"Album Reviews"

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by Amy McClees... 

Jimmy Buffett • Buffett Live, Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays

Mailboat Records
Jimmy Buffett is the purveyor of fun. Reviewing CDs is great, especially when it is a favorite artist. Living in Michigan in January, everyone cooped up in a vehicle headed out of Livonia back to Grand Rapids was regaled with a musical island holiday on the ride home. This disc is not only live but also includes pics and a bio for computer explorers. Buffett is known to spin a yarn, and while the tires spun us back on the gray snowy cold January highway, what a reprieve we had.

The yarn spinner is in a very notable category for being the sixth artist in history to reach number one on both the fiction and non-fiction list for bestselling authors.

The disc starts out with "Fruitcakes" and travels to CSN’s "Southern Cross," a nautical themed tune, of course. This is not the best rendition he could have recorded. After all, he’s been touring forever and has recorded 32 albums. Now, before you Parrotheads start throwing coconuts at me, I know of what I speak. I’ve have had the distinct pleasure of not only reviewing a CSN CD, but have also been to their concert. And, well, nobody does it better. That said, I‘ll have to say ditto for his rendition of "Brown Eyed Girl" from Van Morrison. I love that song, too, and it could have been done better also. Now you’re thinking, d*mn purist. Well, yes, I am, and I don’t apologize for it.

"Coconut Telegraph" is the first uptempo song on the CD and gets the party mood going. "Cheeseburger in Paradise" is always a fan favorite and is in good form here. "Come Monday" is sentimental and is one of the first songs I was weaned on as the child of a Parrothead (only mom didn’t know she was a Parrothead at the time).

Pick up the disc and decide if this is your "Margaritaville." After all, the experience of the concert and the images conjured up in the minds of the fans are more important than one person's opinions. (Amy McClees, member, "The Shoreline Parrothead Club.")

by Bobby Torres... 

JoyDrop • Metasexual

Tommy Boy Records
The girl wants to rock! So she does! With chomping industrial guitar chords and mechanical sounding drum beats, vocalist Tara Slone takes her grab at the brass ring. In this world of sounds, JoyDrop creates the mood for their own life track. The first couple of songs on the CD -- "Fizz" and (my favorite) "Beautiful" -- let us in on that sound as they delve into the techno/industrial age. From then on there are variants of rock and blues. Influences as clear as a light from the likes of Blondie’s "Rapture" and Blue Oyster Cult’s "Godzilla." I don’t know if these were intentional, but I heard them! The sound is nothing over the edge, but I’ve listened to the CD about 10 times already and plan on keeping it for my own collection. Oh! I also saw the video for "Beautiful" on MTV.

Mob Rules • Savage Land

Limb Music Products
Well, people, I really liked this one. Mob Rules has a tangible sound that was made popular by bands like Iron Maiden and the Scorpions. They, in fact, sound like a combination of the two. They call themselves melodic power metal, and that’s pretty much what they are. I might add that it’s also middle of the road and in part progressive, very much like Iron Maiden! The CD is done as a "concept" CD with each song written to tell part of the story of the whole CD. The story being the decline of civilization. "Mad Max" is the feel I got from the whole presentation (cover art, music) and wouldn’t you know, there’s a reference to Mad Max in the CD booklet. Listening to the CD, one could easily feel as though they were reading a book or watching a movie. The CD is done in a way as to pull the listener in to the story -- you don’t have to dance, mosh, or anything. All you have to do is let go and listen. Plenty of orchestrations, percussion, keys and in parts the progressions I mentioned. Well worked out harmonies, great vocals, music and lyrics. Have I said enough? Oh!, you won’t need a parental advisory sticker!

by Vic Gemmingen... 

Steve La Cerra • Flight

North America Music/Farren Music America
Steve La Cerra is Senior Editor of EQ Magazine (yes, that EQ Magazine) and has worked with a lot of heavies. As you might expect, this is an impressive disc. It’s New Age and has some remarkable tracks, especially "Sierra Nevada," which goes from the Far East (synth flute), to the Southwest (Al Dimeola-type acoustic guitar) in the same track! That versatility is La Cerra’s strength as a composer, one not lost during the monumental suite "Into the Arms of Morpheus" (fans of Rush will like that one). Good disc.

D’Breeon • Do It

Farren Music America
He’s made a name for himself as a saxophonist, and now D’Breeon’s doing the solo thing with Do It, a collection of jazzy space-age soul. A multi-instrumentalist vocalist, D’Breeon has written and performed mostly everything on this debut, with especially strong sax work on the disc’s slow jams ("Lovely Lady") and the Minneapolis dance/soul of "Call Her," as well as some deep lyrics ("Everything") and a pretty unique sound overall.

by Steven Haidaichuk... 

Rhapsody • Symphony of Enchanted Lands

Limb Music Products
Progressive music is not dead. Not even close. It was a breath of fresh air when I put Rhapsody's new CD, Symphony of Enchanted Lands, in my computer. This five-piece story metal band has almost mastered the art of progressive storytelling. From the opener "Epicus Furor," a keyboard-enhanced dream weaver, to the multi progressive "Beyond the Gates of Infinity," this album brought me back to my Middle Earth days.

Annie Humphrey • The Heron Smiles

Makoche Records
This female ex-Marine definitely has a healing power in her sweet voice. By just looking at her picture I got a sense of humbleness, which attracted me to the CD at my first glance. During the album I sat and stared in space... which is a good thing. Her voice and mellow, anthem lyrics brought a mixture of Jewel and Sheryl Crow into my head. Very promising.

UnAmerican • UnAmerican

Universal Records
The British are coming! They sure fit well in America, though. A popish mix of well thought out silent rockers, UnAmerican have surely grasped the concept of pure simple rock. "She's a Bomb" is a moody, catchy tune with a groovy, rockish bass line and a powerful chorus. This album has it all. Classic ballads and mellow rockers all rolled into a good album. Let the invasion begin.

Gabriel Gordon • Frequency

Surprise Truck Records
Acoustic rock for the soul, baby. Even Gabriel's ballads have groove. Overall, I liked "People of the World" the best, as I couldn't stop moving my body to the killer groove. The lyrics are also very positive, something you don't see a lot of these days. So, honey, watch out for this one. I hear radio all over this. Groove, funk, and a catchy voice. What else do you need?

by Mike Farley... 

Peter Searcy • Could You Please and Thank You

Time Bomb Recordings
Could You Please and Thank You is the latest from this singer/songwriter and is the kind of record you can't help but crank the volume on.  The acoustic guitar is driving and the choruses kick in with huge harmonies on top of Searcy's own powerful voice.  His band has the potency of Third Eye Blind without the darkness.  The songs are just amazing; it's the kind of record you put in for the first time and know you are on to something special.

by Diane Anderson... 

Michael Monroe • Life Gets You Dirty

The first thing I do when I receive a CD is to put it into my player and listen to it before I read any bios or check out the website. I like to go with my first impression. Well, I was very amazed and shocked to hear this. All I could think of was Wow! Finally a band that knows how to put a song together. The singer has great vocals and lyrics. The guitarist actually knew how to play a lead and a solo, almost like making the guitar talk to you, almost like the ’80s when real men lived, when music was just as important as the words. So after I listen to the whole CD I read the bio. I now realized why this was such a great CD -- Michael Monroe used to be the signer of the famous ’80s group Hanoi Rocks. (I still have my vinyls of Hanoi Rocks.) Michael has been keeping himself busy over the last 15 years. Well, back to the new CD. Like I said, it rocks. My favorite songs are "Self Destruction Blues," which does have a blues background, and "Go Hard" is another great song. The title song, "Life Gets You Dirty," is a fast rocking tune. So if you liked the ’80s but want it a little updated, check out this album; you won't be disappointed at all.

by Pam West... 

Mauro • IC2

Meye-SOL Music
When I become disheartened and sickened by the preponderance of superficial drivel on the airwaves, I’ll put on Mauro’s disc, IC2. From the lead track "Winds," the entire album evokes echoes of Enigma, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and Rush, with passionate rock undertones and socially conscious lyrics to rival them all. Mauro’s production is textured and orchestrated with native chants, angelic laughter, whispered truths, and melodic themes, artfully interwoven with shamanic sound effects and good vibrations. "Come With Me" has a unique drone coupled with a Beatlesque arrangement, while "City of Angels" exhibits funk rock genius. "On Our Way Home" is Native American music with a pop-rock feel, and "Thank God," featuring vocalist Annette Austin, has a powerful gospel anthem appeal. Tribal and ethereal, this album is a spirit journey blessed with strong, meaningful songs and superb production. Mauro is definitely bound for greatness in the world music market.

by Eric Harabadian... 

Niacin • Deep

Magna Carta
This is the fourth installment for the band that boasts a "shot of vitamin B3" with every note they play. Keyboardist John Novello, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Dennis Chambers have been wowing prog and jazz fans these past few years with a distinguished and inventive sound first made famous over two decades ago by bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Brian Auger and the Oblivion Express and Traffic. Veterans all, the members of Niacin are a cohesive unit whose rich collective knowledge of jazz, rock, blues, fusion and beyond combine harmoniously to great effect! Add the guest appearances of former Deep Purple vocalist Glenn Hughes and Toto's Steve Lukather on guitar, for one fabulous track, and you've got one monster of an album. Just get it!

D'Arez • Gourmet Guitar

D'Arez Records
Recorded live, direct-to-digital, at a Milwaukee restaurant called Heaven City, the guitar mastery of D'Arez is truly something to behold. With tasteful accompaniment by additional musicians on various types of percussion, the multi-faceted guitarist weaves his magic via the soft and ear caressing sounds of semi-classical, jazz-influenced and flamenco flavored original compositions. D'Arez creates an instrumental environment tailor-made for accompanying the soundtrack of your heart, soul and mind.

Rhapsody • Legendary Tales

Limb Music Products
This is European symphonic metal at its very best, pure and simple! Formed in a small Italian village in 1993, it was the dream of lead guitarist Luca Turilli to form a band where he could blend his love of electric guitar with the intensity and complexity of classical melodicism and composition. >From lovely lilting ballads to full-out metal-edged assault, these guys play with a bravado and heart rarely seen in contemporary music today. The "jaded" listener may simply dismiss their sound as passe, and that would be most unfortunate! Good music is timeless and Rhapsody truly deserve recognition for their talent, chops, and inventiveness!

Jennifer Knapp • Lay It Down

Gotee Records
On the heels of a successful stint on the '99 summer Lilith Fair tour and a critically acclaimed debut album Kansas emerges singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp with a consistent and impressive follow-up. Serving as co-producer on Lay it Down as well, she masterfully blends powerful and rich vocal phrasing with heartfelt lyrics, strong melodies and sparse but effective arrangements. Knapp could easily share the stage with Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Natalie Merchant or anyone that shares a penchant for delivering the full dynamic range of personal introspection matched with sincere honesty. Well worth checking out!

Cupcakes • Cupcakes

Dreamworks Records
Cupcakes are a sweet confection of strong, expressive vocals backed with quirky, inventive writing and sparse but stellar production values. Some of the songs have a slight techno presence to them but basically it's all guitar-based power pop. Fans of Filter, Garbage, Smashing Pumpkins, etc. should dig this band. I know I did!

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