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Black Light
Black Light
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Return to the the Eighties!, March 2, 2010
This review is from: Black Light (Audio CD)
Like a fine wine, it seems that the Armada keep on getting better and better.
The most striking thing here is about face of musical direction. Gone are the big beat breaks and alt-dance-funk riddems that populated earlier outings.
It's all about the 80s here - from synth-pop symphonies to electromagnetic philharmonic full phat milk : kind of dirty, yet sugar sexy.
Their sixth studio album certainly embraces riffing but, rather than guitars, very Eighties-sounding synthesizers provide the oomph.
With two greatest hits albums in the last five years, and the musical stagnation that was "Soundboy Rock", Groove Armada were fast becoming yet another great British dance outfit to run out of ideas. As Andy Catto admits: "We could've knocked out an album of reggae-influenced house bangers and a couple of chill-out tunes, and that would've been a much easier life, but we needed a new challenge. Neither of us was interested in just repeating ourselves".
Andy Cato and Tom Findlay came under the spell of old heroes Fleetwood Mac and Roxy Music for the making of "Black Light".
The duo got hooked on Roxy's "Love Is the Drug' during recording and sure enough a performance from Bryan Ferry materialised on moody electro-ballad "Shameless".
These nostalgic homages are well judged and expertly crafted, sounding like a genuinely modern update of the best of the era.
With "Black Light" Cato and Findley have firmly re-established themselves as the best of the bassline best.
Overall their concern is disco, but the overlap with sumptuous rock makes this release interesting.
"The result is a mixed bag, including some real stinkers, but the pair manage to rustle up just enough bombastic electro-pop, including a sharp turn from Bryan Ferry on Shameless, to carry the day. - The Guardian

The Best Of
Soundboy Rock
Yeah Ghost
Love 2

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly distinctive,enjoyable offering., February 21, 2010
This review is from: Blackmagic (Audio CD)
This is second album from José James, whose brilliantly expressive voice has graced recent releases from Nicola Conte (Rituals) and Timo Lassy(Round Two).
Brooklyn-based, Panamanian/Irish 20-something James honed his jazz chops by scatting along to Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong between rapping to hip hop albums and writing lyrics to tracks by Coltrane.
He took a pretty direct route to getting DJ/zeitgeist monitor Gilles Peterson's attention. He flew over to London, went out clubbing and slipped the hugely influential DJ and prescient A&R man a copy of his demos.
Intrigued by the hip young singer's attitude and by his subtle baritone smokey, dusky vocals, Gilles Peterson took a listen and - blown away by his stunning vocal version of Trane's classic tune "Equinox" - immediately signed him to his thriving young indie label Brownswood.
Thus he bursts on to the scene, jazz guns blazing, blasting away the likes of Michael Bublé and Jamie Cullum and proving himself the sort of singer jazz lovers have been crying out for.
The album takes a couple of plays to really appreciate and is more soul oriented than his debut "The Dreamer".
"Promise In Love" and "Greater Good" are nice soulful mid tempos with horn backing.
"Lay You Down' has a D'Angelo feel to it, and "Save Your Love For Me" is a nice beat ballad.
The more acoustic jazzier "Touch" has great keyboards and "Warrior" is heavier jazz.
All in all, this is strong album from one of jazzs hippest young performers on the market : for jazz fans or romantics, there's plenty to admire and whether it makes you want to catch James live, or put the CD on at dinner parties for some soothing, unobtrusive backing,there's a goldmine to be tapped.
The Dreamer
Call Me Irresponsible
The Pursuit [CD / DVD] [Deluxe Edition]
East Of Angel Town

Songs And Stories
Songs And Stories
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An elegant, feel-good album ! The master is back, August 25, 2009
This review is from: Songs And Stories (Audio CD)
Veteran smooth jazz guitar master George Benson is no one-dimensional purveyor of musical wallpaper.
He is, without question, one of the few remaining true musical legends.
Guitar is his genius, but it is George Benson's voice that is his fame and fortune.
It is 30 years since Benson made a similar strategic decision to go with the smooth, choosing mass appeal over the affection of a chin-stroking jazz minority.
It means that today the 66-year old is able to step sprightly forth to an introduction that describes him portentously as "ten-time Grammy award winner George Benson".
Few musicians master even one style of writing and performing in their lifetime, but Benson has at least two under his belt - soulful R&B and authentic Wes Montgomery-style jazz guitar.
The fact that he works in two camps should work against him, but it didn't. Jazz fans ought to be horrified that he sings pop songs, while the R&B fans should be scratching their heads when he starts playing be-bop guitar lines. Somehow he pulls everyone together, though, and gets roars of approval whether he's singing seductively a deep and velvety ballad, or pulling off the kind of guitar licks that Django Reinhardt would have been proud of.
This recording is another snapshot of a career that has spanned nearly five decades and many successful albums, and it wires towads the smooth side.
The beauty of the set is the band's ability to move between genres Soul, Jazz, Funk and back again.
It's a mixed bag, older songs such as Donny Hathaway's "Someday We'll All be Free" matched by some new pop tunes such as Marc Broussard's "Come in From The Cold".
"Songs and Stories" is wide-ranging enough to cover a swaying, uptempo version of James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" - featuring the excellent Tonhino Horta on acoustic guitar and Paulinho da Costa on percussion - and Bill Withers' "A Telephone Call Away", a laidback, 80's style groove which features the ubiquitous (and sometimes over-rated) Lalah Hathaway on vocals.
Another highlight is the gorgeous, anthemic "Someday We'll All Be Free", which receives a beautiful small jazz band treatment here, without reaching though the height of the masterful, prime jazz version by the incomparable Regina Belle on Baby Come to Me: The Best of Regina Belle, track # 9.
But then, this is the good thing of this album, George Benson plays in such a relaxed fashion, never pretending to offer his audience the definitive versions or to strike it with masterpieces, and without being too formulaic and repetitive.
Many guests join in: the Perri Sisters and Patti Austin on background vocals, Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, Tom Scott and Gerald Albright on sax, Marcus Miller -who co-produces with John Burk - on bass, Jubu and Lee Ritenour on guitar and more.
George Benson is quite capable of providing a five-star masterpiece, which "Songs And Stories"" is not.
Nonetheless, this release has more pluses than minuses. This is another winning number and a very strong selection of Smooth Jazz grooves that mixes in Funk and Fusion.
As usual, Benson's playing is soulful, smoothly evocative and fluid. And very enjoyable.
You will love this elegant, feel-good album.
The album debuts at # 1 of the Billboard Top Jazz Albums.
Issue date: September 12, 2009.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Infectiously groovy., August 9, 2009
This review is from: Burnin' (Audio CD)
The acclaimed Contemporary Jazz saxophonist's 8th full-length record, "Burnin'", showcases Paul Taylor' skills at their best.
His signature smooth sound permeates, but there's a renewed focus on the instrument's heritage.
The album is produced by Barry Eastmond and Rex Rideout, who give a retro feel to the new offering. The musicianship is, as always, excellent, the sound production is very good.
After the excellence of his last mellow Soul orientated set "Ladies Choice" (who was recorded with the incomparable songstylist Regina Belle and few more female singers), which reached # 1 of the Billboard Top Contemporary Jazz Chart, "Burnin'" takes a more uptempo and more instrumental route with hints of Junior Walker about the handclapping grooves with a Soul Jazz feel.
The whole thing has a live in the studio kind of feel and is just totally, totally funky. Great tunes, fantastic rhythm arrangements, killer soloing from all sides.
Try "Back In The Day", "Revival", "Burnin", the slower "Side Pocket" and the Grover-ish "It's Like That".
Primarily instrumental with Paul playing tenor sax on most tracks, the organic feel is aided by Michael White playing drums on most tracks.
Everything you could actually want from a Paul Taylor album, no fillers, no souless sequencers, just groove, groove and uh, groove
It's a feel good album begging for radio airplay.
The album debuts at # 7 of the Billboard Jazz Albums Chart.
Issue date, August 8, 2009
Ladies' Choice
Lazy Afternoon
The Definitive Collection
Side by Side
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 25, 2009 7:41 PM PDT

All It Takes
All It Takes
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy on the ear., August 6, 2009
This review is from: All It Takes (Audio CD)
The famed trumpeter returns with a mixed bag.
This is his 12th album: it accents the "smooth" more than the "jazz" and also serves as a showcase for keyboardist and producer Philippe Saisse, who has real musical chemistry with Braun.
Braun's big strengths when he first emerged were a musicality, an instrumentalist's timing and ideas and that made him a unique jazz musician, like a modern reincarnation of Herb Alpert.
Success, concerts (and hectic schedules & business) have swelled the budgets, and risked overwhelming his undoubted skills, eloquence and jazz instincts.
The result is an enjoyable but rather formulaic and predictable set of middle-of-the-road pop/commercial jazz which will certainly will make your summer evenings around the pool very pleasant.
After the listening, you really can't say which tracks are the best, all songs being mostly similar and indistinguishable, with the exception of some latin-tinged and midtempo tunes.
But though this set drops into the dinner-jazz and easy-listening boxes, there's enough good orchestral arrangement and sharp trumpet soloing to engage the big-band buffs and plenty of Rick Braun at his best.
A bunch of jazz stars join in: Richard Elliot on sax, the aforementioned Philippe Saisse on keyboards, Luis Conte on percussion, Marc Antoine and Dwight Sills on guitar, Ricky Lawson on drums.
For sure, it will sell well and reach the top of the commercial charts.
My highlights: "I Got Your Back", "Ever Changing World".
The album debuts at # 4 of the Billboard Top Jazz Album. Posted: August 15, 2009
(Billboard Magazine has discontinued the Contemporary Jazz Chart, which was a good thing indeed. Sad. Can we call JAZZ albums the latest recordings from Will Downing or Rick Braun? They are pop/jazzy records! This is move from the music industry which, for market purposes, prefer to avoid that boundary line that might jeopardize the sale of the lightweight, smooth jazz recordings as entertaining, second rate products. What a nonsense).
Rock Steady
Anything Goes

True Love
True Love
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Smooth Jazz meets Latin Jazz ! A star in the making., August 4, 2009
This review is from: True Love (Audio CD)
The Portland-born of Mexican parents Jessica Spinella has just releasd her third solo album "True Love", which may be aptly summarized as "Smooth Jazz meets Latin Jazz".
It showcases some of the smoothest of saxophones tracks like "Tropical Rain", "True Love", "Mr Prince", and the edgy and very contemporary "Jessy's Blues".
Her tone is solid and strong and would explain why she has shared the stage with some of the most popular stars including the Temptations, Jessica Simpson, Michael Bolton, Gloria Trevi, and Armando Manzanero and many more.
Especially on tenor sax it is reminiscent of Grover Washington and Boney James and that is a huge compliment.
Her Latin sensibilities, along with some Afro-Cuban-Spanish inspirations, come through on the gorgeous "Morning Of The Carnival" - which is the famous theme composed by the Brazilian legend and bossa nova inventor A.C. Jobim for the movie "Black Orpheus" by the French director Marcel Camus - "Brazilian Dance", "Baila" and "Llegaste Tu".
She co-writes most of the tracks with her mentor/producer/hit-maker/label mate and guitar maestro Paul Brown.
Some fantastic jazz cats join in: keyboardist Gregg Karukas, bassist Roberto Vally, drummer Sergio Gonzalez and percussionist Richie Gajate Garcia and Paul Brown, of course.
On some track she adds her lovely vocals showing a personal, very soulful phrasing style.
We have lots of extremely pleasant tunes on offer, but they all follow the same overall style with jazz-tinged backings, relaxed yet soulful atmosphere and enjoyable (and at times too commercial and predictable) interpretations by Jessy.
But that alone can't mask her record's shortcomings.
A sassy chick with plenty of spark and the right kind of attitude, she may still do well. But she'll have to up her level and play less safe, that's for sure.
"True Love" is a delicious celebration of contemporary jazz from a talented, young and flavorful saxophonist... Grab a copy to go!
Update. The album debuts at # 7 of the Billboard Top Jazz album.
Issue date: August 18, 2009
Black Orpheus
Tequila Moon
Foreign Xchange

Travelling Like the Light
Travelling Like the Light
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Catchy, savoury and exuberant. It is a good first effort., August 3, 2009
Vanessa Brown has been tipped for big things this year and her debut album "Travelling Like the Light" is the perfect introduction to her sound.
The tall, gorgeous, retro-styled black Londoner is a throwback chanteuse jostling for position in the wake of Amy Winehouse and Duffy.
She has an appealingly old-school quirkiness.
Her confident mash up of Fifties doo-wop and girl group styles with modern pop and indie attitude conjures up a hugely colourful, almost Eighties-flavoured novelty exuberance.
The album offers up some fine moments and paints Brown as a talented songwriter, an inventive producer and a singer capable of everything from playful shrieks (the album's opener and old school R&B number "Quick Fix") to hushed, soulful intimacy ("I Love You"), and "Leave", a delicious pop pastiche that you could well imagine The Pipettes performing.
It is a bright, bold and often likeable affair, covering the retro spectrum from soulful love ballads to finger-popping rockabilly jives, as if judiciously ticking off a checklist of bygone styles to pastiche.
It's a bit urban, a bit poppy and a bit soulful. This means though, it lacks the heart that Winehouse herself delivers on Back to Black.
The catchy single "Shark in the Water" has a rocky edge but shows signs of having been processed for mainstream ears, while "Crying Blood", whose title belies its charming retro-pop nature, has been massively over-tweaked.
Overall, it is a good first effort, Vanessa can consider herself proud as she has the lungs to keep you away from pushing the stop button, though you can't ignore her record's shortcomings, the material is trying to please too many people and overproduction is a recurring problem.
Still, there's a lot to enjoy in Vanessa Brown's debut.
With this album, VV Brown proves that it's not just her hairstyle that stands out.
The woman's got talent!
We Are the Pipettes
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2010 11:54 PM PST

The Magic Couple
The Magic Couple
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A splendid compilation., July 30, 2009
This review is from: The Magic Couple (Audio CD)
"It was their collaboration with Manu Chao on 2005's Dimanche a Bamako that propelled Amadou & Mariam to star status outside the Francophone African diaspora.
But by that time they had already released three albums recorded outside Africa, the highlights of which are collected on this splendid compilation. They show the duo to have developed their alliance well beyond their native Malian roots since first fusing musical destinies at Bamako's Institute for the Young Blind, where Amadou served as musical director and first encountered Mariam's enchanting voice. Even on 1997's Sou Ni Tile, their itchy African pop was being augmented and blended with the rhapsodic Indian violin of Sameh Catalan for "Je Pense à Toi", flowing like silk over the hand-drum pulse and Amadou's guitar fills; and by 1999's Tje Ni Mousso, they were incorporating Colombian trombonist Andres Viafara on "Djagneba", and Valentin Clastrier's hurdy-gurdy on "C'est Comme Ça".
But it's in the gentle collusion of their voices that the duo's appeal resides, both in the call-and-response chant of a song like Amadou's "Combattants" or the lyrical grace of Mariam's "Sarama", where Amadou layers tendrils of cyclical guitar lines around her voice like rose briars around her heart. A magical couple indeed". Andy Gill

Download this: 'Je Pense à Toi', 'A Chacun Son Problème', 'Combattants', 'Sarama'.
La Radiolina
Welcome To Mali
Imidiwan: Companions

Imidiwan: Companions
Imidiwan: Companions
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's impossiblbe to resist to their trancey, slinky desert grooves., July 30, 2009
This review is from: Imidiwan: Companions (Audio CD)
Tinariwen (former guerrillas from the depths of the Malian Sahara) are Touareg rockers dressed in flowing indigo robes wielding electric guitars.
This is their forth album, which takes a step back from the sonic clarity of "Aman Iman: Water Is Life", in favour of a rootsier sound.
They recorded this album out in the Sahara, in the remote oasis of Tessalit, and this is audible in the raw, sandy grit of the 13 tracks.
The fundamentals are unchanged and on this one they are bravely sticking to what they do best: the rolling, laid-back rhythmic grooves; powerful, intricate guitar exchanges; bluesy, call-and-response vocals, echoing with desert soul - while there's a greater emphasis on the poetic, meditative qualities of desert life, whether on the intense "Tamdjeras Assis" ("Regret Is a Storm") or the graceful "Chabiba", a hymn to youth.
"Tenhert" matches a light blues riff against rapid-fire vocals, and "Kel Tamashek" is a glorious stomping work-out.
"Lulla" is glorious, sounding like a heavy, late-night celebration with fiery guitar licks and distant ululations.
It's impossiblbe to resist to their trancey pieces and their rousing, slinky desert blues.
At the end of the listening, you are under their spell, caught and locked into their shamanic groove.
Aman Iman: Water is Life
The Magic Couple

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