Tag Archives: CD Review

CD review – Blues Arcadia – Feb 2017

Blues Arcadia
Artist: 
  
Blues Arcadia
Title:
     Blues Arcadia EP
Label:     Independent
Year:       2016

Tracks:   7
Web: 
      www.bluesarcadia.com Location:  Brisbane, Qld. Australia

Review
Don’t mistake this album for a sleeper because with successive listens, each track tends to deposit itself into your brain-bank of hum-able songs.  Alan’s voice is not sweet or demure, it has a raw frankness and passion that adds a nostalgic footprint to each track as he portrays his poignant stories of heartbreak and happiness.
With an old-fashioned yet contemporary blues-rock approach, this Brisbane band has simultaneously captured influences from yesteryear and present-day in these genuinely creative compositions.  Well worth a listen!

Track 1 – Corner Girls   Currently making lots of noise on the Blues Music Awards, including a nomination for Song of the Year, Alan’s raw vocals contrast subtly with sweet guitar and stride piano breaks.

Track 2 – Take The Money   Husky vocals blend well on this bluesy shuffle sporting catchy hooks, powerful lyrics and unrelenting drums that keeps everything cooking while building to a very satisfying conclusion.

Track 3 – Miss Lonely   This up tempo ‘boy wants girl’ groove gets your foot tapping and head nodding.  Although employing standard blues chords, there’s nothing standard about this groover.  Includes obligatory guitar solo, played with great gusto.

Track 4 – Here Comes The Rain   Plaintive blues ballad that begins with a humble cry, then proceeds to build until the track breaks into a tasty guitar solo.  The intensity is maintained throughout, concluding with an unexpected contrast.

Track 5 – Operator Please   This standard 4 x 4 blues refrain has arresting lyrics, great use of  ‘space’ alongside guitar stabs and progressions that keep things interesting.

Track 6 – Time and Again   Not quite a ballad, the song begins with sweet acoustic piano accompanying Alan’s distinctive vocals pouring out his desolate feelings.  Great use of light and shade throughout – another well-crafted song.

Track 7 – Rockin’ Chair   Up tempo blues belter with a foot stomping melody and teeth sharpening lyrics, urges us not to take things lying down.  Along with the effective inclusion of horns, the blistering piano/guitar call and response keeps the whole thing rocking along!

Blues ArcadiaWell done, Blues Arcadia… you have my vote!
bluesarcadia-alanboyle
Album Personnel 
Alan Boyle
– vocals
Chris Harvey  – guitar
Jeremy Klysz – bass
Parmis Rose – keys
Steve Robin – drums
Shaun Ballagh – tenor saxophone
Brad Esbensen – trumpet
Joseph Roberts – baritone saxophone

Horn arrangements
Shaun Ballagh, Chris Harvey, Parmis Rose

Recorded live to tape at The Barn Studios, Plainlands, Queensland, Australia
July 2016.   Release date  14 November 2016.
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Mike “Beachy” Wild, assisted by Joe See.

 

CD review – Kate Lush – Feb 2016

Kate-Lush-Blues-EP

Artist:    Kate Lush
Title:
     Kate Lush
Label:     Independent
Year:       2015

Tracks:   8

Web:       http://www.katelush.com

Location:  Sydney, Australia

Review
It doesn’t hurt that Groove Me  the first track on this robust EP is one of my favourites.  Kate delivers the King Floyd classic with groovy gusto, showcasing a swingin’ sax solo by Jason Bruer.
Next up Tired of My Tears, first released in the 60’s by Ray Charles, keeps faithful to the original feel by capturing that old-gold soul sound.

KateLush-5Written by Kate, the standout on the EP  Do You Know What Love Is creates a moody bluesy feel with plaintive, pleading vocals appealing for an answer to the impossible question.

Originally recorded by American blues artist Robert Johnson in 1936, this cover of Dust My Broom lifts your spirits with its 12-bar blues boogie rhythm which is more akin to the later Elmore James version;
then continuing the livelier tempo Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever, written by Stevie Wonder and released by the Four Tops, steers the album in a soulful direction with this unique arrangement.

Another favourite is the Kate penned True Fire which has an odd beginning that doesn’t quite make sense until you watch the video (TrueFire) – but get past that bit and the song morphs into a soul-drenched, organ-infused burner that engraves itself on your brain.

The uptempo When You Pray gets the foot tapping and head nodding in the same way gospel music demands attention.  At the back end of the EP, Set Me Free launches into a spirited blues belter with Kate letting loose on this fabulous finalé to her first-class release.

Already achieving local awards and gaining high marks on Australian blues charts, there’s no doubt this album, because of its varied content, excellent production, musicianship and undeniable talents of Ms Lush herself, will continue to entertain soul and blues fans well into the future.

Album Personnel

KateLush-2

Kate Lush

Kate Lush – vocals
Matt Roberts – guitar, vocals
Chris Wright – guitar
Tim Wilson – bass, vocals
Lachy Doley
– organ, keys
Damon McMahon
– keys
Wes Harder
– keys
Sam Boyd
– keys
Jason Bruer – sax
Stewart Kirwan – trumpet
Paul Derricott – drums
Tony Boyd – drums
Jo Fabro – BV’s
Robert Susz – harmonica

Production:  Michael Carpenter
Mastered by: Rick O’Neil @ Turtle Rock

CD Review – GroovExpress – Jan 2016

GroovExpress-CDcover2014
Artist:   
GroovExpress
Title:
     Ukrainian Doll
Label:     Independent
Year:       2014

Tracks:   10

Web:   http://www.groovexpress.me

Location:  New Zealand


Review

Individually the members of New Zealand’s GroovExpress have a trainload of history.   Collectively the band has been together since 2010 when composer, arranger and producer Mykeljon formed the group.

We were fortunate to discover the band via our Northside Radio colleague, Paul Mac  (Phase Radio Monday’s 4-7pm) and since obtaining this CD, it has remained one of our playlist favourites .

Ukrainian Doll delivers something new with every listen.
Jazz grooves laced with organic soul and fueled with raw funk, the album offers artful hooks that get caught in your memory grooves.

Organ, sax, harmonica, keys, bass and guitar blend with groove-laden drums and percussion providing pleasurable moments and evoking general bonhomie.

First up the title track Ukranian Doll sports a delightful dual tracking of harmonica & sax along with well-placed organ, guitar and sax solos;   Mi Bella Paola lays down everything necessary for a good groove;   I Say Praise eases into the smooth jazz arena claiming attention with wistful harmonica, then a quirky piece No Way Home  is followed by my favourite Foxy Brown which lifts the pace with its bright & breezy melody;  Tell Me Why eases back the tempo, while High Heels strolls the mellow vibe.  Pretty Little Thing has a distinctly blues bent, yet E Type Blues has a decidedly funky feel.   The final and only vocal track, You Are My Fantasy builds from an acoustic guitar solo with Latin inspired percussion into a syncopated groove that would make anyone’s hips move.

Your invitation awaits to take a trip on the GroovExpress!

GroovEspress

Album Personnel (recording)
Mykeljon
– guitar, vocals, composer, arranger and producer
‘Haggis’ Maguiness – diatonic and chromatic harmonicas
Ernest Semu – organ, keys & synths
Isaac Sanchez – drums/percussion
Robert Kyle – tenor sax
Bruce Kerr – bass

GroovExpress-logo copy

 

CD Review – Alex Hahn – Jan 2016

!AlexHahn-CDcover
Title:      The Wallflower –
……….A Tribute to Etta James
Label:     Independent
Year:      2013
Tracks:  12
Website:  http://alexhhahn.net
Location:  Sydney, Australia

Although this CD was issued in 2013 I only got my hands on a copy in 2015.
At the time of release Alex had only a short interval to promote the album before heading overseas.  The CD received some good reviews but the marketing momentum was lost when she left Australia to tour the album across Europe and America.
Hence my decision to review this excellent CD now, so music-lovers don’t overlook this gem.
Review:
Covering a well-known artist is not for the faint-hearted, yet Alex has achieved a splendid result with these exceptional interpretations.

!AlexHahn-MicAlthough she doesn’t sound like Etta per se, Alex delivers spunky sassiness, gutsy raunchiness, and perceptive sensitivity on the more emotive melodies, all the while allowing her innate musicality to shine through.
Of the 12 quality interpretations, standout tracks for me are No.3  I’d Rather Go Blind, No.7  A Sunday Kind Of Love, and No.12  At Last – the latter being a wonderful version.

Alex Hahn is the quintessential blues, jazz, gospel and soul singer all rolled into one, and on The Wallflower – A Tribute to Etta James she possesses the enviable ability to translate classic Etta James into contemporary portrayals without losing the gritty, earthy lineage of the originals.

AlexHahnCover-header

Oh, and for the truly nerdy listeners… keep your CD playing a the end of the last track for a tasty little surprise which occurs at 0.52 (counting down)!

CD Review – Dee Dee Lavell – November 2014

Dee Dee Lavell - Sounds Of LoveTitle:       Sounds Of Love
Label:     Gam Girl Records
Year:       2014

Tracks:   11

Web:   http://www.deedeelavell.com
Location: 
Los Angeles USA

Australian born singer, DeeDee Lavell is currently based in Long Beach California.  Following  her 2012 blues infused album Mama Told Me, this new release has taken a whole new direction.

The opening ballad You’re Everywhere written by Australian Liza Ohlback, includes sweet harmonies and gorgeous piano-work by Adam Faulk.

Sounds Of Love features a number of jazz and pop standards plus four self-penned songs. On the track-list are songs by notable artist’s Billie Holiday, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Antonio Carlos Jobim (affectionately known as Tom) and a very cool cover of Prince’s Diamonds & Pearls.

In the company of those stellar songwriters, Lavell holds her own with her mostly Latin flavoured compositions Celebrate, Supernatural (Song for Maliq), Sounds Of Love and Why We Are Here.

Of her self-penned songs, Supernatural (inspired by her son Maliq), is my personal favourite, and of the standards… Stevie Wonder’s Bird of Beauty, showcasing DeeDee’s beautiful contralto vocals to full effect, is the most outstanding.

On first listen I found this album a bit disconcerting as I loved her earlier Mama Told Me CD and felt Lavell had found her niche in the blues, but having re-listened to Sounds Of Love a number of times, it became apparent that this album has all the required elements to stand on its own merit.

The ‘sleeper’ of the album – Why We Are Here – with its syncopated African-influenced rhythms and featuring beautiful instrumentation and vocals, creeps up on you when you least expect it.

All songs were expertly produced by Leonard ‘Doc’ Gibbs and recorded/mixed by Craig White in Philadelphia.

Singer/songwriter DeeDee Lavell can be proud of this “collective of love” which deftly demonstrates her passion, dedication and versatility.

Dee Dee LavellAlbum Personnell:
Piano
Adam Faulk, Aaron Graves
Bass – Nimrod Speaks, Lee Smith
Guitar – Wendell Pops Sewell,
Miguelli (co-writer on Celebrate, Supernatural, Sounds of Love)
Drums – Anwar Marshall, Rocky Bryant
Percussion – Doc Gibbs (co-writer on Why We Are Here),  Trombone – Steve Tirpak
Cello – Ginger Murphy, Violin – Julie Wong, String Bass – Antoine Lopez
BVs & arrangements – DeeDee Lavell, Liza Ohlback, Helen Bruner, Terry Jones

Produced byLeonard “Doc” Gibbs
Recorded & Mixed by:  Craig White – The Lab Philadelphia PA.

CD Review – Machiniso – May 2014

Machiniso-LoS_400px Title:      Lounge-O-Scope
Label:    Independent
Year:      2012
Tracks:  4

Website:  http://www.facebook.com/Machiniso

Location:
Sydney, Australia

..
The husky, sensual and sultry vocals of Anne-Lise (pron. Anne-Leesa) Larsen is the first thing you notice when listening to this 4 track EP, superbly played by the 4 piece rhythmic combo featuring vibes, drums, bass & vocals.
Anne-Lise interprets the songs in a torch-come-vamp style jazz rather than the purist or straight ahead kind, but that’s okay because these tracks are far more accessible for the listening public than the introspective, esoteric jazz variety.

The vibes bring a melodic pizazz to each track, with “Hexotica” conjuring up images of middle eastern belly dancers gyrating to the dance of the seven veils, while “Vampire Jazz” incorporates a theatrical burlesque feel.  “The Weather” (written by Larsen) with it’s incessant drum rhythm tells the story of relationship discontent.

Anne-LiseMy pick, “Miss Lil’Lethal Blues” (remodeled by Larsen) warns potential suitors to beware of this smouldering seductress.  With lyrics that paint a vivid picture… the message is  clear… get too close and you’ll get burned!!

A professional cellist in a previous life,  Anne-Lise isn’t merely an exotic singer, she has oodles of songwriting talent as do the other musicians who all give solid performances
on this not too serious, and sometimes quite quirky CD.

 MachinisoAlbum Personnel
Anne-Lise Larson – vocals
Dave Smith –  vibraphone
Scott Leishman – bass
Rich Machine – drums

 

 

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/