Archive for the 'Jazz' Category

Album – Songs of Hope and Despair – Antiqcool

Posted by admin on 29th June 2008

This is an album that’s certainly in no hurry, with 13 tracks, each being on average around 5 minutes, for a total of an hours worth of music. The music here is very much in the vein of Steely Dan, especially the vocals, which are very distinctive.

The album opens very strongly with “Englishman Out in the Midday Sun”, which is one of my favorite tracks on the album. However it’s the second track, “Vows Were Made of Glass”, which really stands out from the rest of the tracks, both in musical content and size, weighing in at just a tad under 7 minutes. There’s a lovely feel about this track, that’s hard to quantify, but it really has that AM 70’s sound, that seems to be featuring strongly over the last year or so. “Pearl” is also noticeable, as the high pitched voice is replaced at the start of the track, with a vocal style that is much easier on the ear. This alternate vocal style is also evident in “How Much More of This”, “Just a Little too Late” and “My Avatar”, where the higher pitched vocals are used to good effect harmonising.

Admittedly as an album, this feels a little strained, however for me there is enough here to enjoy, but also to get me interested enough in watching to see how this band progresses.

Conclusion : Musically excellent. However while the vocals are certainly distinctive, they are also my only cause for concern, on what is otherwise a really pleasant and relaxed album. The vocals are comprised of some great harmonies, but the lead vocal is often very high, almost unnaturally so. At first this come across as fairly unique, but after a while it tended to grate, as there is just not enough diversity to stimulate the ear.

For me there’s enough here to enjoy and I’ve found myself on a couple of occasions just letting the vocals wash over me, before realising, so this could very well be an album, that digs it’s hooks in over a period of time.

Posted in Jazz, Pop, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Dreamland – Brent Spiner and Maude Maggart

Posted by admin on 4th March 2008

I came upon this album by chance when following a link to a YouTube video, which promised music by Brent Spiner, better know as Data on StarTrek the Next Generation. Who knew he could sing? In fact after doing a little research, I found this is in fact Brent’s second album, the first being his 1991 release “Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back”, which featured Brent’s interpretation of some old favourite tunes, like “Time after Time”, “Very Thought of You” and “When I Fall in Love”, to name a few. This album seems to have been a hit with his fans, as it’s no longer available, but copies are trading hands on Amazon for in excess of $70 each.

Anyway I clicked on the link more out of idle curiosity, than as research for Indie Launchpad, but am really glad I did. The thing that instantly fixed me, like a deer in the headlights, were the vocals of Maude Maggart, whose voice is just amazing. I enquired about a review copy which arrived a couple of weeks later.

I knew this was going to be something quite different. The album is like an old radio play from the 40’s, with a sound track to match. I had a cursory listen when I first got the album in and the thing that hit me again, were Maude’s vocals, which nearly had me forgetting to breathe. Brent’s voice also is a pleasant surprise, but he’s more an actor that can sing, rather than a singer that can act, not that I mean any disrespect in that, it’s just that Maude’s is a voice in a whole different league. What is interesting however is the way that the vocals compliment each other. As this is a more theatrical release, the vocals work very well and allow you to wrap yourself up in the love story that unfolds. I say love story, but don’t think there is anything conventional in this story. To give you an example, how many guys give a girl a lift home on a train? Yeah this is a story that can only make sense in Dreamland. From riding home on a train, to being on a liner that’s hit by an iceberg, you have to say, this is certainly inventive, not just in story, but in it’s whole production.

The first track pretty much sets the scene and gives you an idea of the style of things to come. It isn’t until track 4, “Train Ride” that we first hear the vocals of Maude and to be honest, I think some people may not give this album a fair chance, as it’s then that it really come alive. When I hear Brent sing, I keep being reminded of Fred Astaire. A fantastic dancer who could sing pretty well, but man could he dance. With Brent his vocals are very interesting, but it’s all the work he’s put into the story and atmosphere that really shine. Casting Maude as his love interest is sheer inspiration.

The production on this album is excellent, from the wonderful musical score, to the great sound effects and atmospherics. I have to admit, I did find the dialogue and performances a little cheesy at times, but it all adds to the overall authenticity, as a 1940’s radio drama.

One thing that I couldn’t help but yearn for, is a full cinematic version of this album. That’s what I though at first, but when I thought again, I realised that like a good book, I’ve built the whole story up in my imagination and that is where it should probably stay. All too often a book is reworked into a movie and that spark of imagination is just lost. I wouldn’t be heartbroken though, if a cinematic version were to be eventually attempted.

Throughout the album there’s songs that leap out as recognizable and others that sound strangely familiar, from song writers like Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s just a smattering of the songs that are included, “Mr Sandman”, “Some Enchanted Evening”, “You Were Meant for Me” and the list goes on and on. A particular favorite of mine was Brent’s interpretation of “What’ll I Do”. I also love the duets “Let’s Face the Music” and “Stranger in Paradise”, but my absolute favorite, surprise, surprise is Maude’s version of “I Remember You”.

In rounding off, I’d just like to say, that while this isn’t the usual kind of material I review here on Indie Launchpad, it’s a great advocate of original, exciting material. Good music is good music, no matter the genre. I may not like everything, but what I do love, I love regardless of how it’s been pigeon holed. This is wonderful escapism at it’s finest and for that it surely deserves all the praise I’m lavishing unreservedly.

Conclusion : A wonderful throwback to the radio days of old and a thoroughly enjoyable 50 minutes of entertainment. I will definitely be checking out Maude’s other solo works and hope that this is just the first of many collaborations, as it truly is a delightful work, that stands up both for it’s great music and sheer entertainment value.

Posted in Jazz, Radio, Showtune, Swing | 5 Comments »

Album – Montpelier – Jane Taylor

Posted by admin on 17th October 2007

  • Band / Artist : Jane TaylormySpace
  • Genre : Acoustic/Jazz
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : Amazon
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 9 out of 10

There’s many different styles of female vocalists that appeal to me. I do have to admit however I do have a soft spot for ones that have that air of vulnerability. Jane Taylor is one such artist, possessing such a delicate voice, that I feel an almost compelling need to scoop her up and tell her things really are going to be OK.

“Fall on Me” is a delicate song that really emphasis Jane’s diminutive vocals. It’s almost a contradiction, but with this particular track, she reminds me of Cyndi Lauper. Quite the contradiction, but that vocal similarity is evident. “My Street” is a wonderful track, that really paints an aural picture in fine and atmospheric detail. There’s a lot here that reminds me of Suzanne Vega’s first album, which is high praise indeed, as her debut is probably one of my top albums of all time, both for content and the memories it evokes.

“Hit the Ground” again brings to mind another artists that evokes fond memories for me, Eddie Reeder, formerly of Fairground Attraction. OK comparisons abound in this review, but that’s not to say this is weak, also ran album because of it. Three songs, and three comparisons to artists who are simply amazing is no mean feat. What would not surprise me, is if in the near future, I’m not making comparisons to Jane Taylor, because here is an artist that quite frankly blows my socks off, in the best possible way.

“Landslide” has a delightful guitar intro and then the piano starts and I’m in heaven as soon as Jane opens her mouth. Just the right ingredients to make a wonderful song. I’ve been particularly aware of the production quality of albums of late and here again, everything is perfectly balanced, allowing everything to fuse into a perfect blend.

“Getting to Me” is the track that brings the journey to an end and I have to pray that this is just one journey of many.

Conclusion : It’s albums like this that really remind me how spoiled I am. Reviewing this album was a sheer delight. I can feel the greed gurgling already, wanting more albums, but impatiently wanting them now.

Posted in Acoustic, Jazz | No Comments »

Album – New Tricks – Nica Brooke

Posted by admin on 20th August 2007

I love it when an artist gets in contact and asks to be considered for review. Actually with the advent of mySpace this usually isn’t quite the way it happens. Many people ask to be added to the Indie Launchpad friends list, but I’m actually pretty strict in only allowing people and companies that I have a special relationship with, or bands/artists that have been reviewed. When Nica asked to be submitted to the Indie Launchpad friends list, I checked out her mySpace music and asked her if she’d like to submit her EP for review.

As is sometimes the way, something throws a spanner in the works and while I had a review in the bag for the EP, Nica held the EP back from release, instead to release it as an 11 track album. This however doesn’t happen overnight. Indeed from the submission of the original EP, to the release of this review of the album, I think nearly a year has passed. When it comes to good music though, as was the case with the EP, I’m like a like an elephant that never forgets. I’d drop Nica the occasional email just to check in and then finally she told me the album was ready, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Nica has that wonderful bluesy, almost bohemian sound that is just a sheer joy to listen to. Of the eleven tracks on the album, there is something quite different on each, while sharing that common vibe. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve stated my love for some female artists and that’s the music I’m talking about here. One of the things that clinches it for me, is an artists ability to caress the soul. Yes I know that sounds unbelievable poncy, but I can’t really define it any better than that. When I listen to Nica’s voice, it’s almost like she’s singing to an audience of one, me. It’s not just the vocals however, it’s the whole package of music and vocals.

Opening with the old standard “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, it’s surely never sounded so good and so sassy. The production of this and the majority of the album has that real 40’s feel, but with a tinge of modern day magic. This is every evident in the second track “Get Back”. My favorite track on the EP is “Head in the Sand”, with that wondrous hypnotic drum beat. It’s funny, this tracks reminds me of one of those Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road to…: movies, where some siren is trying to seduce them with a song. Terrific stuff.

“Old Dog, New Tricks”, has a more jazz flavor and is my least favorite track, but let me put that into context. It’s like asking Bill Gates, which is the least favorite car in his garage. You know they’re all going to be brilliant cars in their own right. The EP rounds off with the tranquil and mysterious “Transitioning”, with some wonderful Flute accompaniment, I think it is.

Conclusion : Yes very good. OK maybe I restrained my self too much there. Absolutely fantastic is more like it. Certainly up there as one of my top 3 female vocalists, so far this year.

Posted in Alternative, Jazz, Soul | No Comments »

EP – Cut the Chord – Theo Ross

Posted by admin on 3rd July 2007

  • Band / Artist : Theo RossmySpace
  • Genre : Jazz / Nu-Jazz
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8 out of 10

I have to admit I’m not the greatest jazz enthusiast. I like what I like, with few exceptions. However I’ve always had a soft spot for the flute, remembering with great fondness James Galway’s rendition, of John Denver’s, Annie’s Song, when I was growing up. OK so maybe not the best example of a jazz flautist, but a flautist nonetheless. So upon seeing the cover of this CD, Theo Ross, with flute in hand, I had to throw it on the CD player to see what I would find.

“Lovestruck” is the track the opens this EP. It has a wonderful sound and there’s no denying Theo’s mastery of his instrument. There’s just something very soothing about the flutes tone and it’s all the more soothing in the hands of someone as good as Theo. “Nightfalls” reminded me a bit of the classic TV show, Moonlighting’s theme, but this is more down to the Al Jarreau vocals, rather than the actual tune itself, which I have to admit, didn’t do much for me, but the track was redeemed somewhat when the flute finally kicks in towards the end of the song.

“Without You” has a more contemporary sound, with a stronger R&B sound. Vocals are again featured, and while they are very good, I found myself wanting to hear the music more. The CD rounds of with “Could Be” and has a radically different sound, or at least that’s what it seems like at the beginning, with a very spacey feel. The flute prevails however and you get the feeling it’s very much a lullaby, putting the rest of the EP to bed.

Conclusion : Whether you like jazz or not, this is a wonderful CD and maybe one that would provide one of several steps, to an introduction to jazz. Definitely a CD I’ll be playing a lot more of and an artist I’ll be keeping tabs on in the future.

Posted in Jazz, Nu-Jazz | No Comments »

Album – The Things That Make Us Happy – Lance Koonah

Posted by admin on 18th February 2007

  • Band / Artist : Lance Koonah
  • Genre : Jazz
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 7.5 out of 10

Kenny G in one fail swoop, probably turned a multitude of people, including myself off saxophone music of any kind, so it was interesting to get this album in, to sort of reacquaint myself and see if it that was still the case. Fortunately, with all quality music, the music itself prevails and I actually found myself enjoying this album a lot.

The album opens with “Smooth Imitation”, which at once had my back up. Not because of the saxophone, but the awful drum track. It’s just so reminded me of some awful drums laid down in sequencing software. It also brought to mind all the things I hated about Kenny G. The title track has a more more mellow and polished sound. Things get even more mellow with “Days of Inspiration” and again that picture painting in my head starts and I can just picture dancing with my Wife, with the lights down low and candles burning everywhere. “Jivin‘ with JC” has that more authentic jazz feel to it, rather than the more modern interpretation on the rest of this album. “Until the Moment” also has this more traditional feel to it and just reeks of atmosphere. Unfortunately “Smooth Walkin‘” spoils it a bit for me, sorry that picture painting again, paints a scene of an elderly gentleman at the organ bashing out something for the ladies.

“And Goodnight” finishes the album off nicely, without a drum in earshot and it’s only then that I fully appreciated just how good a saxophonist Lance is. I’m certainly not a jazz aficionado by any means, but I do posses a few albums by some of the greats like Theolonius Monk, John Coltrane and Dave Brubeck to name a few, so I know what I like and this is certainly a good addition to my collection.

Conclusion : A relatively short album, but a pleasant change. I’d love to hear Lance do some standard covers, just to showcase his playing in a more familiar arena, but there’s no denying this is one talented jazz musician.

Posted in Jazz | No Comments »

EP – Mentum – Gecko

Posted by admin on 16th December 2005

  • Band / Artist : Gecko
  • Genre : Jazz / Rock
  • Sample Track Download : Donkeys and Elephants
  • Buy CD : Buy
  • Buy Digital Download : N/A
  • Rating : 8 out of 10

I’ve heard many strange song titles in my time, but it will take a very strange one to beat the opening track, Donkeys and Elephants from Gecko. No matter how strange the song title, this is one seriously catchy track. In fact it’s so catchy I’ve been driving my family crackers by coming out with random bursts of the main chorus, but not the whole chorus, just the Donkeys and Elephants bit.

This 5 track EP has a sound I haven’t heard in a while. It’s a sort of fusion between Jazz and Rock, which reminds me a lot of the 90s band Hue and Cry. I heard the first track on the Tartan Podcast and it immediately stuck in my head. The rest of the EP however, took a little longer to gel with me, but it’s now firmly implanted as one of my favorite CDs at the moment.

Track 2 finds yet another influence being introduced, reggae, something you totally wouldn’t expect, but it all hangs pretty well together. The final track 2FU finds Gecko in a more mellow laid back mood and this track rounds the EP off nicely.

Conclusion : Even if this genre of music isn’t your cup of tea, give the opening track a good listen and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t draw you in.

Posted in Jazz, Rock | No Comments »