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Awakening
Awakening
Price: $11.99
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He has a truly great album in him, but this isn't it! A great set still eludes him., October 17, 2011
This review is from: Awakening (Audio CD)
With "The Awakening", James Morrison returnes to the business of bothering the middle-of-the-road with his Rod Stewart-meets-Ben Ottewell tones.
There are countless worse noises in pop - but there's nothing in his voice, fine though it is, that conveys the emotional weight he should perhaps be carrying after such childhood hardship (school-days loneliness, and he nearly died as an infant). It's a television talent show beast, a chimera of sorts, halfway between the soul singers he loved growing up and the grit of an indie frontman. It just exists, peculiarly passionless, when it should grab hold of the listener and demand that they pay it their utmost attention.
But, again, it's not an off-putting sound - and there are moments on "The Awakening" where its audience does indeed sit up and take notice. One such number is "Up": remarkable not for Morrison's measured performance, but that of guest vocalist Jessie J. The BBC Sound of 2011 poll-topper has never sounded as good as she does here, delivering a remarkably understated turn that's miles away from the horrible hyperactivity of her own album. Their lines entwine excellently, and there's a warmth to the song rare amongst Artist A featuring Artist B offerings.
"Person I Should Have Been" shares compositional DNA with Sting's much-covered/sampled "Shape of My Heart", but Morrison never edges too close to pastiche (which would be easy to do, given the track's skeletal form); and the title-track is the slow-rising centrepiece to this record, where a light acoustic introduction gives way to a far-fuller song almost evocative of Stevie Wonder.
"One Life", which should be a rallying call to embrace the moment, is oddly stillborn on delivery - but it's a rare blip in consistency.
Yet, as "The Awakening" unwinds, one can't shift the feeling that we should be touched deeper.
Morrison's surpassed the likes of James Blunt and Paolo Nutini as a British solo artist able to meld modern pop sensibilities with echoes of his own influences without the collision sounding forced.
Compared to those artists, his vocals cut through with a far greater sense of sincerity.
But the abum is lacking the grandstanding moment it needs to elevate it above reserved recommendation - it's a safe, steady affair, but about as revelatory as a Chris de Burgh best-of.
Morrison has a truly great album in him - he's the emotional baggage to craft it, should he let locked-away demons loose - but for the third time in a row, this isn't it. M.Diver
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2011 1:21 PM PDT


Cote D'Azur
Cote D'Azur
Price: $10.00
47 used & new from $4.12

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Relaxing, pleasant, polished, but not significant, February 13, 2011
This review is from: Cote D'Azur (Audio CD)
"Côte d'Azur" is the latest musical voyage from the Rippingtons, whose assets are becoming larger and larger, varied but also very poppish and commercial, in contrast with their distinctive and elegant 'jazz' releases like "Moonlightong" or "Life in the Tropics".
These days they and their frontman seem very oriented towards the most commercially potent subgenre to fall under the jazz banner in recent years, the so called 'smooth jazz', and this album makes no exception.
Forget the liner notes of the album, which are meant for the market/press realease and may distract the listeners with the mirage of exotic landscapes.
"Le calypso" will please their fans who appreciate his relaxed playing, nice grooves and POPular melodies.
His optimistic 'sound' shines on cuts like "Riviera Jam".
The lilting "Mesmerized" has a delicate melodic beauty.
"Passage To Marceilles" and "Bandol" up the tempo with solid North-african/Spanish grooves.
The result is that, even as he dazzles with his mastery of licks and tricks, this time Freeman rarely blows out a melody free of learned clichés, with his, at times, apparent lack of originality and many studied serious solo moments numbing as things press on.
The album is very enjoyale, relaxing, yes, but too slick or sappy though, providing, at times, jazz of integrity and smoothness for chilling out to or eating dinner by.
Jazz collectors will likely not be too interested in the disc, but in general, soft, lite jazz/pop radio stations' listeners, searching for something soothing, high-gloss background music, more than something of a more raw or challenging nature, certainly will be happy to buy it.
The more casual listener will appreciate its wide-ranging gathering of 21st century pop/ smooth jazz cuts, and this might even rope in some Kenny G., Dave Koz or the latest, sighing Diana Krall listeners who'll find it a good taster for the more authentic stuff.
All in all, "Côte d'Azur" is a collection of pleasant, chirpy bunch of pretty tunes, easily forgettable, never memorable.
An accomplished musician like Freeman is capable to do much more and better than this.

Update. After one week at # 3 of The Billboard Jazz Chart, The Rippingtons dip to # 24. Issue date: April 30, 2011.
The track wich does best is "Riviera Jam", which made # 15 on the Jazz Songs Chart. Billboard Issue Date: Week of February 26, 2011.

Moonlighting
Life in the Tropics
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 6, 2013 2:07 PM PST


Stay
Stay
Offered by POETS CORNER
Price: $7.49
49 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars His music hits the spot and touches the heart !, December 28, 2008
This review is from: Stay (Audio CD)
Being dropped by a major label in 2002, Mick Hucknall promptly formed his own net-based company.
Simply Red's hopelessly misguided decision to go their own way as a cottage industry without record company backing may have killed their career at one suicidal stroke, but luckily Mick watched his next two records hit the bestsellers' chart.
Most likely this third self-release will undoubtedly repeat the feat.
Reduced budgets and concomitant cheap packaging notwithstanding, it finds Mick Hucknall at his most vocally seductive in years, although at one English-mangling point, he manages to rhyme "tirade" with "laugh".
His music hits the spot and touches the heart and this album has many charms.
Not that there is a dull track on Hucknall's self-financed latest tour de force, but as ever it is the token cover version that ticks every box.
The likes of "So Not Over You" and "Stay (Just The Way You Are") articulate, simply and succinctly, complex adult emotions in one shot.
However, rather than raiding yet another slice of Philadelphia, Red tackles Ronnie Lane's "Debris" to devastating effect, and audiences are further stretched on the Santana-style "Money TV" and on the folksy "Little Englander", complete with a school choir stolen from Pink Floyd's "The Wall".
He's even upped his songwriting game, with the impossibly romantic "The World and You Tonight" and the title track.
Meanwhile "The Death of the Cool" and "Little Englander" suggest a sense of humour and a still smouldering fire respectively.
For all the gorgeous renditions of heartbreaking ballads, tender love songs and uplifting anthems, he retains a lyrical spikiness unusual in the genre. His music may have drifted inexorably towards the middle of the road, yet his outspoken politicism lingers. It is hard to imagine any of his American contemporaries delivering the kind of state-of-the-nation addresses that appear on his new album - out and out polemics such as "Money TV" or "The Death of the Cool".
He ends his new album with a delightfully scabrous waltz, "Little Englander", deriding the nation's over-inflated sense of itself. "Judge me, go on - it amuses me," he announces, before concluding, surprisingly sweetly, "Let me smash the plastic face of my lovely country".
Very interesting, isn't it?


Super Taranta
Super Taranta
Price: $11.99
40 used & new from $4.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Energetic and super-charged., December 28, 2008
This review is from: Super Taranta (Audio CD)
As the Pogues once fused Irish folk with punk rock, so Gogol Bordello do the same with fiery Balkan gipsy music.
Although a formidable live presence, the New York band have been hit and miss on record.
Super Taranta! is a step forward. Roaring choruses are interspersed with manic violins, dub interludes and raucous polemics growled by luxuriantly moustachioed frontman Eugene Hutz.
"Gogol Bordello"'s red-blooded passion is refreshing, and they finally have another batch of boisterous singalongs to match it.
This 'gypsy punk' cacophony is all those times rolled into one.
Party on, dudes !


22 Dreams
22 Dreams
Offered by Speedy CD
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Innovative blend of sounds., July 22, 2008
This review is from: 22 Dreams (Audio CD)
The legendary rock star, Paul Weller makes his comeback!
If nothing else, you tend to associate Paul Weller with lean and muscular music - rock without any flab or fripperies.
So the big surprise about the epic "22 Dreams" is just how much latitude Weller gives himself to wander off down intriguing musical backwaters.
Some 30 years spent as a bedrock of great British songcraft is time enough for a man to be allowed to indulge himself a little.
Hence this Paul Weller 70-minute concept album relating a young man's journey from heartbreak to spiritual awakening, blending together an eclectic array of genres, spanning two discs, 21 tunes and much of the musical spectrum: trad folk, lounge, psychedelia and piano balladry included.
Yes, there are the mod anthems, spirited evocations of Sixties R&B, like the title track.
But there are instrumental interludes which run the gamut from eastern classical to blithe jazz, all invested with a dream-like quality.
Even so, all are unmistakably Weller.
The voice of a generation can't be disguised by shifting genre. Despite the eclectic aspirations, standouts recall the vibrant English soul that first marked the latter days of the Jam.
There are curiosities like "Light Nights", which is earnest folk with a whiff of Pentangle about it, and "Why Walk When You Can Run", a pining bit of acoustica which could almost belong on the latest Neil Diamond album.
There are liberal dose of strings, occasional whiffs of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye and, with the apparent theme of changing seasons, a sense of something epic happening, but without the dreary sense of self-importance which often comes with a concept album.
The electrifying title track and "Have You Made Up Your Mind" suggest that this album would be up there with Weller's best, were it not 21 songs long -too many of the more experimental soundscapes are surely only of interest to their creator.
Yes, Weller can't be begrudged such gratification, but "22 Dreams" would have been all the better for a trim.
Despite that, the album has the ring of a classic. He may no longer be a spokesman for anyone but himself, but Weller is still setting standards for his generation.
"22 Dreams" features various collaborations with other well-known artist: Noel Gallagher and Gem Archer of Oasis, Graham Coxon of Blur, Steve Cradock of Ocean Colour Scene, Little Barrie and an ex-Stone Roses guitarist, Aziz Ibrahim.
Fresh new tracks "Echoes Round The Sun" and "Have You Made Up Your Mind" are set to be released to dominate the radio airwaves.


So Many Ways
So Many Ways
Price: $13.99
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Head nodding grooves., February 16, 2008
This review is from: So Many Ways (Audio CD)
Over the past 10 years or so, keyboardist Oliver Silk has been laying the groundwork for what promises to be an auspicious release.
Silk first came to our attention here on this side of the Atlantic as one-half of "Sugar & Silk", a creative duo in which he shared star billing with bassist and long time friend Danny Sugar.
They issued a pair of releases in the UK. Silk's name next surfaced in 2004, this time on the debut from sax man James Vargas : Silk was the album's producer, shared in the writing credits, and appeared on all the tracks.
This now sets the stage for Oli's own solo debut on which serves up a lush and simmering brew that is nothing less than quintessential smooth jazz !!
Highly melodic solos highlight delicate melodies over head nodding grooves. Try the vocal "So Many Ways" or the upbeat "Deuces Wild" featuring saxman Jaared.
Standouts are the full-on 80's style Fusion of "San Carlos Approach" and "Rushmoor Café" plus the wickedly soulful version of "Summer Fling".
It's pretty good in its own way, and in what almost seems revolutionary in the modern smooth jazz climate, it doesn't have a cover tune!


Back East
Back East
Price: $10.99
55 used & new from $1.08

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Melodic and harmonic beauty ., April 30, 2007
This review is from: Back East (Audio CD)
"Back East" is Joshua Redman's first recording in an acoustic-trio setting and his first all-acoustic outing since his 2001 Warner Bros disc, "Passage of Time".
Recorded in New York City, it features the Berkeley, California-based Redman with three different, all-star rhythms sections, and a few carefully chosen guest players, most notably his father Dewey, who, unfortunately, passed away shortly after this album was completed.
Redman mixes originals with standards, selected in part to pay tribute to the great sax players who've inspired him, including John Coltrane ("India"), Wayne Shorter ("Indian Song") and Stan Getz ("East of the Sun", a tune associated with Getz).
Most significantly, he reinterprets two songs from Sonny Rollins' 1957 classic acoustic-trio set, "Way Out West".
The three distinct rhythm sections Redman cut these tracks with are old friends and frequent collaborators of Redman's, as well as marquee names in contemporary jazz: bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Ali Jackson, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. Joe Lavano, whom Redman calls "one of the greatest saxophonists to emerge in the post-Coltrane generation," guests on "Indian Song"; Chris Cheek, whom Redman considers his biggest contemporary influence, sits in on Redman's own "Mantra #5".
Dewey Redman plays tenor on a version of Coltrane's "India", then performs alone on alto for the album's eloquent coda, an original Dewey Redman number called "GJ", written as a gift for Josh's infant son - a track that turned out to be the final session of Dewey's life.
Joshua is bravely measuring himself against the tenor titan in that album's signature mode: the pianoless trio, jazz's version of the net-free high-wire act. To say that Redman doesn't soar like Rollins would belabor the obvious - but he doesn't pull an "Icarus", either.
Only occasionally does he lapse into scales and rote riffing. Otherwise, he digs right in, finding melodic and harmonic beauty - along with a good deal of excitment - in every bar.


From The Plantation To The Penitentiary
From The Plantation To The Penitentiary
Offered by lola's dream
Price: $16.45
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging., March 9, 2007
Wynton Marsalis has never shied away from tackling controversial subjects in his music, but this latest outing may well qualify as his most outspoken and politicised attack on American social division and hypocrisy so far. As the title implies, he takes a withering look at a subject he has broached in depth before, the troubled and violent history of African-Americans, but with a lot more besides.

The excesses of rampant capitalism, the brazen exploitation of the entertainment industry, and the moral and political failings in the nation's leadership (expressed in, of all things for this notorious jazz purist, a spoken rap entitled "Where Y'all At?") all come under intense scrutiny. Four of the album's seven tracks feature his latest protégé, singer Jennifer Sanon, and the trumpeter is supported instrumentally by saxophonist Walter Blanding and a slick rhythm section that sails through the ever-changing rhythm patterns of the music, all carefully specified in the insert notes.


Diwan 2
Diwan 2
Price: $16.04
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetry and music., March 9, 2007
This review is from: Diwan 2 (Audio CD)
In contrast to the more in your face "Tekitoi", he has gone for traditional instruments like the gasba (flute) and guellal (percussion) to get the sound he was after.

The stand out track though is not one of the rediscovered classics, as good as they are, it is the anti-racist anthem "Agatha". With its catchy-as-hell chanted lyrics, a rolling bass and distinctively Arabic strings, this tune is one guaranteed to have you singing along irrespective of your level of French.

Assuming your French is as rusty as mine, you'll be pleased to see that the lyrics have been translated and recount a tale of doubted parentage told with a dark and drunken humour.

The album opens with "Ecoute-moi camarade", which Rachid Taha (and this sounds like a Freudian metaphor) apparently discovered while rifling his parents attic. As with "Agatha", there is more feminine treachery afoot as the poor lover tries to talk himself out of being in love with a woman he suspects is cheating on him.

Again we have a crashing chorus to carry the song along and no doubt both these tracks will do the business in France (why oh why can't we ever hear music like this on our most popular radio stations? Do they think we are all fools?)

Before you assume, Rachid Taha is exercising a misogynist tendency, the rest of the tracks deal with epic loves and the experiences of the many caught between cultures and on some tracks he covers off both as in "Gana el Hawa".

The album was recorded in London, Paris and Cairo and sees him back with studio whiz and legend in his own right Steve Hillage.

Rachid Taha is an artist at the top of his game with the people around him to get the job done.

Whether you are a lover of Khaled and fancy something a bit rougher or were blown away by this African soul rebel's last album and want to hear him explore the sounds of his native Algeria further, this is an essential album.


Juan Condori
Juan Condori
24 used & new from $1.98

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Melodic improvisations., March 9, 2007
This review is from: Juan Condori (Audio CD)
Argentinian band leader, Dino Saluzzi specialises in the bandoneon, a German-invented variant on the accordion which takes centre stage for much of this album.

Saluzzi has released music through ECM previously as part of a trio and a quintet, but for "Juan Condori", Saluzzi leads an ensemble comprised largely of his own family members, who play bass, tenor and soprano saxophones, acoustic and electric guitars. Only the drummer strays from the Saluzzi gene pool.

As a bastion of traditional Argentinian music, its only fitting that the tango is well represented on Saluzzi's recordings.

"Milonga De Mis Amores" is a jazz-inflected take on the form, which aptly summarises much of the album: it's a combination of traditional types and harmonic structures played with freed up swingtime and improvisation. It's probably on the more rigid, uptempo numbers that the group works best.

More contemplative pieces like "Memoria" and "Soles/La Camposanteña" lose some of their distinctive ethnicity and perhaps become a tad too easy going, whereas the sophisticated rhythmic shifts and Latin harmonies of "La Parecida" best showcase Saluzzi's instrumental chops and considerable skills as a composer.

"Juan Condori" is one of those recordings where jazz, folk music, and improvisation all wind themselves into the notion of a complex but utterly beguiling song.


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