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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.

Michelle Young
Par Lindh Project
Naimee Coleman
Emma Bunton
Stevie Nicks
West of Eden

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Rudi's Journey
R.U.D.Y'.s Journey
\r\nImage © 2001 SB Records

Michelle Young
Image © 2001 Andrea Meister

(06 June 2001) The debut 'solo' album by Rudi Buttas (Pur) entitledR.U.D.Y.'s Journey (SB Records (Germany) 4019 1 0919919 4, 2001) is comprised of 14 pop-oriented rock tracks. Joined by Michael Sadler(Saga) and other various artists, the album is extremely well produced, highly accessible and will naturally attract a broad listener base. It is reviewed here because it features the stunning vocal contributions of Musical Discoveries featured artist Michelle Young(review) who played early demos ofthe material to our editors over a year ago. She sings lead on four of the album's tracks and contributes to several others.

Musical Discoveries readers should note that Michelle also sings a stunning duet and has vocal work included throughout the July 2001 Magna Carta progressive rockOriginal Cast Recording: Leonardo - The Absolute Man. Her long-awaited second album Marked For Madness is scheduled for release in September 2001.

R.U.D.I.'s Journey opens with the upbeat and rocking "Long Day's Journey" sung by Michelle Young. We were instantly reminded of her workwith American Flyer. The producers mixed the level of Michelle's vocals way up so she's out in front where she belongs. Supporting instrumentals and Michelle's accompanying harmonies work extremely well. Michelle's soaring 80s rock style drives the texture of the track "Mona." Her power, range and obviously well-trained style work well against the rocking guitar-based arrangements.

Michelle's evocatively sung lead vocal in "Harder Day" includes layers of backing harmonies and richly produced supporting instrumentals. Various styles within the song were vocally reminscent of her debut album Song of the Siren as well as demos of her forthcoming follow-up Marked for Madness.

We especially enjoyed Michelle's duet, vocalise and harmony vocals accompanying Mike Sadler in the gently rocking ballad "One More Chance." In another ballad entitled "Peter Pan," Michelle takes the lead, singing in a style similar to her most recent solo demos, supported this time by Mike Sadler. The lush vocal arrangement includes a soaring lead and richly produced backing harmony layers. The two vocalists compliment each other quite well.

Sung by Mike Sadler, the album's signature tune "Radio" appears inboth single-edit and a longer version. Upbeat and a highly accessible classic rock track, it has a tremendous hook and is likely a certain favourite once it hits the airwaves. Another highly accessible rock track, "Friends" is similarly arranged for Mike Sadler's vocal lead. Backing harmonies include contributions from Michelle Young. Other ballads on the album include the heartfelt "Breath of Life" sung by Mike Sadler, and "Blindman" sung by David Hanselmann. He also sings the soft and accessible rock tune "Fly."

R.U.D.Y.'s Journey is a very enjoyable rock album of broad appeal with vocal contributions from both male and female singers. Certain highlights for Musical Discoveries' readers are the stunning tracks sung by Michelle Young. Further information, photos and soundbites are available at Rudi's official website. Available currently amazon.de (Germany), this album is worth a trans-Atlantic journey and quite clearly is a must listen!

Veni, Vidi, Vici
Image © 2001 \r\nCrimsonic Label  

(03 June 2001) Veni, Vidi, Vici (Crimsonic (Sweden) CLSCD 106,2001) is the latest album from Musical Discoveries featured artist Pär Lindh Project. Comprised of ten tracks includingtwo epics, the album illustrates a significant development of the band'ssound in line with their performance at NearFEST 2000 and over their last album Live in America (review). WhileVeni Vidi Vici begins very much in line with Mundus Incompertusinstrumentally, the album departs vocally, with Magdalena Hagberg's vocalsmixed up subtantially higher after fading in during the progressive jazzstyled title track.

Pär Lindh Project's lineup has been reduced since their last album toPär Lindh (keyboards), Magdalena Hagberg (vocals and violin) and Nisse Bielfeld (drums and vocals). Guests include: Jonas Reingold (bass),John Hermansen (guitar), Jocke Ramsell (guitar-no. 10), Marcus Jäderholm (bass-no. 10), Nilas Blixt (horn), Eric Ullman (bassoon) and Jens Johnanson (flute). The band's sound remains quite progressive blendingtheir former keyboard-heavy Emerson, Lake and Palmer sound with more of Magdalena's stunning vocals and a jazz influence. The 13:30 epic "Gradus and Parmassum" is a tremendous progressive track that, with several distinct movements blending male and female vocals, is illustrative of the evolution in the band's sound.

"Tower of Thoughts" is a heavier track blending metal-edged gutar withstrong keyboard work, but it is laced with a sweet mix of Magdalena's heavenly vocal work and, with similar themes, it works extremely well alongside "Gradus and Parmassum." Magdalena evocatively sings the "River of Tales" ballad over a gentle piano-based arrangement. With its extremelycrisp percussion mix and robust guitar solo, the heavier instrumental style of "Juxtapoint" is offset by Magdalena's lovely lead vocal part.

Conducted by Erik Hellerstedt, "Le Grand Chambardement" is tremendous—yet brief—track performed by choir alone. A photo of the choir is included within the booklet accompanying the compact disc. The instrumental "Adagio Con Flauto" serves as an introduction to "Hymn" which continues to develop the theme with choir and church organ accompanying Magdalena's sensually sung lead vocal and evocatively played violinpart. But not to be fooled by the introduction, "Hymn" develops into a typical Pär Lindh Project-style progressive rocker blending keyboardviolin and vocals to stunning effect. ELP-style keyboards dominate thebeginning of "The Premonition" an epic closing bookend to the album echoing themes first appearing in earlier tracks. Keyboard, violin,and guitar solos perfectly compliment Magdalena's lead vocal.

You can read further information about the album at Pär Lindh Project'swebsite and order the Japaneseversion of the album from amazon.com here. PLP enthusiasts that have enjoyed Mundus Incompertus(order from amazon.comhere), Gothic Impressions (order from amazon.comhere), and Bilbo as well as Live in America are certain to adore this latest release Veni, Vidi, Vici. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this album is a must listen!

Ayreonauts Only
Image © 2000 Transmission Records

Astrid van der Veen
Astrid van der Veen (website)
Image © 2001 Transmission Records

More Arjen Anthony Lucassen
Live On Earth
Space Metal
Ayreonauts Only
Flight Of The Migrator
The Dream Sequencer
Fate Of A Dreamer

(06 June 2001) Released as a limited edition album with thehealth warning-"This is not a new Ayreon album. It containsunreleased versions of known Ayreon songs, home demos and newlyrecorded songs, sung by different singers"-the latest Ayreonrecording Ayreonauts Only (Transmission Records (Holland)TM-027, 2000) is a masterpiece. As a preview to his releasewith Astrid van der Veen and the Ambeon (review) project, Arjen Anthony Lucassen included two of the first tracks he recorded with her. A variety of other notable guests grace the album'seleven tracks.

Four alternate and more melodic versions of tracks from Flight Of The Migrator (review) resulting fromArjen's Los Angeles visit during the album's initial sessionsare included. "Into the Black Hole" features vocals by Damian Wilson and Lana Lane with additional synth solos by Erik Norlander and Clive Nolan. "Out of the White Hole" is sung by RobertSoeterboek and has additional synth solos by Erik Norlanderwhile the everso lush "Through the Wormhole" features lead vocals by Ian Parry with backing vocals by Fabio Lione and Lana Lane. The 'amazing' guitar and synth solo by GaryeonWehrkemp (hmmm?) during the bridge is just that! The 1992 of "Carpe Diem (Chaos)" blending Arjen Lucassen's guitar and synth work is superb.

Astrid van der Veen makes her initial appearance on the albumin her special interpretation of "Temple of the Cat" originallyreleased with Jacqueline Govaert's lead vocals on The Dream Sequencer (review). Sensually sung in every respect, accompanied only by acoustic guitar and light synth arrangements performed by Arjen Lucassen, Astrid's stunning lead and backing harmony vocals create a sweeter rendition of this tremendous progressive-oriented ballad. Arjen wrote, "This is the way I wanted this song to sound." It isalmost inconceivable from the maturity of her vocal delivery that Astrid was only 14 when the track was recorded.

A previously unreleased medley of the Beatlesque "OriginalHippie's Amazing Trip" with vocals by Mouse, Anneke vanGiersbergen (The Gathering) and Edward Reekers, piano by Robby Valentine and Hammond by Roland Bakker supporting Arjen Lucassen is especially enjoyable. Arjen reported that original Hippie vocals by Mouse were lost when Into The Electric Castle was being created but were recovered later and appear for the first time here. The blend of instrumentals, male and female vocals works extremely well.

A brand new version of "Beyond The Last Horizon" originallyfrom Actual Fantasy sung by Gary Hughes includes drumsby Stephan van Haestreght (Ambeon) and tremendous harmonyBeatlesque-style backing vocals supported Arjen's re-recordingsof the other instruments. A harder version of "Eyes of Time"originally thought as 'too over the top' for The FinalExperiment but suitable for the "Sail Away To Avalon"single is included. It is vocally quite different, with an almost Tina Turner-sounding lead, but has a keyboard solo during the instrumental bridge that is incredible.

Home demo versions from 1994 of "The Charm of The Seer" and the Beatlesque "Nature's Dance" later released on The Final Experiment are both sung extremely well and lushly accompanied by Arjen Lucassen on keyboard, guitar and drum computer. These are wonderful commemorative of the artist's progressive rock talent and overall strength.

Ayreonauts Only concludes with the signature Ambeontrack "Cold Metal" with lead and harmony backing vocals sung by Astrid van der Veen. A stunning track in every respect-instrumentally as well as vocally-it must be heard tobe completely appreciated. Signficant soundbites of the projetare available at Astrid's website (disographie). You can order Ayreonauts Only from amazon.comhere and the Ambeon album Fate of a Dreamer from amazon.comhere. Clearly both worth a trans-Atlantic journey, these albumsare both a must listen!

Naimee Coleman
Image © 2001 EMI Records Ltd

More Naimee Coleman:
Five-Track BDTM Sampler (2000)

Naimee Coleman
Image © 2001 EMI Records Ltd

(03 June 2001) The latest album from Ireland's Naimee Coleman isentitled Bring Down The Moon (EMI/Chrysalis (Ireland), 2001)comes on the heels of her hit single "My Star" released in both album and slower string-rich Tin Tin Out Mix versions. All tracks onthe new album (except "Love Song" by The Cure) were co-writtenby Naimee and produced by Ian Stanley (Tears For Fears and ToriAmos). Phil Thornally (who wrote Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn" co-wrote the highly accessible "My Star" and "Sugar Me."

It's been over four years now since the release of her Coleman'sdebut album Silver Wrists (Lime/Chrysalis (Ireland) CD SIL1, 1996). Naimee feels more comfortable with her honest, heartfelt and true songwriting talents than with any perceived image of her as yet another attractive female singer. "I've grown up a lot since the release of the first album. I hope I'm a little bit wiser. I still have the exact same goals, and I still love and enjoy music as much as I've always done," says Naimee.

The album is comprised of eleven—primarily heartfelt ballad-oriented—tracks, including the lushly arranged "Hold On" and the layered contemporary arrangement of "Sparkle." "Sugar Me" is a highly accessible ballad with crisp percussion and contemporary instrumentation supporting Naimee's highly evocative lead and backing vocals. One can't but help be reminded of The Corrs. The title track is a slowly sung ballad sung over the lightest of contemporary arrangements, however,the lush chorus is performed over a robust arrangement.

While the lyrics are almost spoken in spots of "Love Song," a melancholy tune, rich vocal harmonies in the chorus are unmistakably Naimee Coleman. Instrumentals are sparse but effectively support the lovely lead vocal part. "Delicate" is equally sensitive, sungover the lightest cello and piano-based arrangement. Crossing theboundary between heartfelt ballad and mid-tempo pop tune with itslush keyboard and guitar arrangement is "Altered." "Your Arms,"which closes out the album, is the final heartfelt ballad sungover the lightest guitar- and string-based arrangements.

Upbeat pop-oriented tracks include the first single from the album, "My Star," and the orchestrally lush and highly accessiblevery-Corrs-sounding "Standing Strong." The techno-style mix of "Misunderstood" firmly plants the album into the pop genre whilelayers of tenderly and sensually sung vocals indicate unmistakablythat this is Naimee Coleman's work.

Naimee Coleman's latest album Bring Down The Moon is available from 18 June 2001. You can find further information,soundbites, video and lovely photographs at Naimee's website and orderthe album from amazon.comhere. Clearly worth a trans-Atlantic journey, this albumis a must listen!

Image © 2001 \r\nBrave

see also:
Arise From Thorns
Searching for the Sun

(03 June 2001) On the heels of their Arise from Thorns Before anAudience of Stars (review) re-issueon the Dark Symphonies label, Brave have self-released a stunning 4-track EP entitled Waist Deep In Dark Waters. Brave are the former Arise From Thorns fronted by vocalist and keyboard player Michelle Loose, the band is also comprised of Tom Phillips (electric guitar), Scott Loose (acoustic and electric guitar), Trevor Schrotz (drums) and Chris Wilborn (bass).

Enthusiasts will be interested to know that the Before an Audienceof Stars re-issue includes three bonus tracks: "To Dance By Moonlight" (live), "The Calling," and "Return of the Old Forest." A mid-tempo ballad-style track, Michelle sings "To Dance By Moonlight" primarily over light acoustic guitar. Soaring above the light accompaniment, Michelle's tremendous vocal ability is clear in the live setting where only limited processing can be used to assist in the final production quality.

Michelle's soaring vocalise is clearly at home in the beginning of "The Calling" whose arrangements include crisp percussion and acoustic guitarpassages. Her sung parts are mixed slightly lower—underneath the guitars—than typify the band's recordings. "Return of the Old Forest" is a lovelykeyboard-based instrumental ballad.

Keen listeners will immediately notice the tremendous production qualityof Brave's recordings with vocals mixed way up, right where Musical Discoveries' readers like them. The EP opens with "Spirit" a symphonic progressive rocker with lush keyboards and guitars supporting Michelle's soaring vocal part. "Dark Waters" is a vocally-rich mid-tempo ballad supported by edgy guitars and gently swirling keyboards. The guitar soloduring the instrumental conclusion is played over symphonic keyboards.

Brave's development into the progressive metal is most evident in the instrumental arrangements of "Lost (in retrospect)" but Michelle's sweetly sung vocals remain a consistent element in the band's sound. The lushproduction perfectly suits the soaring excursions in Michelle's vocalpassages and is complimented by the guitar solo during the instrumentalbridge. The EP's final track is an instrumental excerpt from the forthcomingprogressive epic "To Search a Soul." Symphonic keyboards and crisp percussion perfectly underscore the metal-edged lead guitar melody.

The latest EP from Brave provides an enticing introduction to theirnext new album coming up short only in running time but not in musicalquality. You can find further information on the band's tour schedule,photographs, soundbites and order their recordings from their website or by writing Michelle Loose. Clearly worth a cross-country journey, the latest EP from Brave is a must listen!

A Girl Like Me
Image © 2001 Virgin Records Ltd

Emma Bunton
Emma Bunton
Image © 2001 Virgin Records Ltd

(02 June 2001) While part of the female pop sensation, the Spice Girls, female vocalist Emma Bunton (aka Baby Spice) is hitting high and going for solo stardom with her debut album A Girl Like Me (Virgin Records Ltd (UK) CDV2935, 2001). Emma has had many big influences on her music, and they are rather diverse. There is a mixture of Motown like Stevie Wonder and contemporary soul divas like Whitney Houston. There is also some British Rock in there like Travis and Texas. These musical influences are definitely reflected in the sounds on Emma's debut solo album.

The title track "What Took You So Long" has this hint of "Irish" in it. The track sounds as though it is from the worldwide sensation the Corrs. This lively, upbeat track has a catchy tune and with Emma's amazing voice, you want to get up and sing and dance along, yet you can just sit back and enjoy the song.

"Take My Breath Away" has a soft beat with the sounds of Tin Tin Out in the background. "What I Am," which was a Tin Tin Out cover of the original Edie Brickel tune, shot to number two in the charts with Emma's guest vocals on it. Sounding like another pop song, with a twist, "A Girl Like You," has an upbeat tempo that you want to bop your head to as well as sing along to.

Emma has worked with artists on this album like fellow Spice Girl Melanie C, and in this track, her influence in the voice and tune is prevalent.

While sounding like another pop artist, she can also sound like a young soul diva, with the influence and help from superstar Mariah Carey on "Spell It Out." An influence of collaborating artists Bryan Adams and Melanie C is also evident on "A World Without You." This Texas-sounding, country rock combination, "High On Love," really sets out for just what Emma can do.

"Sunshine on a Rainy Day" sounds as though it is a collaboration of the Corrs and Texas through vocals and sounds. This track makes you want to sit back and relax as well as sing along since the song is a catchy one. "Been There, Done That" is another track that really stretches out what Emma is capable of. Through an R & B beat, the words come out of smooth vocals surprising some listeners in what Emma can do.

"Better Be Careful" is a very catchy tune, with Emma sounding like a vocalist from a couple of decades ago. There are various voices in the track, all of which are Emma's at a different level, which makes the track very different from what she has done and accomplished already. "We're Not Gonna Sleep Tonight" has a Spanish edge to it, even with the vocals sounding having this flavour.

Growing out of her pig tails from the days of the Spice Girls, into a grown woman, she uses this maturity and puts it into music such as "A Friend of Mine." This pop tune really shows Emma's development and gives insight into what we should expect from her future albums. ExploreEmma Bunton further at her official website. There you'll find soundbites, videos, further informationand an extensive photo gallery. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.comhere. A very nice listen! -- Deborah J Elliot

Conservation of Mass
Conservation of Mass
\r\nImage © 2001 Unicorn Records

(03 June 2001) The debut album from Canadaian progressive rock groupHamadryad is entitled Conservation of Mass (Unicorn Records (Canada)UNCR-5002, 2001). While they are not fronted by a female vocalist, theirclose stylistic resemblence to Yes and Rush and vocalists' angelic soundmake this album equally appealing to Musical Discoveries' readers. Yes (review) fans are going to adore this album. While there are strong allusions, there is no attempt to copy.

The name Hamadryad comes from the legends. The Hamadryads were wood nymphs who lived and died with the tree they were believed to be trapped in. Their mission was of intermediary between the mortals and the immortal entities.Hailing from the Montreal, the band is comprised of Jean-François Désilets(bass guitars, lead and backing vocals, Taurus and midi bass pedals), Denis Jalbert (six and twelve string electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals), Yves Jalbert (drums and percussion, Roland octapads, backing vocals), Jocelyn Beaulieu (lead vocals, six strings electric and classical guitars), and Francis Doucet (B3 and C3 Hammond organ, Mellotrons, Minimoog, Roland synthetizers).

This cohesive album full of epic-length tracks opens up with "Eternal Loop"/"Amora Demonis" reminscent of Yes in many ways, especially from their Relayer period. Tracks blend nicely from one to the next with breaks almost non-apparent. Jocelyn Beulieu's similarity to Jon Anderson continues in the vocally-rich introduction "Carved In Rust" and subsequent choral harmonies used throughout the short track "Still They Laugh." We especially enjoyed the inclusion of the bass pedals in the arrangement.

The dynamic progressive rocker "The Second Round" effectively blends guitar melodies with mellotron and other keyboard arrangements, a shattering guitar solo and Yes-style harmonies before an intense and spacey keyboard-laced reprise of "Still They Laugh" returns. "Shades Of Blue" is a song-based progressivetune of widespread appeal. "... Action!" is instrumentally harder—almost metal-edged—at times with loads of shimmering electric guitar and lead vocals drifting away from the Yes or Rush style yet the symphonic keyboards and percussion clearly reveal the band's progressive roots.

One of three standout Yes-style tracks from the album is "Nameless." The keyboard-rich arrangement supports a highly accessible Yes-style vocal harmony and progressive rock melody. Bass pedals again add tremendous texture while the guitar solo during the instrumental bridge and keyboard passage at the song's conclusion are especially notable. "The Second Coming" is written and performed in a similar Yes-oriented style, but sung over lush acoustic guitar passages underscored with symphonic keyboard support.Delicate percussion adds to the track's texture. The four-part epic concluding track "Watercourse Hymn" is dramatically performed blendingstunning vocals with lush acoustic and electric guitar passages and swirling orchestral keyboard arrangements.

Conservation of Mass has been one of the most intriguing progressive rock albums we've heard this year. Production quality, songwriting and the band members' individual performances are all tremendous. By all indications, Hamadryad must be a fantastic band to see perform live. The album is currently available from Unicorn Recordsand the band online although more widespread distribution may be arrangedlater. Visit their website forfurther information. Clearly worth a cross-country journey, this albumis most certainly a must listen!

Trouble in Shangri-La
Trouble in Shangri-La
\r\nImage © 2001 Reprise Records

Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks
Image © 2001 Reprise Records

(03 June 2001) The first solo album from Stevie Nicks on Reprise Recordsis entitled Trouble In Shangri-La (9 47372-2, 2001). Joined by singers Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan this lushly produced 13-track collection of her own material produced by John Shanks has once again heightened the attention of Stevie Nicks' worldwide audience.

"My music often unfolds like the book of my life," declares the legendaryrock poet. "I believe in telling the truth ... actually, it's the only way that I can exist as a writer." She continues, "Every step along the path of my life, I've been writing it all down, taking incredibly detailed notes. Instead of partying, I run back to my room, open my journal, and pour out my heart onto paper. It can take minutes, or it can take all night. But it's always deep. And it's always real."

It's to that end that Nicks created the sterling, often confessionalTrouble In Shangri-La, her first solo collection since 1994'sStreet Angel and her first musical voyage with Reprise Records.She says, "The project has been slowing percolating for severalyears, taking different shapes and forms. But it never seemed quiteright until recently. I needed to live my life. I needed to replenishmy well of life experiences." The track "Every Day" is a heartfeltreflection of these feelings.

Nicks mixed things up inviting an array of new friends and musiciansto participate in Trouble In Shangri-La. Macy Gray vamps withseductive soul on "Bombay Sapphire," while Sarah McLachlan harmonizeson the stately, piano-driven ballad "Love Is," seasoned with a splashof funk percussion. Dixie Chick Natalie Maines is a complementary presence on the country-spiced rocker "Too Far From Texas" completewith slide guitar. Classic Stevie Nicks-style tunes, including the acoustic-based "Candlebright" and the gentle ballad "I Miss You," are tempered by the pop accessibility of the album's opening and title track. The anthemic "Planets of the Universe" is a standout featuring lovely backing vocals by Lori Nicks and Sharon Celani whosevoices grace a majority of the album's tracks.

Stevie worked with Sheryl Crow on five of the album's tracks("Candlebright," "Sorcerer," "Too Far From Texas," "That Made MeStronger," and "It's Only Love"). Among the more satisfying results of their kinetic creative union is "Sorcerer," on which Nicks scales to a rich falsetto during the song's mystical verses. "She was completely open and in-the-moment while we were working," Crow told us. "She never stops working or striving to be a better artist."

You can find further information on Stevie Nicks at her website or at the Reprise Recordswebsite. Read furtherreviews, hear soundbites and order the album from amazon.comhere. Clearly the latest album from Stevie Nicks is worth across-country journey. Our readers should agree it is a mustlisten!

Image © 2001 Reactive Records  

(06 June 2001) The latest album from West Of Eden, entitled Rollercoaster (Reactive Records (Sweden), is the second fromthis six-piece Celtic crossover group. Comprised of twelve averagelength tracks, the band has developed their sound, making it evenmore accessible than on their self-titled debut album (review).

Fronted by stunning vocalist Jenny Schaub who also plays accordion, the band also consists of Martin Schaub (piano, keyboard, acousticguitar, mandolin, harmony vocals, accordion and additional electric guitar), Lars Borg (bass), David Ekh (electric guitars,dobro, e-box, nylon-stringed guitars), Ola Karlevo (drums, percussion) and Tobias Edvardson (fiddle and harmony vocals).Guest performances by David Stiernholm (whistles, oboe) andJorgen Fischer (Uillean pipes), Sventa Gustafsson (bodhran)and others as well as a four-piece a string ensemble on four of the tracks round out the album's lineup. The album waswritten by Martin and Jenny Schaub.

The upbeat title track that reintroduces familiar audiencesto Jenny's sweet voice opens the album. Layers of harmony vocalsand traditional instrumentation blend during the chorus contributingto the accessibility of the band's sound. "The One" and "HoldYour Horses" continue to develop the band's accessible sound,uptempo with richly arranged vocals and lush arrangements blending modern with traditional instruments.

The traditional folk-oriented ballad "(I Still Remember) How To Forget" begins with a calling whistle part before Jenny's gentlelead vocal begins to carry the tune. A contemporary arrangementof traditional instruments during the bridge is highly notable."Short & Sweet" and "Mandolin Song" are similarly arranged but are both vocally more delicate. Jenny's vocals in "My Alien" aredelightful and are mixed way up; the acoustic guitar is wonderful.The "Crescent Moon" and "The Swings" ballads are quite enjoyable with Jenny's vocals being perfectly complimented by the supporting arrangements, especially in the tracks' choruses.

The upbeat tunes "In A Little While" and Corrs-like "Didn't You, Didn't I" balance pop accessibility with folk roots in typical West of Eden style blending traditional with modern instrumentation. Instrumental work in the bridge of each track is especially notable. The album closes with an everso quiet ballad entitled "Just That I Love You" dominated by Jenny's vocals with very light, almost non-existent instrumental backing.

You can find out a lot more about West of Eden at theirwebsite. There you'llfind photos, further information, soundbites and ordering information. A most enjoyable follow-up album perfectly blendingstunning vocals with traditional and modern instrumentation, thisnew one from West of Eden is worth a trans-Atlantic journeyand is a must listen!

Balligomingo Promo CD Cover
Image © 2000
\r\nExperience Soundescape Productions

Alternative Balligomingo Promo CD Cover
Image © 2000
Experience Soundescape Productions

(07 June 2001, revised 11 May 2002) Balligomingo is the new electronic/vocal musical project of producer / programmer, Garrett Schwartz and co-producer/guitarist, Vic Levak. Similar to the Canadian group Delerium, Balligomingo combine pulsating rhythms, sonic string textures, synth vibes, and some of the best female vocalists on the North American continent to create a mysterious and haunting listening experience.

Garrett, who hails from Los Angeles and Vic, a resident of Vancouver, B.C. first met during a Kristy Thirsk show at the 1999 NewMusicWest conference in Vancouver. Garrett was in Vancouver at the time working on a track with the group Delerium and with singer Kristy Thirsk. Vic Levak was then producing Kristy Thirsk's solo material. Upon meeting, the two discovered that they shared a similar creative musical vision. Balligomingo's music has already been featured on the compilation albums Underwater Vol. 1 and Elevation 3.

The promotional album reviewed here is merely a preview of the forthcoming full-length release planned for 2002. Initially, Balligomingo expected to release a full-length album in April 2001 on an independent label. However, after word of the band got out, Balligomingo were signed to a major label deal with BMG. Currently, Balligomingo plans on re-recording some of the tracks so as to incorporate live strings and other instrumentation. Although the future full-length release is highly anticipated, the 8-track promo album provides an exciting taste of what's to come.

"Falling," the first track on the album, features chilling classical-based string arrangements, a seductive mid-tempo groove, and Canadian singer, Beverley Staunton's devastatingly beautiful voice. Balligomingo leave no doubt as to their ability to create amazingly heavenly music with this opening piece.

"Heat," featuring Juno Award-winning vocalist Kristy Thirsk of The Rose Chronicles and Delerium is a driving yet languorous track that recalls Madonna's "Justify My Love." As with her performances on the Delerium tracks "Heaven's Earth," "Wisdom," "Enchanted," and "Incantation," Kristy again demonstrates why her voice has frequently been compared to that of an angel's.

Jennifer Baldwin's lovely vocal contribution makes "Wild Butterfly" possibly the best track on the album. The sound of soothing waves at the beginning of the track are quickly replaced by a trance-like percussion line that is likely to inspire listeners to get up and dance. Samples from Enigma's "The Rivers of Belief" and a vibrant piano accompaniment make for a blissful and radiant aural journey.

Closely resembling a slightly slower version of the Delerium song "Incantation" in both melody and texture, "Lost" showcases the dynamic and assertive voice of Camille Miller. Again, Vic Levak's guitar work adds an exotic flavor to the music while Garret Schwartz's synth and rhythm arrangements are near perfection. Probably the most radio-friendly song on the album, "Purify" is a lush, warm number that features Jody Quine on vocals. One cannot help but be reminded of a more upbeat version of Madonna's ballad, "Rain" when listening to "Purify."

"Marooned" is another ambient masterpiece. Particularly impressive is Beverley Staunton's brief vocal phrasing which may be one of the most deliriously beautiful 25 seconds of female singing ever recorded. While "Marooned" deceptively starts out with an epic and portentous melange of guitar and strings, it quickly settles into a gentle and thoughtful mode making for a wonderful contrast of sound.Beverley Staunton once again appears as vocalist and lyricist on "Beyond," a slightly groovy uptempo track. Here, Beverley's stark voicings are penetrating while remaining pleasing.

Perhaps what is most impressive about Balligomingo is their ability to merge the electronic and organic in a way that is enlivening yet intimate. The use of a variety of talented female vocalists is also a brilliant stroke, as each singer brings her own measure of character and distinction to each song through her own voice and lyrics. This is late night, voluptuous melody-making at its best. Furthermore, while each song on the album is distinctive, the tracks weave themselves seamlessly in the ear of the listener. Their preview is certainly a must listen!--Justin Elswick

Balligomingo's album Beneath The Surfacewill certainly be worth watching out for in 2002. Our feature reviews the entire album and incorporates interviews withGarrett Schwartz and numerous photographs of the seven stunning vocalists involved with the recording. Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.comhere.

Image © 2000 Azigza

(06 June 2001) The debut album from Azigzga is a self-titled nine-track recording blending Middle Eastern percussion andinstrumentation with progressive textures and the vocal workof Cyoakha Grace. The album, which is receiving a lot of attention since the group was booked for ProgDay 2001, is on the Lionharp Music label.

azigza also consists of Kevin Evans (guitars), Aryeh Frankfurter(violins, viola, cello, harp, guitar, mandolin), Stephan Junca(drums and percussion), Pierce McDowall (bass, sitar, tamboura)and Raja (tabla, kaneera, djembe, zils, drums, percussion) andPedro Rivera (djembe, doumbek, conga, shakers, zils, percussion).

Cyoakha's vocals soar above complex instrumental arrangementsin the upbeat progressive track "Glass" and the darkly evocative string-rich and percussive "Remember." Progressive arrangements of traditionally-based sounds work quite well especially in theinstrumental "Ratzinitza." "Petra" shares similar instrumental, vocal and percussive intensity and with its complex arrangement is less accessible.

"Touch Moon Window" and "Distance" have superb vocal passages and blend traditional sounds with experimental-style instrumentals.We especially enjoyed the layers of vocals and string accompanimentin the worldly track "Zaman." The heartfelt and soaring jazz style vocal passages of "Friends" are underscored by Middle Eastern-oriented arrangements. The final track of the album, entitled "Edallah yaRashidi," is an incredible instrumental soundtrack-like number.

Read further about azigza and listen to soundbites at their website. Certainto attract further attention from the progressive rock press inthe near future, this band is worth further exploration. Wefound their album intriguing and worth a journey. It's a very nice listen!

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