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Music Reviews

Popular Music CDs - Part 27 - December, 1999

Graham Vine

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

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"Countdown for the King"

Felixstowe Schools and Churches

RAS; 118CD

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With the end of this year comes the most radical change in date numbers since . . . er . . . 1000 AD. And amidst all the 'millennium' hype, that date has a special significance to millions on this planet, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the King in the title of this "Countdown" CD. Amongst those committed to this particular celebration are the organizations listed under 'Artist' above. Whilst 'amateur', it would be unwise to dismiss these groups as 'amateurish', for this CD is as professional-sounding in its production as any from established acts. The only real concession to amateur-status is that the youngsters who sing on many (but not all) of the tracks have what might be termed 'natural' voices, i.e., largely untrained.

Now these voices would not be to my particular taste, but on several tracks the producers have employed the neat device of bringing up the guide, adult, vocal such that the kids 'fill-out' the background rather than dominate. Being a religious celebration, all the songs have been selected for their thoughtful lyrics, either that or specially written. Like track one for instance, the title track for the album with its luscious harmonies. But the cover versions we have presented here are not necessarily overtly religious, just meaningful and generally clearly projected. Just a couple of songs to comment on: I normally reject Rap out of hand, but the rap here is really done rather well. The other track which stands out is number 9 with its Vaudeville take on "Sing This Song For Evermore". The children seemed to enjoy it, and the overall effect worked well.

I must confess to skipping some of the tracks - generally those where I found the children's voices intruded too much, but then I've already stated my bias! Many listeners find a classroom of children happily singing to be quite charming, and those folk will definitely be attracted to "Coundown."

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Countdown For The King

2. Harvest For The World

3. Rock That Doesn't Roll

4. Shine Jesus Shine

5. When I Look To The Heavens

6. Who Would Imagine A King

7. Ain't Nothing Like It

8. Yah Mo B There

9. Sing This Song For Evermore

10. Another Day In Paradise

11. To Infinity And Beyond

12. Jabulani Africa

13. Love Is The Answer

14. The Winner

15. Lord Make Me A Mountain

16. Precious Gift Of Life

17. Be Thou My Vision

18. He's Got The Whole World

- GV -

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"The Dance of Death & Other Plantation Favorites"

John Fahey

Takoma; CDTAK 8909

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When I reviewed the John Fahey release from earlier this year, "Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes", I had no idea that a second album from Takoma would be appearing so soon. And am I delighted? Am I ever! This time we are blessed with some even better tracks than the earlier album, including my all-time favorite John Fahey number, "Poor Boy". If anyone needed to identify music to epitomize the Fahey guitar style, it is this track. A long intro builds tension, ready to be released when that glorious bottle-neck slide takes us up a third into the main melody with that supporting finger-picking. Superb. Don't be caught out by track 5, "What The Sun Said". It is more like a suite, grouped together under that title but with its 10 or so minutes showing several different aspects of the Fahey technique. As well as being remastered so well by Joe Tarantino, working from the original tapes at Fantasy Studios, there is also the delight of hearing 4 'new' tracks. Actually, they are the last 4 tracks and are described as bonus tracks as they weren't on the original vinyl pressings. Very welcome they are too and, unlike many a bonus track, they don't spoil the flow of tracks at the end.

Another highly recommended album, then. Compared with the earlier release, this one is rather more uplifting, "Death Chants . . ." has a few darker moments. Fans of John's, new and old, will see this as a 'must'.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Wine And Roses

2. How Long

3. On The Banks Of The Owchita

4. Worried Blues

5. What The Sun Said

6. Revelation On The Banks Of The Pawtuxent

7. Poor Boy

8. Variations On The Coocoo

9. The Last Steam Engine Train

10. Give Me Corn Bread When I'm Hungry

11. Dance Of Death

12. Tulip (aka When You Wore A Tulip And I Wore A Big Red Rose)

13. Daisy (aka A Bicycle Built For Two)

16. The Siege Of Sevastopol

15. Steel Guitar Rag

- GV -

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"Paraphernalia"

Enuff Znuff

Eagle Rock; EAG 1862

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Take some Def Leppard, add a twist of Squeeze and a garnish of The Rutles, and you're well on the way to imagining some of the sound of Enuff Znuff. And where The Rutles use familiar sequences to parody, Enuff Znuff stop just short of that point, achieving their newness on a bed of familiarity. It must be a nightmare for producers, after deciding on the running-order for an album, to find that the track they have placed first actually turns out to be one of the worst tracks of the set. Sadly we have that predicament on "Paraphernalia" but my initial disappointment was quickly dispelled as I found that all the other songs were better, without exception. The only other problem I have with the album is the CD packaging. With its hand-written legends and tiny printing, I had to photo-enlarge the sleeve-notes to find out who does what. Oh yes, and that title is rather obvious and unimaginative.

The great strength in this album is in the song-writing, mainly courtesy of Donnie Vie and Chip Znuff. The melodies are strong enough to withstand the quite heavy treatment they receive on some of the tracks - in fact the arrangements thrust the harmonies forward. If you've got it, flaunt it! These are songs to be singing along with, loudly, after only a couple of listens.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Freak

2. Top Of The Hill

3. Ain't It Funny

4. Believe In Love

5. Habit

6. Baby You're The Greatest

7. Someday

8. Unemotional

9. Invisible

10. All Alone

11. Everything Works If You Let It

12. Save Me

13. No Place To Go

14. Loser Of The World

 - GV -



Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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