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Music Reviews

Popular Music - Part 32 - May, 2000

Graham Vine

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

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"Rockin' Rhythm and Blues"

Lawnmower R & B

Groovin' Number; Groove 1

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)

With a pedigree that includes Simply Red's Mick Hucknall, the signs were promising from the start. Here is Rhythm 'n' Blues I can relate to. Lawnmower R 'N' B, as they call themselves, will be a welcome addition to the collection of any fan of Bo Diddley, Junior Walker, The Yardbirds, and that cross-over area between The Blues Brothers and Paul Jones's Blues Band.

Although mostly based on a strong 12-bar, the songs are all driven along by a solid rhythm section, punctuated by perfectly-timed stabs from the trumpet/sax combination. And talking of timing, the drumming is absolutely superb . . . flawless and interesting. This is intelligent music. Not oppressively so - in fact, even the tracks that lie heavy with meaning are still taken at a pace. There is a 'blues trilogy', tracks 2, 7 and 9 (why not together...?) with an essentially peace-loving message. These three, and especially "Babylon Blues", are dedicated to John Winston Lennon. I'm sure he would approve. 

So "Rockin' Rhythm and Blues" is an accomplished piece of work, but is it enjoyable? Well, yes, it is. I would have preferred a rather more growling or husky vocal, but the light vocal style suits the jaunty swing of the album - about half the tracks are phrased in triples - and I would have liked some better sleeve notes to show who is doing what, and when. When Mick Hucknall started as lead singer with this band, he must have known they were a promising bunch. It must have been quite a wrench to leave them behind. Maybe now is the time for them to realize their potential. You have the disk details, so don't let me stop you!

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Lawnmower Man

2. D.J. Blues

3. Give Me A Brandy

4. Blues For AL

5. Call The Doctor

6. The Train

7. Father's Father

8. So Sorry Baby

9. Babylon Blues

10. Groovin' With Mr N

11. Change In Me

12. Shake Hands With The Devil

- GV -

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"John Alford"

John Alford

Love This Records; LUVIT CD-2

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
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It's a fairly well trodden path, these days. Take a good-looking star from a soap-opera. Make sure the voice is OK, and record a couple of standards. Hits? Yep, so go for the album! In this case, the soap is "London's Burning" from Britain's commercial television network. The star is John Alford and, aptly enough, his major hit was "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes".

The process described above is an accurate enough chronology, but in this case, the album has its own merit, not just as a TV spin-off. Somehow reggae always seems to be fresh and lively. John's voice is good, his diction clear, and he is always in tune. I liked the two-part harmonies, which I presume are John double-tracking with himself, though there are half-a-dozen backing vocalists listed in the sleeve-notes. Either way, the match is excellent.

John's fans may feel a little short-changed by the album, with two instrumental tracks (numbers 10 and 11) and the final track being just a remix of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". Both instrumentals feature some 'calls' by John and others and, with the writing credits being given to the assembled multitude (including John), one cannot blame them for wishing to tap into the lucrative song-writing side of album production. The backing tracks of the songs tend to be somewhat one-dimensional and lacking in dynamics. Even so, the balance between John and backing has been well thought out when there could have been the danger of drowning him in a swamp of lush instrumentation.

It's a good debut for John Alford, and it is to be hoped that he is able to slip in more trips to the studio alongside his hectic acting schedule. And who knows? - maybe like Martine McCutcheon and Kylie Minogue before him, singing could well take over.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Keep On Running

2. If

3. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

4. Blue Moon

5. Only You

6. Got To Get You Into My Life

7. Bring It On Home To Me

8. Let It Be Me

9. When You're Young And In Love

10. Jiving Johnnie

11. Woh Woh My Love

12. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Ballad remix)

- GV -

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"Meditation for the Millennium"

Paul Raynor-Brown and David Brittain

Newsound 2000; NSCD-104

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)

I doubt whether this album will provide inspiration enough to last for the whole 1000 years, but it will do for now. There are just six tracks taking up nearly an hour, and these instrumentals are a fine background for a period of thought and relaxation. Paul and David have been inspired to create these musical works out of combinations of synthesized and natural sounds. And when you hear the bird-song, waves and 'whales and dolphins' you may be surprised at how well they blend together.

For an album of instrumentals, there could be the danger of drifting off into disinterest or even boredom. Thankfully, "Meditation..." leaves the choice up to the listener. During this review, I found plenty to stimulate me, from the gorgeous chord-progressions through to the looped and sampled animal sounds. But when a soft ambience is needed for a little quiet contemplation, the sounds just swirl round and promote tranquility. Some of the synthesizer sounds are so rich that they can set up intermodulation distortion in the music-reproduction chain. Be sure to play it on the finest equipment available. On the other hand, for some reason, I found it sounded better on what I normally consider to be my 'lesser' system. In any case, it provides a good work-out for your audio modules.

Without much by way of melody, the album matches the brief set out in its title. If you consider 2000 to be 'Millennium Year' then this album could well see you into 2001 before boredom sets in.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Dreams Of Neptune

2. Meditation For The Millenium

3. Hidden Valley

4. New Snow

5. Chakra Of Dryads

6. Ionosphere

 - GV -

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Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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