Friday, July 12, 2013

CD Review: Fat Freddy's Drop's 'Blackbird'

Fat Freddy's Drop
The Drop/!K7

New Zealand's Fat Freddy's Drop brings us a new album, Blackbird, which traverses the world of dance, reggae, jazz, funk, and soul. The music is contemporary and urban. There is also an element of electronic embellishments that drive some of the melodies. There are nine infectious tracks brimming with luscious hooks, reggae beats, and funky adornments. The group utilizes electronic sounds, trumpet, trombone, sax, guitars, drums, and keyboards. The steady melodies and funky rhythms reflect the Black sounds of America's 1970s and 80s. Yet, the music is still unique and groundbreaking with its own sense of style and direction. Fans of Afro-beat music, soul/funk, jazz, and reggae will find something to sing and dance about on Blackbird. It simply soars with unabashed brilliance. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: AOMUSIC's 'Hokulea'

Arcturian Gate

AOMUSIC is a collective of musicians from around the world, but the group was created by Richard Gannaway, Miriam Stockley, and Jay Oliver. These unifying tunes are cinematic, catchy, majestic, and memorable. There are a variety of languages used throughout the album, but the rhythms and melodies are diverse and lush. There are nine tracks in all that represent a truly world music and fusion example that is tough to beat. The glorious vocals and numerous instruments make everything come together with ease. The contemporary arrangements are somewhat new age, but genre classifications are tough to explain this music. At any rate, the music is akin to Celtic Woman, Enigma, Te Vaka, Hevia, and Ronan Hardiman. Fans of world fusion, world vocals, and soaring melodies with a purpose, then Hokulea is necessary. Additionally, the profits from album sales go directly to children in need world-wide. You can donate at: ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Banda Magda's 'Amour, t'es la?'

Banda Magda
Amour, t'es la?

Banda Magda is a quirky, bossa-nova-tinged album of delicate little pop songs with a breezy, folksy, and brass-inflected repertoire that is never boring. Magda Giannikou leads the vocal section with almost a French café sensibility that spans the European continent without fault. The musicians involved in the project come from a variety of world regions with Argentina, Greece, Japan, and USA origins. The colorful songs contain strings, brass, percussion, guitars, marimba, piano, and other assorted instruments that give the music a playful and textural feel. This is dreamy chic French pop music with a little classical, jazz, South American, and North American melodies and rhythms. Each song is unique and well-worth repeated listens. Fans of French pop, European pop, creative contemporary music, and world fusion will find comfort in the vocals and instruments showcased on Amour, t'es la?. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra's 'Abdul The Rabbi'

4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra
Abdul The Rabbi

The whirling dervish melodies of 4th Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra are not your typical musical fanfare. For example, the instrumental group combines heady, brass-inflected rhythms with a slight Afro-beat repertoire. The music is distinctly Klezmer and Balkan with light jazz, rock, psych, and avant-garde elements to boot. The group plays trumpet, reeds, sax, trombone, guitar, bass, and drums. The writhing mix of sounds is very entrancing and delightful with little room for complaints. The Atlanta-based group combines funk, jazz, rock, big band, and experimental sounds for a good dose of melody and rhythm. The truly pan-world sound is contemporary and traditional. The punchy rhythms and funkadelic jams are akin to Dengue Fever's arrangements--if they came in contact with some Balkan brilliance. Anyone familiar with instrumental Balkan music will love the Klezmer connotations and West African connections. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Rim Banna's 'Revelation Of Ecstasy And Rebellion'

Rim Banna
Revelation Of Ecstasy And Rebellion

Palestine's gifted vocalist, Rim Banna, brings us a poetic display of musicianship with guests: Eivind Aarseth, Bugge Wesseltoft, Jihed Khmiri, Kays Zorrouk, Mohamed Ben Salha, Ossama Bishara, Ramsis Kassis, Mr. Kaz, and Shrikant Shriram. The entire project is rather laid-back with sounds emanating from guitars, piano, keyboards, percussion, oriental cello, flute, qanun, oud, and bass. The result is a vocal and instrumental album that represents a Pan-Arabic approach with new age nuances that are not as electric as Azam Ali. Each track flutters with rich melodies and transient sounds that are contemplative, cultural, and nostalgic. There are twelve tracks in all that reveal something new and fresh with each repeated listen. It is no secret there are beautiful revelations contained throughout. The light percussion, wafting vocals, and emotive deliveries are remarkable and represent a pinnacle, career achievement--thus far. Anyone familiar with Rim should check this out. All others will not be disappointed. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, July 11, 2013

CD Review: Lisa Eastman's 'Jubilee'

Lisa Eastman

Lisa Eastman's new release, Jubilee, is a catchy, symphonic, and magical production that creates a sense of warmth, fun, and reflection. The Hebrew-inspired songs are all in English. The music is rather reflective of Celtic Woman with vocals like Nina Gordon and Susan Aglukark. There are additional vocals that reinforce the new age presence of the production. The lilting piano, booming percussion, and symphonic strings with keyboards makes the entire release shine with happiness. There are fourteen songs in all, which are rather diverse. However, each song gives us something new with more contemporary dance, as on "Road To Me," or more quiet reflection, as on "Storm." Lisa's floating vocals are heavenly, clear, and penetrating. This is not your average pop/rock release. In fact, Lisa presents such a fascinating combination of melodies, rhythms, and instrumentation that make every song entertaining. Anyone interested in good music will love it. The album is based on a year of emancipation and restoration provided by ancient Hebrew law to be kept every fifty years by the emancipation of Hebrew slaves for a season of celebration. Celebrate today with Lisa's remarkable Jubilee. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Gypsophilia's 'Horska'

Forward Music Group/Factor

The Halifax, NS-based Gypsophilia brings us an energetic mix of instrumental jazz tunes with a good does of gypsy pizazz and fusion styles bordering on swing, alternative, new age, and roots. The septet plays piano, accordion, guitar, trumpet, double bass, and violin. The septet sounds like a session group with jazzy leanings and an instrumental prowess rarely achieved by other groups of this stature. Horksa is a short album of only six songs. However, the music is still remarkable and memorable. "Bir Hakeim" is a swing-inflected, jazz song that is classic and fresh. "Oh My Oma" is a more relaxed tune with somber violin tones, drifting guitar strums, and very light percussion. The jaunty, "Corentin Cariou," is a quick little ditty with carousel-type musicality and a youthful vigor with violin, piano, percussion, and trumpet. The quick-changing tempos are delightful. Overall, Gypsophilia's new work is a highly-recommended recording of creative gypsy music that encapsulates the world of jazz in a world music setting. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Calaita's 'Flamenco Son'

Flamenco Son

The UK's Calaita is a flamenco group comprised of Chico Pere, Glenn Sharp, Diana Castro, Leo Paredes, and Matt Nickson. The group combines various flamenco-tinged guitars, vocals, percussion, flute and sax to create magical, whirling, and danceable melodies and rhythms that inspire and astound all who listen to it. There are various flamenco styles showcased, including alegria, tangos, seguiriya, solea, guajira, buleria, and colombiana. The music is Spanish, South American, and breezy like the Cape Verdes. There are ten compositions that are fairly vibrant, punchy, and classical. The vocals are heartfelt throughout. Anyone familiar with world fusion and flamenco will find enjoyment in the tracks of Flamenco Son. Overall, Calaita succeeds with a vibrant, high-quality release of musical ingeniousness. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

CD Review: Barefoot Divas' 'Walk A Mile In My Shoes'

Barefoot Divas
Walk A Mile In My Shoes

Barefoot Divas is a collective of six women with a connection to the indigenous people's of Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea. The vocal group is comprised of Aboriginals Ursula Yovich and Emma Donovan, Maori's Whirimako Black, Maisey Rika and Merenia. Ngaiire represents the Papua New Guinea connection. The opening vocal track by Maisey Rika is rather contemplative without any instrumentation. The serenity is short-lived, as "Never Forget" brings an amped-up, R&B and gospel composition to light. The Spanish-tinged, "Fortuna," is driven by the world fusion repertoire representing Greek, Chilean, and Peruvian elements. The work is largely vocal with a poetic, social commentary. However, the combination of vocals and contemporary instrumentation represents an edgy mix of world fusion worth listening to over and over. There are fourteen tracks in all. The recording was recorded live in 2012 at the Sydney Festival. This project could not have been possible without the group's creator, manager, and producer, Vicki Gordon. ~ Matthew Forss   

CD Review: Sarah Alden's 'Fists Of Violets'

Sarah Alden
Fists Of Violets
Hearth Music

The Appalachians are explored with Sarah Alden's classic voice and earthy fiddle. The folksy vocals are very nostalgic with hints of bluegrass, old-time, and European folk. There are various waltzes, dance tunes, and traditional tunes. The jaunty piano tune, "Old Man Moon," reflects an old-timey presence that is pure gold. The country-tinged, "Ruby, Honey Are You Mad At Your Man?," is a classy, folk-riddled tune that would seem quite fitting on the Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. "Dink's Tune" is a reflective tune with light percussion and fiddle fun that is somewhat indicative of Canada's April Verch. At any rate, the ten tracks reflect a great cross-section of folk, country, bluegrass, and even gypsy-type music. Fans of Euro folk, fiddle music, bluegrass, waltzes, Appalachian music, and old-time music will gobble up Sarah's Fists of Violets. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

CD Review: Lord Mouse and The Kalypso Katz' 'Go Calypsonian'

Lord Mouse and The Kalypso Katz
Go Calypsonian

Calypso from Germany? You bet. Lord Mouse and The Kalypso Katz are a calypso band from Berlin, Germany. Interestingly, none of the members are from the Caribbean. However, the rhythms are steeped in vintage calypso melodies and influences. The lyrics are in English, but the melodies are rich with Caribbean brilliance. Moreover, there is an element of Latin and Spanish, too. The highly-danceable music is edgy, moving, and inspirational. Calypso fusion is a rather narrow niche genre characterization. Still, Lord Mouse & Company have no problem finding that niche and making it work. A large German fan base will be expanding around the world as the calypso fever catches on. It is impossible to not like this music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Orchid Ensemble's 'Life Death Tears Dream'

Orchid Ensemble
Life Death Tears Dream

The Vancouver, Canada-based Orchid Ensemble brings us inventive Chinese traditional music. Lan Tung is the vocalist and erhu player. Haiqiong Deng plays the zheng. Jonathan Bernard is the marimba and percussion expert. Together, this trio fuses classical music with Chinese traditional music. The somber, yet intriguing erhu and zheng instruments are iconic and classic. The ancient traditions of Chinese classical music are reinvented here with subtle percussion additions. The plucked instruments and light percussion sounds are a perfect combination for the intended result. The music is very dreamy and awe-inspiring, but most of all: it is fun. The galloping "Hayot Hakodesh" is especially moving. "Cocoon" is pensive, reflective, and diverse. "Tune Of Mulberry" contains wavering, plucked notes and sweeping melodies. The operatic vocals on "Dancing Moon" are especially inviting. Overall, Orchid Ensemble is a great ensemble with a great repertoire. Life Death Tears Dream represents a life cycle, but this one should not be missed. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Cas Haley's 'La Si Dah'

Cas Haley
La Si Dah
Easy Star Records

Probably best-known for his performances on America's Got Talent, Cas Haley continues to prove he has what it takes to succeed. He traverses the world of reggae, jazz, rock, pop, folk, blues, and roots on his latest release, La Si Dah. "Jackson" is a rock and reggae-tinged, instrumental opener. "La Dah" is a breezy tune with light guitar and percussion sounds with some piano. The reggae-tinged, vibe-driven "Mama" is a classic tune. The slower and jazz-driven tune, "Wait For Me," contains a bit of blues. "Capricorn" opens with some piano, drums, and alternative guitar stylings with a reggae beat. It is refreshing to listen to great songs that are not only original, but different, too. Fans of Cas will love it and new fans will pick up on the reggae grooves, bluesy guitar stylings, and sincere vocals. Though, Cas' home-base is in Texas, the music does not reflect any such influence. Try it today! ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Chris Berry's 'King Of Me'

Chris Berry
King Of Me
Kanaga System Krush

The laid-back, scintillating sounds of Zimbabwe's mbira has been modified and electrified for Chris Berry's use. The combination of mbira, reggae-type melodies, and urban-pop sounds makes King Of Me shine with superb melodies, infectious sounds, and smooth vocals throughout. Chris is a composer, singer, teacher, and Grammy Award-winner. Mali's Awa Sangho lends her talents on "Sister River." Chris is also joined by top percussionist, Daniel Moreno, as well as singer Deja Solis. The sparkling balafon-esque mbira sounds showcase a diverse instrument that works perfectly. The mix of lounge rhythms, reggae vocals, drums, and delicate pop structures makes King Of Me an exciting and refreshing contemporary release. Twelve tracks feature the diverse stylings of zim-fusion (Zimbabwe-inspired music) and the help of Abou Diarrassouba on drums, Awa Sangho, Daniel Moreno, Deja Solis, and Moussa Camara. This is great, groovy music with heart and soul. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Stand Up, People - Gypsy Pop Songs From Tito's Yugoslavia 1964-1980

Various Artists
Stand Up, People - Gypsy Pop Songs From Tito's Yugoslavia 1964-1980
Asphalt Tango Records

This collection of rare, socialist-era folk and pop songs from Yugoslavia contains lively gypsy rhythms, Bollywood influences, psychedelic pop, and whirling melodies that scream Balkan. There are nineteen tracks in all. Some of the songs are rather upbeat and moving. There are a mix of male and female vocals throughout. These songs originate from Serbia, Macedonia, and Kosovo and highlight the Roma Gypsy culture. Some of the musicians featured include Nehat Gasi, Muharem Serbezovski, Medo Cun, Esma Redzepova, Ava Selimi, Saban Bajramovic, and a few others. The music is purely Balkan with some Mediterranean, Turkish, and Caucasian influences. Anyone with a passion for Balkan music and rare, folk music from around the world will love this new release. There are enough great vocals and superb instrumentals to make it 'stand up' and stand out. The liner notes contain English translations of the songs. It is also available as a double-LP release. ~ Matthew Forss