CD Review – Nina Ferro – February 2014

NinaFerro-Cover-300x265Title:      Into The Light
Label:    Independent
Year:      2013
Tracks:  11
Website:  http://www.ninaferro.com
Location:
London, England

(Note:  Nina is an Australian artist, based in the U.K.)

The first thing I do when I get a new CD is to listen to about the first 30 seconds of each track.  If the track has what I call radio appeal, that is, I consider it will keep my radio audience listening, then I keep listening.   To distinguish tracks,
I use this code:  No tick = not for airplay;  1 tick = like,  2 ticks = like a lot.

So, here’s what happened when I listened to Nina Ferro’s album…
EVERY track received at least 1 tick and some received 2 ticks!     Conclusion:  Not one mediocre track on this album.  That in itself, is extraordinary because most albums have at least one or two dodgy additions or ‘fillers’.

I absolutely love Nina’s voice.  It’s the kind of voice you don’t get sick of hearing.  Some albums sound very ‘samey’ after awhile.  Not so this album.
Nina’s voice has a beautiful maturity, with emotion permeating each song, whether it’s a beautiful ballad or a raunchy rocker.

The opening track which is somewhat reminiscent of a Michael Franti song, has a country feel, and there’s plenty more country, blues, rock, jazz and soulful influences throughout the album.

As with many songwriters, Nina’s songs are about her own experiences, and the poignancy with which she writes takes you on a journey to the very core of her soul… with many tracks giving you an insight into what has wrenched at her heart.

There’s only one problem with this CD…  choosing what song/s to play on my radio show!  They are all so accessible, not just for the casual listener, but for the demanding and critical radio audiences.
Outstanding tracks for me:   When I Find You;  Look Speak Fall;  Let You Go.

Nina has a natural gift for songwriting and telling stories that pull you in, giving you a feeling of empathy with her own experiences.

Finally, the superb Nashville-based musicians, the production, and everything about this album is pure class.
I suggest you get a copy ASAP and play it often, at home, in the car, on your ipod… in fact, whenever and wherever you have music with you.

Album Personnell:NinaFerro
Sam Hawksley –
guitar, vocals
Rob McNelley – guitars
Steve Mackey – bass
Jano Rix – drums
Michael Rojas – keys
James Farrell – keys

See album liner notes for production and songwriting collaboration details, and read Nina’s bio on her website for more info.  http://www.ninaferro.com/bio/

EVENT Review – Funk & Soul Jam – 29 Dec 2013

Soul&FunkLateNiteJam-Beth29Dec13EVENT:  Funk & Soul Jam
DATE:     Sun 29 December 2013
VENUE: Blue Beat, Double Bay
NSW, Australia
PERFORMERS:  Sarina Jennings, Carlos C Major, Lauren Dawes, James Tuialii, Laura Stitt (+ Uncle Jed – Shannon, Ben Ackland, Dave Jackson, Adam Pringle, Noel Mason, Simon Ferenci), Victor Rounds, Marcello Maio, Paul Mason, Abe Rounds, Danny G Felix, David Weir,  Nic Jeffries, Salvatore Santoro, Dauno Martinez, Josue Vilches and Elias Vilches

The fourth in a series of events created and produced by promoter Beth McLachlan, this event was not only about the music, it was also a mighty fine excuse to celebrate her 40th birthday!

We arrived mid-way through the nights proceedings to find an almost full house of people partying to the heady vibe that permeated Blue Beat.  Being a Sunday night and 2 days before New Years Eve I’d wondered if many people would venture out, but I was thrilled to find the funk & soul fans enthusiastically appreciating the excellent program of music.

Laura Stitt (of UNCLE JED, the recent “Australia’s Got Talent” contest winner), was in ultra fine form, at one point causing the audience to stop in their tracks to gaze in awe at her sensational singing talent ably assisted by the boys in the band.

Sarina Jennings, Lauren Dawes, James Tuialli, Carlos C Major, Nic Jeffries, Victor Rounds… all sang their hearts out, while the muso lineup was a virtual who’s who of Sydney’s soul & funk scene.  With generous crowd encouragement, each artist took turns in showcasing their considerable artistry.

One of the night’s highlights was when Amelia Rounds, playing bass, joined her father – the ubiquitous Victor Rounds [playing keys at that stage] – and brother Abe on drums, for her first ever “professional” performance playing Sly Stones’ “Everyday People”, which nearly brought the house down!

After the second set came to a close, DJ Sam Z kept the crowd entertained until more muso’s took to the stage, including Dauno Martinez, Josue & Elias Vilches and others, with Victor taking over the mic to continue the jam late into the night.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening of splendid selections played by a plethora of talented muso’s featuring fantastic musicianship, presented with skill, dedication and happy abandon!

The crowd enjoyed helping Beth celebrate her birthday in the best possible way.   Although she’s moved to Adelaide let’s hope Beth remembers to bring her talents back to Sydney to present more of these events in the not too distant future.

CD Review – Zkye – December 2013

Zkye-JustTheWayItGoes2012Title:      Just The Way It Goes
Label:    Independent
Year:      2012
Tracks:  10
Website:  http://www.zkye.com.au
Location:
Adelaide, South Australia

Born in Adelaide, Zkye (pronounced Sky) Compson-Harris has been singing since she was very young.  Unfortunately I had not heard of Zkye until I received this CD, so I had absolutely no idea what she sounded like.

After first listen, what struck me was the distinctive timbre and gutsy-ness of her voice.  I expect others have compared Zkye with many and varied blues singers from contemporary to bygone days including Koko Taylor, Etta James, Irma Thomas and Janis Joplin, and this girl certainly does not ‘look’ like her voice sounds!

If I’d heard her without seeing her, I would not have expected this diminutive diva who doesn’t just write great blues songs, she sings them with oodles of soul, gusto, passion and credibility.  And on “Just The Way It Goes” her self-penned songs fit comfortably amongst the other well-chosen selections.

Although blues based, the album has elements of rock and soul mixed with its country leanings.  The songs – full of raw emotion and heartfelt lyrics, the musicianship, the production, the CD continuity, in fact the whole shebang makes for a fine blues album which can be enjoyed time after time.

Once you’re familiar with the songs they become like comfortable slippers that you can slip into any time for a leisurely listen.
Here’s hoping Zkye makes the journey back to Sydney some time soon!

Zkye-Reddress

Zkye

Album Personnell:
Electric guitar – James Mitchell
Acoustic guitar – Pat McGrath
Drums – Greg Morrow
Bass – Damien Steele Scott
Hammond B3, Electric Piano, Piano 
Dennis Wage
Backing Vocals – Gale Mayes, Angela Primm
Diane Dixon, Callum Campbell, Zkye Compson-Harris
Produced by:  Damien Steele Scott

CD Review – Gary Honor 2012

GaryHonor-heads&TalesTitle:        Heads & Tales
Label:      Trippin’N’Rhythm Records
Year:        2012
Tracks:    13
Website:  www.garyhonor.com
Location:  Sydney, Australia

From the bright and breezy title track, Heads & Tales is an album loaded with the sorts of grooves that conjure up cruising along an ocean highway in a luxury sports car!

For comparison, although Gary is a standout player all on his own, track 3 Under the Influence gives a nod to David Sanborn’s style, although with the smooth jazz flute on Southern Exposure further stylings and playing parameters are exposed.

The single lifted from the album, Close To You  is an excellent cover of the song Maxi Priest took to No.1 on the UK charts in 1990 and features Sydney’s Briana Cowlishaw & Troy Anthony Smith on vocals.

The very funky Don’t Push It really gets into the groove with slinky sax and a killer bass-line, while Chatswood Chase has a fun-filled urgency that lifts the spirits.

Gary handles the smoother tracks with equal aplomb and dexterity, a la Island Pearl, Leave Tomorrow Behind and Dreamweaver, the latter utilising flute and didgeridoo to fine effect.

Rock The Jazzbah – one of the best track titles I’ve heard in awhile, delivers a more programmed sound with some interesting guitar & sax riffs, then Cor Blimey returns to the live feel, complete with a funky growling sax and a groove as fat as a hamburger!  Very tasty!

In conjunction with the outstanding writing and production skills of the UK’s
Oli Silk, there’s no need to flip a coin, Heads and Tales delivers the goods.

On a scale of 1 to 10… I give this set 9.5!   Highly Recommended!

GaryHonor3

Gary Honor @ Camelot May 2012

Album Personnell:
Gary Honor
soprano/alto/tenor
/baritone saxes/flute
Oli Silk piano/keys/programming/didgeridoo
Orefo Orakwue bass
Andrew Small drums
Mark Jaimes/Matt Park/Neil Youel guitar
Craig Mitten trumpet
Gary ‘Big G’ Stanionis percussion
Briana Cowlishaw and
Troy Anthony Smith vocals

Produced/Arranged by:  Oli Silk
Mixed by:  Oli Silk & Gary Honor

CD Review – Lily Dior – June 2012

LilyDior-coverTitle:        Let’s Talk About It
Label:      Independent
Year:        2012
Tracks:    12
Website:  https://www.lilydior.com
Location:  Sydney, Australia

Having been a fan of Lily’s for many years and knowing her superb talent, I was eagerly anticipating this album.  I’m even more delighted than I’d expected!

Lily had said this set would be more soulful than her previous jazz releases, which it is, but it also encompasses funk, blues, gospel, ballads, and a whole lot more.

The production is superb, the musicianship exceptional, and Lily’s musicality and singing is breathtaking.  Her writing skills, which I’d never thought about before, are outstanding and IMHO she’s up there with Diane Warren!

Although the album was in gestation for a considerable period, the time taken to ‘get it right’ has certainly paid off, and if you’ve never heard Lily before, here’s your chance to be blown away!  Be prepared for the goose bumps!

I love every song on the album, with the standouts being Love’s Like a River (co-written with Ben Fink), and the blues ballad Can’t Stop Me Crying – one of Lily’s finest compositions to date… there’s those goose bumps again!   Also included is a superb cover of Billy Holliday’s Who Needs You.

The late Carolyn Shine wrote Set Me Free and with Lily’s gospel-laden treatment, and Brendan St.Leder’s organ/piano work, this track is just sublime.  (More goose-bump material!)

Lily invited singer/composer Daryl Aberhart to contribute a couple of  songs  and he delivers two fine blues/funk tracks Surely By Now and Don’t Say a Thing (Lily co-wrote the latter).

You may think I’m being dramatic, but I cannot say it any clearer – this is one of the finest albums I’ve heard in recent times!   If you don’t include this on your listening list immediately, you are missing out!  Get a copy for yourself and one for someone who’ll appreciate your exquisite taste!

Lily Dior -colour

Lily Dior

Album Personnell:
Piano/Organ/Wurly/Rhodes – Brendan St.Ledger,
Bass – Alex Hewetson
Drums – Jamie Cameron
Guitar Arne Hanna
Trombone – James Greening
Tenor Sax – Matt Keegan
Trumpet – Nick Garbett
BVs – Tina Harrod, Virna Sanzone, Mitch Anderson,
Ben Fink and Rebekah Jensen.
String arrangements: Sarah McCallum.
Produced by:  Lily Dior
Sound Engineer & Mixing:  Richard Belkner

CD Review – Liza Ohlback – June 2012

CD-Cover-Trouble2010Title:        Trouble Going Down
Label:       Independent
Year:         2009
Tracks:     10

Website:   http://www.lizaohlback.com

Location:
Sydney, Australia

OK, so I’m a bit late reviewing this CD, but having reviewed Liza’s unforgettable   live performance at Lizottes in November 2011, I promptly forgot to review the album!

I must say that of all the soulful blues singers I’ve come across, Liza has to be up there in the top ten, and I don’t mean just in Australia… I mean in the world!

Not only can she sing rings around most others, but she writes great songs.  Along with co-writer (bassist & guitarist) Zoltan Budai, they make for a formidable team having penned seven of the ten tracks which range from slow blues burners to mid-tempo movers and uptempo grooves.

Liza covers Things I’ve Been Through written by George Kerr & Gerald Harris (which was also done by Al Green’s backing singer the late Linda Jones), and she includes three fine compositions of her own  Heading For Home, Best You Move On and the final track Leave Before the Dam Breaks, completing the album.

My favourite tracks are:  Didn’t See It Coming featuring Eric Rasmussen on guitar; Somethings Gonna Give featuring Jack Evans on guitar; and Things I’ve Been Through featuring fabulous BV’s by Dee Lavell, Dan Markovina & Evelyn Duprai.

Although Liza is not hugely well-known on the Sydney blues circuit, don’t let that stop you from immersing yourself in this well-crafted, well-presented album.  She covers all types of blues including jazz, gospel, soul and swamp.
Gifted with a voice that can growl, howl or sooth your furrowed brow, Liza is one hell of a singer.
Oh, and the rest of the band aren’t too shabby either!!

IMG_9451-1

Liza Ohlback @ Lizottes Dee Why

Album Personnell:
Guitars – Eric Rasmussen,
Zoltan Budai, Jack Evans;
Drums/percussion – Greg Ohlback,
Bass – Zoltan Budai;
Double Bass – Peter Maloney;
Sax – David Weir;
Piano/Organ – Peter Rundle,
Mike Fronzek, Rick Mellick;
BVs :  Dan Markovina, Dee Lavell, Evelyn Duprai, Chiara Brown,
Lee Noonan.
Produced By:  Greg & Liza Ohlback

CD Review – Dee Lavell – June 2012

DeeLavell-CD coverTitle:        Mama Told Me
Label:       Independent
Year:         2012
Tracks:     11
Website:
http://www.deelavell.com
Location:  Brunswick Heads NSW

Having known Dee for many years, when her CD arrived I put it aside to listen later so I could give it my full attention rather than a cursory listen.
I’m so glad I did because I could not STOP listening!

The soulful opening track oozed out of the speakers with Dee’s captivating rich contralto voice seeping into my soul where it stayed put!  Supported by some fine backing vocals and superlative musicianship, this album is one for blues and soul lovers, alike.

But make no mistake, this is not an album full of sad blues.  It also boasts some big bad blues belters like “Do Your Thang”  and “Friday Night” into which Dee pours her considerable experience with gusto!
Along with guitarist and writing partner, Geoff Wright, I’d say Dee Lavell has definitely listened to what “Mama Told Me”!

Album Personnell:
Guitars – Geoff Wright,
Drums – Grant Gerathy & Greg Ohlback,DeeLavell-whitebodice
Bass – Thierry Fossemalle, Saxes – Martha Baartz, Dave Sanford, David Ades & Don Raffaele, Percussion – James Patugalan, Flute – Martha Baartz,
Piano, Keys & Hammond – Alan Park, Harmonica – Guy Kachel,
BVs – Belle Hendrik, Lydia Storey, Mohini Cox, Liza Ohlback & Greg Ohlback.
Produced by:  Geoff Wright & Dee Lavell

CD Review – GAPProject – May 2008

Gapproject-AMOCTitle:         A Moment of Clarity
Label:       Independent
Year:         2008
Tracks:     8
Website:
www.thegappproject.com

Location:    Sydney, Australia

In 1995 the GAPProject delivered their first critically acclaimed CD and every release since has continued to deliver high quality funky grooves comparable with any world-class jazz/fusion group.  Choose any of their albums and I guarantee, if you love jazz/fusion, you will not be disappointed.

Their seventh album, A Moment of Clarity features more tasty morsels from the masters of jazz/groove.

Sporting just 8 tracks, many extend way past the obligatory 4 minute mark, taking you on exquisite journeys via the groove laden hooks and riffs that abound throughout every performance.

Keyboardist/composer and head protagonist, Nick Fowler leads a band of exceptional musicians – Ivan Pineda bass, Deva Permana drums and Louis Klaassen tenor sax, with additions including Gordon Sullivan guitar, Kathy Morrison & Robert Campbell trumpet, Paul Weber trombone and Max Dalton alto sax.  With the horn section arranged and led by Klaassen, you know this will be a classy creation!

GIG Review – Joe Robinson – Jan 2011

Joe@Lizottes
Joe Robinson @ Lizottes

ARTIST:
Joe Robinson with Bernard Harris & Marcus Hill

DATE:   Thurs 20 January 2011
VENUE:
Lizottes,  Pittwater Rd, Dee Why, NSW

.
Joe’s Website: http://joerobinson.com/
Lizotte’s Website:  http://www.sydney.lizottes.com.au/live/index.asp

On a warm summer’s night, the cool air of Lizottes was refreshing as our table for 6 enjoyed the outstanding cuisine which we’ve come to expect from Lizottes restaurants.

As we savored the last morsels of our main courses, we all agreed that the food was so delicious we had to try the desert.  We were not disappointed!  Table service was friendly, attentive and courteous without being pushy.

When Australian guitarist Joe Robinson along with his Nashville rhythm section Bernard Harris (bass)  and Marcus Hill (drums) took to the stage we anticipated a good show but we weren’t prepared for such a marvelous display of musicality, craftsmanship and sheer talent from the 3 young musicians.

We were also looking forward hearing Joe sing for the first time and to our delight his gentle yet strong voice did not disappoint.  The band members entertained us with different styles of groove and blues infused songs, written mainly by Joe, who also performed a number of solo pieces.  Throughout the show many favourable comments were overheard from nearby tables.

Joe allowed both Bernard & Marcus to shine during their respective solos, and we were astounded by Bernard’s incredible bass playing (including Piccolo bass), at times causing his instrument to sound like an organ.  Not only was he an exceptional player, but his soulful, baritone voice was a knockout!

Bernard Harris’ playing was a great match for Robinson’s mind-blowing guitar-work and their impressive call and response challenges wowed us all, causing many outbursts of applause.  All the while Marcus, whose gaze barely strayed from Joe, kept the trio glued together with his deft yet subtle drumming, occasionally leaving the kit to perform interesting percussion pieces on a Cajon box drum.

The enthralled audience loved every moment, and continued applauding and whistling long after the 2nd set had ended, until the boys returned to perform an amazing FIVE song encore!  What an absolute treat!

After a standing ovation at the end of the encore, it was obvious that the satisfied audience left with full appreciation of  the night’s outstanding entertainment.

I definitely won’t miss the chance to see the exceptionally talented Joe Robinson again.

JoeRobinson-Lizottes2

CD Review – Darryl Beaton Band – August 2010

DarrylBeatonCoverTitle:          “From The Ground Up”
Label:     Independent
Year:       2008
Tracks:   12
Website:  www.darrylbeaton.com
www.myspace.com/darrylbeaton

On first listen one maybe a little bemused by some of the tracks, although on subsequent listening the album takes on a deeper perspective.
“From the Ground Up” brings Darryl Beaton’s ideas to life, delving into all sorts of magical, mystical moments that meld together to present a ménage of his musical talents.
The Darryl Beaton Band has a sound like no other, boasting a personnel list that reads like a who’s who of Sydney’s finest and showing Darryl’s extreme individualism to its best advantage.  His lyrics provoke food for thought, particularly on “My God is Better Than Yours”, and his voice is has a distinctly unique quality.
Be prepared for soul, funk, disco, reggae and more, with hook-laden, catchy melodies abounding throughout.
Do not dismiss this album, rather, take the time to experience the message that is “From The Ground Up”.DarrylBeaton-sings