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

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

NASA-Remembering The Future (1999)


I've returned back to the universe of electronic space tunes where I've just finished making first contact with another fun Swedish synthpop duo, thanks to a recent recommendation by one of my blog visitors. I now have something else to rave about that's generated a few new music addictions: "Remembering The Future", the third and final album released by Martin Thors and Patrik Henzel, otherwise known as NASA. I have a sneaking suspicion that there is some additional significance of 'NASA' beyond my presumption that it was inspired by America's space program. Meanwhile, I like the whole paradox of the album title itself: how can you remember something that hasn't happened yet? But then I got it—they're remembering how us intelligent Earth lifeforms used to perceive the future way back in the day when our technological minds were still in their primitive stages—more specifically, the 80's, as I determined from the distinctively-familiar and totally-80's-sounding synthesized production of these tracks: The production, in fact, is definitely the coolest thing about the music here, whether it be the slick drum n' bass arrangements featured on the likes of "The Road To Newtopia" (a play on the word 'utopia', of course) and "Looking Forward To The Past" (I like the paradox of this title as well, generalizing how some people are simply nostalgic and wanting to forget about the harshness that is sometimes the present reality; the funky, dance-pop-oriented jams like my favorites, "Back To Square One" and "Nexterday"; or exotic ambient journeys such as "Cloudcontrol" and " "Xenophobic" (I've always liked this word 'xenophobic' because something about the cool spelling with the two X's, plus the fact that it comes up a lot in the "Star Trek" universe; besides that, it features a fun little tribute to the "E.T." movie with snippets of the digital voice replying 'phone home' and the accompanying dial tones). And it wouldn't be an 80's-sounding electronic space album without at least one track that makes me think about those old 8-bit Atari and Nintendo games again; that's what the title track does when it opens with those familiar blips and beeps that you would only find in classic titles like "Defender", "Space Invaders" and "Asteroid":

1. The Road To Newtopia
2. Back To Square One
3. Cloudcontrol
4. Expansion
5. Remembering The Future
6. Nexterday
7. Xenophobic
8. Tell Me, Woman (Generator)
9. It's About Time
10. They Call Her Love
11. Looking Forward To The Past

*****BONUS TRACKS*****

12. Remembering The Future (Single Version)
13. Back To Square One (Single Version)
14. Nexterday (Single Version)
15. Back To Square One (M12 San Frandisco Mix)
16. Nexterday (Retrogradual Version)
17. They Call Her Love (Unreleased Single Mix)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Sonny Flame-Way Of Life (2012)


It had been quite a long while since I last tuned in to the artists on the Romanian 'popcorn' circuit, though instead of going with some of the recommendations directed to me, I opted to do a little exploring on my own and ended up getting acquainted with this exciting reggae singer who calls himself Sonny Flame. And the name really fits—the hot jams here on his "Way Of Life" album is surely gonna burn up somebody's dance floor (if it hasn't already done so) while his vocals and the uninhibited, sexually provocative content predominantly featured in his song lyrics are sure to melt the hearts of all the ladies out there (if that too hasn't already happened)! Spanish lyrics and dance music&mash;always a sizzling combination, and I got to enjoy the best of both worlds on the opener, "Sale El Sol" ('The Sun Goes Out' in its proper translation), then right after on the follow-up, "Like A Breeze", which has a terrific arrangement—a distinctively Middle Eastern sound with a noticeable reggae influence and a very delightful island flow to the music. "Like A Breeze", in fact, is the first where his sexual intentions are stated loud and clear; he maintains that theme on "Woman" (an infectiously-groovy dance thriller where his chants of 'move it, move it' remind me of that song played at the end of the "Madagascar" Pixar Animations film), "Get In My Bed", the bombastic party that is "Boom Boom Room" (some excellent violin instrumentals are featured between the chorus and the verses and the pounding bass of the beat) and my #1 favorite, "Get Your Clothes Off" (it's part-reggae, part-r&b, part-techno, part-Europop and totally sexy, his mentality leading him to say to the ladies that he just wants to do it). Speaking of 'move it, move it', there are couple of awesome club anthems that I know were designed to get the crowds up an doing exactly that: my #2 favorite, "It's My Life" (this one's gotta be the best high-energy Eurodance jam I've heard within the past two weeks!; could definitely use some nice long 7+ minute remixes of it now.....), and "Jump Up". Even when the 'flame' cools off somewhat with our honorary Romanian guest showing off a more mellow and tender side of himself, the club beats are still bangin'; that's where Track #9's "Lady" enters the picture—a very touching song about this heart being broke, but still being in love with her nonetheless, and the soft piano/guitar combination in the background sets the mood perfectly. And not to neglect mention of another marvelous dance cut that has a sunny, feelgood romantic air about it: "Miami Day". Well listening to this album certainly ignited my audio senses, and I expect for them to be set ablaze again the next time Sonny Flame and I cross paths:

1. Sale El Sol
2. Like A Breeze
3. Liber
4. It's My Life
5. Woman
6. Get In My Bed
7. Another Day
8. Jump Up
9. Lady
10. Boom Boom Room
11. Vin
12. Miami Day
13. Get Your Clothes Off
14. Sale El Sol (Emil Lassaria Remix)

Britney Spears-Circus (2008)


A lot of times, I find myself just minding my own business on an ordinary day when a memorable song from the past suddenly pops into my head for no apparent reason. That's exactly what happened at the beginning of this week when Britney Spears' "Womanizer" decided to play itself inside of my mental jukebox.....and I haven't been able to stop playing it ever since! And the coolest part is when, a couple of days later, I walked inside the convenience store at a local gas station and heard "Womanizer" already playing over the radio! Don't you just love when that happens? So I took that as a sign that I just needed to listen to this whole "Circus" album again and control my own destiny with as many merry-go-round rides of "Womanizer" as my heart desired. I was mega-super addicted to "Womanizer" before the "Circus" album even came out nine years ago—kinda hard to believe it's actually been that long!—and I am still mega-super addicted now at the tail end of 2017! Where do I even start with the things that I love about this carnival thrill ride?! How about the ultra-glitzy, ultra-catchy dance beat, since that's what hooked me in the first time I saw the video. Then the next is Britney's always-teasingly-enticing vocals delivering the humorous lyrics about this womanizer of a guy she has absolutely no intention of letting in to her heart with all of his foolish sexual playfulness.....and she can see right through it all. The best part is definitely the chorus, and just yesterday, I think I finally got the part of the chorus where she purposely stutters over her own words all memorized by hard: ' womanizer, woman-womanizer, you're a womanizer, oh, womanizer, oh, you're a womanizer baby '. That line always makes me laugh—on top of me always being giddy and excited anytime I hear Britney singing anyways—but equally funny are when she goes 'boy, don't try to front, I-I know just-just what you are, are-are' and when she says ' I got your crazy '. And I better not even get started on the video, which depicts the pop princess in an office environment dressed like a secretary with the businessmen in suits all wanting a piece of some Britney action&mash;that only fuels the super-addiction even more. Definitely one of my favorite post-90's Britney Spears songs, yet I can't believe I don't even have the single for it, nor any least not yet..... There are really just too many other pop goodies on the rest of this "Circus" adventure: "If You Seek Amy", "Mmm Papi" (hearing her say something about the guy being a papi makes her the momi makes me laugh, too), "Mannequin", the title track (a great Britney-style anthem where she boasts that she's the ringmaster and she's the one cracking the whip), "Kill The Lights" (closely resembles the arrangement of "Womanizer" with the electro-dance beat; I like it because there's a cool, suspenseful vibe about it that sparks my senses) and the bonus track, "Phonography" (she's getting the guy schooled on knowing how to please her with sexy, dirty talk on this one). And I always a sucker for the soft, sweet and dreamy Britney ballads: "Out From Under" is the first, but "My Baby" is even nicer—a lofty lullaby if there ever was one. Honestly though, nothing can quite top my super-addiction of "Womanizer", but every part of this exhilarating "Circus" show is a guilty pleasure and a fun listen:

1. Womanizer
2. Circus
3. Out From Under
4. Kill The Lights
5. Shattered Glass
6. If You Seek Amy
7. Unusual You
8. Blur
9. Mmm Papi
10. Mannequin
11. Lace And Leather
12. My Baby
13. Radar

*****BONUS TRACKS*****

14. Rock Me In
15. Phonography
16. Amnesia