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 of time, the weight of memory, the joys of old age and - naturally - love. Gréco's last two albums were quite modern and beautifully orchestrated. This time, the songs were arranged and recorded extremely sober; only two musicians accompany madame Gréco on this record: Gérard Jouanest on piano and Jean-Luis Matinier on accordeon. The recording prcess was also entirely different than before: all the songs were recorded in Gréco's and Jouanest's home in the Oise region. The thirteen songs were recorded semi-live in only two sessions of two days each. Okay, but what about the result? As always, la Gréco's singing is beautiful and impressive. Mostly soft, tender and vulnerable, sometimes humurous, strong and even a bit militant. (How often do you see an 82 year old lady with a Che Guevarra shirt?) But due to the very sober arrangements, it takes some time for the songs to actually get to you. The melodies do not nestle directly into my brains like, for example, her marvelous 2003 album 'Aimez-vous les uns et les autres...'. At this point I am not yet sure whether it is an album taht needs to grow on you or not; it might be that I have to add an extra note to the current rating after some extra listening. But at this point I stick to a rating of three notes...

NB: Fans attend one of the recitals the already 82 year old diva will perform in June in the Theatre des Champs-Elysées (Paris).

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Orquestra Reciclando (2009) - ♪♪♪
Jarabedepalo (Spain)

Outside Spain the group Jarabe de palo will be known for their summerhit ‘Bonito’ from 2003. But the group around Pau Donés has a bigger track record then that being busy for almost 15 years now in the Spanish and Latin American popscene. Still 2009 seems to be a year of change for the lads. In spring 2008 they undertook a jubilee tour along theaters and auditoriums, where their best-known songs were molded in new versions. Adding more emphasis on their cultural heritage and adding flamenco and rumba influences. At the same time their contract with Warner ended and time seemed fit to start their own label; Tronco records. And what better way to kick off your indie debut with 15 of your greatest hits in newly recorded versions (already rehearsed on the previous tour).  A horn section is added to the band and Flamenco maestros La Mari de Chambao and Duquende step by for a session. Next to being a smart move commercially it probably is a smart move to gain the neighbouring rights over your songs since Warner probably owns the old ones. Do we mind? Of course not, ‘Orquesta Reciclando’ or the Recycle Orchestra is a great introduction to the warm blooded music of Donés and his friends and the new approach to hits like ‘La Flace’, ‘Depende’ , ‘Dejame Vivir’ and of course ‘ Bonito’ make them fresh. What’s more, by redoing their catalogue Jarabedepalo made their greatest hits-album a coherent whole which cannot be said for most hits compilations. Not every new version has worked out though. ‘Aqua’  and ‘ Dos dias en la vida’  sound a bit to café-lounge for my taste and not really necessary. But heh, who cares when you enjoy a nice balmy evening on the beach with this album on your stereo.

PS: Apparently they also thought it was time to concentrate their name into one word. Weird choice ‘cause the recordstore now have to put this new one at the ‘j’  instead of ‘p’.


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Tereza à l'Olympia (2008) - ♪♪♪
Kesovija, Tereza (Croatia)

Tereza Kesovija is a legend in her own time. She was born in Dubrovnik, but moved to France in the mid sixties. In 1967 she gained enormous success with 'Lara's song' from the film Dr Zhivago. She performed in the renowned Parisian Olympia Theatre several times. Her last recital in Paris - 1988 - was also released as an cd-album. In 2008, after many years (decades actually), she once again ascended the Olympia stage. And again the recital was recorded for cd but also for dvd. For a lady already 70 years of age, she still looks and sounds fantastic. Her voice is stil crystal clear. And the quality of both sound and vision of the dvd is just perfect. That makes it an absolute delight to listen to Tereza and the Grand Orchestra of Croatia', directed by Alan Bjelinski! Fans of Tereza will certainly not be disappointed by this cd/dvd release. But what to expect if you have never listened to Tereza's albums yet? A small warning is at its place here. Tereza is a singer that can be compared to Nana Mouskouri and Mireille Mathieu, singing a combination of traditional Croatian songs and international standards (Serge Lama's 'Je suis malade' for example). Besides the fact that she does this all very well in her own, dramatic style, make sure to check some clips of her on youtube, just to make sure you really want to add this cd/dvd to your collection...


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Die Hildegard Knef album-edition 1972-1980 - 5cd (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Knef, Hildegard (Germany)

We will not be making a habit of reviewing re-releases on this site. But in this case, 'Die Hildegard Knef album-edition' is highly anticipated and relevant, so we will make an exception. The 5cd box contains the 8 albums La Knef released between 1972-1980 on the Philips lable, plus the 1980 double live album 'Tournee, tournee'. All of these albums were never released on cd before. And the live recording 'Tournee, tournee' alone is worth buying this box. What an energy and what vocal power, so much better than the live album from 1986... Although Knef's creative height was at the end of the sixties, these albums contain many, many beautiful and interesting tracks, like 'Larifari', 'Das Jahr 2000' and 'Meine Lieder sind anders' from 'Lausige Zeiten', 'Coffee song' from 'Applaus' and the title song from 'Ich bin den weiten Weg gegangen'. Ella Fitzgerald one called her 'the best singer without a voice', and how right she was with that remark. The seventies were definitely not Knefs luckiest periode, with mariage problems, injuries, medication and financial mismanagement. It all adds to the expressive powers of this unique artist, on of Germanies best singers ever. If you are a fan of La Knef, you definitely want to own this box. If you have never heard La Knef before, start with her recordings from the sixties. If they get to you like they got to me, you will want to buy this box as well, I am sure. The only reason to reward this box with 4 notes instead of 5, is because the artwork is a bit cheap and the cd's are 'two-in-one's'. These classic albums deserved a somewhat classier package.

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Nomade (2009) - ♪♪♪
Laverman, Nynke (Netherlands)

Nynke Laverman has build up quite a name in the Netherlands the past years with daring projects. This begins with her singing in the Frisian language. Although nowadays only spoken in the northern Dutch province Friesland the Frisian language is one of the oldest European languages and has been spoken since the late Middle Ages. In fact, people from Scandinavia, Germany and England will find strings of their own language back in Frisk. But musically there is also enough to experience.  On her first album ‘Sielesalt’ (Salt of the soul, 2004) she mixed Portuguese fadomusic with poems from Dutch poet J.J. Slauerhoff into Frisian. For the follow up ‘De maisfrou’ (The Cornwoman) she works with Frisian poet Albertina Soepboer and blends them with Mexican, Cuban and Argentinian influences. Both albums led to raving reviews in the Dutch press. After a extensive tour news around her persona fell silent though. As it turned out not surprisingly since that Laverman left for Mongolia to stay with a nomadic family. Back home she started writing down her experiences in new songmaterial together with the help guitarist Ward Veenstra. The result is an adventurous album where pop, electronics and fanfare bundle over each other. This is already evident once you pop in the cd and single ‘De ûntdekker’ (the discoverer) blasts into your home. With the help of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and production by Icelandic producer/engineer Valgeir Sigurdsson the openingstrack makes a big impression. Is the rest of the material living up to that impression? Yes, although the album has a small dip once you are halfway strong tracks like ‘Net fertelle’, ‘Steltrinners’ and closing track ‘Lit my rinne’ keep your ears interested. The track ‘Dream’ even somewhat reminds me of the sounds you would normally hear on a David Sylvian album. Meanwhile miss Lavermans somewhat childishly naïve look on the world makes imaginative lyrics like on the track ‘de toek-toek tuorren’ which tells about big bugs that fell though the top of her Mongolian tent at night. In the song the bugs are the bringers of dreams. ‘Nomade’ is an album that should appeal to a wider European audience (who's into intelligent pop) then just the Dutch market, more so since we can’t understand a word she sings either. And compliments for the designer (Teussink & Boekema) for the beautifull artwork, enough reason to buy the original (and don't download it you cheapos).

Listen to 'de ûntdekker' and snippets of 'Net fertelle' and 'Lit my rinne'


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Zivim po svome (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Lisac, Josipa (Croatia)

Josipa Lisac is one of Croatia's leading pop diva's. A significant part of her career, she collaborated with her personal and professional partner, Karlo Metikos. After Metikos' untimely death in 1991, she mainly performed his songs in new arrangements. In 2000 she released her last regular album, that also included some of Metikos' songs. Now, after 9 years, Josipa is back with 'Zivim po svome' ('I live like I want to'). An album containing 8 completely new songs, including the single '1,000 razloga' ('1,000 stars'), which was released in the summer of 2008. The album is a mixture between pop and jazz. Apparently Josipa considered a turn towards more jazz oriented music more fitting and challenging, considering the phase of live she reached by now. And I have to admit: she sings the jazzy songs with immense class and style! Her voice is warm, sometimes funky, sometimes tender. Okay, this kind of song material will not be appreceated by her older fans who prefer the more rock songs from the past. But if you open up to 'Zivim po svome', you will be rewarded with a beatiful listening experience. From the funky, up tempo '1,000 razloga' to the serene traditional 'Zvira voda'. My personal favourite is the last track of the album, the live bonus track 'Helena lijepa i ja u kiši'. Hearing La Lisac sing this great I can only hope that we will not have to wait another 9 years for her next album...

Listen to '1,000 razloga' and 'Zivim po svome'


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Puerto Presente (2009) - ♪♪♪
Macaco (Spain)

‘Todays habour’ is the translated title of Macaco fifth album. Again you could say that he takes a maritime theme after his international breakthrough ‘Rumbo Submarino’ (2001). But this time he doesn’t tell a tale of a fantastic journey but tries to signal the listener to a better world and ideal harbour. It doesn’t matter who you are, you are welcome as he says in ‘Mensajes del agua’: “we are a flood of different people all rowing the same compass”. He tries to give the listener moral support by singing: “do not let this broken world ruin your smile” on ‘Mundo Roto’. In the end he sings together with the children’s choir of Música del Cepsa Oriol Martorell: “Where love goes, that which is without condition, the foot walks” (‘La ley del uno’). Recorded in El Murmullo, his home-studio of the artist in Barcelona, he again lays a mix of reggae, rocksteady, urban beats and mediterránean folk under his message. Together with his musical partners Jules Bikôkô and Roger Rodés he again gives a typical Spanish ‘movida’ album. In fact the album is more laid back then predecessor ‘Ingravitto’ (2006) which gave to me a more diverse feel. Best track on this album ‘Aüita’ could almost have come from that album. But the positive vibe and message Dani Macaco tries to give the world in these days of economical woe is much needed. Therefore a good album.

Listen to 'Moving' (clip courtesy of National Geographic)


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Donna Ginevra (2009) - ♪♪♪
Ginevra di Marco (Italy)

It’s hard to imagine, hearing this new album from di Marco, that she was once part of the punkband CSI. Digging deep into the cantautori and Canzone Napolitana she shrugs very close to a musical segment in which an artist like Tereza de Sio is queen. Also the basic idea behind album shows a resemblance to de Sio’s work although it must be said that di Marco doesn’t write a single song but is more an interpreter. ‘Donna Ginevra’ is the second album on which Ginevra explores the old songs of Italy and rural Europe. Hence songs from 19th century Bretagne (‘au bord de la fontaine’), Albania (‘Ali Pasha’) and Rome (‘Il crack delle banche’) are dug up. It’s di Marco’s mission however to mix them with more recent cantautori material that, to her opinion, a resemblance to those old songs. And she succeeds very well ‘cause the songs from Luigi Tenco, Pino Danielle and Nino Taranto blend in perfectly with the old songs. How much of this is thanks to the artistic production of partner in crime Francesco Magnelli is unclear but we suspect he has certain influence. ‘Donna Ginevra’ is an album that is progressive as well as traditional by giving a sort of folk-pop approach to the old tunes. Highlights are ‘M’aggia cura’, ‘La maza’ and ‘La malcontenta’ with the most original use of the kazeebo I heard in years.  ‘Donna Ginevra’ is album that should appeal to fans of folklore but more so to listeners who like their traditional music a bit spiced up to modern times with influences from reggae, jazz and pop. 


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Sulla tua bocca lo diro (2009) - ♪♪♪
Mina (Italy)

'Sulla tua bocca lo diro' is a line from Turandot's 'Nessun dorma' by Puccini. Her royal highness La Mazzini is back with an album full of great classical tunes, mostly from opera's: La Bohème, West Side Story, Porgy and Bess and Tosca. These are interspersed with other - more or less -classical tunes, like Piazzolla's 'Oblivion'. The album is ecpected to appeal to a wide audience and because of that it was promoted at the San Remo Festival this year. Not with a live performance - no, La Mina does not perform live anymore since 1978 - but by showing a promotional video of 'Nessun dorma' at the start of the festival. It underlines how huge Mina still is in Italy, and that she touches the emotional and cultural dna of the entire country. Most of the tracks were recorded live in four days with the 'Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana' in Lugano. A few additional tracks were recorded in Rome with the 'Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra'. Having said that, the question is: is it any good?? Well, yes and no. Yes because Mina has The Voice to turn almost every song into a gemm. And she deserves all our respect for not taking the easy way, but delivering quite experimental albums almost every year. The repertoire chosen by Mina was arranged and directed by Gianni Ferrio, who has also cared for the redesign of several tracks, bringing these great tunes in a new musical dimension, respectful of the original composition, but harmonically innovative and avant-garde. On the other hand, Mina is first and foremost a pop singer. And I like her best when she does just that. It is not really fair to compare Mina's interprations with, for instance, La Callas or other classically trained diva's. Mina does not intent to compete with them at all, she transforms the tunes into something very different. However, how bueatiful this collection of songs may be, I still prefer her pop albums. The highly productive artist she is, I have no doubt that in the near future she will release a some great pop albums again...


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Dura Dura Dura (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Mitsoura (Hungary)

Six years after the self-titled debut of the band around Hungarian singer Mitsu, Mitsoura deliver their second album. Was it worth the wait? Indeed it was. As it turns out the intriguing mix of traditional lyrics and music with modern arrangements that was already present on their debut was only a preview of what the new album has in store. Connecting original Roma lyrics from Hungary, Romania, Serbia and even Egypt with modern (electronic) music seems nice on paper but, as we have seen in the past, can turn out completely wrong. Not so with Mitsoura who display the ability to create a whole new musical genre on their own. You will recognise of influences from Nordic groups like Mari Boine and Värtinna, gypsy brass band music but also modern electronic music that we hear from artists like Mercan Dede or Transglobal Underground. Even fans of Lisa Gerard and Dead Can Dance will find strands back. The sum of all this is not a copy but a highly original musical approach. Of course the typical voice of Mitsu is the centre point but the contribution of Andras Monori (a.o. bansuri, sax and sitar), Peter Szalai (percussion) and Miklos Lukacz (cymbals) is substantial. To top it of the modern twist comes from the programming of Mark Moldvai. ‘Dura Dura Dura’ is a diverse musical journey around Eastern Europe. From the epic titletrack to the hotblooded ‘Tutti Frutti’, from the stomping ‘Kelushka’ to the powerballad ‘Ederlezi’, from the raga influenced ‘Pala late’ to the introvert closing track ‘Le shavore’. Highly original Mitsoura’s second is a tour de force.

Listen to 'Kelushka' and 'Dura Dura Dura' (recorded live at the Sczcecin street festival)


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Acoana (2009) - ♪♪♪
Ojos de Brujo (Spain)

The Spanish Ojos de Brujo has a reputation for their excellent and eclectic live concerts. The snag is always if they are capable to translate the live experience to the studio. With this album it was even harder to judge the studio versions on their accord since we saw the live show at the Paradiso even before we had a change to listen to the album. But we’ll try to make it an objective review.  What is most obvious is that the band tried to work out a new style into their regular mix of hiphop, rumba and flamenco. The style they choose comes close to the Latin Brazil jazz you can hear at jazz-festivals, lounge bars and cocktail parties around the globe. With opener ‘Todos Mortales’ it works out OK, on instrumental ‘Tócale ya’ it’s already less interesting and with ‘Perico y Juliana’ it becomes downright annoying. On this track Ojos looses all it’s uniques in a bad version of the Buena Vista Social Shit. Luckily there’s enough left to enjoy. ‘Nueva Vida’ written for Marina’s new daughter is a sweet and lovely Spanish ballad. And on tracks like ‘Dònde te has metio’ (Where have you got to) and ‘Tantes flores’ (So many flowers) the band does in what makes them so special, create and explosive mix between traditional Spanish music and modern pop. Has the experiment completely failed then? Not completely. Closing track ‘Lluvia’ (Rain) is a beautiful exercise in incorporating jazz elements into a southing hypnotic ballad which ends into a soundscape with sounds of percussion, sea and rain. The trumpet of Carlitos Sarduy plays an important part with an almost Gino Paoli-like vibe. And Marina’s plea to let the rain wash away the disappointment and hatred is sung withheld and sober. But the most interesting track on the album is the environmental ‘Una verdad incómoda’ (An inconvenient truth). Written as a response to the Live Earth concert where, to the bands shock, money of the oil companies was used to organize the show. Or in OdB language: “Dinero de bien se difraza pa entrar en casa” (Money in disguise gets inside the house). Funny enough this track went wrong in the live version we saw with the percussion and turntables going off beat.

Listen to ' Dònde te has metio’


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Ourania Toksa Kinigo (‘Celestial arrows shoot’) (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Vasilis Papakonstantinou (Greece)

Papakonstantinou’s latest darling is an enchanting, diverse album with beautiful inspiring, metaphysical lyrics by Alkis Alkaios. In that perspective, the album’s title ‘ Celestial arrows shoot’ was chosen perfectly (a phrase from the beautiful ballad ‘Mi nychtothes’: “Celestial arrows shoot behind your shadow run, like your voice to echo back to you”). Another example of both erotic and metaphysical lyricism from ‘Xoros tis petras’ (‘Stone dance’): “Colorful lights and garlands - to forget his black and white yesterday - his untamed hair your waterfall - bathed lovers a night”.

Apart from the lyrics the album’s main strength is the diversity of the song material and the integrity with which they are arranged and recorded. You will hear europop music at its best, rooted in Greek folk tradition, with touches of progrock (in guitar orientated songs like ‘Soulithra’ and ‘Bourini’), Mediterranean ballads (‘Tiflomina’, and the album’s signature song ‘Non nychtothes’) and even a gypsy styled bolero (‘Bolero’). And Vasilis sings them all in his own, typical Greek-troubadour singing style (a bit like Italian bard Angelo Branduardi, but with much more power). It is not so much that Papakonstantinou innovates himself radically with this album – he basically follows along the musical path he has chosen years ago, but he does it extremely well.


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Strofi (2009) - ♪♪♪
Nikos Portokaloglou (Greece)

Nikos Potrokaloglou is a busy artist. Only one year after his former ‘I evora kai alles istories’ the new album already hits the shops. The urgency can be noticed in the production which is without any extra’s. It’s plug and play. That gives the whole album a sort of back-to-basics vibe. The mix is direct and it sounds like all tracks have been recorded in one studio, with only three or four takes. ‘Strofi’ opens with a pulsing bass-guitar after which a piano-riff and steady drumbeat take over. The refrain is pushed on by brass and guitar. The track is a great example of the serious European rocksound we find in several other countries. Nicely done. This evidently has it’s international appeal but did Nikos lose sight of his Greek background? The third track ‘Den eis na sou doeo’ proves otherwise with a Eastern vibed guitar-riff and a vocal structure tapping into the old Laïko tradition. Another great track mixing Greek tradition with rock-riffs, Arabian music and even a vocoder is ‘Dos’mou ti zoi mou piso’ which is one of the highpoints on the CD. But by then the listener is already at track 11 and had a whole spectrum of musical output. From intimate campfire ballads (‘Eismai xenos’ and ‘O xenagos’), steady rock (‘To paidi’) to reggae (‘Ti eimai ego gia sena’) and everything in between. Although you can hear the quality of Nikos’ musical skills throughout the album it’s the basic production that might make this a lesser interesting album for the fans of Potrokaloglou’s more elaborate produced work. Understandable but then you’ll miss a great pop-track like ‘Apenanti’ which is a track made for playing loud on your car-stereo while touring the Peleponessos. For those that doubt: ‘Strofi’ certainly deserves a second spin because the album holds some great Euro-Greek rockmusic.


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Live Arena di Verona (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Pravo, Patty (Italy)

Who would have thought that Patty Pravo would still be around in 2009, when she scored her first hit with 'Ragazzo triste' back in 1966? Despite many ups and downs (drug abuse etc.) she succeeded in building a career, lasting more than 40 years now! And now she is back with a double live album, recorded in the in the Veronese Arena in 2008, the year she turned 60. Inevitably, Patty sings some of of her oldies ('Pazza idea', 'La bambola', 'Se perdo te'...), but all the songs are reworked very well with fresh arrangements, so they match very well with the newer songs. And Patty deserves a compliment for not doing a 'greatest hits show', but instead she also selected many not so well known songs, like 'Per una bambola', 'La viaggiatrice Bisanzio' and 'I giorni dell'armonia'. The result is a surpisingly cohesive live album. Patty's voice is still very unique and she knows how to sing her songs on stage, although it becomes somewhat difficult for her in the lower regions of the songs. But that is just a minor complaint - Patty sounds like she is still enjoying herself on stage and she has a great, young band that matches her drive and enthusiasm. The album also includes two new songs: 'E io verro' un giorno là' (performed at the San Remo festival 2009) and 'E mi manchi tanto'. Both songs sound great and are reaon enough for fans to buy this album. With this live album, Patty confirms her place within the top league of pop diva's in Italy, together with Mina and Gianna Nannini..


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Puutarhatrilogia (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Regina (Finland)

What a leap forward, this third album of the Finish electro-pop trio Regina. Was their debut ‘Katso maisemaa’  bursting with youthfull energy, ‘Puutarhatrilogia’ is a much more adult attempt to blend electronic beats, percussive folk and world music. But there is more. Very subtle elements of tango are mixed in ‘Tango merella’ that ends with seagulls (like a Finnish bosa nova). And on the single ‘Saanko jäädä yöksi?’ ('Can I stay the night?') traces of rumba and tribal congas blend in with the casio and piano. Singer Lisa Pykäri is again the centrepoint of the dreamy arrangements singing (according to the press release) of stories from everyday life. I don’t know what her everyday life looks like but titles like ‘Sain levyt joita et halua kuunnella’ ('I got the slides that you do not listen to') and ‘Musta musta puutarha’ ('Black black garden') sounds pretty mysterious to me. Even a simple lovesong like ‘Olen haviolla Pauli’ reports of desperate love affair and hints to inner demons: “Stay away from me you say and I draw closer to you / force me to this cursed struggle / Pauli, Pauli”. And why the division of the album in three parts? What is the band trying to tell us? The title of the album is the 'Garden trilogy' and it is obviously not the four seasons they refer to. The album opens with the message that one can liberate himself from the ideas of others. But after ten sublime tracks it closes with the remark that: ‘My own skeletons may prove / to close the tomb in the black garden’ (hope I get the translation right). Is it three stages for reaching self consciousness but ending in disappointment? Who knows. The sense of dark magical realism is something we see with more Finnish acts like Eleanoora Rosenholm with whom, to my ears, Regina has a lot in common. It’s acts like these that show that Finland has a lot to offer musically.


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Emigrantski raggamuffin (2009) - ♪♪♪
RotFront (Germany a.o.)

PARTYTIME!!! Essay records newest release is ‘fuel for your Sovietoblaster’ as the band itself puts it. The collective containing a Ukrainian, two Hungarians, an American, an Australian and five Germans mix ska, hiphop, reggae, dancehall and cumbia sounds with klezmer, polka and traditional Roma-balkan music. Lyrics come in Russian, Hungarian, German and English. And usually with strong tongue-in-cheek humour. ‘Red Mercedes’ tells about… well a red car… on the melody of ‘those were the days’ and a reggae beat! And what tracks like ‘Ya div’ and ‘Zhiguli’ are about is your guess as good as mine. ‘Remmidemmi’ sounds like Rammstein joined the stage one day, guitar powerriffs, Balkan brass, ska and an ridiculous yell: “Yippy yippy yeah, remmidemmi, rotfront epidemy”. This is the Balkan answer to the Ramones ‘Gabba gabba hey’. With ‘Sohase mondd’  and ‘Gypsy eyes’ the album takes the necessary rest before firing up again. ‘Berlin – Barcelona’ reports how the band perfected this diverse style at their homebase Kaffee Burger, home of the RussenDisko. The brainchild of Yuriy Gurzhy and Hungarian musician Simon Wahorn, initiator of the HungaroGroover Soundsystem, they set up the Emigrantski Raggamuffin Kollektiv RotFront. Founded in 2003, it developed itself in the Berlin underground music scene as an open stage whoever wanted to join in. Sometimes seven, twelve or fifteen musicians were on stage. The basis idea was always to be a harmonious interaction of nationalities, ethnicities, musical genres and cultures. And they succeed. This insane melting pot is bound to keep many festival crowds going this summer. You are bound to catch them live on Lowlands Festival (Netherlands), Fusion Festival (Germany), Stiget (Bulgaria), Accordion Festival (Vienna, Austria), Moods (Zurich, Switzerland), Stadtgarten (Cologne, Germany) and so on. “From Berlin to Babylon, everybody sings this song”.

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Sick Tamburo (2009) - ♪♪
Sick Tamburo (Italy)

Sick Tamburo (Sick drummer) holds two members of former punkpop trio Prozac+ in its midths and that certainly can be heard. Out of the ashes of the in 2004 dismantled Prozac+ Elisabetta Imelio and Gian Maria "GM" Accusani created Sick Tamburo added with singer Boom Girl. Musically it appears not much has changed, the band still makes aggressive almost anarchistic rock. But this time it’s the electronics and use of samples that play a mayor part in the groups sound. You could say that they went from guitar-punk to electro-punk.  But punk it is. Singer Boom Girl takes you by the throat and scatters her short texts in your face. Meanwhile, the music drives ruthlessly on, like a ten ton truck. It’s like a mix between Rammstein, TaTu and Subsonica. The album kicks off with the single ‘Il mio cane con tre zampe’ (My three-legged dog) where the lyrics make clear that everything is broken (from biscuits, to the police to the blue sky, to her dog who has three legs). And it’s high energy until the very end. It’s the lack of a pause in the album that is it's downside. The aggression becomes to much once you reached track six. When the band fuels up to continue with an anarchistic ‘Non’ I get a bit worn out. And that can’t be their intention. According to the bio the band toured frequently and tested the tracks live, anonymously dressed in balaclavas. And I guess live it all works very well but on your home-stereo one or two more introvert tracks would make it a better listenable album. But we trust that this will become a reality on the next album.


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Presente (2009) - ♪♪♪♪
Zero, Renato (Italy)

Renato Zero is back with 'Presente', a brand new album with no less than 17 (!) new songs! At the date of release, March 20th, it was already awarded 3 times platinum disc (150,000 copies sold in advance). No wonder he is nicknamed the 'Emperor of Rome'. Renato Zero is the only Italian artist to have reached the number one position of the single charts in 4 different decades (70's, 80's, 90's and 2000's). No less than 26 of his albums reached the Italian album top 10. Some people say his succes is the result of showing the normality of the diverse, convincing the public that diversity feeds our human abilities to feel and act with love, respect, solidarity and faith. During some concerts held at the time of the campaign for the April 2006 elections, he declared himself against right-wing former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Thanks to his immense successes in Italy, Zero achieved a position with complete artistical and commercial autonomy. For the self-produced album 'Presente' he surrounded himself with highly acclaimed artists like maestro Renato Serio for the classical orchestrations, Phil Palmer (guitar), Fabrizio Bosso and Stefano Di Battista. The album was arranged and pre-produced by Danilo Madonia. Central theme is the dialogue between generations, the encounter between the young generation and the older ones. Quite a mature and serious theme, but Zero, being already 58, does have something to say to the young people of today. He raises his voice to the record industry, accusing them of killing real music by denying young, creative artists a chance. His advise to the young: find yourself a good mentor and role models. Listen to what other people's stories. That is exactly what Zero himself missed in his youth, thus critisising his old professors (opening track 'Professore' ). At the same time, he pleas to listen to the younger generations, and learn from their youth, their enthusiasm and creativity. It is for the most part an optimistic album, but - as usual - there are some melancholic moments too. Like 'Il sole che non vedi' ('The sun that does not see'), a song about all that life has to offer, yet there are so many chances we seem to miss. And, as always, there is the Ironic Zero, for instance in 'Spera o spara' ('Hope or shoot'), written with Marielle Nava and put on a ska rhythm. With 'Presente', Renato Zero delivers one of his best albums of the decade and he again proofs to be one of the leading singer-songwriters in Italy.

Listen to 'Ancora qui' and 'Quando parlero' di te'


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