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Popular Music CDs - Part 15 - March, 1999

Graham Vine

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Ratings:
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Good
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"For the One I Love"

Various Artists

Castle Music; SELCD 550

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

"I Will Always Love You" is a song I adore and probably what attracted me to this new CD in the first place. Castle Music has put together a fine selection of songs with a theme of sweet affection. They have resisted the temptation to keep to a diet of balads, and they have varied the pace with some up-tempo numbers too. It has the flow of a single-act album but drawing from different genres.

There are disco songs from The Whispers and Shalamar, some sumptuous pop from Paul Young with "Every Time You Go Away" and the soulful Madeline Bell singing "So In Love". Several songs can be classified as soft-rock, including the Will To Power song listed as "Baby I Love Your Way". Its full title is "Baby I Love Your Way - Freebird" highlighting the clever blending of the original Peter Frampton and Lynyrd Skynyrd songs. Why did they do that? I hope the royalties get divided up properly!

Most people will be familiar with the massive soul hit version of "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston, but the Dolly Parton version given here is, to me, the one with the greater amount of feeling. The spoken section in the middle has a slight crack in the voice leading me to suspect there was a real experience in her mind as she wrote it.

The album claims to be all the original hits by the original artsists. I have some reservation over the version of "Lost in France" by Bonnie Tyler. To me it sounds different from the original hits single. The audio levels vary a little from track to track, but not enough to upset the average VU meter.

There is an unexpected pleasure to be found in Jose Feliciano's Latin/folk-rock version of the Doors' "Light My Fire". When you consider its original release in 1968, Jose was clearly way ahead of his time and well deserving of his massive hit in many countries. Not that Castle Music has limited themselves to just the hits - and rightly so. The act of putting together an album like this should in itself be a work of creative art. I'm pleased to say they have achieved that aim . . . and then some.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Martika: Love - Thy Will be Done
2. The Thompson Twins: Hold Me Now
3. The Whispers: It's a Love Thing
4. Phyllis Nelson: Move Closer
5. Jim Croce: Time in a Bottle
6. Dolly Parton: I Will Always Love You
7. The Real Thing: You to Me Are Everything
8. Elkie Brooks: We've Got Tonight
9. Shalamar: I Can Make You Feel Good
10. Bonnie Tyler: Lost in France
11. Sweet Sensation: Sad Sweet Dreamer
12. Paul Young: Every Time You Go Away
13. Jose Feliciano: Light My Fire
14. Bonnie Tyler: More Than a Lover
15. Will To Power: Baby I Love Your Way
16. Dee C. Lee: See the Day
17. The Real Thing: Can't Get By Without You
18. Madeline Bell: So in Love
19. Air Supply: Even the Nights Are Better
20. Jim Croce: I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song

- GV -

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"From the Basement"

Jan Akkerman

Hux; HUX 012

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

You can hardly fault the performance of a man who was already something of a legend even before achieving world-wide prominence in the group Focus. Jan Akkerman is that man. As Jan is up in the ratings of guitar virtuosity with the likes of Hendrix and Clapton, I was impatient to sample "From the Basement" from the moment I heard it was to be made available.

Opening up with "Headbanger", you might expect to be in pain by halfway through the album. I guess it's misnamed - it is more of an ambient rock-guitar track along the lines of a Jan Hammer tune than one from Status Quo. Check out the Akkerman version of Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" - light, percussive, and reggae.

We are rocking again with "Dark Rose", but "Wallenberg" has a moody air to it; almost menacing. The spoken vocals seem to reinforce the effect. Tracks 5 and 6 move more into the area we were introduced to with "Headbanger" but then we get "When I Was a Cocktail In a Waitress Bar", an excuse for a rocking-blues 12-bar. He does it with such style - all apart from the end which peters-out in some rather put-on laughter. But I loved the harmonica. This track, and in fact the remainder, are called 'bonus tracks' because they have not been released on any other medium previously. They do have a somewhat under-produced, jam-session feel to them, and only "Cherabim & Sepharim" fails to deliver.

The track listing is slightly peculiar, in that tracks 12 to 15 are, in reality, and on the CD, all part of one long (12 minute) track 12. Even famously segued albums like "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" have the individual pieces of music identified. All rather odd.

This is an album for existing and new fans alike. The latest technology has been applied in the creation of a crystal-clear exhibition of the brilliance that is Jan Akkerman.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Headbanger
2. All Along The Watchtower
3. Dark Rose
4. Wallenberg
5. E.T.B.
6. P.C.B. Chicken
7. Status Quo
8. When I Was A Cocktail In A Waitress Bar
9. Ellington's Way
10. She Let Me Do What I Want
11. Guitar Synth Opener
12. Cherabim & Sepharim
13. Pt. 1
14. Pt. 2
15. No More Parking

- GV -

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"Whitechocolatespaceegg"

Liz Phair

Matador; 7243 8 53554 2 4

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

It must be four or five years since we last heard from Liz Phair. Clearly she has spent those years honing her style, developing her song-writing, and maturing. And like the best matured drinks, 'uncorking' her latest album shows that the wait was well worth it.

The earlier CDs from Liz, "Exile In Guyville" and "Whip Smart" were rather too raw for my taste but "Whitechocolatespaceegg" is right up my street. My initial attraction to an album is usually derived from an appreciation of the overall sound, and that was the case with this one. So when I find after a few listenings that the depth of songwriting, the message in the lyrics and the depth of feeling are adding even more pleasure for me, I want to stay and savor the work all the more.

From the opening track - nearly a title track - we know more or less what to expect, with its synthesizers and jangly guitars. More or less, because its probably the heaviest song on the album; almost ponderous. But the melody is so catchy, we are well prepared for more of Liz. She delivers with a Velvet Underground style "Big Tall Man" and then "Perfect World" which Melonie would be proud of.

The album explores the area within the bounds of folk/rock, country/rock and thoughtful pop. Yes there are plenty of catchy songs, choruses with a hook and a certain quirkiness to make it different enough to grab one's attention. It's very likeable! Some people like to listen to their music to be informed, disturbed, moved, angered, or any number of other darker emotions. Liz Phair has put together an album for us to enjoy. So . . .

Enjoy!

For reference, full track-listing:

1. White Chocolate Space Egg
2. Big Tall Man
3. Perfect World
4. Johnny Feelgood
5. Polyester Bride
6. Love Is Nothing
7. Baby Got Going
8. Uncle Alvarez
9. Only Son
10. Go On Ahead
11. Headache
12. Ride
13. What Makes You Happy
14. Fantasize
15. S**tloads Of Money
16. Girls' Room

- GV -



© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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