Music Reviews

Popular Music CDs - Part 18 - May, 1999

Graham Vine




"Awkward Angel"

Christine Levine

Boilerhouse; 74321600462

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There are encouraging sounds coming out of Liverpool. Don't take my word for it - go listen to the debut album by Christine Levine. She's put together an album which future years will see as the beginnings of a major force in modern rock. I'm not one for the soul-diva type of vocalization ,and the slight edge, even a growl, suits me right down to the ground. Christine has written or co-written all of the songs and sings them with a drive and urgency that grabs you and pulls you in.

I detect hints of other acts and songs, but I prefer to view these as influences rather than being derivative. Some of the instrumentation has a Neil Finn influence - and doesn't track three "These Are The Days" just scream "Instant Karma" at you? The songs are of a similar medium tempo, though "Deceit" and "Funny Things" do have a fairly funky flavor. Most are standard electric-rock, though the arrival of the acoustic "Usually The Way" is particularly welcome.

The production is straightforward and misses a trick or two by being rather flat. There is little use of dynamics, and I would have preferred some more subtlety from the production team. But extra instruments are introduced from time to time: I love the organ in "City Lights", so there is plenty to keep one's interest up.

Remember the name: Christine Levine. Look forward to more in the vein of the album I have just described, and if you've read this far, I would guess you will not be disappointed.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Sooner Or Later
2. You Either Like It Or You Don't
3. These Are The Days
4. Parallel Lines
5. City Lights
6. Do You Mean It
7. Funny Things
8. Didn't They Tell You (Not To Talk About It)
9. Usually The Way
10. Sell Your Mother
11. Deceit
12. Beaten Up Again

- GV -


"Still Crazy - Original Soundtrack"

Various Artists

London; 556 055 2

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The motion picture "Still Crazy" is about an imaginary British rock band from the 1970s who re-unite for a come-back gig. That band is called Strange Fruit, and so, naturally, most of the fourteen tracks on the soundtrack album are credited to the performing talents of the various members of Strange Fruit.

The flick is a comedy, but for the whole to have credibility, the songs need to sound as if the band meant it. You can rest assured, the talented team of songwriters have achieved this goal with a safe margin to spare. As a consequence, this album is more than merely a nice reminder of happy times watching a successful film, it is a satisfying musical work in its own right. Music for the movie is credited to Clive Langer who, as well as writing much of the material himself, also called on the likes of Jeff Lynne, Chris Difford, and Ian La Frenais . . . Langer being a co-writer of the screenplay was clearly well able to point the music in the direction he needed for the storyline to work.

The songs are generally a mix of well-formed rock with some power-balads for variety. A couple of songs deviate from this trend - the universally popular Billy Connolly taking hold of a whimsical "Stealin'" and, anachronistically, a 90s funk driving rhythm with "Ibiza Theme".

Overall then, a good album with some of the sound of the band "Free". There are some magical moments in the production department with the closing theme really getting under your skin and the fade-out in "The Flame Still Burns" getting moodier and moodier. I think fans of this type of music, who have enjoyed the movie, will definitely want the album. Rock and pop fans should also give it an audition.

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Strange Fruit feat Jimmy Nail: The Flame Still Burns
2. Strange Fruit: All Over The World
3. Jimmy Nail: What Might Have Been
4. Brian's Theme (acoustic)
5. Strange Fruit: Dirty Town
6. Billy Connolly: Stealin' universally popular
7. Strange Fruit: Black Moon
8. Hans Matheson: Live For Today
9. Strange Fruit feat Jimmy Nail: Bird On A Wire
10. 22.33.44: Ibiza Theme
11. Strange Fruit: Scream Freedom
12. Bernie Marsden: A Woman Like That
13. Strange Fruit: Dangerous Things
14. Brian's Theme (Reprise)

- GV -


"Rich Girl"

Hall & Oates

Camden; 74321 628032

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A new album from Daryl Hall and John Oates is always worth keeping an eye, and ear, open for. Last time out, with "Marigold Sky", there was a certain amount of disappointment for, although there were one or two catchy songs, the bulk left a lot to be desired. This time we see a return to their roots; note the inclusion of singles "Rich Girl" and "Family Man".

Hall and Oates bring us a unique blend of rock and soul. Track six, "Change Of Season" is as close to the sound of an Otis Redding song as I have heard in many a year. And then they roar into "Room To Breathe", a song worthy of the great Rolling Stones.

Of course, much of the credit for the album leads directly from the songwriting skills of Daryl and John themselves. They have written or co-written most of the eighteen songs on "Rich Girl", the album. As for production, again we can thank the duo themselves for most of the effort in this department. It's lovely and clear, crisp with a balance between instrumentation and vocals that many of today's producers could learn from. I particularly enjoyed the lack of muddiness in the bass - all too prevalent in many, many albums.

This album is heartity recommended. There is a splendid selection of songs here - well produced and sung. A very welcome 'welcome back'!

For reference, full track-listing:

1. Rich Girl
2. Family Man
3. Crazy Eyes
4. Bigger Than The Both Of Us
5. Kerry
6. Change Of Season
7. Room To Breathe
8. You'll Never Learn
9. Falling
10. Soul Love
11. Do What You Want, Be What You Are
12. Love Hurts
13. London, Luck & Love
14. Crime Pays
15. Emptiness
16. Downtown Life
17. Italian Girls
18. Back Together Again

- GV -

© Copyright 1999 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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