Monday, January 15, 2018

ITALOVE-The Album (2017)


When this new year started, I had the intention of listening to some brand new albums by brand new artists while taking a momentary departure from vintage classics and old-school throwbacks. But somehow or another, I always get drawn back to to the delightful electronic synthpop sounds of the 80's! ITALOVE is a post-New Millennium Italo-disco electronic group that was recommended to me at least a couple of years ago, and my exploration of the electronic music catalog revealed to me that they'd finally released a full complete album following me having gotten acquainted with them through one of their singles called "Strangers In The Night". 'Strangers' would be a fitting word for the group, as I know nothing about them nor their music origins; I would have to assume that, given their Italo-disco sound, that they are indeed from Italy? Perhaps something for the cyber-sleuth in me to investigate later, but for now, I must say that I enjoyed my hour-long plus tour with them on this sixteen-track collection. Songs that resemble anything remotely close to the sounds of my favorite decade are gonna please my ears, no matter what. I especially took a liking for the handful of ambient, instrumental dance cuts containing little or no vocals: "No Fear" (and this one feels like it could be the soundtrack to some 80's sci-fi/nature-themed TV show or movie), "Higher" (always cool to hear someone's digitally-disguised vocals chiming through the music, the guy's subtle chants of 'fire! fire!' throughout making me think about the crew on "Star Trek" engaged in combat with an alien ship) and "Exodus". Italo-disco songs tend to spark me because of the catchy dance beats, and that's what attracted me to "Disco Queen" (which stars a familiar and iconic voice in the Italo-disco genre, Ken Laszlo) and the space-themed "Heading For The Sun"—the latter which even has a 'bubblegum' perk about it with its senselessly fun lyrics (something about going to Venus Mars, I heard). The very first one I loved, however, was Track #2's "Too Late To Cry", I'm just all caught up in the techno-tronic glitz and the hypnotic,made-for-trance vocals of the group's lead guy. Then it's a case of classic HI-NRG Italo-disco on both "Illusion" and the album's penultimate track, "We Don't Care", which would've served as a great album-starter and could be seen as ITALOVE's personal anthem:

1. I Trust You (Like I Trust Myself)
2. Too Late To Cry
3. No Fear
4. Heading For The Sun
5. Strangers In The Night
6. Higher
7. I Need Your Love [feat. TQ]
8. Disco Queen [feat. Ken Laszlo]
9. Follow Me To Mexico
10. Exodus
11. Rhythm Of Love [feat. TQ]
12. Never Surrender [feat. Fred Ventura]
13. Illusion
14. Rendez-Vous
15. We Don't Care
16. L'Amour

Thursday, January 11, 2018

DISCO FOX GIRLS-Back To Future Disco (2005)


And disco divas rock too! Although these particular divas that called themselves the DISCO FOX GIRLS become the latest 'unsolved music mystery' to enter my ever-expanding case files. I had just discovered them today while doing some casual exploration along the Eurodance circuit, but that discovery yielded absolutely zero clues as to this trio's music origins, the names of each individual member, nor even their current whereabouts. I suspect that they were a special one-off project, considering that their 2005 album, "Back To Future Disco", appears to be the only entry in their career discography. Further evidence lies in that every track listed here seems to be a cover of a golden oldie from past decades, if the 'Back To Future Disco' title was not already a clear indication. Lots of familiar favorites get the Eurodisco/HI-NRG treatment on this 50+ minute thrill ride, with the best thing about it being all of the unexpected and surprise coincidences! I had just been treating myself to some Donna Summer tunes on my iPod the other day when I took in the opener, "MacArthur Park", which these DISCO FOX GIRLS give all the justice in the world by turning it into a Eurodisco lover's dream. The late 'Queen Of Disco' is paid tribute a second time later on the girls' pumping house remake of "Could It Be Magic?". Wished they'd redone "Heaven Knows", another of my personal favorite Donna Summer disco hits, as well, but I'm content with these two. And just after I'd treated my ears to another listen of the only album by the Swedish boyband, CONSOUL,where I would get to enjoy their reinvented cover of IMAGINATION''s "Just An Illusion"—complete with hip rap lyrics, delicious vocal harmony and a dynamite, funky dance-pop beat, no less!—I would get to hear this DISCO FOX GIRLS version of IMAGINATION's "Just An Illusion". Honestly, it's very different hearing these girls performing it because, as with "If I Can't Have You", they turn it into a cutesy song—that is, until the guest male MC breaks through and lays down the rhymes in his shortened appearance midway through 90's Eurodance style. Still, it's exciting to hear IMAGINATION's classic backed by refreshing production while retaining all of the original lyrics, including my favorite parts where the background singers go 'ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-hah' and 'could it be that?'. No more coincidences, but a few more surprises popped up on their energetic, Italo-disco-style takes on the Motown classic, "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" (the 'Party Version' is great, as it is more techno-glitzy) and a familiar bubblegum Eurodance tune that I've heard by at least a couple of different artists: "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep". Somehow expected another dazzling rendition of "Don't Leave Me This Way"; no disco-compilation of covers would be complete without it! Totally did not expect Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?", and the arrangement of the music for it sounds strikingly similar to that used for the 80's CHERI hit, "Murphy's Law"; there's even that signature harmonica instrumental break midway through. Though ironically, my #1 favorite—even above all of the dance jams and the two dance remixes at the very end—is the chilled, mid-tempo r&b groove that is "Alone Again Naturally". Don't believe I've ever heard this song at all; could it be a recording uniquely performed by these DISCO FOX GIRLS? Whatever the case, and despite the sadness and gloom thrust forth by the song's title, I just love how this one sounds. Their sweet and warming voices, the mellowed tonality, the graceful flow—musically perfect in every sense:

1. MacArthur Park
2. If I Can't Have You
3. Just An Illusion
4. La Vie En Rose
5. Reach Out (I'll Be There)
6. Could It Be Magic?
7. Barbara Ann
8. Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep
9. Don't Leave Me This Way
10. Isn't She Lovely?
11. Dance With Me
12. Alone Again Naturally
13. Reach Out (I'll Be There) [Party Version]
14. Mac Arthur Park [Dance Version]

EVERLIFE-Everlife (2004)


Girls rock! Couldn't have thought of a more appropriate way to begin my review of the self-titled debut by the all-sister Christian contemporary pop trio that calls itself EVERLIFE. That's because I stumbled upon to them while exploring some of the all-girl rock bands and solo girl rock artists who are featured prominently on the various "Girlz Rock" compilations. I wonder if EVERLIFE's name was inspired by a phrase so often heard within the religious world: 'everlasting life'. While I pondered on that, I was preparing to give my thoughts about what ended up being a very energetic and spirited power-pop thrill ride while also quite inspirational. The doors to heaven open up on "Heaven Open Your Eyes", a song that reassures and guarantees peace of mind and a much better life once things are revealed to you. "I'm Over It" is about realizing why the songwriter feels no more regret about the yesterdays and what could have been. I really like the touching way the song concludes with the soft, acoustic guitar, ensuring that the point already driven home sticks to you a little longer. "Evidence" became one of my favorites—first the sound is terrific, and then the whole message about faith and trust in the intangible got to me. A similar theme about faith is presented a few minutes later on "Even When". ' I can't see you, I can't feel you, but I still need you '—those are the humbling words from the chorus that I found the most meaningful. Humbling is surely the tone thrust forth on "Lead The Way" and "Save Me" (I like the irony of how it's easier to slip away the more you try to hold on tight). This power-pop thrill ride even includes a rockin' jam called "Take A Ride", but I say the most thrilling moments for me were enjoyed on "Getting Closer" with its extremely catchy, energetic chorus&mash;I love their big and bold delivery of ' God isn't through with me yeh-het'—and the reminder that life itself is always under construction:

1. Heaven Open Your Eyes
2. Take A Ride
3. I'm Over It
4. Evidence
5. Lead The Way
6. Save Me
7. Even When
8. Set Me Free
9. Getting Closer
10. Angels Cry

Monday, January 8, 2018

EN VOGUE-Masterpiece Theatre (2000)


"The Music Spectrum" proudly presents the funkiest divas of them all—Cindy Herron, Terry Ellis and Maxine Jones, better known to the r&b world as EN VOGUE. Except the trio was originally a quartet when Dawn Robinson was with them in the 90's, which was, is, and has been the period of the group's career that my ears and I are most familiar with. So while I could've put the spotlight on my favorite album by them—1992's memorable "Funky Divas"—I opted to do a special presentation on "Masterpiece Theatre", one of their post-90's releases that I hadn't ever heard before today and one that truly ended up being a terrific listen! Especially nice timing, considering I'd just heard one of my favorite all-time EN VOGUE tracks on somebody's radio the other day—"Give It Up, Turn It Loose"—plus the fact I hadn't treated my ears to much of anything in the r&b genre in recent days. Well it was sure refreshing to hear the sweet harmonizing voices of Cindy, Terry and Maxine again, most notably on the heavenly day-dreamy glow of a groove that is "Falling In Love", the beautifully mellow and the moving ballad "Whatever Will Be Will Be" (I had readily recognized this English translation of the popular Spanish phrase 'Que sera, que sera'; was nice to hear them actually sing it in the chorus amidst the majestic orchestral production). There's some really fun jams here too that I gotta rave about. "Love Won't Take Me Out" is the ladies making the bold statement that they won't be led to make any more reckless choices because of love, and I like the 'danger' sound of the intense chords from the deep piano tones that sets the theme right in the opening intro. The best part, though, is when they break it down midway through with that delicious operatic acapella harmonizing and deliverance in turn of ' won't take me out, take me out, take me out '—you just gotta hear it to appreciate it! Then there's "Love U Crazy", which has a CRAZY-cool syncopated beat and a distinctively-familiar, twinkly 'chopsticks'-style arrangement of the piano chords (now where have I heard this before?) and the lively "Latin Soul" (kinda like the vintage new jack swing EN VOGUE from the early 90's on this ride-around-town jam!). And I absolutely love the one that I could tag as an EN VOGUE anthem: "Those Dogs". This one's got that funky-divalicious thing going on too with the half-acapella, half-syncopated beat, but what sells this song is the humorous lyrics, the ladies giving the complete lowdown on how men are like canines (the two lines about men/dogs wanting to sniff every behind and only treating women nice to get a prize got a few chuckles out of me). I had actually been sold on this "Masterpiece Theatre" show way back on the funky opener, "Riddle"&mash;that catchy chorus going something like 'one riddle riddle, two riddle riddle...'—which is the one song that kept playing in my head long after the stage curtains had already closed:

1. Riddle
2. No No No (Can't Come Back)
3. Falling In Love
4. Suite Intro
5. Love U Crazy
6. Sad But True
7. Love Won't Take Me Out
8. Whatever Will Be Will Be
9. Suite Outro
10. Beat Of Love
11. Latin Soul
12. Work It Out
13. Those Dogs
14. Number One Man

Saturday, January 6, 2018

BG5-BG5 (2013)


Still plenty more after-Christmas gifts to unwrap here at "The Music Spectrum", and my second one of the day to share is another fulfilled, long-standing wish that I kept a watchful eye out for. I have a feeling that this self-titled debut by the five-piece girl group that calls itself THE BEACH GIRL5 was requested due to prior knowledge of pop singer Brooke Allison being one of the group's members. Sounds like there's at least two or three of the girls getting a chance to take on the lead vocal duties on these twelve tracks—Brooke is surely taking center stage on a good handful of them&mddash;but no matter which of them is singing, they turn every track into a stellar performance! The show kicks off with the fun electro-club jam, "Scratch", which is an energetic thrill ride with the 'circus carnival' arrangement and glitzy techno going on in the dance beat. 'You got to get yours, I got to get mine'—it's a hip, modern-day reinterpretation of the old ' scratch my back and I'll scratch yours ' adage with that line from the chorus, though my favorite part of the song is that cute 'cheerleader rap' the girls chant midway through. Laying down the rhymes and raps, in fact, is a signature ingredient that this BEACH GIRL5 crew drops into many places to spice up a few other songs thereafter, most notably Track #9's "I Like It", which actually features a pair of rap segments: one that pays tribute to the Eurodance group TECHNOTRONIC and saying something about being hooked on phonics while the second is delivered solo by the girl in the group who introduces herself as Mandy and says that she's sweet like candy. There's a couple of great r&b slow grooves to sink into: "I Got 1" and my favorite that I love every second of, "Lovin' It". An what I particularly love about "Lovin' It" is how the song alternates back and forth between the girls singing about all the things they like about the guy in sweet unison above the soft, twinkly sound and the girls rising to the occasion, doing it up big and bold when they let it all out for the chorus). "Lay A Little Sunshine": I like these happy-bouncy girl-group pop tunes with the clapping beat. 'Baby, come and get me' and 'your voice beats texting' are a few words that the girls entice you with in the chorus while a guest male vocalist spices things up with his own reggae-tinged contributions throughout. Then it's just the girls just wanting to have fun on the pair of retro-pop pleasures that are the cheery anthem, "Unbreakable", and the instant delight that is "Money Grubb'n". BG5's first and only album is one that all girl group fans must have in their respective music collections:

1. Scratch
2. I Love This Game
3. Unbreakable
4. Undivided
5. Lay A Little Sunshine
6. I Got 1
7. One More Second Chance
8. Expiration Date
9. I Like It
10. This Is The Life
11. Lovin' It
12. Money Grubb'n

Andy Grammer-Andy Grammer (2011)


There's plenty more after-Christmas gifts I've yet to unwrap here at "The Music Spectrum", and this next one is another fulfilled, long-standing wish that I never lost sight of. Contemporary pop lovers who appreciate that special breed of the singer/songwriter types will be glad they've gotten newly acquainted with the refreshing voice, words and sound of Andy Grammer.....that is, if they haven't already. Thirty-eight minutes is all the time you'll need to indulge in his terrific self-titled debut, but only a few of those minutes might be required before you declare that Mr. Grammer is so deserving of winning a Grammy Award—that is, if he hasn't won that already! For me, it only took one listen each of the inspiring opener, "Keep You Head Up", and its fine follow-up, "Fine By Me"—both of which are those upbeat, skippy sort of songs that leave you marveling in the artist's confidence and colorful personality, and both of which so happen to be the two hits that garnered this guy instant fame when his debut was released. "Keep Your Head Up" particularly struck a chord with me. Uncanny is the timing off me taking in that part in the bridge where Andy sings 'only rainbow after rain', as a special someone in my life recently shared similar words about wanting to get the rainbow, but having to go through the storming rain first, then just him repeating the 'keep you head up' message in the chorus, as I've also been touched by my recent re-listens to Jennifer Rush's "Head Above Water", which delivers eerily same inspiring message. I had all sorts of fun tuning in to a second pair of songs: "Lunatic" and the concluding cut, "Biggest Man In Los Angeles". The former sees Andy again adopting that upbeat, skip-along demeanor similar to what he displays on "Keep Your Head Up", but the highlight of this one is definitely his cool lyrics. 'You can do this', 'you are not a lunatic', 'crazy would be leaving it all behind', 'I will wiggle in a straight jacket forever'—a personal look-at-yourself-in-the-mirror anthem to himself, I gathered, as he relays that he's not crazy doing all of the things that might seem backwards to everyone else in the world. As for the latter, I just like the whole panoramic view of the various sights and sounds of his sunny hometown that Andy lyrically gives you a tour of, not to mention the way he stylistically pronounces 'Los Angeles' as 'loss-ann-juh-LEEZ' instead of the customary 'loss-ann-juh-LUSS'. Perhaps a third anthem featured on this debut is the intriguing tribute piece he calls "Ladies"; what I get out of this gem is his life expectations to be a real man and respectful of the various women he encounters along his path. And women—whether it's those he used to love or wants to love—are the focus of his thoughts on "Slow" (she wants to put on the brakes but he wants to go full speed ahead), "Miss Me" (Andy's strongest vocals are put on display during the chorus to this one against the epic backing production) and my two favorite songs of "The Pocket" (I was all caught up in the retro-jazzy groove and his charming words talking about his search for a real lady) and "Build Me A Girl" (he wants his supreme maker to send him that perfect woman, a song that goes along with that popular idea that there's somebody available for everyone). Awesome times to be had on this inaugural Andy Grammer adventure.....and yes—the grammar, the words and the song structure are all right on point:

1. Keep Your Head Up
2. Fine By Me
3. Slow
4. You Should Know Better
5. Lunatic
6. Miss Me
7. The Pocket
8. Ladies
9. Love Love Love (Let You Go)
10. Build Me A Girl
11. Biggest Man In Los Angeles

Friday, January 5, 2018

Birizdo I Am-eRETROshock (2016)


Yep&mash;me still being in the electronic mood, being a synthpop music lover, wanting to hear a new artist, and forever craving the synthpop sounds of the 80's led me to discover yet another new music treat from the electronic music universe. 'Birizdo I Am' is the colorful moniker and stage name of a Birizdo Lajos, a guy who looks to have just recently burst onto the New Millennium electronic/synthpop scene. Actually, Italo-disco would be the more precise phrase, at least from the tunes I enjoyed here on this 2016 release that he creatively calls "eRETROshock" (I am sensing a play on the words 'electroshock' and 'retro music' here). Good timing this one turned out to be, considering that my Italo-disco-listening days had been few and far between at the tail end of this past year; it really was refreshing to hear something new from this genre after such a long while. As with many Italo-ddisco singers, it took me a few minutes before I really connected with Birizdo and his light vocals, spending much of of the first three or four tracks basking in the totally-80's production and enjoying the simple dance beats. There was one that did click with me during that initial time frame: "Señorita". Of course, it had to be the one with a bit of a Spanish/Latin vibe going on, right? There's a warm and sunny romantic air about that one that I really like. Though it as during my second go-around when I would click with the one right after: "Diamond Of My Heart". Actually, it would be when I heard the 'Midnight Mix' that got me to like it, then noticing how much of a warming, romantic breeze akin to "Señorita" that is was with the extended keyboard instrumental midway through making it an even nicer listen. "Money Tsunami": the title to the album's fifth track is a very curious one; indeed, the only lyrics to this spacey, ear-pleasing instrumental piece is the digitally-disguised voice occasionally chanting the title itself. But it takes no curiosity at all to figure out the theme to the one that instantly grabbed my attention: "Keep The 80's Alive". Yes indeed, I am in complete and total agreement with that statement! And I totally feel him when he confesses that the 80's will still be in his soul when he leaves this earth, that the 80's feeling will forever burn in his heart. Makes a nice anthem for those of us musically trapped in my favorite decade; in fact, I think it should've been the first song to play after the opening intro. And speaking of favorite things, I'd have to declare Track #8's "Time Goes By" as my #1 since it possesses the danciest hi-tech beat (the production really tops all of the other ones!) and has such a merry, heavenly sound altogether. I'd even take an instrumental-version of this one, or at the very least, an extended remix? Then there's one that became too catchy on the ears for me not to highlight: "TV (Color One)". As bouncy and fun as it is, particularly with the sing-along chorus and the sparkly, high-pitched keyboard arrangement bouncing along with the beat, I don't believe I even know what this song was all about—characteristic of the good ole senseless 80's:

1. Intro
2. Cannot Buy Happiness
3. Señorita
4. Diamond Of My Heart
5. Money Tsunami
6..Love Is In The Air
7. Keep The 80s Alive
8. Time Goes By
9. Dove Vai [Radio Version]
10. Loose My Tears
11. TV (Color One)
12. My Fortune [Outro]
13. Diamond Of My Heart [Midnight Mix]
14. Keep The 80s Alive [Extended Version]

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tall Man Standing-Heaven (2015)


That same combination of me being in the electronic mood, being a synthpop music lover, wanting to hear a new artist, and knowing that a lot of synthpop artists in this current decade are bringing back the sounds of the 80's all led up to me continuing my exploration and discovering this guy who calls himself 'Tall Man Standing', a moniker for the Finnish artist whose real name is Olli Helenius. Well I certainly was in 'heaven' while locked in for this entire thirty-three minute trance thrill ride! And just as with yesterday's MODERNE MAN album, I pretty much can declare the same thing about all these ten tracks: ' 'Needs a remix, needs a remix, needs a remix!'. That's because the jams tease your ears by averaging just over the three-minute mark\, leaving you thirsting for more! But even without any remixes to be had this time around, the music is still heavenly entertaining! It kicks off with the awesome anthem, "Freedom", where I got officially introduced to Olli's powerful, husky vocals, which totally supports the bit of info I read about him being the lead singer of a rock band prior to tuning in. "Freedom" is a real feel-gooder; it's all about being alive to dance and love and do whatever it is in this world that makes you happy. The theme is similar on what I think could be a second club anthem: "Music Is Love". 'You can feel it everywhere; in the atmosphere,' he declares over and over, while I myself felt a rush of energy from the bombastic bass that gives the music its powerful punch here! That nostalgic 80's-sounding production sparked my ears on Track #4's "Emilia"; I noticed it right away as soon as the breezy warmth of the chords and the light, synthesized electronic dance arrangement came into play. "Ready For Your Love", another great club jam, is all about him wanting to try love all over again while he's already got what what he wants in his arms on the title track a few minutes before. Though all of my favorites sprung up beginning at the midway point with the haunting and trippy ambient piece, "Would You?". On this one, he presents a series of questions, wondering if the receiver of his words would ever die for love, die for freedom and give all that can be given. "I Am Yours" begins marvelously with the soft piano and orchestral glow before the pounding bass and glitzy trance step up the rhythm, turning it into an exhilarating yet touching song of eternal dedication; I like how it concludes with the perfect bookend piano fade-out, too. Just as he confesses that love rescued him on "I Am Yours", it's an exchange of roles when now he is the one who will rescue her on "Closer"; I really like his soaring vocals on this one. And just like INXS said back in the 80's on their memorable hit, "Need You Tonight", Olli confesses the same on the mid-tempo jam, "Tonight", which I think is much too short for its own good. Perhaps that true gritty rocker's voice was itching to get out by the time he recorded the final track, "Through Your Eyes", which in turn might have served as a sneak preview for what will be in store for me once I get around to checking out his previously-released rock material.....

1. Freedom
2. Heaven
3. Music Is Love
4. Emilia
5. Ready For Your Love
6..Would You?
7. I Am Yours
8. Closer
9. Tonight
10. Through Your Eyes