guitar-basedtracks that can be favourably compared to the sounds of Love SpiralsDownwards, This Ascension and State of Grace. Lead vocalist ReginaSosinski is backed by Tom Parker (guitar), Alan Donaldson (drums)and Max Fresen (bass). The band are based in Tallahasse, Florida.Click on the album cover to visit the band's official website.

Mira's appearance on last year's Projekt compilation, A Cat-Shaped Hole In My Heart, garnered the most press and fan attention of any track on the album. That song, "Cayman," also appears on this debut album. Regina's vocals soar above driving guitars and light percussion and the band's sound departs somewhat from the gothorientation that the label is often known for.

Mira's sound typifies the heavenly vocals genre and iscarried by Regina's soaring lead vocals while guitars drift in and outof moody alternative rock style melodies. While some vocalists withsuch sweetness would require multi-tracking to produce power, theclarity and confidence evidenced in Regina's voice carries melodies without doing so. The album's ballads are balanced with gently rocking numbers. The album opens with "Alone," a tender ballad perfectly constructed to introduce the band's sound and the clarity of Regina's voice to the eager listener. The band's intensity spans an equally evocative range with "Real" being one of the album's harder pieces.

"Blister" is one of the album's standout tracks. Sung primarily as a ballad, the track's chorus moves right along uptempo with a lovely hook. "Even Now" is similar in its constructionwith heavier instrumentation but equally stunning crystalline vocals.The effective blend of guitar-based instrumentals and voice clearlyexplain why the band are garnering such critical attention. The gothsounding "Something Ventured" is more traditionally Projekt but vocallymore stunning. Regina's vocals are most stunning, soaring and mixed way up and over the instrumentals, in the album's closing masterwork "In The End."

The debut album by Mira is a wonderful blend of stunningheavenly vocal work with richly produced instrumentals. While most of the tracks are soothing in their construction, the album's contrastingrock textures contribute to its overall interest and will expand thelabel's audience outside those that prefer only the melancholy.

Listen to soundbites, read further reviews and order the album from amazon.comhere. While we were most impressed with lead vocalist Regina Sosinski's performancesthe instrumental work is superb. A stunning debut album certainly worth a journey, itis a must listen!

Beyond The Pride
Image © 2000\r\n\r\nRed Harp Records  

(22 January 2000) The latest album from American singersongwriter and painter Laura Powers is entitled Beyond The Pale -Legends of the Goddess II (Red Harp Records (USA) 6 87474 01672, 2000). It is the followup to the artist's stunning debut Legends of the Goddess (Punch Records (USA) PEG 008, 1997). The debutincludes the original version of "Samhain Madrigal" which was coveredby The Vards as the title track of their album A Time Of Change (review). Powers shares writingcredits on the new album once again with Chris Pelcer as well as others including John Tirro, Dwight Liles, David Lloyd, SharonCort, Bob Halligan and Dennis Bryon. Further information andsoundbites are available at the artist's website.

It is easy to understand why Laura Powers is regularly compared to prominent New Age artists such as Loreena McKennitt and Enya. Powers' vocals are sweeter and more evocative than either. Celtic themes are at the heart of Laura Powers' music yet she incorporates pop, new age and alternative styles within it. Celtic and Irish instrumentation such as fiddle, mandolin, Irish flute and Uilleann pipes can be heard throughout both of her albums. The theme of her current project revolves aroung the Celtic mythology of The Goddess. The trilogy begins in her first two albums. Here Celtic themes and mythology are seamlessly woven into the style and grace of Laura Powers' songwriting and vocal technique. Those that listen to Aeone's(review) music will find distinct andpurely coincidental stylistic resemblences.

Beyond The Pale is comprised of eleven tracks evocativelysung over lush Celtic orchestration. Laura Powers voice gently soarswell above the music evoking an overall gentle feeling. Ballads dominate the album and Powers' vocals are mixed way up, well abovethe instrumentation where you can hear every word of the well-enunciatedlyrics. Vocalise adds texture to the instrumentals which effectivelycombine modern sounds with the traditional. The title track is certainlyvery accessible with its lovely and highly memorable chorus. An albumfor female vocal enthusiasts it is full of vocal harmonies and countermelodies.

"This has been a work in progress for some time," saysPowers, who adds that, when she conceived the project, "I was thinkingpartially in terms of the kind of music that I'd like to paint to, becausewhen I paint I'm on a different level of awareness, and I wantedsongs that would help take me—and the listener—to that level."

Tracks are sung in English with the exception of thelovely "Heart In Winter" which alternates with French lyrics whileblending themes from Pachelbel's Canon. "Goddess of the Sea Mist,""Sisters of the Wind" and "In the Arms of the Mily Way" reintroducethe mythical goddess and allo us to soar alongside them in theirmystical world.

The evocative "Pipes of Inishmore" and "Sailing Home"conclude the album. The blend of natural sounds, traditional Celtic instrumentals and Laura's stunning lead vocals works extremely well andtypifies the artist's work. The concluding instrumental passagesof the final track are full of lovely vocalise and themes from thetracks preceding are effectively joined to produce a musical summary.

She said, "People phave told me that this musictakes them to a special place and creates a mood that is uplifting andpeaceful. Since my intention was to take the listener on a musicaljourney to another time and place, it's very satisfying to get thatpositive feedback." We completely agree. The album is accompaniedby original artwork and complete lyrics. Laura Powers' Beyond the Pale—like the debut of the trilogy—is stunning. Worth a journey, we believe that it is a must listen!

Image © 2000\r\n\r\nZetaBoo  

(13 December 2000)The second album by Finland's ZetaBoo is entitled MediZine(Aito Records Ltd (Finland) AICD002, 2000). The group of four musicians was founded in 1994, and their debut album ZetaBoo was released three years later. However, this follow-up album took four more years to be released, as all the ZetaBoo members had other projects to be involved in.

The bass player Pekka Lehti and the drummer Marko Timonen have both been touring and recording with a famous Finnish folk group Värttinä. One of the group's singers, Riikka Väyrynen, is also known as one of the Finnish Adiemus Singers that performed in the project's third album Dances Of Time. Singer-songwriter Anna-Mari Kähärä took part with Riikka in the world-famous Adiemus project by singing in their concerts and also on Dances Of Time.

Like the debut album ZetaBoo, the new MediZine album features a great deal of different musical elements and influences such as pop, jazz, ethno, even new age. This makes the album very difficult to categorize. For example,if you listen to piece "$,$,$...", you may feel instantly jazzy and can hear Brian Setzer-type rock-a-billy mood in the piece,or you may feel like Elvin Jones would be a drummer in Stray Cats. As, on the other hand, a piece called "Tonto" has a very smooth mandolin accompaniment with catchy and thematic dialogue between Anna-Mari'saccordion playing and Mr. Lehti's guitar, polished with deep but spacious jungle groove by bass and drums.

Some of those who like Adiemus-type music might be surprised to know that MediZine and its precedessor ZetaBoo both feature some Adiemus elements! Namely, almost all pieces have been sung by using meaningless textures, and the group does use all kinds of (more or less weird) percussion instruments like Adiemus. Who on earth could believe that even normal kettle lids or brushes could be used on a recordor even live performances like ZetaBoo has done.

I am unable to pick out any particular favourites from this album. The pieces seem to work excellently both when listening them from the album and when being in a concert. ZetaBoo arranged a tour of Finland just some months ago to celebrate the new album release,and I obtained this album straight after their concert here in Oulu (Sep 30, 2000). The whole evening was totally enjoyable and I had a wonderful chat with Anna-Mari and other band members afterwards!

Both the tour and new album feature a saxophonist David Wilczewski, and he really has impressed me with his high virtuosity on both live and on record! This wonderful US resident musician has been involved in various projects of Marvin Gaye, Lisa Nilsson, Roland Vazquez, Herbie Hancock, Don Cherry and Kenny Wheeler, to name but just a few! Although Mr. Wilczewski appears only in one of the album's pieces, the whole album contains very enjoyable music. "Hiisi/Dickens" was born when Mr. Saari took the drum beat from Mr.Timonen who felt first that the whole piece was a catastrophe because the drummer's part and it's time signature were totally different than what other players have.

It is very reasonable to hope that all ZetaBoo albums will be released worldwide and that the group could span their touring schedules outside Finland as well, and maybe gain such the huge success that Värttinä has enjoyed! --Suvi Kaikkonnen

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