Michael Bublé – It’s Time (2005)

FrontCover1Michael Steven Bublé (born September 9, 1975)[1] is a Canadian singer. His first album reached the top ten in Canada and the United Kingdom. He found a worldwide audience with his 2005 album It’s Time and his 2007 album Call Me Irresponsible – which reached number one on the Canadian Albums Chart, the UK Albums Chart, the US Billboard 200, the Australian ARIA Albums Chart and several European charts. Bublé’s 2009 album Crazy Love debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 after three days of sales, and remained there for two weeks. It was also his fourth number one album on Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums chart. His 2011 holiday album, Christmas, was in first place on the Billboard 200 for the final four weeks of 2011 and the first week of 2012, totalling five weeks atop the chart, it also made the top 5 in the United Kingdom. With this, Christmas became his third-consecutive number-one album on the chart. To Be Loved was released in April 2013, followed by Nobody but Me in October 2016 and Love in November 2018. Bublé has sold over 75 million records worldwide, and won numerous awards, including four Grammy Awards and multiple Juno Awards. Bublé is a dual citizen of Canada and Italy.

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It’s Time is the fourth studio album by Canadian singer, Michael Bublé. It was released on February 8, 2005 by 143 Records and Reprise Records. With arrangements by David Foster, the album contains cover versions of songs from traditional pop and contemporary pop: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Stevie Wonder, and The Beatles. And it includes “Home”, a song co-written by Bublé.

Despite some unfavorable reviews, the album was a commercial success, topping the charts in Canada, Italy, and Spain, while peaking in the top ten in eleven other countries. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified it three-times platinum, for shipments of three million copies across the United States. In Australia, the album was certified five times Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for sales of 350,000 copies sold, and in Canada it was certified six times Platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) for sales of 600,000 copies.

In the U.S., “Home” reached No. 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart,[2] while topping the Adult Contemporary chart. It also reached the top forty on the Adult Pop Songs[4] and Digital Songs charts.

“Home” peaked at No. 35 in Australia, No. 31 in the UK, and No. 1 in ten countries.

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Bublé credits the success of It’s Time, which sold six million copies by 2011, to “Home.” It was the most played song on Canadian radio in 2006.[10] It’s Time sold well in Japan, Italy, and Australia, and charted in the top ten singles in both the U.K. and U.S. charts. Bublé said that during the recording of It’s Time he “came into [his] own as a songwriter” and hearing his own song on the radio made him feel “like a true artist.” He acknowledged that a downside to producing covers of well-loved songs is that people often compare them to the original; in writing his own song, he says, he found a sense of freedom. Bublé feels that the Michael Bublé01song is distinct in comparison to the other songs on the album because of its “country-pop twang” and more-relatable lyrics. The song was written collaboratively with Amy Foster-Gillies, Nashville native and daughter of successful Canadian musician David Foster. In his 2011 autobiography, Onstage Offstage, Bublé states that then-girlfriend Debbie Timuss was his inspiration for the song. Timuss sang backing vocals on “Home” and appeared in the music video, which was filmed in the Orpheum Theater in Vancouver, Canada. “Home” won the 2006 Juno Award for single of the year. A cover version was recorded by American country singer Blake Shelton. Shelton’s version of Bublé’s song landed him top of the charts for R&R Singles Chart and MediaBase Singles. Shelton was quoted in saying,” I loved ‘Home’ the first time I heard it, and I really love it now,” said Shelton. “I’m glad I’m not the only one that thought it was a country song. I’ve had the honor of performing “Home” with Michael Bublé on a couple of occasions and can honestly say he is a really great guy, and I think as a writer he’s probably pretty excited that it’s reached number one, too.”

Bublé attributes the song’s popularity to its universal theme, stating that “[w]e all know what it’s like to be homesick. It’s one of the worst feelings. I know about that as well as anybody.”[9] “Home” was also featured on the soundtrack of the 2005 American romantic comedy The Wedding Date along with other songs from Bublé’s albums.

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“Feeling Good” was released as the first international single from the album on April 4, 2005. Although the single failed to chart in the United States, it managed to chart on the Austria Singles Chart at No. 66 and on the Dutch Singles Chart at No.62. It also charted in the United Kingdom, peaking at No. 69.

Woodrow Wilkins from All About Jazz commended how It’s Time was “relevant to today’s audience” and noted that Bublé “delivers [the songs] with the heart and passion that only a person who claims ownership of these titles can muster”.[20] However, Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian didn’t appreciate the album’s composition of jazz and pop covers, saying that “Sinatra is turning in his grave”. Amy Lichty of the Daily Emerald said that “Bublé’s clear voice and smooth rhythms keep the CD moving along”, but also noted that he “is simply no match for either Sinatra or Connick” (wikipedia)

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Although it took more than a year of concerts and promotional appearances, Michael Bublé’s 2003 debut disc of swinging pop standards finally ascended the Billboard album chart and landed at number 47. That peak may not seem impressive at first, but in a musical world dominated by rap or the latest flavor of alternative rock, Bublé’s upper chart appearance was a real accomplishment and it sparked a renewed interest in music associated with great vocalists like Frank Sinatra. With his second studio disc, It’s Time, Bublé builds upon the musical foundation he laid with his debut and demonstrates that he is much more than a flavor-of-the-month celebrity. Like his debut, It’s Time mines the rich history of pop music as Bublé applies his own technique to classic standards and incorporates his Rat Pack sound into modern pop songs. Other pop vocal giants have made attempts to reinterpret the pop songs of their day with appalling results (Mel Tormé’s version of “Sunshine Superman” comes to mind), but Bublé has the knack for selecting the right songs that he can properly transform into edible works that avoid a cheesy aftertaste. Having a standard like “A Foggy Day (In London Town)” share space with the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” may seem like a lounge lizard joke waiting to happen, but the arrangements (most courtesy of producer David Foster) and performances are seamless. Therefore, the quiet groove of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” can sit comfortable next to Bublé’s smoky version of Leon Russell’s “Song for You,” featuring Chris Botti on trumpet.

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Perhaps it is due to this formula working so well that Bublé has incorporated more of his unique takes on modern pop than on his debut. He even ventures into R&B territory with older hits like “Try a Little Tenderness” and “How Sweet It Is,” all the while giving these songs a retro freshness that breathes new life into these gems. Pop starlet Nelly Furtado sounds lovely and elegant in the duet “Quando, Quando, Quando,” while Bublé ends the disc with a beautiful reading of Stevie Wonder’s “You and I.” Another positive step forward is the inclusion of the lovely original tune “Home,” a somewhat autobiographical “too long on the road” song co-written by Bublé. The success of this ballad provides yet another direction that he can explore and expand upon. Throughout the disc Bublé emits the feeling that he loves these songs and truly enjoys what he is doing. He sounds pure of voice and pure of heart. Those are rare commodities in the recorded world and they, along with Bublé’s talent and vision, help to make It’s Time a wonderful listening experience. (by Aaron Latham)

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Personnel:
Michael Bublé (vocals)
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George Bohanon (trombone on 07.)
Chris Botti (trumpeton 11.)
Brian Bromberg (bass)
Lee Callet (saxophone on 07.)
Frank Capp (drums on 12.)
Gilbert Castellanos (trumpet on 07.)
Alan Chang (piano on 03.)
John Chiodini (guitar on 12.)
Jeff Clayton (saxophone on 07.)
Vinnie Colaiuta (drums)
Sal Cracchiolo (trumpet on 07.)
Neil Devor (programming)
Keith Fiddmont (saxophone on 07.)
David Foster (keyboards on 04., piano on 05., 08., 11. + 13., bass on 08, + 10.)
Nelly Furtado (vocals on 04.)
Brian Green (guitar on 02., 03. 05. + 09.) (2, 3, 5)
Jeff Hamilton (drums on 06., 07. + 10.)
Tamir Hendelman (piano on 06., 07. + 10.)
Dan Higgins (flute, saxophone on 04.)
Robert Hurst (bass on 06.)
Brandon Jenner (guitar on 08.)
Christian McBride (bass on 07.)
Ira Nepus (trombone on 07.)
Charles Owens (saxophone on 07.)
Kye Palmer (trumpet on 07.)
Rafael Padilla (percussion on 01., 02.,04. – 06. + 08.)
Dean Parks (guitar on 01., 03., 05. 09. + 10.)
Heitor Pereira (guitar on 04.)
Ryan Porter (trombone on 07.)
Bill Reichenbach Jr. (bass trombone on 07.)
Jochem van der Saag (programming on 01., 05.,06., 08. +10., organ on 06. + 10., harmonica on 10.)
Michael Thompson (guitar on 08. + 12.)
Debbie Timuss (backing vocals on 05.)
Dave Tull (drums on 02. + 13.)
Randy Waldman  (piano on 01., 02., 09. + 12.)
Bijon Watson (trumpet on 07.)
Anthony Wilson (guitar on 07.)
Rickey Woodard (saxophone on 07.)

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Tracklist:
01. Feeling Good (Bricusse/Newley) 3.56
02. A Foggy Day (In London Town) (G.Gershwin/I.Gershwin) 2.31
03. You Don’t Know Me (Arnold/Walker) 4.13
04. Quando, Quando, Quando (duet with Nelly Furtado) (Renis/Testa/Drake) 4.45
05. Home (Bublé/Chang/Foster-Gillies) 3.45
06. Can’t Buy Me Love (Lennon/McCartney) 3.14
07. The More I See You (Gordon/Warren) 3.47
08. Save The Last Dance For Me (Pomus/Shuman) 3.38
09. Try A Little Tenderness (Campbell/Connelly/Woods) 4.05
10. How Sweet It Is (L.Dozier/Holland/E.Holland) 2.58
11. Song For You (feat. Chris Botti) (Russell) 4.42
12. I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Porter) 3.40
13. You And I (Wonder) 3.54

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The official website:
Website

Katie Melua – Piece By Piece (2005)

FrontCover1Ketevan “Katie” Melua (born 16 September 1984) is a British-Georgian singer and songwriter. She moved to the United Kingdom at the age of eight – first to Belfast and then to London in 1999. Melua is signed to the small Dramatico record label, under the management of composer Mike Batt, and made her musical debut in 2003. In 2006, she was the United Kingdom’s best-selling female artist and Europe’s highest selling European female artist.

In November 2003, at the age of nineteen, Melua released her first album, Call Off the Search, which reached the top of the United Kingdom album charts and sold 1.8 million copies in its first five months of release.

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Her second album, Piece by Piece, was released in September 2005 and to date has gone platinum (one million units sold) four times. Melua released her third studio album Pictures in October 2007.

According to the Sunday Times Rich List 2008, Melua had a fortune of £18 million, making her the seventh richest British musician under thirty.

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Piece by Piece is the second studio album by British-Georgian jazz and blues singer Katie Melua. It was released on 26 September 2005 by Dramatico Records. In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at #1 with 120,459 copies sold in its first week.

Its first single, Mike Batt’s song “Nine Million Bicycles”, became Melua’s first top five hit in the UK and caused controversy when science writer Simon Singh said the lyrics “demonstrates a deep ignorance of cosmology and no understanding of the scientific method”. After an amusing and good-natured debate in the Press Melua eventually recorded Singh’s version, which both agreed was scientifically accurate and musically pathetic.

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The second single was a double A-side comprising “I Cried for You” and a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”. The former song was written after Melua met the writer of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail and is about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, while the latter was recorded for the soundtrack to the film Just Like Heaven. The single peaked outside the UK top twenty, and the album’s third single, “Spider’s Web” (which Melua wrote when she was eighteen, during the Iraq War) did not reach the top forty.

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Melua wrote the title song “Piece By Piece” after she broke up with her boyfriend Luke Pritchard, and “Half Way up the Hindu Kush” was written by Katie and Mike Batt playing on the unusualness of the title phrase, which cropped up in a conversation about scarves on a train journey. Alongside covers of “Blues in the Night” and Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again”, the album includes “Thank you, Stars”, which was previously released as a B-side on Melua’s debut single “The Closest Thing To Crazy” in 2003.

The album was re-released in 2006, as Piece by Piece: Special Bonus Edition, with three additional tracks and a bonus DVD with concert Moment by Moment and promo videos. (wikipedia)

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Georgia-born (as in the country, not the state) singer/songwriter Katie Melua found herself atop the British charts in 2003 with her breezy debut, Call Off the Search, which sold over three million copies in Europe alone. Her laid-back blend of blues, jazz, and pop with a kiss of worldbeat drew comparisons to Norah Jones, and rightfully so. She sticks to the formula on her lush, ultimately safe follow-up, Piece by Piece. This is Coldplay for the Diana Krall crowd, a perfectly rendered slice of adult contemporary pie for a lazy summer day delivered by an artist whose beautiful voice is almost striking in how unremarkable it is. Her longtime collaborator, producer/songwriter Mike Batt, provides the catchiest number, an odd and endearing little confection called “Nine Million Bicycles.”

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It’s both silly and sweet, two things that work in Melua’s favor. Sure, she can vamp it up with the best of them on bluesy asides like “Shy Boy” and the dreadful “Blues in the Night,” but there’s a whole lot of innocence in that voice that just shrivels in the midst of all that bravado. Only in her early twenties, Melua’s got plenty of time to decide on a persona, and Piece by Piece has enough quality material on it to placate fans until she does, but there’s some tension here, and it doesn’t sound intentional. Besides, anyone who covers Canned Heat and the Cure on the same record is still trying to figure it all out. (by James Christopher Monger)

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Personnel:
Jim Cregan (guitar)
Mike Darcy (violin)
Martin Ditcham (percussion)
Dominic Glover (trumpet)
Tim Harries (bass)
Chris Karan (percussion)
Katie Melua (vocals, guitar)
Chris Spedding (guitar)
Henry Spinetti (drums)
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Mike Batt (piano on 12.)
Adrian Brett (flute on 02.)
Paul Jones (harmonica on 05.)
Peter Knight (mandolin on 09.)
Craig Pruess (sitar on 04.)
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The Irish Film Orchestra conducted by Mike Batt

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Tracklist:
01. Shy Boy (Batt) 3.28
02. Nine Million Bicycles (Batt) 3.15
03. Piece By Piece (Melua) 3.24
04. Halfway Up The Hindu Kush (Melua/Batt) 3.06
05. Blues In The Night (Arlen/Mercer) 4.12
06.Spider’s Web (Melua) 3.57
07. Blue Shoes (Batt) 4.39
08. On The Road Again (Jones/Wilson) 4.38
09. Thankyou, Stars (Batt) 3.39
10. Just Like Heaven (Gallup/Smith) 3.35
11. I Cried For You (Mary’s Song) (Melua) 3.38
12. I Do Believe In Love (Melua) 3.00CD1

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More from Katie Melua:
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The official website:
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WhoMadeWho – Same (2005)

FrontCover1WhoMadeWho is a Copenhagen-based experimental pop trio, who formed in 2003. The band consists of jazz guitarist Jeppe Kjellberg, drummer Tomas Barfod and singer/bassist Tomas Høffding.

The band released several 12-inches on German disco label Gomma Records including Out the Door and Space to Rent, culminating in their self-titled debut album WhoMadeWho in 2005. In 2009 they released their second album The Plot, the third album Knee Deep was released in 2011 followed by Brighter in 2012. The next album Dreams was released in 2014, and the latest Through The Walls in 2018.

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As a live band, WhoMadeWho has played alongside genre-bending contemporaries Daft Punk, Soulwax, Hot Chip, Justice and LCD Soundsystem. After touring together Hot Chip asked to remix their single “TV Friend”, and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age has covered “Space for Rent”.

WhoMadeWho gained further popularity when they headlined the Benicàssim festival in 2007 after a delay caused scheduled headliners, Klaxons, to arrive too late to play their set.

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On 21 February 2014, they played with Arisa the song Cuccurucucu, a tribute to Franco Battiato, at Festival of Sanremo 2014, Italy.

On 22 February 2021, they played live for the cameras of Cercle at the ancient temples of Abu Simbel in Egypt. (wikipedia)

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Three guys from Denmark that have a very own sound:
They play DISCO. But not so much mixing it with (Post) Punk and New Wave like so many other bands right now. WhoMadeWho use lot more influences: from Surfrock to Folk to 70ies Funk. And sometimes it feels like the guys heard a dose of Italodisco and Cosmic tapes before recording.

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One of the interesting things about WhoMadeWho is the fact that all the three members have totally different backrounds. Tomas Barfod – the drummer is known as one of Skandinavia’s best electronic DJ’s. Jeppe Kjelleberg , guitar player, used to live in NYC where he was established in the local Avantgarde Jazz scene. He even recorded an album with former Lounge Lizards guitar player DAVIS TRONZO. And Tomas Hoffing the bass player is also member of danish garage rock band Garbo. (gomma.de)

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Personnel:
Tomas Barfod (drums, electronics)
Jeppe Kjellberg (guitar, vocals)
Tomas Hoffding (bass, vocals)
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Henrik Sundh (synthsizer on 08. + 14. )Booklet1

Tracklist:
01. Rose (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 4.32
02 Space For Rent (Frank/Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 5.05
03. Johnny Lucky (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 4.24
04. Hello, Empty Room (Tuxen Barfod/Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 4.10
05.  Got To Be There (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 3-40
06. Out The Door (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 4:10
07. Cigar (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 3.10
08. Small Wonders (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 3.37
09. Monkeys (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 4.49
10. The Loop (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 4.23
11. Shake Your Boat (Tuxen Barfod/Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 3.37
12. I Love (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 2.48
13. Happy Girl (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 4.02
14. Manuelle Mittelwelle (Kjellberg/Barfod/Høffding) 4.20

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The offical website:
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Lang Lang – Memory (2005)

FrontCover1Arguably the most famous Chinese pianist of all time, Lang Lang has become a superstar on the Classical music stage, with the popularity and charisma of many leading rock musicians. Many of his performances and interviews are available online, and several have drawn over one million hits. His recordings are hits, too, and his concerts are regularly sold-out well ahead of schedule. Lang’s manner during performance can be eccentric but fascinating: he is very animated, often smiles, and often looks away from the keyboard even during extremely difficult passages. While Lang plays many traditional and contemporary Chinese works, he performs mostly Western repertory, with the names Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev regularly appearing on his programs. Lang has toured widely throughout Asia, Europe, the U.K., U.S., and elsewhere across the globe. He has made numerous recordings, most of them available from DG, Decca, Telarc, and Sony.

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Lang Lang was born in Shenyang, China, on June 14, 1982. His father is a well-known musician in China who plays the ehru. At three, reportedly inspired by a scrap of one of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies in a Tom and Jerry cartoon, Lang began piano lessons and at five won a local competition. In 1991 nine-year-old Lang moved with his father to Beijing for studies at the Central Music Conservatory. Despite initial troubles there, he advanced under the guidance of Zhao Ping-Guo. Lang won the 1993 Beijing-based Xing Hai Cup Piano Competition and the following year captured first prize at the International Competition for Young Pianists, in Ettlingen, Germany.

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Lang appeared on Japanese television in 1995 in a performance of the Chopin Second Concerto, with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. At 15 (1997) he began studies at the Curtis Institute with Gary Graffman.

In 1999 he debuted at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago with an acclaimed performance of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto. 2001 was another breakthrough year: Lang debuted at Carnegie Hall in a program of Haydn, Schubert, Tan Dun, Schumann, Chopin, and Liszt, and then went on tour to Beijing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He also debuted later that year at the Proms, in Royal Albert Hall, London.

Lang’s 2003 CD of the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn first piano concertos with Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, on DG, drew much critical acclaim. Further successful recordings and concerts followed, including his 2007 appearance at the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm, Sweden. Lang’s performance at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing was reportedly viewed by more than a billion people. Lang appeared with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall for the 2010 New Year’s Eve China Festival. He is the author of an autobiography, Journey of a Thousand Miles; it has also been released as Playing with Flying Keys, a version for children.

Lang Lang03Controversy erupted in Lang’s career when on January 19, 2011, he appeared at the White House and performed an arrangement of My Motherland, a Chinese melody once associated with anti-American feelings. Lang graciously responded to negative commentary that he intended no criticism whatever of the U.S. Among Lang’s more acclaimed recordings is his 2010 Sony CD/DVD, Lang Lang Live in Vienna, which features works by Beethoven, Chopin, Prokofiev, and Albeniz.

In the 2010s Lang has aimed squarely at mainstream audiences and has been rewarded with consistently strong album sales. He has released survey albums devoted to Liszt (My Piano Hero), Chopin, and Mozart, as well as thematic programs: Piano Daydreams and New York Rhapsody (both 2016). On the latter album he served as accompanist to such diverse popular singers as alternative country songwriter Jason Isbell and traditional jazz chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux. The year 2017 saw Lang record a pair of piano concertos by film composer Howard Shore of Lord of the Rings fame. (by Robert Cummings)

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And here is his 4th solo album:

If it is possible to play the piano charismatically, then that is what Lang Lang does. His total identification with each piece gives his playing a warmth, a personal touch, that is unique. His performance of Mozart’s K. 330 is ideally classical. The opening movement seems played with the fingers just touching the keys. The big Chopin sonata is given an imposing, dignified reading, and Lang Lang plays the frisky scherzo–the most perky one Chopin ever wrote–with obvious glee.

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The performance of Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” is filled with characterization: dreamy, filled with wonderment (“Curious Story”), wackiness (“Catch me if you can”), and stillness (“Child falling asleep”); Lang Lang manages to avoid affectation throughout. A bonus CD offers Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2 in Vladimir Horowitz’s arrangement and is dizzying in its virtuosity. This is a must-have; Lang Lang is not being over-hyped. (Robert Levine)

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Personnel:
Lang Lang (piano)

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Tracklist:

Piano Sonata No. 10 in C major, K. 330 (K. 300) (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart):
01. Allegro moderato 6.35
02. Andante cantabile 7.29
03. Allegretto 5.47

Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58, CT. 203 (Frederic Chopin):
04. Allegro maestoso 15.09
05. Scherzo. Molto vivace 3.24
06. Largo 14.09
07. Finale. Presto non tanto 5.39

Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) for piano, Op. 15 (Robert Schumann):
08. Von fremden Ländern und Menschen (About foreign lands and peoples) 1.51
09. Kuriose Geschichte (Curious story) 1.11
10. Hasche – Mann (Catch me if you can) 0.28
11. Bittendes Kind (Pleading child) 0.52
12. Glückes genug (Happiness) 1.25
13. Wichtige Begebenheit (Important event) 1.01
14. Träumerei (Dreaming) 3.17
15. Am Kamin (At the fireside) 1.21
16. Ritter vom Steckenpferd (Knight of the hobby – horse) 0.35
17. Fast zu ernst (Almost too serious) 1.51
18. Fürchtenmachen (Frightening) 1.45
19. Kind im Einschlummern (Child falling asleep) 2.41
20. Der Dichter spricht (The poet speaks) 3.12

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Franz Liszt:
21. Hungarian Rhapsody, for piano No. 12 in C sharp minor (aka “No. 2”) 9.05

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The official website:
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Al Kooper – Black Coffee (2005)

FrontCover1Al Kooper (born Alan Peter Kuperschmidt, February 5, 1944) is an American songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing Blood, Sweat & Tears, although he did not stay with the group long enough to share its popularity. Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s, he was a prolific studio musician, playing organ on the Bob Dylan song “Like A Rolling Stone”, French horn on the Rolling Stones song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, and lead guitar on Rita Coolidge’s “The Lady’s Not for Sale”, among many other appearances. He also produced a number of one-off collaboration albums, such as the Super Session album that brought together guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. In the 1970s he was a successful manager and producer, notably recording Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first three albums. He has also had a successful solo career, written music for film soundtracks, and has lectured in musical composition. He continues to perform live. (wikipedia)

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Black Coffee is Al Kooper’s first new recording of solo material in more than 30 years. While Kooper, rock music’s most infamous polymath, has never been entirely idle (he has continued to sporadically produce, write, arrange, perform, and hustle), he has been living in semi-retirement in Nash Vegas since the 1990s and this is a major re-entry. The good news is that Black Coffee is a heady brew of loose, rootsy rock, soul, and funky R&B. Kooper and “the Funky Faculty” — drummer Larry Finn, guitarist Bob Doezma, and bassist Tim Stein — along with some select guests, turn up the inspiration dial to 10 and cut loose with a batch of solidly written originals that accent the gritty, immediate and timeless heart of a popular music that hasn’t been so in decades, and a couple of crafty covers. Kooper produced and arranged the set and plays multiple instruments. The opener “My Hands Are Tied” is classically written soul in the Stax/ Volt vein. With a horn section, a trio of backing vocalists, and his B3 carrying the melody, Kooper also plays mandolin on the tune and it sounds like it was meant to be in the mix. He may be adding the first new instrument to the soul canon in decades. His singing voice is in fine shape here as well, turning in a tough, emotive performance underscored by Doerzma’s ragged lead work in the break.

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This is followed by Keb’ Mo”s “Am I Wrong,” on which Kooper plays everything (and the mandolin is present here as well). This is a gritty, high lonesome blues that drips with emotion and atmosphere. The faux lounge swing of “How Am I Ever Gonna Get Over You,” is tainted just a bit because Kooper’s voice is not particularly well suited to the tune (think Leon Russell singing Sinatra), but it’s a minor complaint and the arrangement is stellar. Longtime compadre Dan Penn co-wrote “Going, Going, Gone,” with its slow, deliberate, and humorous look at getting old. Drummer Anton Fig joins him (he plays everything else) on a stomping rock & roll cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready,” that underscores the blues in the melody. There’s also a smoking live version of “Green Onions,” a rare instrumental here. The steamy reggae-meets-R&B mode on Hal Linden’s “Got My Ion Hue,” is quirky yet utterly gimmick free. And while Kooper’s voice may not be ideally right for Lil Armstrong’s classic “Just for a Thrill,” he pulls it off seamlessly — and his organ and piano work on the tune are stellar. Another live selection is “Comin’ Back in a Cadillac,” that goes on for nearly ten minutes with smoking horn and guitar grooves before closing with the soulful ballad “(I Want You To) Tell Me the Truth.” Black Coffee is consistent and engaging; it is a better album than anyone had any right to expect. But as iconoclastic and unpredictable as Kooper has been in his nearly 50-year career, expectations themselves are suspect. (by Thom Jurek)

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Personnel:
Larry Finn (drums)
Al Kooper (keyboards, vocals, guitar, french horn, oboe, Organ, percussion, pizzicato)
Daryl Lowery (saxophone)
Tom Baird Stein (bass)
Jeff Stout (trumpet)
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Anton Fig (drums)
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background vocals:
Curtis King – Sherryl Marshal – Catherine Russell – Jimmy Vivino

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Tracklist:
01. My Hands Are Tied (Kooper) 4.52
02. Am I Wrong (Moore) 3.29
03. How My Ever Gonna Get Over You (Kooper) 5.35
04. Going, Going, Gone (Kooper/Penn) 4.58
05. Keep It To Yourself (Kooper) 5.20
06. Get Ready (Robinson) 3.14
07. Imaginary Lover (Kooper/Stewart) 3.38
08. Green Onions (live) (Jones/Cropper/Jackson/Steinberg) 6.23
09. Another Man’s Prize (Kooper) 6.07
10. Childish Love (Kooper) 3.26
11. Got My Ion Hue (Lindes) 4.18
12. Just For A Thrill (Raye/Armstrong) 3.54
13. Back In A Cadillac (live) (Kooper) 9.54
14. (I Want You To) Tell The Truth (Kooper) 3.55

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More from Al Kooper:
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Petra Haden – Sings The Who Sell Out (2005)

FrontCover1Petra Haden (born October 11, 1971) is an American musician and singer. She has been a member of That Dog, Tito & Tarantula, and The Decemberists; has contributed to recordings by Bill Frisell, The Twilight Singers, Beck, Mike Watt, Luscious Jackson, Foo Fighters, Green Day, Weezer, The Rentals, Victoria Williams, Yuka Honda, The Gutter Twins, Sunn O))), and Cornelius. She is the daughter of the jazz bassist Charlie Haden; the triplet sister of bassist Rachel Haden (her bandmate in That Dog) and cellist Tanya Haden (married to singer and actor Jack Black) with whom she has performed as The Haden Triplets; and the sister of bassist-singer Josh Haden, leader of the group Spain.

In New York City, in 1996 she released her first album, Imaginaryland, consisting mostly of original a cappella music. In 2000, Petra was struck by a car while crossing a street in Los Angeles; the resulting injuries forced her out of performance for several months. In 2005 she released the home-recorded album Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out (Bar/None), a complete a cappella rendition of The Who Sell Out. The project was suggested to Haden by longtime friend Mike Watt, who also gave her the eight-channel multi-track cassette recorder she used to make it. Funded in part by a Durfee grant and wanting to perform the work live, Haden created a new arrangement of The Who Sell Out for a ten-woman a cappella choir called Petra Haden & The Sellouts. The premiere live performance of the full work occurred in July 2005 at the Ford Amphitheatre as a PetraHaden3part of the “sound.” concert series.

She has also released a self-titled collaboration with jazz guitarist Bill Frisell.

She contributed to the recording of ØØ Void by drone metal band Sunn O))) and played on the debut and follow up album of Sunn O))) guitarist Greg Anderson’s other doom metal band Goatsnake. The Haden Triplets sang the part of the Fates in Anaïs Mitchell’s 2010 release Hadestown on Righteous Babe Records.

She is also at work on a collection of songs with Yuka Honda,[2] apparently with contributing performances by Sean Lennon.

In 2007, Haden recorded an a cappella cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” for the compilation album Guilt by Association Vol. 1. This arrangement of the song is very similar to that used in the Glee version of the song in 2009.

She performed on the soundtrack to the film An American Crime, starring Catherine Keener and Ellen Page, which premiered on Showtime in May 2008.

In 2009, Toyota commissioned Haden to perform three songs for television commercials for the third-generation Toyota Prius, including an a cappella version of the Bellamy Brothers 1970s song “Let Your Love Flow” and worked as an arranger and vocal coach The Sing Off on NBC, alongside Deke Sharon.

Haden played violin on “Sentimental Tune” by Tegan and Sara, off of their album Sainthood (released October 27, 2009).

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In 2011, Haden formed the group If By Yes with Yuka Honda, the culmination of an eight-year songwriting collaboration. The band released one album, “Salt on Sea Glass”[7] Other band members included Yuko Araki on drums and Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu on guitar, with contributions from David Byrne and Nels Cline.

In 2014 she worked on a collaboration with Jim Bianco in Hooray Matinee. The resulting tracks were released on a number of digital outlets.

In 2015, she provided vocals for the rock mockumentary “Gentle & Soft: The Blue Jean Committee Story”, the 1st season finale of the IFC series Documentary Now! (starring Fred Armisen & Bill Hader). Haden’s voice was used as the falsetto of Blue Jean Committee bassist Clark Honus (played by Hader). Haden even appeared live with Armisen & Hader as “The Blue Jean Committee” on Late Night With Seth Meyers, with Hader lip-synching to Haden’s vocals.

Also in 2015, Haden again collaborated with Bill Frisell, providing vocals on his 2016 album When You Wish Upon A Star.

In 2016, the song “Easy Street” by The Collapsable Hearts Club, which featured Haden and Jim Bianco, played throughout The Walking Dead episode “The Cell”. A few hours after the episode’s broadcast, the song rose to number 92 in the UK Singles Chart.

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Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out is an album by Petra Haden, an entirely a cappella interpretation of the album The Who Sell Out by English rock band The Who. Haden supplies all of the vocals. It was released in 2005 on Bar None Records. The recording was inspired by former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, who gave Haden the 8-track recorder with the original Who album on it.

In the Boston Globe on 13 March 2005, The Who’s guitarist and principal songwriter, Pete Townshend, had this to say about Haden’s version of the album:

I was a little embarrassed to realize I was enjoying my own music so much, for in a way it was like hearing it for the first time. What Petra does with her voice, which is not so easy to do, is challenge the entire rock framework … When she does depart from the original music she does it purely to bring a little piece of herself — and when she appears she is so very welcome. I felt like I’d received something better than a Grammy.

In his book Paddle Your Own Canoe, actor Nick Offerman recommends the album as ideal to listen to while building canoes. (by wikipedia)

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One of the triplet daughters of legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden, Petra grew up in a world of music. At a young age, she developed a remarkable talent to perfectly mimick the sounds of instruments she was hearing around the house from Captain Kagaroo to the Cocteau Twins. She developed complex arrangements in her head and could interpret all sorts of songs. Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out is the latest chapter in the always provocative, often unpredictable yet never less than fascinating musical career of Ms. Haden. The impetus for the project came from her friend, bassist mike watt, who suggested that she attempt to re-imagine this classic Who album as an a capella tour de force (this at least a year before any news of Bjork’s Medulla leaked to the press). He gave her an 8 track cassette tape with the original Who album recorded onto one track and the other seven empty, for her to fill with intricate vocal harmonies reinventing not only all The Who´s singing and instrumental parts  including drums  she also recorded all the mock radio commercials so integral to The Who Sell Out experience. The final result is a technical tour de force that highlights The Who’s own achievement, bringing all the elements of chorale music, vaudevillian schmaltz and Renaissance chamber ensemble playing powerfully to the fore. (Press release)

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No one would have seen this coming, but it’s as natural as loving a great album can be. Petra Haden renders the classic album, The Who Sell Out, in its entirety — fake commercials and all — and she does it a capella. She has a voice and sensibilities to make this work as she performs both the lyrics and components from the Who’s instrumental tracks. It is the latter which is particularly affecting, her choices addressing how many fans of the original album would also identify a song’s key characteristics. Townshend’s guitar parts in particular are sung with virtuosity and unmistakable glee. Far from being a mere stunt, this set works on its own as well as giving one pause, reconsidering the original work in a new light. –David Greenberger

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Personnel:
Petrta Haden (vocals, all instruments)

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Tracklist:
01. Armenia City In The Sky (Keen) 3.40
02. Heinz Baked Beans (Entwistle) 1.10
03. Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand (Townshend) 2.30
04. Odorono (Townshend) 2.18
05. Tattoo (Townshend) 3.10
06. Our Love Was (Townshend) 3.25
07. I Can See For Miles (Townshend) 4.14
08. I Can’t Reach You (Townshend) 3.30
09. Medac (Entwistle) 0.57
10. Relax (Townshend) 2.41
11. Silas Stingy (Entwistle)
12. Sunrise (Townshend) (Townshend) 3.03
13. Rael (Townshend) 5.30
14. Untitled 0.18

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Deke Leonard – Freedom And Chains (2005)

FrontCover1Deke Leonard is a Welsh musician serving a life sentence in the music business. After several unsuccessful escape attempts he is now resigned to his fate.

During the sixties, Deke served his apprenticeship in several successful rock’n’roll bands on the Welsh gig circuit, including the CORNCRACKERS, the JETS, the BLACKJACKS and the DREAM, who headlined the national press in 1967 with the headline ‘The Biggest Freak-Out To Hit South Wales’. There were occasional adventures abroad in the footsteps of The Beatles, notably residencies in the Top Ten Club in Hamburg – where bands cut the mustard playing up to 7 or 8 hours a day – and a tours of US Army bases in Europe.

In 1968 Deke joined Pye recording artists, THE BYSTANDERS, whose single releases included 98.6 and When Jesamine Goes. But the times were changing and the BYSTANDERS were changing with them. They changed the name of the band to MAN and renegotiated their deal with Pye Records from a singles deal to an album deal, and started seriously writing their own material. Deke, a compulsive songwriter, thought he’d gone to heaven. They released two albums on Pye, REVELATION and 2OZS OF PLASTIC (WITH A HOLE IN THE MIDDLE). They signed a new management deal with Marshall Arts and were soon touring Europe, so much so that they based themselves in Germany for a year.

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At the start of the seventies, Marshall Arts negotiated a new record deal with United Artists and MAN entered a golden period. They made seven studio albums with UA, four of which charted, and two live albums, LIVE AT THE PADGETT ROOMS and XMAS AT THE PATTI featuring Dave Edmunds. Both topped the budget album charts and are now regarded as collectors items. Each album was promoted with British and European tours, and they found themselves working 364 days a year (Marshall Arts allowed them Christmas Day off).

After the second UA album Deke left the band and was immediately offered a solo deal with UA and went on to make two albums, ICEBERG and KAMIKAZE. Deke formed a band called ICEBERG and set off to promote them with British and European tours, and live radio performances on the John Peel session shows. During his absence MAN had recorded two albums, BE GOOD TO YOURSELF and BACK INTO THE FUTURE, both of which charted. Things were going well. But when things were going well, the MANBAND (a name by which they have become definitely known) usually broke up and they duly followed this pattern. Deke, abandoning his solo career, rejoined a reconstituted MANBAND giving Marshall Arts, who had continued to represent Deke, a collective nervous breakdown.

DekeLeonhard04The next album, RHINOS, WINOS & LUNATICS went to number 12 in the British Album charts, and the band went off to the USA, doing three long tours, the first supporting HAWKWIND on the ‘Space 1999 Tour’, and headlining the next two. During the second tour they met one of their heroes, John Cippolina from QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE and invited him to join the band for a British tour. He agreed and the resulting live album, MAXIMUM DARKNESS also charted. After his departure, the band broke up, reformed, signed a new record deal with MCA and recorded THE WELSH CONNECTION. As soon as it was released the band went out on tour in America and Europe to promote it.

But during this tour, cracks began to appear and Man headed for a final break up. They finally broke up during a Scandinavian Tour that followed the last American adventure. They did a farewell tour of Britain which resulted in the album, ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL and a HTV documentary LIVE AT THE ROUNDHOUSE – now released on CD and DVD.
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After the break-up, Deke stayed with United Artists and made BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES, a solo album produced by Martin Rushent, whose clients included the BUZZCOCKS and the HUMAN LEAGUE. Then corporate shenanigans intervened. EMI bought United Artists and the new regime delayed the album release. It was finally released five years later.

In the meantime, Deke formed THE FORCE with former DUCKS DELUXE frontman Sean Tyler and they released an album called, imaginatively, THE FORCE. Extensive touring followed during which Sean Tyler had a nervous breakdown and THE FORCE mutated into ICEBERG. Then, in 1983, Deke’s agent informed him of an offer he’d received for a European tour for MAN.

Would they be interested? Yes, they were. The new tour was booked and the next incarnation of MAN hit the road. The new line-up included MAN originals, Micky Jones and Martin Ace along with Deke, but did not include long-time drummer Terry Williams who had joined DIRE STRAITS. His replacement was ex-GENTLE GIANT drummer, John `Pugwash’ Weathers.

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For the next twenty years the band toured extensively and continued to produce albums including THE TWANG DYNASTY, CALL DOWN THE MOON, and ENDANGERED SPECIES and most of the back-catalogue has now been re-released by Point Records. Further to a number of official bootleg albums are now on the shelves, several new compilation albums have been produced (including live concert material) by various companies including Sanctuary Records. DVDs include MAN LIVE and MAN AT THE ROUNDHOUSE and a live appearance on the latest rock compilation DVD THE LEGENDS OF ROCK.
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Throughout the 1980s Deke also became a journalist contributing regular articles and reviews for, amongst others, VOX MAGAZINE, NEW HI-FI SOUND and STUDIO WEEK. For the past 10 years Deke has written a regular monthly column ‘Deke Speaks’ for the fanzine THE WELSH CONNECTION compiled and edited by his publisher, Michael Heatley (author of the Dec.2004 publication JOHN PEEL A LIFE IN MUSIC).

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During the 1990s, Deke wrote two critically-acclaimed autobiographical books, RHINOS, WINOS, & LUNATICS (The legend of the MAN a Rock’n’Roll band) and MAYBE I SHOULD’VE STAYED IN BED? (The Flip Side Of The Rock’n’Roll Dream) both published by Michael Heatley of Northdown Publishing, author of the December 2004 publication JOHN PEEL, A LIFE IN MUSIC. Deke’s books reveal the quirky side of the rock’n’roll dream and provide a sideways glance at the social history of the last forty years. THE TIMES called them `hilarious and unputdownable’; TIME OUT (London) called them ‘the quintessential rock’n’roll memoirs that’ll have you laughing out loud’; CLASSIC ROCK remarked ‘This is a genuinely hilarious feast. Forget Spinal Tap. This is the real deal’ and MOJO observed ‘Leonard writes up a storm. You will find these books irresistable’.

In 2003 The Fiction Factory, a film company, acquired the film rights to both books and a film is now in pre-production.

Occasional TV appearances include from the past THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST and BBC coverage of festivals such as READING and GLASTONBURY and a host of European shows. Deke has more recently appeared as a panellist on HTV’s PUB ROCK QUIZ and guest commentator on BBC 1’s JUKE BOX HEROES and BBC1’s WALES IN OUT TIME with JOHN HUMPHRYS.

DekeLeonhard07Past radio shows include five live JOHN PEEL SESSIONS and Deke is now a regular on BBC Radio Wales, most recently presenting a programme of rock’n’roll anecdotes called TALES OF THE ROAD; as a guest narrator on DRAGONS BREATH (a history of welsh rock music) and assuming the mantle of team captain on the musican quiz series ROCK OF AGES with guest panellists Trevor Burton of THE MOVE; Reg Presley from THE TROGGS and Mike D’Abo.

Recently, Steve Elsdon, a promoter and friend, suggested he try a one-man show, telling rock’n’roll stories and singing songs. The first show was at the new DYLAN THOMAS CENTRE THEATRE in Swansea. It was a great success and Deke loved every minute of it. Other shows have followed in London and nationally. Deke now sees himself as a cross between Bo Diddley and Peter Ustinov. A tour of one-man shows is now planned and this biography is intended to whet your appetite in the hope that you will be encouraged to participate.

In 2004, Deke left the band to follow his own star. The split was amicable but Deke thinks the band were secretly glad to get rid of him. “Well,” he says, “given half a chance I’d get rid of me.”

Deke Leonard’s one-man shows are an hilarious journey, illustrated with songs, around the flip side of the rock’n’roll dream. It is designed to appeal to both those familiar with Deke’s career, and newcomers alike. As RECORD BUYER remarked “It is social history, rock’n’roll and essential’.

During 2004 Deke also went back into the studio to record his first solo album for a quarter of a century entitled FREEDOM AND CHAINS, a compilation of new songs recently released on 17th January, 2005 by Angel Air Records. Also, soon to be released by Hux Records is Deke Leonard WIRELESS – a collection of live radio shows recorded during the 70s including John Peel session. (official biography)

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Deke Leonard is singer & lead guitarist with Man, Wales’ psychedelic music wizards founded in 1968 & still going strong. He has also fronted his own hard rock band & made three solo albums – ‘Iceberg’, ‘Kamikaze’, & ‘Before Your Very Eyes’. This is a 21 track collection of songs from the 70s & 80s only seven of which exist in officially released form & are featured here in alternate form. The rest are studio recorded demos & songs that for various reasons never got out. (Promo text)

I first saw Deke Leonard way back in 1976 when he was playing with the Man band at Edinburgh University round about 1976 and it turned out to be one of the best live DekeLeonhard08concerts I had ever been at ! I went on to buy Deke’s “Iceberg” albums Iceberg and Kamekaze over the next few years and very much enjoyed the songs. I drifted out of music, essentially for the next 35 years but started to replace many of my 70’s vinyls with CD’s round about 2012. In February 2017, I Iearned of the passing away of Deke and felt quite sad about it, this kick started my re-newed interest in his music and I recently purchased Freedom and Chains. It amazes me why Deke Leonard didn’t rise to the great heights of fame and fortune, but unless you grew up in the 60’s and 70’s you might not appreciate his contribution to the music industry. This album has some very clever lyrics and you can’t help but smile all the way through Guantanamo Bay(track 04). Hope that’s how you spell it !!! So black !!. Palestine has an amazing lead guitar throughout the song again with a superb chorus. The theme of the album is just as the title suggests and the songs pretty much stick to the general theme. If you liked the Man band, this is actually quite different but in all the best ways, it will not disappoint. Take a risk and listen (Bruce Craig)

This album portrays a master performing his art. ENJOY

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Personnel:
Deke Leonard (guitar, vocals)
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Martin Ace – Simon Parsons – Keith Hodge – Gareth Llewelyn – Silve Thorrington – Bob Richards and many more

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Tracklist:
01. The Thrill Of Revolution 6.07
02. I Don’t Love You Anymore 2.56
03. Cuba 5.18
04. Guantanamo Bay 3:17
05. Blues 4:01
06. Tahitian Thunder 4:21
07 Palestine 3:58
08. Just Another Woman 4:27
09. Queen Of My Heart 2:53
10. Something In My Heart Says No 2:02
11. Tomorrow’s Gonna Come 3:26
12. Empty Places 4:17
13. The Same Mistake 4:03
14. Is This What Love Is? 5:22
15. Trapped (In The Jaws Of Love) 4:00
16. Blues 2 (The Meek Mix) 4:18

All songs written by Deke Leonhard
except 06., written by Deke Leonhard & Sean Tyla

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DekeLeonhard09Roger Arnold “Deke” Leonard (18 December 1944 – 31 January 2017)

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Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion – Mozart Meets Cuba (2005)

KlazzBrothersFrontCover1In celebration of the anniversary of Mozart’s 250th birthday in 2006, Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion dedicated their new album to the genius of composition and improvisation, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The album is part of the quintet’s sophisticated crossover series between classical music, jazz and Latin-American rhythms. “Mozart meets Cuba“ invites the listeners to join in on an imaginary musical trip to Cuba, where they get to experience the Viennese Classic in a mould-breaking innovative way. Witty and playful and with a delicate musical intuition the arrangements of the Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion lead Mozart and his music on to novel musical dimensions, fusing the most beautiful compositions of the great Salzburg genius with the rhythm and harmonies of Latin jazz. Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion pay homage to a great composer of an extraordinary dramatic art, that is as relevant as it was 250 years ago. Thus, the ensemble has created a unique conversation between the Caribbean and the occident, glossily reconciling classical sonata themes with the Caribbean dancing rhythm. As a result the „Serenade No. 13“ is transformed into a cha-cha-cha and „The Turkish March“ converted into a “Cuban” one. Next to it, two single compositions are united to one piece as can be heard with Pamina’s aria from “The Magic Flute”. The aria is combined with „Besame Mucho“, motives of Ennio Morricones’ “Once Upon a Time in the West” resound within the overture of „Don Giovanni“.

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The programme „Mozart meets Cuba“ premiered at the Munich Philharmonic Hall in 2005. It was broadcasted worldwide by Euroarts. In the same year the same-titled album was released with Sony Classical, which was awarded the “Echo Classic” in the category “Classic Beyond Borders”, thus presenting the second “Echo” award for the successful quintet. Their international tour started just in time for Mozart’s birthday on 27th January 2006 with a concert at the “Wiener Konzertverein”, followed by various other performances at renowned concert halls such as the “Berlin Philharmonic Hall”, the “Gewandhaus Leipzig” and the “Semper Opera Dresden”.

“Mozart meets Cuba” becomes a memorable musical experience thanks to the unique intensityof the quintet’s impressive creativity in perfectly blending music of different genres. (grandmontagne.de)

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As a follow up to their accomplished fusion effort last year, “Classic Meets Cuba”, the Klazz Brothers and Cuba Percussion have collaborated again for much of the same, only this time focusing specifically on the works of Mozart. If the results are not quite as exhilarating as the first effort, it may be that the novelty feels somewhat worn this time despite the often virtuoso playing displayed here. Recalling some of Vince Guaraldi’s work in the 1960’s, the jazzy arrangements are once again supplemented with the beat-heavy Cuban rhythms churned out by Alexis Herrera Estevez on timbales and Elio Rodriguez Luis on congas. What continues to impress on this recording is how well the two sides of the ensemble – Estevez and Rodriguez on one and on the other, pianist Tobias Forster, bassist Killian Forster and drummer Tim Hahn – mesh so well in making all the disparate musical elements balance without contrivance.

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Many of Mozart’s most renowned pieces are here in reconfigured form. The warhorse Piano Sonata K. 545 (“Sonata Facile”) turns into a sunny Caribbean number, “Calypso Facile”, while the staccato-tempo Turkish March evolves into the propulsive “Cuban March”. More creatively, the familiar Piano Concerto No. 21, K. 467 turns into an African-accented bolero named appropriately “Afrolero” complete with a faraway-sounding whistle, while Eine Kleine Nachtmusik K. 525 becomes a percolating dance number, “Bomba de la Noche”. Even more audaciously, they turn the overture to “Don Giovanni” into a slow, evocative bolero number, “Don Muerte”, and the familiar aria, “La Ci Darem La Mano” into a lovely piano-dominated ballad, “Reich Mir Die Hand (Your Hand in Mine)”. Somewhat less successful are the two selections derived from “The Magic Flute” – “Yo Siento Mucho”, a cha-cha version of “Ach, Ich Fuhl’s” and Forster’s extended piano riffs based on the potpourri passage, “Salzburger Schafferl”. Latin pop artist Lou Bega lends his saucy vocals to “Son de Mozart”, a clubby reinvention of Fantasia in C Minor, K. 475. This is fun listening for fans of Latin-classical fusion. (Ed Uyeshima)

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Personnel:
Alexis Herrera Estevez (timbales)
Kilian Forster (bass)
Tobias Forster (piano)
Tim Hahn (drums)
Elio Rodriguez Luis (percussion)
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Lou Bega (vocals on 16.)
Olivier Roland Kerourio (harmonica on 08.)
Mario Felix Hernandez Morejon (trumpet on 08. + 16.)

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Tracklist:
01. Guantánameritmo – Sonate c-Moll KV 457 / 2.59
02. Salzburger Schafferl – Die Zauberflöte 5.16
03. Calypso Facile – Sonate C-Dur KV 545 / 6.11
04. Poema con Cohiba – Klarinettenkonzert 3.07
05. Kubanischer Marsch – Türkischer Marsch 4.00
06. Afrolero – Klavierkonzert Nr. 21 / 5.08
07. Don Cajon 0.34
08. Don Muerte – Don Giovanni 5.03
09. Sonatadur – Sonate A-Dur KV 331 / 3.29
10. Wenn Son, Danzon – Klavierkonzert Nr. 23 / 4.32
11. Reich mir die Hand – Reich mir die Hand, mein Leben 4.44
12. Tercero de la Noche – Eine kleine Nachtmusik 5.07
13. Yo siento mucho – Die Zauberflöte 4.48
14. Bomba de la Noche – Eine kleine Nachtmusik 3.59
15. Hasta la vista Mozart 2.27
16. Son de Mozart – Fantasie c-Moll 4.21

Music composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Raul Midón – State Of Mind (2005)

FrontCover1.jpgRaul Midón is a contemporary singer/songwriter whose impassioned acoustic guitar playing — a mix of rock, classical, and flamenco — has gotten him just as much attention as his smooth, relaxed voice. Blind since birth, Midón was born in Embudo, New Mexico, to an Argentine father and American mother. He began playing drums early in his childhood before switching to guitar, taking in flamenco, jazz, and classical styles on his chosen instrument. He relocated to Miami for college in the ’90s and while there moonlighted as a background vocalist for Latin pop recording sessions. Midón was a remarkable talent even then, and word quickly spread of his talent as a singer and guitarist, one inspired by a crop of artists including Hermeto Pascoal, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Bill Withers.

As a solo artist, Midón made his debut on RCA with Gracias a la Vida (1999), after which he relocated to New York, where he concentrated on a solo career. Following the independent release Blind to Reality (2001), he signed with the EMI-distributed Manhattan label and released State of Mind (2005) and World Within a World (2007). The former featured appearances from Stevie Wonder and Jason Mraz and cracked the Billboard 200 chart. A short stint with Decca produced Synthesis (2010), highlighted by a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird”; the same year, a performance in support of Marcus Miller was documented on A Night in Monte Carlo. Invisible Chains: Live from NYC (2012), self-released, preceded an association with Mack Avenue subsidiary Artistry for Don’t Hesitate (2014) and Bad Ass and Blind (2017). (by by Wade Kergan)

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Hailed as one of the breakout releases of 2005, blind guitarist Raul Midón’s major-label debut generally justifies the hype. He is a stunning acoustic guitarist with a percussive, at times Latin style, and a silky, inviting singer straight out of the Stevie Wonder/Donny Hathaway school. (Wonder plays on one track and Hathaway is the subject of another.) Midón’s major-label debut was co-helmed by Arif Mardin, the legendary producer behind Norah Jones’ successful first release. While musically there isn’t much common ground between the two artists, Mardin’s subtle, airy approach works perfectly here. He lets Midón’s expressive voice and nimble acoustic guitar set the tone, adding hints of percussion, flute, vibraphone, acoustic bass, wispy keyboards, and occasional backing vocals to flesh out the songs.

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It’s a successful formula, beefing up the music without making it overly slick. Despite the vocal similarity to Wonder, Midón establishes his own sound, singing uplifting songs of love and life with Latin and jazz flourishes that marinate in the stripped-down, acoustic arrangements. It’s pleasant enough, but even with a few left turns such as the fiery conga- and flute-driven spoken word “I Would Do Anything,” the style and songs tend to get a little repetitious as the album creeps past its midpoint. Unlike Wonder, Midón’s lovely, smooth quiet storm voice doesn’t shift often enough to a harsher side, something that would help this album shift gears out of cruise control and Sunday morning brunch mode. Regardless, this remains a beautifully focused and mature work. Midón has already found his voice and the intermingled jazz/Latin/folk/soul qualities indicate a musician who can move in any one of a number of directions after this impressive start. (by Hal Horowitz)

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Personnel:
Richard Hammond (bass)
Raul Midón (vocals, guitar)
Shedrick Mitchell (organ)
Daniel Sadownick (percussion)
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Cyro Baptista (percussion on 11.)
Jerry Barnes (bass on 06. + 08.
Sammy Figeroua (percussion on 12.)
Lisa Fisher (background vocals on  04., 07. + 13.)
Stefon Harris (vibraphone on 07. + 13.)
Donny Hathaway (vocals on 08.)
Joe Mardin (piano on 03., drums on 09., percussion on 11.)
Gregoire Maret (harmonica on 11.)
Jonathan Maron (bass on 02.)
Jason Mraz (vocals, guitar on 03.)
Eric Revis (bass on 11.)
Dave Valentine (flute on 12.)
Stevie Wonder (harmonica on 07.)

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Tracklist:
01. State Of Mind (Midón) 3.25
02. If You Gonna Leave (Midón) 3.52
03. Keep On Hoping (Midón(Mraz) 4.33
04. Mystery Girl (Midón) 4.23
05. Waited All My Life (Midón) 4.36
06. Everybody (Midón) 4.01
07.  Expressions Of Love (Midón) 2.50
08. Sittin’ In The Middle (Midón) 3.32
09. Suddenly (Midón) 3.32
10. Never Get Enough (Midón) 3.46
11. Sunshine (I Can Fly) (Menedez/Midón/Vega) 4.34
12. I Would Do Anything (Midón) 3.34
13. All In Your Mind (Fournier/Midón) 3.18

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Brian Crain – Spring Symphonies (2005)

FrontCover1.jpgBrian Crain was a musically inclined child, but he was never formally educated in music, and yet has still found success as a pianist/composer. He was born in Hollywood, and although offered piano lessons, he preferred honing his baseball skills to practicing. He also built his own home studio while working on audio production for films as a teenager. Crain’s dreams of being a professional ballplayer did not come to fruition, but in the meantime, he had managed to teach himself how to play piano as he picked out his own melodies. He released his first CD, Morning Light, in 1997, and met with enough success to make music his career. Crain has since made more than a dozen albums of his own music. The use of one of his piano pieces, Butterfly Waltz, in a South Korean drama has made him an artist better known in Asia than in his home country. He has a large fan base and toured there several times, as his music is used in more TV commercials and programming. Crain enjoys trying new ideas in his music, such as unusual meters and minimalist concepts used on his albums Piano Opus (2011) and Piano and Light (2009), to complement his flowing, attractive melodies. (by Patsy Morita)

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In 2004, Brian Crain took the opportunity to reflect on his recording portfolio by revisiting his catalog and re-recording with a string quartet. Apparently, this was one small step toward the giant leap that Crain has made here. The great adventure is that his latest recording includes a collaboration with the 52 member Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. This progressive statement comes without the backing of any recording label and yet the results are grand and magnificent.

In a short two-year period, Crain has gone from the synthesized string arrangements of the 2003 Sienna to organic warmth of the quartet arrangements on his retrospective release last year. This time around Spring Symphonies, despite all the risks and investment is not only a heroic but equally bold and successful creative step. Crain not only collaborated with a full orchestra, he also traveled to the Czech Republic which was probably a huge financial risk taking into account that the project comes with no label backing.

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Considering the creative use of an orchestra, the classical influences are obvious and are even reflected in the title of the compositions that are also divided into two symphonies. The intermission comes courtesy of the one stripped down track appropriately entitled “Piano Solo”. The tempo is slow and the mood very somber giving the album its most philosophical and reflective moment. Otherwise, the remainder of the album makes full use of the orchestration made available to Crain who continues to emphasize the melody line that he repeats over and over with additional embellishments from various members of the orchestra. Though Crain maintains his own identity his blending of classical movements along with memorable memories brings to mind the musical comparisons of Tim Janis. The tearful strings of “Andante Affettuoso” are about as powerful as the vapors of an onion to the naked human eye.

Also most memorable is the opening movement “Andante Cantabile” that is arousing and emotive. Countered by Brian’s piano bridge brings the listener to the early realization that Spring Symphonies has something very special to say. Though not quite as complex, it would be daring to compare this album with David Foster’s Symphony Sessions and the equally remarkable Skyline Firedance of David Lanz. Again, keep in mind that these two talented artists created their epics with the backing of major recording labels. Crain still managed to pull this feat off without the same assistance.

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Frankly, all of the movements are for the lack of a better phrase, very moving. But one specific mention should be given to “Allegro Maestoso” that has a stunning piano bridge that returns the listener to a luscious string overture. It is simply wonderful, as is the entire 49 minutes and odd seconds of this ambitious and audacious album.

Brian Crain has shown the ability not only to create and compose but do so on a grand scale whether it comes with major label backing or not. This artist will not be stopped and is starting to secure the word of mouth that is far overdue. However, Spring Symphonies is so superior to anything Crain has done that the only negative aspect is how does he follow up on this tour de force? However, this is a great quandary to be in. (by Michael Debbage)

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Personnel:
Brian Crain (piano)
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Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra conducted by Petr Vronsky

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Tracklist:

Symphony No. 1:
01. Andante Cantabile 6.17
02. Andantino 4.00
03. Adagio Con Amore 7.05
04. Allegro Maestoso 4.59

05.Piano Solo 4.18

Symphony No. 2:
06. Andante Affettuoso 5.12
07. Adagio Appassionato 5.41
08. Largo Maestoso 6.37
09. Allegretto 5.16

Music composed by Brian Crain

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