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Popular Music - Part 39 - December, 2000

Graham Vine

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Ratings:
Extraordinary
Good
Acceptable
Mediocre
Poor

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"Chamber Pop"

Joel Pelletier

The Way Home Media; CD9801V2.1

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

"Chamber Pop" is more than just the title of this album: it is a concept. As a lover of traditional chamber music, I felt immediately at home with Joel Pelletier's offering. With most of my musical experience being in the pop and rock fields, this was, for me, the perfect union. There have been many fusions of the classical and pop worlds, ranging from "Tommy", the Rock-Opera, through the Moody Blues ("Days of Future Passed") and The Beatles ("Yesterday", and others) to The Electric Light Orchestra, incorporating a string-section in its make-up. Joel's line-up is more like the last mentioned, though the style is more "Eleanor Rigby" than "Kuiama".

Most of the songs - there are no instrumentals - are acoustic based. Summing up, one could describe a 'typical' arrangement here as a string quartet augmented by drums and electric bass or double bass. At other times we hear organ and electric guitar parts . . . and the vocal deserves some comment of its own. I found Joel's voice slightly thin, and that is exacerbated by the excess use of the 'presence' EQ filter. There is too much lift in the mid-range. While giving the vocals an edge, I don't think Joel's voice needs it, especially in the current setting.

The lyrics are meaningful, with a mix of social comment and personal reflection. "Birthday Song" makes some poignant reminiscences over the years, and I particularly like the way its end takes a direct quote from The End of "The End" from Abbey Road. It's a piece I have taken to using as a closing theme in radio shows, the piece that ends 'And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make'. A nice link with 30 years ago - maybe that was Joel's age when he wrote it.

For some reason, there are two drummers featured on "Chamber Pop". Both Joe Lizama and Lenny Roberto are tight and interesting, but I found a lack of consistency in Joe's tone that detracted from 3 of 'his' tracks: numbers 2, 8, and 11. With a very taught skin on the snare-drum, and little vibration from the snare itself, the effect is of a kiddies toy drum-kit. A pity, because his other tracks, 6 and 9, have a lovely resonant crash to them, with some very neat brush-work on "Touch".

But the main interest for many will be the string-section, and they are used to perfection. They all fit together so well that there is no hint of their being 'bolted-on' to the side of a rock combo. The concept really works without any self-consciousness. The live shows based on this line-up must be a treat indeed.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. What Are You Now?
2. Lie To Me
3. Rather Have You
4. Wall Inside
5. Same To You
6. Birthday Song
7. 20th Century
8. Always
9. Touch
10. Sword
11. Not Afraid Of The End
12. Never Be The Same

- GV -

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"Spiritual Love"

TRIN-i-TEE 5:7

B-Rite Music; 0694903592

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

The motives for releasing this album must be questionable, having listened to it thoroughly, trying to get something positive out of it. As an R&B offering, there is just too little of substance here. As a sacred collection, there is just no comparison with the greats of that genre. Putting the two together leaves the suspicion that one is hiding behind the other.

The whole piece has an artificial feel to it. There is a clue in the 'credits'. Half a page of tiny writing is devoted to the production team, the various studios, mastering, engineering and so on. A couple of lines are given over to musicians. My conclusion that the whole rhythm section sounds fake would seem to be confirmed by the mention of 'keyboards' and
'programming' as the only mechanisms listed for creating drums and bass. And dreadful the drum-sound is, too.

I generally look for some emotion in the albums I review, and those I listen to between-times. The singing on these tracks - well more of a wail, really - brings very little from the melodies, such as they are. Along with the strident vocals, the songs seem to drone on tediously. As for that emotion, I was left completely unmoved. The weak melodies of the original songs won't stand the pulling about that TRIN-i-TEE 5:7 seems to insist on. With the more traditional songs, the vocals make it difficult to follow the line, even for well known tunes.

There may be an audience out there for albums such as this. It is to be hoped that buyers are not just doing so because they somehow feel they 'ought' to buy it. What has that got to do with music? Absolutely nothing.

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Put Your Hands
2. My Body
3. Spiritual Love
4. Imagine That
5. Highway
6. Gonna Get Myself Together
7. There He Is
8. How You Living
9. I Promise You
10. You Were There 
11. We Know
12. The Day You Came
13. If They Only Knew
14. Y'all Put Your Hands (remix)


- GV -

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"Ugly Inside

Johnny Vieira

Jaguar; 59817-0002-2

Performance: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)
Audio: Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)Star (605 bytes)

Some excellent rock songs have been laid-down by Johnny Vieira. Johnny has nailed his colors to the mast, naming his collection after his deeply-felt "Ugly Inside". This track is Johnny's take on the similar sentiments expressed in Lennon's "Crippled Inside", though with less of a harsh edge than the latter.

Johnny's vocals are mostly pleasing to this listener, so I shall clear my one criticism first and get that out of the way. There are many occasions when Johnny would do well to stress the letter 'T' rather more than he does at times. Failing to end some of his words that end in 'T' rather spoiled the title track for me. But enough of that one complaint - the rest of his style is so expressive that one feels he is 'acting' the vocal. I like that. The sleeve notes mention no other vocalists, so the attractive harmonies must be multi-tracked by Vieira. In fact, every instrument except drums (Joe Libordi) is played by Johnny. Rather than being a 'Jack of all trades, master of none', I found his playing to be skillful in all departments: guitar, bass, keyboards and of course vocals. I had not guessed that the strings on track 6 emanated from a box of electronics.

For an overall impression of the style here, there are many similarities with Oasis at their best.. The guitar solo at the end of "Don't Look Back In Anger" may have provided some inspiration for Johnny on a couple of the tracks.

Although short as albums go, these 6 tracks provide a very good showcase for the talents of Johnny Vieira. A little more care should have been taken over the sleeve-notes and cover. The track titles and ordering do not agree with each other. This is a pity, as the album deserves better. As far as the music is concerned - more please!

For reference, complete track listing:

1. Lock Down
2. Ugly Inside
3. Can't Always Get What You Want
4. Don't Leave Us Now 
5. My Way
6. Miracle


   - GV -

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Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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