Reviews April - June 2009


Lungo la strada - live (2009) - ♪♪♪♪♪
Alice (Italy)

Most people will remember Alice (real name: Carla Bissi) from 'I treni di Tozeur', her Eurovision duet with Franco Battiato. Before and since than she has recorded many, many beautiful albums. Since the nineties, her music evolved from pop to a very unique, spiritual, sometimes serene and ethereal art music. Her last regular album, 'Il viaggio in Italia' dates from 2003. Since then Alice has been touring throughout Italy, performing in classical auditoriums, churches, concert halls and monestaries, where her spritual music matches the surroundings perfectly. This album contains her recital at the San Marco Basilica in Milan from 22 December 2006. In fact, this is Alice's first live recording since the start of her career in the early seventies. That might explain the title, 'Lungo la strada' ('Along the way'). Alice is accompanied by a three musicians: Steve Jansen (ex-Japan drummer), Marco Pancaldi and Alberto Tafuri. The selection of songs combines self penned tunes from her later albums like 'Dammi la mano amore' and 'Il contatto' with covers of great Italian songwriters, like Juri Camisasca ('Nomadi', 'L'era del mito'), the late Giuni Russo ('A' cchiu' bella') and Franco Battiato (a stunning new verion of 'La cura'). The sound is perfect and Alice's live singing is impressive. One can only wonder why she has not released a live record earlier. For all you people out there who read this review: order this treasure right away and join Alice on this most beautiful, uncompromising musical journey!


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Zaraza (2009) - ♪♪
Amsterdam Klezmer Band (Netherlands / Ukraine)

After four years of absence the Amsterdam Klezmer Band finally released a new album some months ago. As the band name suggests, only music from the Jewish tradition is invoked. The spectrum of the 7-headed monster, however, also covers balkan and gypsy, and occasionally even a Turkish banjo, a pinch of ska and big band rears its head. Musically it seems that nothing has changed. Mostly instrumental tracks, occasionally with Russian singing, and a few times with Dutch and Jewish slang words. Thanks to the mixture of a tight band, Dutch singer Job Chajes and Ukraine singer Alec Kopyt the band brings back the good old days when they performed on every festival you can imagine. And that is also the snag ‘cause the AKB is a live-band pur sang. No less than sixteen (!) tracks of Amsterdam klezmer is way too much to enjoy at home. In fact I get slightly neurotic after an hour worth of modern Klezmer music. Quality Klezmer I might add because there is nothing wrong with the tracks themselves, the problem is the quantity. It’s like the band wanted to make up for their four years of absense. For klezmer purists  this work deserves a special place in their cd-cabinet. For others… handle with care, check yourself for an overdose.

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April (2009) - ♪♪
Bløf (Netherlands)

Bløf’s new album ‘April’ is the part two of the diptych, which in October 2008 had it’s first part. As a counterpart to the more introvert and dark ‘Oktober’ the band promised a more positive spring voice. In terms of songtitles they succeeded. Songs like ‘Gelukkig’ ('Happy') and ‘Omdat het anders wordt’ ('Because everything changes') give off a happy vibe. Central themes are love, hope and the pursuit of happiness. But also a feeling of sad laissez-faire like the song ‘Misschien tot morgen’ ('Maybe until tomorrow') which again tells about good things that slip away. Not very happy, guys. Also musically ‘April’ is a continuation of ‘Oktober’. The acoustic guitar, piano and light drum sound again prevaile. Although here the arrangements are more up swinging then on it’s gloomy counterpart. ‘Midzomernacht’ ('Midsummernight') is even a happy ditty ready for nice beachy afternoons. One of the few rockier songs is the single ‘Vandaag’ ('Today') which closes the album as a sort of promise to the fans of the more solid Bløf-sound. Again there is a small role for the Flemish voice of Sarah Bettens on opener ‘Aan iedereen die wacht’ ('To everyone who waits'). And so it is very clear that this album was established in one recording session. But somehow I get the feeling that ‘April’ is the weaker part of the much better ‘Oktober’. Especially with its highly pretentious lyrics it sounds like songwriter / bass-player Peter Slager showed more constraint in the other set of songs. This becomes even more obvious when you hear ‘Wapenbroeders’ ('Brothers in arms') the only song not written by Peter, but by his brother Ronald. The song about a man (a soldier I suppose) missing the stability of home is poetic and subtle. What is the next step for the band? Taking in regard that the band suffered from internal troubles, the text in the opening song is rather ominous :"It is not difficult to see that the stock slowly runs out. But perhaps that is good”. Is it a sort of omen for the band’s end?


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Frozen roses (2009) - ♪♪♪
Ljiljana Buttler (Bosnia - Herzogovina)

To keep the Bosnian Mostar Sevdah Reunion and leader Dragi Šestić personally responsible for revitalizing the traditional Balkan song is maybe a bit to much but their impact is undeniable. Thus, the late singing legend Saban Bajramović was rescued from oblivion and also Ljiljana Buttler amazed in 2002 the western world with "The Mother of Gipsy Soul '. With a voice that had too much heavy tobacco, whiskey and hard life she is suffering the Balkan Blues in an inspiring way. The collaboration with MSR and Šestić was a lucky one so this third album, "Frozen Roses", again is made with them behind the desk and in the studio. On the new album Ljiljana follows the progress MSR itself also goes through. This is in contrast to Saban who, for his death, rigidly maintained to the old traditions. Ljiljana not. Jazz, blues and tango, they almost naturally blend into the traditional Bosnian sevdah music. That it all is not uptempo is understandable. Ljiljana is not one of the youngest and her voice just isn't meant for uptempo songs. Exemplary is the story about the recording of the song 'Sonja' in which the pianist was always playing too fast. Eventually Šestić forced the man to play the track with his left hand in the air while thinking of a prisoner in Siberia. That worked. Unfortunately it takes some patience to get used to the slow pace. At first listening the album may sound a bit monotone. Only after a second spin, the distinctive jazzy arrangements of songs like 'Gjelem Gjelem' and 'Ostala je pesma moja' fall into place. In Bosnia, Ljiljana now has the status of the Ella Fitzgerald of the Balkans. That status she reluctantly accepts, as the bunch of white roses on the cover of her new album.

Listen to 'Gjelem Gjelem' and 'Ej Borije' (snippets courtesy to Muziekweb)

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Zo was er maar een - cd+dvd (2009) - ♪♪♪
Christy, Ann (Belgium)

This compilation was already announced in the fall of 2008 but due to a disagreement between record companies AMC and V2 the release was postponed. Now, 'Zo was er maar een' is finaly available. Ann Christy is one of Belgiums best female singers ever. She died of cancer in 1984. During her lifetime she barely encountered positive response from either critics or public in Belgium. Only since a few years people rediscover her as one of the best Belgium singers and in 2008 her version of Bette Midlers 'The rose' ('De roos') was voted no. best song in the top 1,000 of all times (pushing 'Bohemian Rhapsody' to the no. 2 spot). The cd contains 19 beautiful Ann Christy tracks. Apart from a live recording of 'De roos', all songes were published before. Among them six songs of the musical 'Midzomernachtsdroom' ('Midsummernights dream') from 1977, based on Shakespeare's work. The collection of (now) famous and not so famous songs is very diverse: beautiful piano ballads, ('‘Zal ik je ooit nog zien'), up tempo synthy popsongs (‘Waarom zijn wij zo brutaal'), some jazz (‘Won't you come home Bill Bailey') and some French chansons (Piaf's ‘Padam'). However, the most interesting part of this release is not the cd, but the dvd, which contains nine tv performances and a BRT-RTB television special. These performances might look somewhat outdated (clothes, make up, hairdo), but hey, these were the seventies and eighties. Seeing Ann Christy perform is just wonderful. It is absolutely fabulous that BRT-RTBF stored these clips, so we can all watch them. Unfortunately, recognition comes way too late for Ann, but at least with this hommage some 25 years after her untimely death, we can all witness that she was and is a truely great singer.


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To filtro (‘The filter’) (2009) - ♪♪
Giorgos Dalaras (Greece)

Okay, okay, I will be the first to admit that Dalaras is one of Greece’s most popular and internationally acclaimed singers. And yes, he has a great voice and collaborated with many of the best artists worldwide. But that does not mean that everything he touches, changes into gold. After decades of immense popularity – he apparently recorded more than 70 records and sold over 12 million albums worldwide – Dalaras encountered substantially lesser album sales since a few years. Just before Christmas 2008 he released ‘To filtro’ (it took some time for us to buy it), an album containing only 4 new songs and 10 re-released songs. The albums comes in a deluxe edition (whatever that may be) with an extra dvd, containing 4 video’s. The 4 new songs sound great, but do not stand out at all compared to the less recently recorded ones. One of the signs that Dalaras has not innovated or evolved very much in recent years. The video’s are nice to watch – a single time that is; they do not present any added value at all. Does that make this a bad cd? No, Dalaras can sing very beautifully, the songs are great and the arrangements and production is very nice. But it is all very much on the safe side, nothing new. And I cannot escape the feeling that commercial purposes prevailed over artistic integrity for either Dalaras or his record company…

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Alla mia età (2009) - ♪♪♪
Tiziano Ferro (Italy)

There was much debat at the Europop office about the new Tiziano Ferro album. To DB opinion the album is step forward into becoming a more serious recording artists with lush arrangements and adult production. Opening track ‘la tua vita non passerà’ is a good example of this progress. A slow triphop beat, nice guitarwork and orchestral arrangements make a good Italian adult poptune. The same productional toolbox is used for fine tracks like ‘Il sole esiste per tutti’, ‘Scivoli di nuovo’ and the titletrack. The productional excellence is exactly what PR finds a bit disappointing. Were his former albums nice pop albums, the lightness is completely gone on ‘Alla mia età’ and he fears Tiziano may take himself a bit to serious.

Tiziano’s obviously searches for more adult recognition with the cooperation of Italian heavywheights Ivano Fossati and Franco Battiato on the album. Moreover, these two tracks are actually the least convincing on the album. ‘Il tempo sesso’ sounds like a Battiato leftover and the single ‘Indietro’ (written with Fossati) is a weird urban ditty but not at all representative for the rest of the album. For the international market the Tiziano/Fossati track is used to revitalize Kelly Rowlands career which makes it even more misplaced. Better the duet ‘La paura non esiste’ with Laura Pausini who fits nicely with Tiziano’s songwriting and voice. Isn’t there no light poptrack then? Oh yes, ‘La traversata dell’estate’ is the kind of poptune you expect from a good Italian singer. Well-sung and with that Mediterranean Italo-swing. Also 'Per un po'sparirò' is the kind of hip track we came to know from Ferro (and has that summer hit potential). We finally agreed on three stars, ‘Alla mia età’ is a good album. Tiziano shows himself a professional songwriter although maybe on this album a bit to ambitious.


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Je me souviens de tout (2009) - ♪♪♪
Gréco, Juliette (France)

The last living 'Grande Dame' of French chanson is back with 'Je me souviens de tout' ('I remember it all'), an album entirely filled with new songs. Gérard Jouanest, Gréco's husband and long time musical partner, is responsible for the compositions. The lyrics were written for her by the 'crème de la crème' of the current French pop scene: rapper Abd Al Malik, Olivia Ruiz, Maxime Le Forestier, Brigitte Fontaine, Orly Chap, Christophe Miossec, Marie Nimier, Adrienne Pauly and Valérie Véga. This way, the diva once again proves that she is entirely in vogue with the current music scene. Let's not forget that she contributed enormously to the careers of the likes Brel, Béart, Ferré and especially Gainsbourg! The lyrics of the songs are very well suited for a lady at this stage of her life and touch subjects like the fleetingness o