album review

All posts tagged album review

In times as turbulent and uncertain as those we currently live in, it seems to me that the music we listen to would go one of two ways: escapist or reflecting what’s happening around us. But, what if there was a third way? Music that reflects uncertainty while also sounding hopeful for the future of our world? In Stargazer, the new album from US musician, Jesse Terry I think we’ve found this.

I once read that during a recession, sales of red lipstick go up as we try to keep our spirits up during doom and gloom, a story that appeals to me as a fervent lover of red lipstick as pick you up, whether or not there’s any truth in it. As an escape from reality it’s pretty sure fire, albeit on a short term basis. Another escape route from reality is music, both songs that you’ve loved forever and new music that takes you to a far off, magical place. I have a pretty extensive music collection but I’m always looking for more to add and I recently came across a US artist named Jesse Terry whose new album, Stargazer really lifted me with its upbeat tone of hope and thought provoking lyrics that lead you to think about the bigger picture.  When I spoke to Terry, I asked him if was a happy person and he said that “most people see me as a happy guy…I’m happiest when making music and that’s when most people do see me.  In Stargazer, we talk about choosing your own universe and it’s the journey that’s lots of fun, it’s good to still be on that journey”.  The title track is filled with hope, compassion and empathy, demonstrated by the lines “I know how much it hurts, you’re free now to choose your universe, I know your time’s coming soon”.

Stargazer as a whole uses a lot of strings which make an emotional impact and have been thoughtfully arranged as part of the song, rather than added as an afterthought. They work so well that I would like to hear several songs as classical works as well as acoustically, particularly Woken the Wildflowers.  Terry and I bonded over the sometimes overuse of ‘extraneous strings’, my own phrase!, where it really doesn’t suit the music but in this case, Terry says that he was aided by a great arranger, Danny Mitchell and the songs were written with the strings in mind.  “Think Abbey Road without George Martin’s string arrangements” is how Terry put it.

The Abbey Road connection is apt as Terry cites The Beatles as his most overriding musical influence (he talks about them with reverence and awe in his voice) along with Jeff Lynne, Brian Wilson, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and The Travelling Wilburys.  All of these can be heard on Stargazer but as well as The Beatles, I felt that Paul McCartney’s later solo work made it’s presence felt with Terry even sounding like McCartney at times.  Listening to the rest of the album, Dangerous Times struck me as a flowing melody with lyrics that really make you think about the world around us and our place within it whereas Only A Pawn had the same effect but with a stand out intro and use of pizzicato strings.  Dance In Our Old Shoes and Runaway Town pass the had to get up and dance test parts and to me sound positively Springsteenish.

Stargazer is available here:

Jesse Terry is touring the UK in October – click here for info.

Will Dame Vera Lynn become the first centenarian to hit the number one spot in the album chart when her new album, Vera Lynn 100, is released tomorrow?  I wouldn’t bet against the original Forces Sweetheart as her last album achieved the top spot just a few years ago, meaning she would beat her own record as the oldest person to achieve a number one album.

On this album, Dame Vera’s original vocals have been set to new orchestrations, courtesy of Morgan Pochin who of course have produced and arranged several of Alfie’s albums.  The result is a masterclass of gorgeous accompaniments that show off Dame Vera’s vocals to perfection whilst bringing out the best in each duet partner.

Unsurprisingly, my favourite track is the album opener, We’ll Meet Again featuring Alfie Boe; the arrangement allows Alfie’s voice to soar but never to overshadow our Forces Sweetheart in one of her most famous songs.

Of the other duets, The White Cliffs of Dover with Alexander Armstrong and As Time Goes By with Aled Jones stand out for me.  Armstrong’s TV persona on Pointless is very much that of a smiley, affable gentleman and you can hear the smile in his voice on his track, just as you can hear the same in Jones’ voice.  Cynthia Erivo, on When You Wish Upon A Star is also beautiful and elegantly understated.  Of the songs that aren’t duets, the highlight is Sailing which I wasn’t aware that Dame Vera had recorded but apparently I’m not alone in that!  The recording has not been widely known and is a real find on this album.  I loved it.

The warmth of these tracks seems to reflect the way Britain in general feels about Dame Vera; rarely, if ever, can there have been a singer who so transcends one genre of entertainment whilst also representing such a precise period of history.  So closely linked is she with the Second World War that even those who were born long after the event still know her to be the “Forces Sweetheart”, regardless of who has held the title since.

This album is a delight to be enjoyed by all – we all know the songs so we can all sing along and indulge in one of our favourite national pastimes, nostalgia, whilst listening to an array of wonderful singers paying tribute to a national treasure.  I’ll leave the last word to Dame Vera herself:

It’s truly humbling that people still enjoy these songs from so many years ago, reliving the emotions of that time…and it’s so wonderful for me to hear ‘my songs’ again so beautifully presented in a completely new way.

I have one copy of this album to give away – just answer the question below* and the lucky winner will be drawn at random on 24 March!

Vera Lynn 100 is available here:

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This week I have been listening to “People’s Soprano” Rebecca Newman’s classical chart topping album Dare to Dream and it’s an absolute belter.  Although I have been aware of Rebecca for a year or so, mainly through twitter,(social media PR does work) this is the first time I have listened to her beautiful voice – and I’ve been missing out.

Having started her musical career aged 14 as Julie Jordan in Carousel at the Exmouth Pavilion, Rebecca then took holiday jobs to pay for singing lessons.  The world of work beckoned and it wasn’t until she went to York to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics that she began treating singing as more than just a hobby.  Weddings and busking supported her singing lessons and eventually led to the release of her first CD, Music Box in 2005. Cantare (2008), Memory (2009), O Holy Night (2010) and Fields of Gold (2011) followed.  Live performances last year culminated in supporting Aled Jones on his Cathedral tour.

Dare to Dream is a collection of mainly operatic arias with a couple of original songs (co-written by Rebecca) as well.  Of the two original songs, Heroes to the World is a classical sounding song with a pop like structure that could easily be something used in the sporting world whilst Dare to Dream is an inspiring song that sounds like it’s Rebecca’s personal motto.  If it isn’t, it should be!

My favourite song on the album is also Alfie Boe’s favourite (he has tweeted his support for Rebecca several times), Casta Diva, from Bellini’s Norma.  Known as one of the most difficult arias in a soprano’s repertoire, Rebecca’s soaring vocals gave me tingles down my spine as I listened.

Overall, the album has an excellent choice of songs to showcase Rebecca’s range although I did find my interest waning when it came to some of the songs that we are somewhat used to hearing from sopranos in recent years. Much better to hear Rebecca’s impressive voice wrapped around Micaela’s Aria, Rondine al Nido and Sull’Aria (duet with fellow soprano Mary Jess).  When it came to La Boheme’s Mi Chimiano Mimi, I confess that my mind started wandering to the possibilities of a Rebecca / Alfie duet – to hear them sing O Soave Fanciulla would be wonderful but anything would do!

Dare to Dream is available from Amazon:

rebecca newman

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