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Empty Space Orchestra are a band that explore the gamut of what is possible when playing incredibly organized instrumental music, yet still be able to cause a few surprises. On their self-titled album (this is their second album), there are elements of rock, punk, jazz, blues, heavy metal, ska, funk, and classical. One way to compare this would be to say “take all the penultimate bits and riffs from some of your favorite songs, and just make songs out of that. This is what ESO are about.” Yet that reduces them to nothing more than a highlight reel, and these guys are more than that. Some of their songs remind me of how intricate Frank Zappa was with his bands throughout the 1970′s, where you’re unsure where things are going but you put faith in the musicians because they at least know where they’re going. This is that type of band where you want to rock the fuck out and go crazy, but the sounds coming through are so intense that the nerd in you wants to stand in a pit and be able to take in the energy from fans who are into their music. It feels explosive and out of control, not unlike those highs Sunny Day Real Estate used to create. Tracks like “Get Some”, “Tiger Puss”, and “Exit Strategry” sound like everyone in the group (this orchestra is actually a quintet) wanting to cram their influences in and they deal with a common ground that’s quite pleasant to listen to. It’s not as chaotic as Mr. Bungle were, but one could easily hear Mike Patton singing about macaroni and aloha shirts over instrumentals like this, as a Dixieland piano enters the room.
In other words, Empty Space Orchestra are a group who want to fill the void that is that empty space, and they’re doing it until it goes over the rim with the rich taste of… sound.
Even as a kid, when I listened to some of my favorite female singers, I liked it because it sounded cool and they sounded like grown-ups. When I grew up, it turned into something with confidence, maybe something sensual, but it still sounded like someone who was of age. There were tons of singers like this, and then it became the “in” thing to want to sound pre-pubescent. It is great to hear a singer like Eliane Amherd whose music sounds like she is truly feeling the lyrics she’s singing, and that it comes from a woman, and not an 11 year old emoting.
Now And From Now On (self-released) is that singer you have always wanted to hear, or at least a singer you wished were in abundance these days. To my ears, she sounds like what would happen if Norah Jones let her inner Patty Smyth (of Scandal), Pat Benatar, and Natalie Cole out. In a track like “Where Is Home”, performed in a slow tempo, she’s observing the world around her and where she is, and she asks the questions all of us have asked at one point or another in our lives. Throughout she touches on everything from rock to pop and jazz, even the bossa nova feel of “Let Me Explain” is a perfect fit for her, sounding like those classic albums of the 1970′s where a singer felt like touching on a “different” genre but because it was different, but because embracing a musical form is what made the story of the song a better one. With the exception of her cover of Tom Waits‘ “Temptation”, all of the songs are Amherd originals and as I heard her stories, it felt great to hear them knowing that the singer I’m hearing is the one who wrote and felt the lyrics being said. For me at least, it allows me to be a bit closer to who Amherd may be, even if it’s just in song.
Now And From Now On is the kind of album that would rank up there with Melissa Manchester‘s Melissa and Natalie Cole’s Thankful in terms of creativity, impact, and emotion it offers and delivers to its listeners. This is the pop music that pop music itself forgot it could be.
Marcie Brown is a cellist/singer who has a love for jazz, and her new Reflections Over Brandy (self-titled) shows how much of a lover of life and music she is.
Upon listening to the first few songs, I really liked what I was hearing. Her playing was really good, and while I am not a cellist, I always like people’s approach to it and similar instruments, whether it’s the avant-garde ways of Joëlle Léandre (who plays the double bass) or something more traditional, like Brown. What surprised me about this is when she started to sing. I was unfamiliar with her previous work, and it sounded like something I would expect on an album by Joni Mitchell or Blossom Dearie, and for some reason I was either surprised or slightly taken aback. Maybe it was the day and time, or me just being unprepared for it.
The album cover graphics has a fall/autumn feel to it, so perhaps one is meant to feel a sense of change in the air, from warmth to an inevitable chill, or just something more rustic and natural, woodsy perhaps? Brown plays the piano in a number of tracks too, she is able to show how diverse and well-rounded she is within her own limitations, that is, standing by a genre and working her talents within. Reflections Over Brandy could be about observing life and the world either through a drink or with a special someone, or both, and this album is able to do that well in a unique way.
The passing of any singer or musician will follow with an endless amount of tributes, either in music/album form or in live performances. Sometimes the results are good, other times they are just a mess but in the case of jazz vocalist Charito, it is very much the former. Heal The World (Zoho) is a nice-sized 10-song tribute to the late singer, and it shows vocal and musical tribute to a man whose music continues to make an impact. They’re done with a lot of respect, and I could see myself listening to this, pulling out the album at any given point and wanting to listen to this.
The songs here range from all major eras of MJ’s music, from early Jackson 5 songs to his solo classics, Charito’s Latin jazz twist to “I Can’t Help It” is perfect and I could easily see some of today’s and tomorrow’s producers using this as sample fodder (and decent fodder at that). “Rock With You” are slowed down a bit to become a very romantic ballad, and that goes back to how basic yet useful the original song was back in 1979. Hearing “Ease On Down The Road” (the song Jackson did with Diana Ross for the film The Wiz updated for 2011 is really good. All of the songs should and deserve a lot of airplay on jazz and smooth jazz radio, perhaps allowing fans to hear these songs when they might have avoided MJ in a normal context. In a way that’s dumb, because away from what MJ represents to people, the songs are still very good and that’s due to the original songwriters, everyone from Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett to Rod Temperton, Stevie Wonder and Clifton Davis, so it’s very much a tribute to their work to. Regardless of the representative umbrella, Heal The World is simply a very nice jazz tribute album to a pop singer the world may never experience in the same away again.
(The original pressing of Charito’s Heal The World was released last summer, but will be reissued to a wider audience on April 12th via Zoho.)
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Discovered this book review blog when someone had posted a review of a music book. Went through it and saw a number of books I immediately put on my want list. Created by Maria Popova and features a number of contributors.
Cool slew of goodies from books and diaries to T-shirts, bags and soaps. Now based in Portland.
The show is no more, but you may explore the archives of this great Portland-based podcast while you can. You may now listen to Cort & Bobby in Welcome To That Whole Thing, listed below.