Wednesday, December 13, 2017

David Hernandez-I Am Who I Am (2011)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: December 13, 2017

And I am who I am, always being the thoughtful one in sharing these sweet music treats. You can't have David's "This Christmas" EP without also having his second EP released two years later. Fans of the contemporary crisp r&b/club sound present in today's pop music will immediately adore the opening slow jam, "Follow", where the former "American Idol" contestant ,makes immediate impressions and really shows off some stunning soul while singing his emotional promises to always be connected to the one who as a special place in his heart. Following that great opener is a refreshing one had immediately became an instant favorite: "Inseparable". The cite the 'finger-snapping' beat and the sad sound of the chords being the initial reasons, with his soaring vocals keeping me hooked as he declares ' it's you and me against the world ' and offering up other bold statements of promised eternal unity. "Out Of My Reach": a fun bombastic jam to ride to that gets you hooked with his echoes of 'out of my reach' in the chorus, and nearly sounding exactly the same is "Deliver Me", where it's the 'deliver me' of the chorus that he echoes this time while singing about his pleads for someone special to be his life line. "I Fell In Love" is surely one that you will love because of its warming I-feel-on-top-of-the-world perk about it. Though the one I must highlight as being the song I love the most is the title track itself. It's the humbling and haunting story David begins telling in the very first verse that gets to me right away, confessing how he didn't have the same things that everyone else had while growing up, how he was always trying to find ways to overcome the adversity. He reminds that ' anything worth achieving doesn't come without a hustle ' and, like Sheryl Crow once said, 'every day is a winding road'. This is one of those excellent conceptual pieces that take you on an intimate journey deep into the songwriter's heart and mind.....and will make you appreciate the outstanding talents of the artist even more:

1. Follow
2. Inseparable
3. Out Of My Reach
4. I Am Who I Am
5. She's Coming Undone
6. I Fell In Love
7. Run 2 U
8. Deliver Me

David Hernandez-This Christmas (2009)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: December 13, 2017

My third Christmas gift of the holiday season comes wrapped in a small package.....but with a very big surprise hidden inside. That would be "This Christmas", a special five-track EP released by former "American Idol" contestant David Hernandez and, if my information is correct, his very first collection of professional recordings following his appearance on the show's seventh season. In recent months, I've taken it upon myself to feature more and more of these past young stars from the various reality televised music shows—both here on my home soil and internationally&mddash;as while the official winners have gone on to enjoy successful recording contracts,I believe the other talents shouldn't be forgotten. David's rendition of the song that also serves as this EP's title is another excellent effort to add to the list of the many contemporary pop covers that have been done of the classic 70's original; it seems no family Christmas gathering cannot be complete without hearing somebody soulfully singing "This Christmas" playing on somebody's tabletop radio. He opts for a gentler approach on the always-humbling and always-touching "Mary Did You Know?" and "O Holy Night" (why do I myself often forgetting the words following 'O holy night, the stars are brightly shining', considering the gazillion times I've heard this one?) while it'a skippy, merry walking-through-the-winter-wonderland affair served up on his piano-jazzy take on "Let It Snow" (isn't this one like the perfect song to warm you up on a cold winter night?). Then as for that 'hidden surprise' I mentioned at the outset, that would be his marvelous cover of "You Raise Me Up", which one might not expect to find on a holiday album, but totally fits the season's themes of peace, warmth and love. I've heard so many covers of "You Raise Me Up" that I sometimes forget the original was actually performed by the New Age/electronic group called SECRET GARDEN. Of course, many listeners in the mainstream contemporary music world adore and know the Josh Groban version of it well, but David's cover, which begins with a very calmed and refined delivery before exploding into the majestic grand of a finale at the end, equally deserves praises:

1. This Christmas
2. Mary Did You Know?
3. Let It Snow
4. You Raise Me Up
5. O Holy Night

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jennifer Rush-Now Is The Hour (2010)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: December 12, 2017

Yes, now indeed is the hour, the day, the week and the month that I finally give this album its proper due! I had originally featured Jennifer Rush's most recent studio album of her long prosperous career in the same year that it was released, which also happens to be the same year that I got it. Seven years ago, it quickly went from a recommendation to a refreshing listen to an extreme addiction—almost all in one sitting! And now, seven years later, I'm still suffering from the 'addiction' part of it, if that's even the appropriate word for it! During this time span, "Now Is The Hour" has been a constant music companion, often accompanying me on my extended walks in the park or serving as that one 'go-to' album to indulge in simply for pleasure and leisure at home. It's been added to my iPod, taken off, re-added to my iPod, taken off again, then re-added so many more times that I've lost count! It's funny, because before 2010, I hadn't been a very devoted Jennifer Rush listener at all; her one 80's hit, "The Power Of Love", was the one song of hers that I even readily remembered. Well there's a bunch of hits here on this wonderfully-produced "Now Is The Hour" that I must rave about, and the one that deserves the spotlight first is Track #7's "Echoes Love". My absolute #1 favorite is like the sweetest and the most romantic electro-dance song I've ever heard! Jen's vocals delivering the poetic words above the happy melody just makes me smile every time, with the best part being the beautiful chorus where she confesses all of the things she'll do to have him and how his love echoes back to her. Actually, that's not the best part—that would be the spectacular 'Seduction s Radio Remix', which is honestly ZOUNDS better than the album original with the groovy bass line and the sparkly techno glitz added! Since I'm talking about dance grooves and such now, I should now put the spotlight on my #2 favorite: "Just This Way". Anytime these post-New Millennium songs have that distinctive 80's-sounding synthesizing going on, I'm gonna fall in love with it instantly, and that was definitely the case here! I'm getting some kind of summery "Miami Vice"-themed soundtrack feeling whenever I hear the instrumentals to this warming track about Jen wanting to remember everything good and lovely about a man exactly as he is now should they never get to see each other again. "Down On My Knees" and "Dream Awake": These are two more great electro-dance cuts that keep leap-frogging each other as my #3 and #4 favorites, but as of today, #3 is "Down On My Knees" (she's begging for mercy for the man to stay in her life) while #4 is "Dream Awake" (the thrill of really living and enjoying all of her romantic fantasies). Think it's Jen's more powerful vocals on the former than her more low-key vocal output on the latter that ultimately makes the difference with this pair. But they've been getting some stiff competition from one particular song that's grown on me so much to the point where I've made it a personal anthem for my life: "Head Above Water". It's the glitzy, military-style march of a beat that hooked me to this song initially, but in recent listens, it's been the inspirational message embedded in the lyrics—keeping your head up, doing what you gotta do to survive and never giving up. I especially liked the image painted by her words of 'every journey of a thousand miles begins with one step' and 'the marching of a thousand troops across the desert sand'; those words in the first verse always affect me deeply. Besides "Head Above Water", a second potential competitor for #3 or #4 on the favorites list has been "Ain't Loved You Long Enough"; this powerful and emotional ballad almost has a spiritual flow to it and really touches the heart . It may not make my Top 4, but another I like a lot is Track #2's "Betcha Never". It's a fun and playful electro-pop jam with a Latin-flavored rhythm where Jen boasts about a man who thought their relationship would never get as far as it did. Then there's the title track itself which, although it appears right smack in the middle of the album, would make for a perfect end piece. As it is, it's a peaceful and comforting ballad that explodes into a majestic, heavenly performance with Jen's soaring voice and the rising voices of the backing chorale. So many other sweet and wondrous moments I could rave about too—"Windows", "Before The Dawn", "I Never Asked For An Angel"—but I will conclude my thoughts and allow you to discover these during your own listening time:

1. Dream Awake
2. Betcha Never
3. Windows
4. Down On My Knees
5. Head Above Water
6. I Never Asked For An Angel
7. Echoes Love
8. I'm Not Dreaming Anymore
9. Now Is The Hour
10. Like I Would For You
11. Before The Dawn
12. Eyes Of A Woman
13. Just This Way
14. Ain't Loved You Long Enough
15. Still

*****BONUS TRACK*****

16. Echoes Love (Seduction s Radio Remix)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

CARNIE & WENDY WILSON-Hey Santa! (1993)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: December 10, 2017

My second Christmas gift of the holiday season is a must-have for fans of the 90's girl group, WILSON PHILLIPS. If I remember correctly, "Hey Santa!" was the only album that sisters Carnie and Wendy released together following the departure of their friend and third member, Chyna Phillips, who had embarked on a brief solo career. Despite being reduced to a duo, I found that the upbeat pop/rock sound that the group was well-known for on memorable hits like "Hold On" is still right here on this special eleven-track release. I like the sisters' approach with their slow and harmonious introductory teasers before the skippy beats march in on their renditions of such annual classics as "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!", while they especially delighted me on a couple of my traditional favorites: "Winter Wonderland" (they actually turn this one into an original with their own unique lyrics in the opening movement and partway through—a kind of giving you a glimpse of the wintry scene before actually walking through it, as it were) and "Jingle Bell Rock" (a song that absolutely had to be on this album, as the dancey rock element totally suits their musical style). It's always nice to hear a slow piano-jazz interpretation of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas", which they perform to perfection. And it seems no holiday album is complete for me without the inclusion of "Silent Night" in some form or another. In this case, it's part of a sweet three-track medley that begins with the humbling "We Three Kings" (I feel like I don't hear this one enough, besides the various instrumental versions that I keep hearing in different places) and concludes with "The First Noel", with a warming spoken message delivered by them midway through while the backing choir performs the "Silent Night" chorus. They employ an ensemble of singers again later on the concluding piece, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", which is performed exclusively by kids and has a very 'Charlie Brown Christmas' feel to it. Neither of the sisters are heard singing on this one; but maybe one of them were playing the piano? Always seem to forget the lyrics to "Silver Bells"; it's another warm-you-up-for-the-holidays classic, and the twinkly opening movement and the stilled, serene flow of the music makes it all even warmer:

1. Hey Santa!
2. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
3. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
4. Winter Wonderland
5. The Little Drummer Boy
6. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
7. Jingle Bell Rock
8. Silver Bells
9. Christmas Medley: We Three Kings / Silent Night / The First Noel
10. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

Saturday, December 9, 2017

G4-G4 Christmas (2015)


It's about that time of the year again when I start busting out with the holiday tunes! I had already gotten a head start back in October when I took some time enjoying a selection of music on a Christmas CD by country music star Colin Raye. Then I spent the better part of the past couple of weeks immersing myself in select seasonal favorites playing in rotation on a local Christian contemporary radio station. And now today, I finally got to indulge in the first holiday album by the talented British operatic pop troupe that calls itself G4. An early Christmas gift—or a belated one—for many of you out there, I'm sure, while for me, it was a welcome change of pace from the mainstream—an escape from familiarity and into a place of peace and serenity. I'd almost forgotten how majestic and commanding that these G4 guys are collectively when the show opens up with their ringing rendition of the traditional favorite, "O Holy Night", which is one of my personal holiday favorites—a song that always touches me deeply. Love the direction the song takes when the backing choir joins in during the final movements before ending acapella style. Medleys are always a fun way to link individual songs into a nice long one; on "Christmas Medley", they take bits and pieces of "Let It Snow", "Rudolph The Red-Nose Reindeer",and a couple of other familiar classics and string them together, but there's also a cool twist when the guys on backup sing some of the words to one song while the lead guy continues on singing the words to the other songs. "All I Want For Christmas Is You": Recognized the title to the hit Mariah Carey holiday song; nice hearing this one in its warm, bouncy piano-pop interpretation. "O Come All Ye Faithful": I always look forward to hearing alternate interpretations of this other traditional favorite of mine, and the G4 guys do this one up in supreme royalty! They are joined by the amazing choir as soon as the song starts (which prominently features an organ that gives the music a heavenly, symphonic glow), and totally bring down the house when their voices are on the rise during their delivery of the second verse (the part that goes 'sing with exaltation'). Speaking of amazing, it was perfectly fitting for them to include a beautiful rendering of perhaps the greatest hymn in the gospel songbook: "Amazing Grace" This one always instills a sense of peace and calm inside of me, and giving it an extra intimate feel is G4's beautiful acapella harmony while performing it. "Silent Night": yet another personal favorite from the traditional holiday song catalog that begins quietly and innocently enough.....that is, until the G4 guys sneak up on you with the breakout vocal explosion! Discovered a few new ones I'd never heard before to my Christmas collection: the peaceful and mellow "Away In A Manger", the humbling guitar-driven "Bring Him Home" and the powerful show-stopper that is "Once In Royal David's City". And I now invite you to discover something new on this "G4 Christmas" album yourself.....or perhaps, re-discover your annual favorites that simply never get old with the passing of time:

1. O Holy Night
2. Christmas Medley
   -Let It Snow
   -White Christmas
   -Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
   -I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
3. Panis Angelicus
4. All I Want For Christmas Is You
5. Good King Wenceslas
6. Away In A Manger
7. O Come All Ye Faithful
8. Amazing Grace
9. Once In Royal David's City
10. Bring Him Home
11. Silent Night

ARENA SWEDEN-Arena Sweden (2003)


I've been putting this one off for far too long! Many of you in my circles who know my music tastes well—and just my insatiable thirst for Swedish pop music altogether—probably knew that I'd end up featuring this Swedish duo eventually.....and here they and their self-titled release are at last after so many months where I would prepare to give them some of "The Music Spectrum" spotlight, but never get around to actually doing it. Super addiction to the max—I can't think of a better phrase of adjectives to justly describe this same group of eleven songs that I've enjoyed countless replays of! I must confess—my addiction largely stems from the great production of the infectiously-dancey pop/rock sound, but the simplicity of the song structures, the catchy hooks, the melodies and the terrific vocals of the duo's lead singer, Dennis Radoicic, factor into it as well! The end result? Nearly 40 minutes of pop music bliss and one whole album to drop onto my playlist of favorites! Even still, I have to highlight a select number of them, because they just spark me in a special way. First and foremost, "Love On The Line", whose chorus serves as my favorite of all the hooks on the entire album because of the stunning manner in which Dennis delivers the title in the lyrics. "Heaven": an excellent breeze of a slow tune that you can definitely add this to the list of heavenly songs in popular music containing the word 'heaven' in its title. "I Want To Love You": a total jam with a great bounce to the beat, which contrasts nicely with the mellow, low-key delivery of all of the things he wants to know and feel about love. "State Of Your Heart": the album's second slow gem is a perfect place to enjoy Dennis's powerful and soaring voice. "Don't Be Afraid": a real comfort of a song with that take-a-chance-on-loving-me theme that always makes for a sweet treat. "You Are The One": I like these sunny, heartwarming romantic tributes, and this one happens to have a bouncy dance beat to it that puts a happy spring in your spring. And "After The Hurt": the album's lone offering, if I'm not mistaken, where there's negative emotions embedded somewhere in the lyrics, but there's still a positive glow in the songwriter's message of moving on once the pain is gone. Wait a minute—I practically highlighted everything here! That should be all the evidence you need that these ARENA SWEDEN guys are worth taking the time to listen to:

1. Take On The World
2. Show Me The Way
3. Heaven
4. Love On The Line
5. You Are The One
6. Don't Be Afraid
7. I Want To Love You
8. Pray For The Children
9. State Of Your Heart
10. After The Hurt
11. I Believe

Friday, December 8, 2017

MOBILE HOMES-Mobile Homes (1998)


My continued trek through the world of Swedish electronic space music took an unexpected turn when I re-discovered a group I had already known about for years. Unexpected, because although MOBILE HOMES is categorized in the synthpop catalog, the sound on their 1998 debut album—the only piece of theirs discography currently in my collection—has a definite mainstream pop/rock sound to it. So mainstream, in fact, that there's a handful of songs here that totally get me thinking about the 80's all over again; indeed, "You Make The Sun Shine" "See The Wold" and "Paradise" (the melodic 'la-la-la' repeated almost endlessly in song's closing movements makes this song stick to you) has a delightful 80's-sounding perk about it that instantly appeal to my senses. But before my ears tuned in to any of those, there is the marvelous melodic pop/rock adventure that opens this album called "United". This is one of those dreamy, wake-up-in-the-morning-and-get-ready-for-work kinda tunes that you hear as soon as the alarm clock goes off and you cut the radio on. For some reason, I like hearing the guys' distinctively Swedish accent on this one more than on any of the other songs, and their words about two lost lovers coming back together again are a warming comfort. There's even a nice acoustic guitar reprisal of it to enjoy near the end of the album; at first, I almost liked the reprise better, then decided that I love that and the original studio recording equally. Another one that I adore in equal portions as well is "Take It Or Leave It", a somber and bittersweet piece that starts off as as mellow ballad before the tempo kicks up before the entire song blossoms into one of the album's strongest performances. I love the harmony of the guys on backup, and I found something internally refreshing about the way they deliver the alleviating 'I'm free ' in the chorus. Despite the prevailing pop/rock sound here, there are still pockets where there's a recognizable electronic/synthpop element in the production, with the the most prominent occurrences being on the two energetic house thrillers: "Love Relation" (is this love or just infatuation?—that is the main message being projected on this one, and there's some cool, glitzy keyboard riffs as the song nears its completion) and "I Do What I Can" (the infusion of the rock guitar with the beat does give the music a cool edge here). I liked this one as well, even if it sort creeped me out with its unsettling vibe: "Circle Of Stars". It's all in the suspenseful chords and monotonic vocals delivering the lyrics about putting an end to a farce of a relationship, with those distinctively-so-80's video game blips and beeps—which happens to be my favorite part of the song's production—strangely adding even more creepy chills to the music:

1. United
2. You Make The Sun Shine
3. See The World
4. Definitely Wrong
5. Love Relation
6. Take It Or Leave It
7. String Of Light
8. Paradise
9. I Do What I Can
10. United (Reprise)
11. Circle Of Stars

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

DEADLINE-Watch The Structure (1996)


While in the midst of my recent electronic space music explorations, I had discovered DEADLINE, yet another obscure artist from the Swedish synthpop catalog whose non-label-released "Watch The Structure" album I felt deserved a spot along "The Music Spectrum". My ears and I were already pleased with what we were hearing upon taking in the opener simply entitled "Sweet", from which I determined that DEADLINE shares a sound similar to the likes of popular mainstream groups like INFORMATION SOCIETY and PET SHOP BOYS. And "Sweet" indeed is a very sweet listen—a song about a guy's longing to be with a special lady again, and the dreamy instrumental ambiance and accompanying fluttery woodwind piece makes it all the more sweeter. The instrumental ambiance, in fact, is a the primary reason why I enjoyed this album so much; perhaps deep down, I had actually been into a easy-listening music mood despite the dance-pop that I was looking to focus on. That's why my ears and I were immediately captured by "A Sudden Breath" (love is like a breath of fresh air when it storms into your life—that is the warming message to be taken from this one), "Crime Of Passion","Fire", "Liz" (liked the beginning movements of this one with its elegant harp piece, then the swirling electronic ambiance and the deep drones before the true beat sweeps in; totally did not expect the harsh and bitter words delivered in this rather dark story of man who is suffering from mental anguish) and "Philosophy" (a rather chilling piece with the unsettling sounds of the bells playing between verses and the haunting yet interesting message of the song itself—looking at the world around you from a brighter perspective). There's a few places along this journey, however, where the easy-listening electronic ambiance picks up speed with a fast-tempo house rhythms: "Caught In A Fantasy", the title track itself and "Unreal"—the latter of the trio having a sunny spark about it with the happy glow and the songwriter's earnest words of wanting to be filled with the lady's love:

1. Sweet
2. Caught In A Fantasy
3. A Sudden Breath
4. Fire
5. Watch The Structure
6. Crime Of Passion
7. Liz
8. Her Love
9. Unreal
10. Philosophy