Friday, 23 March 2018

Kurt Elling - The Questions, album review

Intoning Love and Light in Answering

The signature singing of Elling is as ever on this latest underpinned by the empathy of delivery in songs whose lyrics have universal meanings, for him as performer and us as listeners, and the tone throughout is that equal combination of aural resonance and personal understanding as well as interpretation.

Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall is such a distinctive beginning, and here Elling accentuates the poetry in that lyric by the individual pacing and pronouncement of each line,

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard

quite different to how he frames Paul Simon’s American Tune [not his first recording of this] with a grander and glorious embrace – both songs covered with vocal and felt brilliance.

His rendition of Peter Gabriel’s Washing of the Water takes on a gospel tone and delivery, and by now we also understand how these songs are the questions of the album’s title, questions asked before – clearly by this selection – but represented as poignantly relevant yet still unanswered today.

The musicianship is as sterling as ever on an Elling recording, Branford Marsalis playing sax on two tracks, sweet soprano on I Have Dreamed; John McLean providing a neat guitar break on A Secret in Three Views; Marquis Hill blowing a meditative trumpet on Endless Lawns, where all things are changed and we look for what few certainties remain in life, hopefully in love/in light as Elling intones/chants beautifully at the song’s close.

This is me after a first listen – how wonderful to know I’ll be here again throughout the day.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Bathroom Music

Earthless - Black Heaven, album review

Radar Alert

With echoes of Amboy Dukes [pre redneckness to detract from the music] and Grand Funk Railroad in and among the more generic reflections of heavy metal, this is a fine heavy rock album. Some of those ancestor sounds are in the occasional harmony vocals – not that this is unusual in heavy rock – but I just hear it, perhaps because I want to, looking for something a little different, not that it has to be. Otherwise, it is riff-driven, like Electric Flame, and in all there is much scorching guitar work by Isaiah Mitchell, and plenty of wah-wah [listen to the brisk Volt Rush for some real fire] – the drumming is dynamite. And the title track is over eight minutes of instrumental bliss.

From what I have read, this is a significant shift from their previous as a band and may alienate many fans. I wouldn’t know. Perhaps because it taps into a kind of rock I like, as hinted above with my precursor radar, I am impressed with the songwriting, singing and playing, especially that guitar gusto. Closer Sudden End again has some melodic vocal harmony in the chorus, setting up the sweet guitar soloing.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Rafael Anton Irisarri - two albums: Midnight Colours; Sirimiri

Stream of Consciousness

This is music outside my comfort zone and yet providing me with the most comforting sense of ease, even when haunted, as I listen. It is ambient because that is how it is described, though I fundamentally intuit what that means in being applied to its expansive sound – you tend to ‘see’ it as much as hear, as ridiculous as that clearly sounds, but I do see landscapes because it sounds vast, and these are surprisingly plain [grey, probably] rather than colourful, as beautiful as the melancholic, harmonising sounds can be. It is also called drone [I’m just picking up the descriptions I have read] and I get this too, though for me that implies a monotone that isn’t really accurate, as regulated as the sound so often is – rather than variable in any dramatic sense. It is the repetitions of sound and the varying volume of those pulses of sound that are what it is, a slow ebb and flow of sound, in and out, sometimes in static, but very often peaking in the fullest reach of their wave of sound, again and again, having ebbed, and maybe each time it is just that bit more accentuated, as it just happens to be as I listen to Sonder from Sirimiri as I type. Both of these albums dominate as soundscapes which are obviously electronically generated but they have such a naturalistic aural sense to them because of their mesmerising slow loops and pulses, something that perhaps links to breathing in and out and whatever you can make of that idea that just doesn’t sound stupid because you can see/hear that I am trying to describe it as I listen and feel it. Even when the sounds are more caustic as with the static I have mentioned they develop an hypnotic sense of naturalness which can be calming, for want of a better word/sensation as you listen, the repetitions again drawing you into their world of rhythms so that you breathe to them at which point I am stopping this generally stream of consciousness account which may in itself be one of the more apt ways to describe the music itself as it encapsulates the meanings for which it is composed.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Kim Wilde - Here Come the Aliens, album review

Good Pop

I don't generally listen to pop music or like, though being honest I often use the term 'pop sensibilities' when being positive about such leanings in artists I do like. I also pretty much gave the 80s a wide berth - rightly or wrongly in terms of being generally expansive in my musical appreciation - and I only really know, like many/most, Kim Wilde's biggest hit Kids in America.

But this album is very listenable, and quite enjoyable, and certainly very well produced. There are great touches throughout: guitar in Kandy Krush, electronic production in Stereo Shot, and the bass line in Yours 'Til the End, as well as the vocal harmonies [the song being Duran Duran-ish, apparently - I hear a Paul Young track in that bass work, but couldn't say which]. As for Birthday I could...but won't.

I suspect it is highly targeted at a market, and produced to maximum appeal. Well, why wouldn't you?

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Into the Distance Music 71

Collette Savard - Collette Savard and the Savants, album review


What a fine set of songs with great lead vocal from Savard, close vocal harmonies, and mellowed as well as funky playing – The Hardest Part a perfect exemplification of this perfection. It Shines follows this, the seventh track, and it uses its familiar rock riff well to lead up and into a sweet harmonised chorus, Megan Worthy pumping out the keyboards.

In Over My Head sets the scene with that fulsome lead voice and a tight harmonising along the melodic line, crisp lead guitar from Tim Posgate. Copper Moon is one of those funkier numbers, Savard’s up-and-down vocal sustained within its warm tone, and more of those controlled harmonies from Rebecca Campbell and Megan Worthy. I’m Counting on You Heart is a slowed gem, some interesting vocal and other percussive inserts in mimicry. John Switzer provides the walking jaunt in his bass line for The Hardest Part, already mentioned, and Megan’s dad [have to acknowledge] Martin Worthy lays down here and throughout the unobtrusive but neat beats.

Free download of In Over My Head here

Photo: Noir Kitty