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Popular Music CDs - Part 20 - May, 1999

Graham Vine

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"The Very Best Of Dean Friedman"

Dean Friedman

Music Club; MCCD 036

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)

Dean Friedman is a master songsmith, and revisiting some of the songs on this album has given me a new respect for his talents. To think that the opener, "Lucky Stars", duetting with singer Denise Marsa, has been included in a poll of the World's 'most hated' songs! Perhaps over-exposure on oldies radio stations has dulled the freshness we all felt for the shy coyness in the make-believe conversation between the two principals. Having listened to this compilation album several times now, I find the song getting more appealing to me, not less.

The backings of the songs are generally quite simple - a piano, basic drum beats; even the string section brought in for some songs is direct and straightforward. This leaves Dean in center-stage so we hear just what he had in mind. Sure, he spreads his vowels a little, but that is more of the nature of an attractive regional accent than anything to spoil the lyric.

If the songs are new to you, be prepared for some unusual progressions in the harmonies, not to mention those jazzy guitar chords - ninths, major sevenths, that sort of thing. I get the impression that Dean has done some serious studying of music - either that or he is a natural genius (maybe both).

By the middle of the album we need to be ready for two of Dean's most beautiful songs ever: "Woman Of Mine" and "Lydia", but then to say the album is growing on me would be an understatement - it's grown.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Lucky Stars
2. Company
3. Solitaire
4. The Letter
5. Humour Me
6. Love Is Not Enough
7. Woman Of Mine
8. Lydia
9. Ariel
10. Rocking Chair
11. I've Had Enough
12. Shopping Bag Ladies
13. The Deli Song
14. S & M
15. Funny Papers
16. I May Be Young

- GV -

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"Heavy High"

Liz Horsman

Food; 7243 496815 2 1

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

I'm quite a sucker for a good chorus in a song. Lucky for me there are plenty of songs on "Heavy High", Liz Horsman's debut album, to match my need. Maybe the strength of the rocking 'hook' in these songs is accentuated by some weakness in the song verses. Well, the jury's out on that question.

Let's start at the very beginning. The opening lines of track one, the title track, feature Liz accompanied by little other than a bass-guitar and drums. Her voice is a little dry and flat. The expressiveness comes later. It is possible to make the accusation of a formulaic approach to the creation of these tracks - a rather down-beat verse (or two), and then all the brightness and instrumentation thrown into the chorus. There is some variation in the complement of instruments, and this makes all the difference.

By track 4, we are wondering if we have heard all the new ideas on the album. And then we have two tracks which build and build much more steadily than we've just become used to. There are some atmospheric sounds in there and a very good use of dynamics.

Well, this is a very promising start to the career of Liz Horsman. She wrote or co-wrote all of the songs and has much mastery of delivery. There is some lack of clarity in the diction but nothing to hide the lyrics. I'd like to hear some different production techniques and a sharper expression of the letter 't' at the end of many words, but the album is a good one.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Heavy High
2. Grey Ways
3. Girlie She
4. Living
5. This Is Blue
6. Just Thinking
7. I Try
8. Romanticise
9. So Cool
10. Dive
11. The Longest Day
12. Intoxicated

- GV -

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"Twisted Tenderness"

Electronic

Parlophone; 498 3452

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

Surprisingly, for such a well-established act, Electronic has only released three albums, and their new one is in the shops right now. The songs really drive along, and although there is little in the way of a conventional verse - verse - chorus - verse - chorus structure, you never feel they get too rambling to follow what's going on.

Electronic use a 'wall of sound' and the overall effect has a somewhat 1980s feel about the tracks. Not that it is out of date - there are a lot of interesting 'electronic' effects used, although I did find the excessive use of stereo swings to the left, then right, then back again, to be rather distracting.

Much of the singing is in unison from Bernard and Johnny, but I was fascinated by the way the chords were put together because there were some very 'sweet' harmonies put in at some rather unexpected places. Perhaps this explains why the tracks keep one's interest even though they are all long tracks, even by today's standards. With eleven tracks on this album we get over an hour of music, so it's a good job they are not boring!

The album contains three tracks brought out as singles: "Vivid", "Late At Night", and "Flicker". The Electronic take on Steve Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home", certainly has justice done to it. I particularly liked the finger-picking acoustic guitar fronting a keyboard skirl in a drone-like effect. With just the right amount of echo to the voices, there is a neat balance between the friendly and the menacing.

"Twisted Tenderness" is well worth an audition. I hope it does nicely in the charts, along with the singles.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Make It Happen
2. Haze
3. Vivid
4. Breakdown
5. Can't Find My Way Home
6. Twisted Tenderness
7. Like No Other
8. Late At Night
9. Prodigal Son
10. When She's Gone
11. Flicker

- GV -



© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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