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Music Reviews

Popular Music CDs - Part 25 - November, 1999

Graham Vine

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

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"Self"

Denise Marsa

Key; KR-0001

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)

Denise Marsa has an extraordinarily powerful voice. No wonder she was selected by Dean Friedman and others as a key collaborator. From that appearance on "Lucky Stars" all those years ago, Denise has not stood still. In fact, she has been singing, writing, and producing her own material since she was a teenager. It's well worth while visiting her own web-site at www.denisemarsa.com to catch up on her bio, tours, and info on her debut album "Self". 

She wrote all the songs on the album, and that's no small achievement, apparent when you listen to the complexity of melody and lyrics. The production, by contrast, is relatively straightforward. I understand her live performances are largely acoustic, matching well this production style. There is much acoustic backing on the album, but whether acoustic or electric, it is all truly superb, especially the percussion.  

The power in Denise's voice is used to good effect, though I found it took a little getting used to. In the love songs, the strength of the voice runs parallel with the strength of emotion being communicated - clever stuff indeed. Other songs have clever lyrics in a different direction. Particularly appealing are the ironic comments in track 7, "Thanks For Asking" and one line: 'don't you think there's a slight possibility Nixon might have been innocent'. Marvelous!

Denise is due for some solo success, and this album should be the vehicle to achieve it. "Self" can be bought direct from her website. Why not join the bandwagon - it's rolling. 

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Shed

2. In A Town Called Jesus

3. The Land Has A Dream

4. In A Matter Of Moments

5. Hard Way

6. Subtle, Mixed Emotions

7. Thanks For Asking

8. Nice Dream Today

9. No Comparisons, Please

10. House Of Tears

11. It's No Ordinary Day

- GV -

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"Villa Elaine"

Remy Zero

Geffen; GED-25300

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)

"Mmm, What's this?" said my 16-year old. "It's good!" "This" happened to be "Villa Elaine" by Remy Zero, and "good" hardly does it justice. Every track is terrific, and the instant appeal grows into a deeper appreciation with increasing familiarity. Each listening brings out fresh features to enjoy.

The material ranges from fairly light rock to really quite heavy. Without claiming to identify the influences brought to bear on Remy Zero, I can't help feeling that fans of Crowded House will find much to enjoy in "Villa "Elaine". Nearly every track has a hook or two - that certain memorable something that catches the attention. 

Some of the material here has an appealing quirkiness to it. It is good to have a sense of humor in music as in other walks of life. I had to sit up and take notice at the reference in "Yellow Light" to a certain Mr. Crow. The only Mr. Crow I know is the one supposed to perform with Sir Norman on the Idle Race's track from their eponymous second album - more quirky stuff indeed.

There are some nice changes of pace, some gorgeous vocal harmonies, and also some tempo changes ranging from an S & G "Homeward Bound" style in "Life In Rain" to the beat-laden "Gramarye" - I didn't even try to stop my foot-tapping on this one. Oddly, though, for such a well-produced album, there was evidence of the compressor pumping on that latter track.

I personally rate this album very highly - it has a regular spot in the car stereo at the moment.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Hermes Bird

2. Prophecy

3. Life In Rain

4. Hollow

5. Problem

6. Whither Vulcan

7. Gramarye

8. Yellow Light

9. Motorcycle

10. Fair

11. Goodbye Little World

- GV -

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"Tribute to Aerosmith"

Various Artists

Cleopatra; CD-112

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

"Not The Same Old Song And Dance", as those familiar with the original track ("Same Old Song And Dance") will no doubt have guessed is a tribute album to the great rock-classics themselves, Aerosmith. In a world where tribute-bands are commonplace - I saw a tribute to B*Witched the other day - we should not be too surprised to be offered a tribute to a band that is still alive. On the other hand, it had better be good!

This album features contributions from members and ex-members of Black Sabbath, Kiss, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, and many others, and that fact is flaunted on the front cover. So the pedigree is good, and the choice of songs is flawless. My only actual dislike is for track 6, "Dream On" with its rather whining vocals by Ronnie James and little in the background instrumentation to fill it out.

In fact, the album has been put together with great respect. There is some freshness to the songs that still creates an exciting sound and interest for the listener. However, I must admit here that, where I normally leave the CD player on 'repeat-all', in the case of "Not The Same Old Song And Dance", I found the intensity rather too much for more than one listen-through at a time.

So why buy an album of 'fakes' (being deliberately provocative) when you can buy the genuine article? Well, you won't get this precise mix of tracks from Aerosmith. And there are differences in interpretation which may appeal. So if these factors conspire to tempt you to part with your hard-earned, you will not be disappointed. And Aerosmith completists could find it irresistible!

For reference, complete track listing

1. Back In The Saddle

2. Rag Doll

3. Chip Away The Stone

4. Last Child

5. Sweet Emotion

6. Dream On

7. Walk This Way

8. Draw The Line

9. Same Old Song And Dance

10. No Surprise

11. Toys In The Attic

 - GV -



Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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