Sunday, October 15, 2017

DAZZLE-On Second Thoughts (1990)


Get ready to be 'dazzled' by even more good music! I didn't have to think twice about featuring this female duo that simply called itself DAZZLE and their only known album, "On Second Thoughts", as they had remained an ultra-rarity and hidden deep down in the depths of 90's house music obscurity. They continue my streak of fulfilled music wishes while yet another case in the 'unsolved music mystery' files. Other than a rather crude black-and-white mug shot of the ladies that you see pictured above (the original cover artwork was all black-and-white as well, but I added the frame of gold sparks around their photo to add some pizzazz to fit the 'dazzle' theme), there's practically nothing out there in cyberspace that reveals their true identities or their actual music origins. Once again, though, here we have an artist releasing only one album where the music is so good to the ears that it's a shame that the artist's career never quite took off beyond that. I was instantly delighted the moment I took in the soothing, soulful voice of the lead singer of the duo on the opener, "Take A Piece Of Me", which stirred up some of that nostalgia from the early 90's house era. In fact, it's that combination of the soothing soul and the groovy house rhythms that attracted me all throughout, and why I also favorited dancey jams like "What We Share" (hearing them sensually sing ' love we'll always share ' in the song's simple chorus gets stuck to me before long) and "I Need You" (a lot more happening in the arrangement here than on other tracks, taking into consideration the semi-tribal drum beat, the sweet woodwind melody and the keyboards). Great examples of how soulful singers can shine in pop music are represented by "This Is The Last Time" (a song about a woman who's tired of a man cheating and all of the no-good things he does would seem to require vocals with a little more bite and tempered emotion instead of the more casual warming approach taken here, but it still works), "Heaven" (I could see this one as being a full-out house jam in a remixed format somewhere), "I'm Finding It Hard" and especially in my two top picks: "Spend Some Time" (I like the mild-mannered determination in her delivery of how she's sooner or later gonna close the deal and not be alone anymore) and "Slowly" (I like these sunny songs that just have a way of lifting you up; a lovely tribute with the words to a special someone who takes her to places she's never been and allowed her to see things she's never seen). A fitting end for the dazzling duo to dazzle the ears at the end with their personal anthem of sorts: "Dazzle You". It's a very breezy listen where they want the man to let them dazzle him in every way imaginable.....and promise him that he won't be sorry that he did:

1. Take A Piece Of Me
2. This Is The Last Time
3. Heaven
4. What We Share
5. Men Cry Too
6. I Need You
7. I'm Finding It Hard
8. Spend Some Time
9. Slowly
10. Dazzle You (The Soundsystem Mix)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Robert Earl Wilson-Never Give Up (1991)


The title has it right—never give up indeed! This next music share—and personal wish fulfillment—was something I had been seeking over the course of several months after having spotted it during an extensive tour of the Europop/Euro-House catalog. And I never gave up seeking it until I successfully claimed what I believe to be a very rare CD from the 90's And with this acquisition comes one more case for the 'unsolved music mystery' file, as I have no clue whatsoever as to the musical origins of this Robert Earl Wilson you see pictured above nor as to what else he's professionally recorded throughout his career. What I do know, however, is that he and his songs on "Never Give Up" are a terrific listen, reminding me vocally and stylistically of something between Eurodance phenom Haddaway and the pop duo MILLI VANILLI. I knew that I was right on target with having made another fine discovery upon taking in the opener, "Dreams Of Summer"/ It's that distinctively slick, Europop 90's sound that attracted my ears, followed by the sunny breeziness of the music itself, all despite the song's negative theme about a love that was only a bad illusion. A similar negative vibe permeates the similarly-arranged "Lost Your Forever", yet the music sounds so good that I myself hardly noticed the 'lost you forever' theme. The mood is drastically different on "Cry It Out", where Robert breathlessly pleads his case for he and the lady to stay together (props to the production for making his voice trail off when he sings 'I need you forever' and the great extended instrumentals to close out the song, letting those earnest words sink in and linger on). .The mood is positive and upbeat also on the title track itself, which is a very powerful, inspirational love song and one that I had nominated as my #1 favorite even though I was slightly past the album's midway point! I draw his closest comparisons to MILLI VANILLI on the hip-house cuts "Twice Done" (ladies delivering the chorus lyrics while he lightly raps in uncannily the same way as MILLI VANILLI did in many of their hits) and "You Got Me Crazy". while I draw the Haddaway comparison when he gets down and groovy with with the strictly made-for--the-house party that is "Partyjam" and the jubilant concluding cut that became my #2 favorite, "Hold On To My Love" (so much to love about this one, from its totally-80's synthpop sound to the energetic spunk of the chorus where Robert proclaims that he is nothing without the lady in his life; it's a song that makes me happy and feel like celebrating!). In between the Europop, Euro-house and the hip-house are a pair of beautiful slow numbers that deserve much recognition: "Broken Lady" (the electronic ambiance used for this one alone makes it a delightful listen) and "Rock Your Baby" (his slow, sensual and soulful rendition of the George McCrae disco classic works wonderfully). "Never Give Up"—a highly-entertaining 40+ minutes with goodies to please just about everyone and a definitely a must-have for your 90's music collection:

1. Dreams Of Yesterday
2. Twice Done
3. Partyman
4. Lost You Forever
5. Cry It Out
6. Rock Your Baby
7. Never Give Up
8. You Got Me Crazy
9. Broken Lady
10. Hold On To My Love
11. Twice Done (Remix)

DRAMA-High Time (1983)


It's about 'high time' that I put some drama back into everyone's life! Continuing the streak of fulfilled music wishes, I proudly present the very much sought-after album by this Norwegian pop band and the only one of theirs missing from my collection (as I imagine it was for the rest of us in the DRAMA club). A trio of thoughts entered and re-entered my head while I was tuning in to the first few tracks: one, that I haven't listened to a whole lot of music from my favorite decade where there are young boys singing—groups like NEW EDITION, BROS, MENUDO and NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK readily come to mind&mash;two, that the enjoyment I was getting from these cute, three-minute pieces was equivalent to what I'd also enjoy from any number of my favorite bubblegum Euodance albums; and three, that this album was starting to feel like a fun, throwback radio version of "High School Musical". Everything on this too-short-but-wonderfully-sweet, half-hour-long adventure is pure 80's pop bliss at its finest, indicated early on by such bright, ear-pleasing and totally-80's-sounding sparks as "Don't Stop", "Do It!" and "Hey Girl" (dreamy songs like this one instantly put me in a happy mood). I found "Heavenly Lady" to be as funny as it is simply fun, accented by the orchestral accompaniment and the whole sunny sound of the chorus (I like the cheeky words the lead boy delivers that goes 'she really is too good for this world'). There's an instant catchy spark also with "On The Run"; 'I am on the run, catch me if you can'—yep, that one's a sweet bubblegum track, too, as is "Don't Tell Her On A Saturday" (' you'll be sorry you didn't do it Sunday '). You can't help but to be hooked by spunky songs like "Get Up And Go Away", because after the acapella intro, a mega-dancey beat takes over in combination with the DRAMA boys singing 'jump, jump, giddy-up' in unison. It could very well be the longest of the eleven tracks and it's definitely the only track having a rock kick to it: "It's A Hell Of A Night"; I'm liking the boys' harmony all throughout this one, too. Well, "Graduation Day" has a slightly soft rock element in there somewhere, and it too is a song with a breezy, happy melody that makes the music stick to you. Even the album's lone ballad, "Some Kind Of Wonderful"—a rather airy, lofty piece performed solo by the light-voiced boy of the bunch—is an ear-charmer. And as for the opening title track itself, it's the lone track that quite possibly is the least 80's-sounding with its distinctive post-disco rhythm, but I get as 'high' off of it as I get with the rest of the highlights on this "High Time" adventure:

1. High Time
2. Don't Stop
3. Do It!
4. Hey Girl
5. Heavenly Lady
6. On The Run
7. Don't Tell Her On A Saturday
8. Some Kind Of Wonderful
9. Get Up And Go Away
10. It's A Hell Of A Night
11. Graduation Day

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Stiina Jean-Is It Bad (1991)


Nope—not bad at all! That is my short answer to this Finnish pop siren who calls herself Stiina Jean (that has such a nice zing to it, if I'm pronouncing it like 'Sheena Easton'; otherwise, it sounds like the perfect stage name for a poplicious diva to me!) and her only known album, which was one of the more recent requests I've fulfilled on the music wishlist. Emphasis on 'siren' there, because once this vocally-gifted lady is heard singing on the opening title track, it's time to sound off the alarms and declare a state of emergency because you'll be blown away! I stayed stuck on her sultry screams of 'is it bad if I do?', getting completely lost in the music of this pure pop pleasure and nearly forgetting what the song was even all about—a bad girl with an attitude, I surmised. And that was made even clearer on the follow-up guilty pleasure, "I Would Lie For Love". Ooh, I like that title; you can't be any more honest than that! Stiina's voice is so deceptively sweet—Madonna-esque even—when she sings the verses, matching the bouncy, sunny arrangement of the music perfectly, but then that force behind the power comes to the forefront when she reveals the unashamed truth of what she'll do to steal a man's heart. Thought it would be a cover of the Evelyn Champagne King classic from the 80's, but Stiina's take on a 'love that comes down' on this album's fourth track takes on a new face altogether, the best part being that her mighty words are put to a funky pop beat! One that really shines and ignites the senses is "Loverboy", where Stiina's voice soars into the stratosphere as she delivers her ringing invitation, 'could you be my pride and joy?'. "Love Can Hurt", the Finnish pop siren warns a couple of songs later while it's a heavenly comfort to listen to "Under Your Wing" (doubly heavenly for me, taking in the sweet jazz melodies of the accompanying trumpet throughout). It's a powerful affair on "Don't Let Anything Come Between Us", a colorful demonstration of how well she can conquer the moving ballads with the reprisal of that conquest being "We Could Be Together" (this one totally deserves to get some airplay on somebody's contemporary soft rock radio station!). In terms of vocal output, I cannot choose declare a single favorite, but stylistically and production-wise, my #1 would have to be "Doubt In My Heart". This wonderfully bluesy slow piece features this Finnish siren laying down the shameful, head-shaking truth about a no-good man who has cast some uncertainty down on her love parade. Love that echo effect when she screams 'heart' big and bold before the extended guitar instrumental break. Then it's all good when the joyride wraps up with the harmonica-led "Everyday", a jubilant inspirational piece-turned-sung-along where there's hope for everyone to find that special someone to share life's highs and lows with:

1. Is It Bad?
2. I Would Lie For Love
3. Don't Let Anything Come Between Us
4. Love Come Down
5. Doubt In My Heart
6. We Could Be Together
7. Loverboy
8. Damn Your Eyes
9. Love Can Hurt
10. Under Your Wing
11. Everyday

Friday, October 6, 2017



Halloween and Christmas both must be coming early this year, considering all of these recent delectable music treats that gifts I've been gifting to myself and to all of my music followers! The latest one up for shares hadn't been on my personal wishlist for very long, but I was still all smiles when I got it earlier this week: the super-rarity entitled "Move On Up". It is the lone album released back in the 90's by the all-sibling disco group, THE GIBSON BROTHERS, and the second one—along with 2005's "Blue Island"—to feature a modern Euro-house/Euro-pop sound. That in itself is a rarity—music featuring male artists performing non-rap vocals in the Euro-house genre—which is why I had so much vested interest in "Move On Up" in the first place. And just as I expected, it was a wonderful thrill ride from start to finish! And me listening to it on a night when I was very much in the mood for some festive, happy and positive music made it even better! The opening title track sounds as if it was purposely engineered to get you into the movin' and groovin' spirit—a great reminder of the good ole house music days of the 90's! If that one doesn't instantly fill you up with happiness, then the sweet Europop/reggae tune right after it will: "Happy People". It immediately went to my playlist of favorite pop tunes the moment the beat and the lovely island melody melted into my ears! The next one had to have my name written all over it: "Declaration De Amor". That's because of the Spanish flavor, provided by the uncredited lady who delivers the Spanish lyrics midway, although I had already been attracted to the song because of the groovy house rhythm and the whole suspenseful ambiance in the background. Then I got an electrifying jolt on the super high-energy dance jam, "Break My Heart". Despite the feel-good sound, the mood is just the opposite, hearing THE GIBSON BROTHERS singing about not being able to forget the lady's cheating ways. One selection that sparked me after growing on me for a while was the album's lone slow-tempo piece, "How Could I Know?", where the distinctively straining, soulful voice by the lead Gibson brother thrusts some extra feeling into the emotional atmosphere. That had come after the mid-tempo cut, "Mighty Quinn", which becomes a fun sing-along after it plays on for a minute or two. But things really get fun when they return back to the Eurodisco dance floor for "Fun Boat Party", "A Patti" (I can totally feel some of that vintage disco spirit on this one, especially during the catchy chorus where they chant 'a patti, a patti-a'),"Fire" (those festive horns are amazing!) and "Australia" (I get that theatrical/stage show vibe here, and hearing their carefree lyrics about swimming and surfing and everything else about living it up in the Land Down Under just makes me smile). Aside from "Happy People", I ended up with one other new-found addiction from this album: "No Substitute For Love". Coincidentally, it too has that sweet Europop/reggae bounce going on and an extremely catchy 'sha-la-la-la-la-la eh-eh, sha-la-la-la-la-la oh-oh' that leads in to the jazzed-up chorus. Then serving as the perfect bookend to this Eurodisco party is the festive dance track fittingly entitled "Everybody's Dancing", because by the time everyone who listens to this album gets to that point, they should already be doing exactly that!

1. Move On Up
2. Happy People
3. Declaration De Amor
4. Break My Heart
5. Mighty Quinn
6. How Could I Know?
7. Fun Boat Party
8. No Substitute For Love
9. A Patti
10. Australia
11. Free
12. Everybody's Dancing

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

3 THE HARD WAY-Old Skool Prankstas (1994)


This next throwback share not only continues the streak of fulfilled music wishes—something that I'd wanted for myself for seemingly half a lifetime!—but serves as a reminder that "The Music Spectrum" is indeed the place in cyberspace to experience the full spectrum of music! The New Zealand hip-hop troupe that called itself 3 THE HARD WAY had came to my attention about three or four years ago while I was in the midst of conducting an extensive study on boybands and r&b music over in Australia and and in surrounding areas of The Land Down Under. Previously, I had the chance to check out this trio on their post-New Millennium album entitled "Eyes On The Prize" album, but tonight, I was finally able to go all the way back to the beginning of their time on their 1994 debut. Once again, it's albums like these that cause me to sorely miss the old-school hip-hop days of the early and mid-90's—clean yet colorful and intelligent lyrics put to some amazing beats, music where you can just take it and go! My favorite two tracks are the ones where the boys throw down with the funky, make-me-wanna-get-up-and-dance arrangements: "All Around" and "Comin' At Ya". The former is your classic hip-hop party filled with shout-outs to peoples in every part of the globe; the latter gets me nostalgic about the 80's all over again with the distinctively-familiar sinister laugh that I recognized was being sampled from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" while the suspenseful chords provide some cool ear candy all throughout. Speaking of sampling, I'm almost positive that I heard bits of KOOL & THE GANG's "Open Sesame"—snippets of the 'get down' part of the chorus—embedded in places on Track #14; besides that, it's another one where the beats are absolutely fabulous! The bombastic beats, however, had already been flowing on the groovy opener, "Rock Tha Nation", then afterwards on crisp cuts like "Bass Freak" and the very Freestyle-sounding "DJ's Nightmare". Though the pair of tracks that best highlights the trio's rap skills are "Hip Hop Holiday" and "What I Gotta Do". The former is a really fun song, thanks to the spurts of sunny, reggae bounce and the seamless rhymes laid out where the lead rapper talks about hip-hop being like chicken and 'finger-lickin' good and says that he will 'hit ya like a sniper' (just a couple of memorable lines on this one). Meanwhile, the other is a warming, mellowed-down story where they reminisce about how they came to be. Their words are put to full effect above the jazzy, hazy ambiance of the, 'Zane Lowe Remix', which is one of the three bonus cuts I included that follows this album's proper concluding piece, "Gotta Do (Shout Outs)", where the guys show their gratitude by mentioning the names of the personnel who made this album possible:

1. Intro: Here It Is
2. Rock Tha Nation
3. Many Rivers
4. Bass Freak
5. Cheech Interlude
6. All Around
7. Dialog Interlude 1
8. DJ's Nightmare
9. Hip Hop Holiday
10. What I Gotta Do
11. Comin' At Ya (Remix)
12. Dialog Interlude 2
13. Everyday
14. Get Down
15. Gotta Do (Shout Outs)

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

16. Hip Hop Holiday (Radio Mix)
17. What I Gotta Do (Zane Lowe Remix)
18. What I Gotta Do (Zane Lowe Remix Instrumental)

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

MILK THE BISHOP-The People's Popsicle (1994)


Chess and cows—that was the first thing that came to my mind when a certain Romanian music lover requested this rare album by this obscure Belgian pop/rock band a few years back. Well actually, the very first thing was the above cover artwork reminding me of the Warner Brothers logo from all of those "Looney Tunes" shows I watched as a kid! I'm sure there was a funny story behind the name the band chose for itself, and I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with chess nor cows at all. As for the weird title of their one and only album? Well, perhaps they believed that us listeners&mash;the 'people'—would find their music to be a sweet listen and that we'd be licking it up for a long time. I'd have to say that there were indeed some sweet moments that provided some excellent ear candy. One of those sweetest moments, ironically, sounds nothing like what you'd expect from the pop/rock mainstream: "Black Water Blues". It has this peaceful, holiday fuzziness about it that blankets you; a musical journey that takes you far from reality and into some kind of fictional storybook realm for a while. For sure, I'm adding it to one of my playlists of favorites, as I will be doing with the equally-lovely listen that was "Golly Golly Gee Whiz". Despite the humorous title, the song has a mellow and rather sad tonality as it tells a story about a longing or days to always be filled with nothing but niceness (and I know that feeling). One of the band's biggest hits, I would imagine, is the delightful opener, "Malibu", which has a very breezy, light rock sound that reminds me of something from the era of THE BEATLES. I was going for the appealing sound elsewhere on the album, finding pleasant melodies in the lively offering, "If We Take Our Chances"; a cool, funky grooviness in "Spinning Around"; exotic instrumental accompaniments on "No King Is King" and enjoying the bizarre cacophony of sound loops on the wild thrill ride that is "Asshole". There was another gem I found instantly satisfying that's on the same BEATLES-esque light rock wavelength: "Everyday". I was attracted to the sound before anything else (think I hear the harmonica leading into the opening movement), before the song becomes catchy with the lead guy's deliverance of 'repetition' in the chorus. Overall, my 40+ minute listen felt like a trip into a universe of experimental new wave; it's an experiment that works, and especially something to entertain those who have an ear for the unusual:

1. Malibu
2. If We Take Our Chances
3. Love Like Blood
4. No King Is King
5. Black Water Blues
6. Spinning Around
7. Asshole
8. Everyday
9. Golly Golly Gee Whiz
10. Lust
11. Ajosha

Marque-Transparent (2004)


Switching back now to some personal music requests that I recently fulfilled for myself, which first sees me reconnecting with the Austrian pop singer whom I've only known by the single name of Marque. It was more than six years ago when I got attached to him through his "Freedomland" album, and that started a long quest to obtain every one of his albums released before and after. I'm 80% of the way there, having finally acquired 2004's "Transparent". A couple of things I didn't realize about it until today: one, that "Transparent" happened to be his very last known studio album to date; two, it contained a trio of songs from his previous album, "Pirate Of My Soul". One thing I'd never forgotten, however, is he was vocally talented, and I would be reminded of that the moment he dazzled me on the opening acapella number simply entitled "GOD"—in all capital letters, no less, perhaps to signify that it truly is a standout performance. He lyrically sings about The Almighty Creator being scared of him; now that's something different you don't hear all the time! The religious overtones resurface later on "God's Love", where he spreads the good news and asks listeners if they've ever heard about The One and his unconditional love. It's one of the many songs that demonstrates how well he does the acoustic guitar tunes, although this one explodes into a powerful, gritty vocal performance by the time the song climaxes in its later movements! I'm pretty sure I game all three of them rave reviews when I heard them the first time on "Pirate Of My Soul", but I have to rave once more about "Superstar", "Sorry But I Wonder" and "The Reason Why". I really like Marque's vocals and the overall mellow sound on "Superstar", dig the full-on high-energy rock sound and the cool, digitized vocals repeating his words to the chorus on "Sorry But I Wonder" and am captivated again by the orchestral ambiance that leads into "The Reason Why", plus the way his voice becomes high and lofty in his breathless deliverance of 'who I am' in the closing movements. There's a warming charm I like in a simple, breezy tune like "Everyday", where he confesses his love for a special lady every moment of his life, and "That's All", which inspires those who seem lost and abandoned to find a little love to turn things around. I especially liked the latter one, noting the great piano arrangement and how much it brought to mind any of those elegantly-produced BRUCE HORNSBY & THE RANGE songs I always hear on the contemporary radio stations. There's one song that impressed and captured my senses more than anything else: "You Used To". It's a sad story about him telling about all the ways that a lady doesn't show her love anymore, and the heartache is almost tangible in Marque's soft, whispery vocals. The song becomes even more gripping with the soulful collective voices in the background during the chorus, and that's the same gripping effect that puts the concluding piece, "Rose Without A Thorn", on a high pedestal, as he employs a full church choir to push forth the message that he's never seen something so beautiful without a bad side:

1. GOD
2. Gone Now
3. Superstar
4. You Used To
5. God's Love
6. As Long As She Smiles
7. Sorry But I Wonder
8. That's All
9. Ringaling
10. The Reason Why
11. Everyday
12. Rose Without A Thorn