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Saturday, 17 May 2014 15:53

"Sunny Day" - Christopher Blake

Christopher Blake released his album and we had the opportunity to listen to 2 cuts: "Falling Into Your Arms" and the lead single "Sunny Day."

"Falling in Your Arms" shows a smoky and tender side of Christopher Blake. It holds the eerie, nostalgic reality that we all face when once sweet love turns sour – or, at least, stale. The concept alluded to in "Falling" is that of a song being a retaliation weapon or an artful touche to an old lover. As such, the song and its theme are compelling. Christopher does a responsible job in marrying the lyric, vocal delivery, and musical arrangement in a way that helps one feel his pain, longing, and (oh so subtle) revenge.

While I enjoyed "Falling," I didn't enjoy "Sunny Day" quite as much. "Sunny Day" attempts to leverage the good feelings of carefree living. It underscores a hope that the world-at-large should experience such good feelings. And while the musical score – the bouncy track – (guest rap intact) succeed at conveying happiness, I wanted more from Christopher. I was hoping for a better display of his vocal chops – more range, more clarity, more expression. Unfortunately, they aren't there. Consequently the song sounds more like an attempt to score a hit than an expression of Chris's soul.

Had it been up to me, "Falling" would've been Chris's lead single. It shines far longer than his "Sunny Day."

Special Contribution by Tony Johnson

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 00:12

Celebration - Malice and Mario Sweet

So this duo hit me up on twitter, followed me, and asked me to review their song. But by the time I was able to respond, they had unfollowed me. What can ya do? I try to respond to everyone in some way, form, or fashion. And seriously, I'm not that popular. My turn around time isn't much more than three or four days. But I digress. They asked me to listen, and as you know, I listen. Or, in this case, I gave it to my special correspondent to review.

His thoughts:

Celebration: the song has potential. It's a nice groove and the vocalists appear to be good vocalists. But the vocals in themselves are average. As for the lyrics, they are okay. Although they do get better the longer the track plays. 

While I appreciate the group's attempt to reference the past, at times they seemed to be copying it. And this theme - past musical references - seemed to run throughout the four or five songs I heard on this album.  Instead of etching out their own sound, the group's identity is lost admist the sounds of the 70's, 80's, and 90's. To channel the past can be appropriate and honorable. But to be sure, it requires a contemporary twist.

There is potential here. They just need to mine it.


Tuesday, 14 January 2014 03:31

Avery Sunshine

Meet the "artist" called Avery - a singer of formidable talent whose vocal warbling recalls Ledisi, Erykah, and Jill while weaving in the incredible gospel intonations of Lisa McClendon and Sherri Jones-Moffett. This project is her journey, and on it she delightfully guides the listener. Sit back and enjoy, you are in able hands.

On her album, Ms. Avery walks with confidence into her music, with attention to the mood, lyric, and delivery necessary to touch her listener. Avery's voice is intentionally and seductively controlled, housing a purposeful restraint. You know this gospel trained artist has vocal power - evidenced by "All In My Head" and "Blessing Me" - but that power is only released when required due to either lyrical interpretation or by emotional demand.

Her voice is intriguing; it demonstrates personal strength and independence while addressing the truth of being plagued by human frailty and realities. Contrasting Aretha, whose classic music tends to showcase strength with seldom self-reflection or investigation, Avery rather follows in the footsteps of the likes of Anita Baker whose music can bear to admit mistakes without self-degradation, but rather maintaining dignity.

An amazing project from an talented artist, the standout track is "Ugly Part of Me," a song which, quite frankly, is better in long form than in radio edit. The radio edits removes too much of Avery's quality and skilled interpretation. The long version is sultry, with restrained emotion, solid storytelling, and layered, lyrical interpretation. The track uses an excellent blend of delightful "churchy" chords and references. (IE: Hammond B3 organ reference, BGV arrangements, etc). Love the horns. The vocal and music grove is solidly 'in the pocket' with great restraint and emotional focus. Avery pulls the listener into each lyric with ease and finesse. The lyric break at 3:42 mins is a huge component of the song (and missing from the radio edit). During this lyric break, the use of vocals to 'wail' in agony related to the poor decision of causing her lover to walk out - is brilliant! Simply magical!

Related to overall the project, big snaps to the vocal arrangement. Lead and BGV's on the project are quality. They fit each other like call and response fits spirituals and field songs. With a quality band laying the cornerstone of each track, this is a well-balanced project with a variety of tracks showcasing genuine ability; the project has an authenticity that feels true to the soul and prowess of Avery Sunshine.

Highly Recommended: "Ugly Part of Me" "Bags Packed" "Blessing Me" "All In My Head."

Friday, 20 December 2013 02:20

"What Is To Be Major" - Barsheem

Barsheem's EP "What Is To Be Major" is a compelling mix of party, throw back,and intimate tracks. As a singer-songwriter, he shows his musical range and his ability to stylize.

The lead single from the EP is "If This World Were Mine," originally recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, then classically rerecorded by Luther Vandross and Cheryl Lynn.

Barsheem's take on the song provides a nice luscious 70's vibe. The instrumentation is good and his voice has a light, smooth, clean characteristic. His voice is a gift - one that he stayed within the pocket on.

Both earlier versions of "If This World" were duets, and it is difficult to turn a duet into a solo piece. Barsheem's vocals are good. Sometimes, though, the beat overtakes him. Nevertheless, the performance is well worth the listen.

The best song on the project is "No One." The song shows off his voice without competition. There's a strong balance between the writing and the vocals, and Barsheem's emotional connection is evident.

Honestly, Barsheem's connection to his music and his musical history is evident throughout the entire project. He is a talented singer-songwriter who doesn't compete with or repeat the past. He honors it.

In a time where there seems to be a dearth of soul singers, Barsheem's voice is needed and refreshing. Kudos to him for what he has brought with this EP; I look forward to seeing what else he has in store.

Special contribution by Anthony Johnson 

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