Friday, June 23, 2017

Mr. Zivago-Tell By Your Eyes (2002)


I knew my electronic music explorations would lead me back to the world of Italo-disco eventually. Besides that, I've just been wanting to catch up on some Italo-disco listening altogether. I spent a good hour today getting acquainted with a fine singer who calls himself Mr. Zivago. Nice to meet you, Mr. Zivago, because you've just given me even more good tunes to bring me and my ears joy! The opening title track gets praises from me first; love the chilled ambiance, soft keyboards and the low-key, dancey bass line, plus the sing-along chorus consisting of him and his backing vocalists. It totally deserves the all-instrumental version found at the very end of this album. His first and only album, in fact, which was originally released back in 1992). So that explains the very 80's-sounding synthesized arrangements to these songs and why I got so hooked to them. "Say Yes" I immediately like because of the thumping beat and melody from the keyboards, plus the earnest words that are his plea for matrimony and eternal togetherness. "Alive"—one of those sunny, upbeat tunes that just makes you feel.....alive. At least that's that Zivago says when he sings ' when I'm with you, I feel alive '. * "You're The Only", the album's first and only slow song, is so touching and shows Zivago at his finest with the stunning, soaring vocal performance all throughout. ' You're the angel sent to me; the dream I've been dreaming ' are just some of the thoughtful words he has to offer here. Got a spark out of "Promises Bridge", too: electronic glitz put to dancey beat (I get that 'La Macarena' vibe here) is enough to attract me, but the touching words of ' if I could, I'd do anything for you ' totally put the icing on the cake here. Thought "Gloria" would be another great cover of the song I originally thought was a Laura Branigan original until realizing it was sung by Italian singer Umberto Tozzi; I actually started my listening of this album with "Glorria" first out of excited, irresistible anticipation. Not so this time, but still a warming song nonetheless. Mr. Zivago—it's been a pleasure, and I'm sure other listeners will be happy to get acquainted with you just as I have:

1. Tell By Your Eyes
2. Say Yes
3. Alive
4. Show The Love
5. Welcome To The Edge
6. Just For You To Be There
7. Sadness Is Like Snow
8. I Will
9. You're The Only
10. Gloria
11. Promises Bridge
12. Yesterday
13. Little Russian (Vocal Version)
14. Love In Moscow (Vocal Version)
15. Tell By Your Eyes (Instrumental)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Calvin Harris-Ready For The Weekend (2009)


I had such a blast with my first Calvin Harris electro-disco ride a couple days ago that it was inevitable that I'd be enjoying another in short time! That's precisely what I did on this early Sunday afternoon, taking nearly an hour of my time to indulge in the Scottish producer's second effort, which contained everything that I loved about the first! Except this time, he invites a few guest artists to sing alongside him on select tracks, On the title track, where there's a sunny perk to the dancey piano beat, a soulicious female diva is delivering the words of ' I'm gonna find shoes and I'm ready for the weekend ' in the bombastic chorus. In contrast to that, there's the angelic, lofty voice of another female singer delivering the chorus on "Flashback". Then it's a complete change-up in the lineup altogether when a couple of MC's are asked to lay down the seamless rap flow on both "Dance Wiv Me" (that 'wiv' is not a typo; it appears exactly as that on the back cover artwork and is presumably Calvin's stylistic way of saying 'with') and "Worst Day". Ironically, that latter one—"Worst Day"—turns out to be one of the best jams on this album! So much going on with the arrangement here—from the light guitar to the rapid drum n' bass/electronic dance rhythm to the semi-robotic voicing of 'this must be the worst day of my life', which precedes Calvin's humorous confessions about all of the mistakes he made with romancing and sleeping with the woman in the very beginning of the song. I like it whenever the jams get disco-groovy with the funky synthesized glitz igniting my audio senses; that's where "Stars Come Out", "Relax" and "Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La" (there's that comedic quirkiness side of him again; it gives his songs character and makes them fun to tune in to) all come into play. There's a couple that will surely appeal to the instrumental/ambient music fans:: "Burns Night", then the concluding piece, "5iliconeator" (not a typo here either; I presume the '5' is Calvin's stylistic use of the letter 'S'), which has a rather eerie, unsettling vibe about it that I personally find appealing. My ultimate #1 favorite, however, is one that isn't technically disco-groovy, but rather something closer to the realm of full-on trance: "You Used To Hold Me". Something in both the tonality of the chords and Calvin's vocals delivering the title lyrics sticks to me; either that, or it's simply another case of the sad love song—as quirky as it may be—that always charms me:

1. The Rain
2. Ready For The Weekend
3. Stars Come Out
4. You Used To Hold Me
5. Blue
6. I'm Not Alone
7. Flashback
8. Worst Day (Feat. Izza Kizza)
9. Relax
10. Limits
11. Burns Night
12. Yeah Yeah Yeah La La La
13. Dance Wiv Me (Feat. Dizzee Rascal)
14. 5iliconeator

Friday, June 16, 2017

Calvin Harris-I Created Disco (2007)


If it's true that this man 'created disco', then my ears and I will be staying connected to him for the foreseeable future! Calvin Harris is a name that I've positively come across on numerous occasions in my music-listening yesterdays (I seem to think he's tagged to a lot of trance remixes in the popular mainstream), though I had no memory of ever exploring any of his proper solo studio albums. Changed that today when I selected his debut to accompany me as I continue trekking through the realm of electronic music. Turns out this was a great idea as well, fresh on the heels of Daniel Wang's fabulous "Idealism" that I just listened to. "Merrymaking At My Place": the opening cut made me a merry man the instant the groovy bass line and his catchy, semi-rap style delivering the lyrics grabbed my attention, followed by the differing tonalities of the 'oh' and the way Calvin's voice drowns out at delivery of 'place' in the chorus and how he whimsically sings about everything going on inside his house. It reminded me of the tunes I heard from an old DAFT PUNK album I'd gotten addicted to a couple of years ago ("Homework", I believe it was), plus the fact that I'm a sucker for the quirky, the bizarre and unusual when it comes to music altogether. Had already declared it a favorite before I got to the rest of the tracks, which are all equally quirky and comical in some way, save for the few instrumental-only cuts and brief snippets ("Traffic Cops", "Certified" and "Love Souvenir"). One track that incites a bit of humor is "The Girls", where he freely talks about all of the different types of girls he likes (every color, hair style, size, and height is represented in the lyrics at some point). The best part is that all of it it put to a catchy dance beat that totally brings back fond memories of the 80's! Speaking of that beloved decade of mine, the follow up, "Acceptable In The 80's", also has that pop rhythm from thirty years ago going on with the music on here, with the humorous part coming with Calvin's senseless words of hot he's got the hots for any girls who were born during my elementary school years. "Colours" continues his colorful and comical words of expression ('make sure you got some colors in there,' he says, while being indifferent to everything else that the women dress themselves up with). I noticed something cool about the chords and arrangement: it sounds like one of the scores from the old Sega Genesis game, "Sonic The Hedgehog 2" (from the "Metropolis Zone" level, to be exact). Can't help but to notice these similarities to video games from my childhood with these electronic albums. Which brings me to "Neon Rocks" and the 8-bit video game-inspired sound effects that serve as the main electronic rhythm on that track. "Vegas" is another fun track where he shows off that quirky semi-rap style, bragging about his car and how he's got all the girls and boys riding along with him. It's especially funny whenever he says ' that's right ' and 'well alright' after backup vocals sing 'when I go to Vegas'. Techno and trance lovers will surely get a charge out of "This Is The Industry"; minimal vocals (only the robotic recitation of the title lyrics) and a very glitzy electronic arrangement are all you get here! Then closing out the disco party ends up being the most soothing listen on this album:"Electro Man". Not the 'electrifying' exposition you would expect here, given the shimmering production of the previous tracks; rather, it's a chilled, downtempo number where his voice becomes soft and mellow as his tender words give the music a romantic glow.

1. Merrymaking At My Place
2. Colours
3. This Is The Industry
4. The Girls
5. Acceptable In The 80's
6. Neon Rocks
7. Traffic Cops
8. Vegas
9. I Created Disco
10. Disco
11. Vault Character
12. Certified
13. Love Souvenir
14. Electro Man

Daniel Wang-Idealism (2005)


My Eurodance music explorations often lead to me indulging in some techno and trance music, or anything else within the electronic dance music genre. That's what happened last night, when I would get acquainted with the sublime mixing and production talents of a Daniel Wang on his first full-length studio project entitled "Idealism". Ideally, I would have electronic music—of any shape or form—playing in the background while engaged in my day-to-day household activities, but I also enjoy having electronic music arrangements playing directly into my ears via a nice set of headphones every once in a while. Actually, my trip into Wang's word of "Idealism" comes right on time, seeing as my mind has been wrapped up in reruns of various "Star Trek" episodes and playing sci-fi-themed adventure games lately; the twelve tracks here all do have a very spacey, cosmic feel. But the true allure and the attraction here, however, is that there's a funky, synthpop-groovy dance element infused into each one. "Let's Go To Mars" warps you right away to a different dimension; it's not long before you'll become addicted to the ultra-catchy beat and the robotic vocals putting you into a hypnotic state. At 8+ minutes long, it's the perfect work (or workout) soundtrack, and I'd already declared it as something cool to add to my 'Ambient Chill-Out Mix' playlist before I even heard anything else! That notion wouldn't stay up, however, because I would realize that every track thereafter was 'Ambient Chill-Out Mix' playlist worthy. I was particularly drawn to "24 To Vector Z", with its delightful downtempo mixed in with the calypso and the dreamy riffs; "Rings Of Saturn", with the hostalgic, 8-bit Nintendo video game glitz (in fact, this one sounds like a techno/synthpop remix of the late Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", a memorable goldie oldie from my very-much-coveted 80's!); "To Hold You Again", and it's late-night-drive groove (that lovely calypso displayed on "24 To Vector Z" plays all throughout this one, too); and "Ambiguities", where the robotic voice comes back and reels off a list of uncertainties (is this fake, or is this real?', 'is it going up or down?', 'are we in London or Tokyo?' ) to stimulate the mind. "Let's Go To Mars" is technically the longest track, but you'll also get that super-extended time to groove with the 8+ minutes of electronic extreme that are "All Flowers Must Fade", "Islands" (not the breezy paradise vibe you might expect, but a dazzling pop party nonetheless!) and "Black Boots & Sine Waves" (now there's an intriguing title). I'm glad I spent the hour plus with this music that I did; turns out listening to "Idealism" was a great idea indeed:

1. Let's Go To Mars
2. 24 To Vector Z
3. Islands
4. Rings Of Saturn
5. All Flowers Must Fade
6. To Hold You Again
7. Attitude
8. Ambiguities
9. Misty
10. Let's Go To Mars (Instrumental Reprise)
11. Black Boots & Sine Waves
12. Glimmer In His Eyes

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

TOY-BOX - ToyRide (2001)


With all of this Eurodance joyriding I've been enjoying lately, it only seemed fitting that I should open up the TOY-BOX—literally, that would be the zany Danish duo you see pictured above—and go joyriding with their final studio album quite appropriately called "ToyRide". Besides that, I've just been in need of a good bubblegum Eurodance fix; it was bound to happen again sooner or later! Always lots of sweet, delectable goodies to munch on when it comes to these bubblegum artists, and this "ToyRide" joyride ensures that your bubblegum jar stays chock full of 'em! "Superstar" is one of those catchy, energetic sing-alongs that is perfect for snapping me right back in the bubblegum mood! 'I am a superstar with a big big house and a big big car, and I don't care who you are', the lead girl brags over and over, with her trusty male companion doing some bragging of his own when he boasts about his big muscles and how he loves all the girls in one of his abbreviated snippets midway through. The chorus is simply waaaaaaaaaaay too catchy! Yep—this one's guaranteed to become an instant new favorite of yours! "www.girl" is super-catchy, too; I wonder if this cutesy, touchy sing-along pleasure was inspired by the whole Y2K/New Millennium hoopla that took the cybernetic world by storm from 1999 until 2001? Everything from the typing on the keyboard to the glitzy, digital-sounding electronic synthesizing in the music's arrangement to her declarations of 'I need a World Wide Web boy with a World Wide Web toy' and 'here is my e-mail address' only add to the song's appeal! "007": a bubblegum song about secret agents and spies, perhaps? Yep, you guessed it! Felt like I was watching a movie scene during the midway dialogue snippet where they investigate the toy box, which ends up being a time bomb set to explode; you'd never think it was part of a Eurodance track if you hadn't heard the music that comes before and after. That, plus hearing him brag, 'bad girls scream when I show my gun', make for some very humorous moments. "Cowboy Joe": I knew this one would have a Western cowboy theme heading in, and that would be confirmed with the 'galloping' beat and all of the other stereotypical 'cowboy' stuff—from the 'yee-haws' right down to the cartoony gunshot ricochets. Things get addictive again when she chants 'go mighty! go mighty', as in 'Mighty Joe', whom she declares to be her cowboy hero throughout. "Dumm-Diggy-Dumm": the title to this one just oozes with sticky bubblegum, doesn't it? Turns out this is one of my favorites on this "ToyRide" adventure, as I was immediately turned on by the killer, bouncy mid-tempo synthpop beat that gives the song its rather low-key party vibe. 'If you wanna have fun, do the diggy dumm', she says, but then that begs the question, what exactly is the 'diggy dumm'? A question that only those deep in the bubblegum know can answer, I'd imagine. They stay with the mid-tempo beats on the equally fun adventure that is "S.O.S.", which has a haunted house/"Indiana Jones" kinda theme going on; she even takes the classic line from the "Ghostbusters" move when she says ' I ain't afraid of no ghosts '. Sweet ballads are a must on every bubblegum Eurodance album, and the one here that's coated with tons of sugar is "Divided". Her cartoonish, girly voice is actually perfect delivering the cute words against the soothing slow groove. And finishing off with the icing on the cake is one last high-energy hurrah: "Finally". The Spanish flavor was the first thing my ears received the first time I heard this one (that's always a plus in my book!), with the actual theme of the Danish duo finally being together in eternal love eventually being realized. "ToyRide" is indeed a joyride, and a reminder that music that might be considered outside the box is still very much in style:

1. Superstar
2. Russian Lullaby
3. www.girl
4. 007
5. Cowboy Joe
6. Dumm-Diiggy-Dumm
7. Wizard Of Oz
8. Divided
9. Prince Of Arabia
10. S.O.S.
11. No Sleep
12. Finally

Monday, June 12, 2017

Haddaway-Pop Splits (2005)


Despite the oodles of music recommendations and other unopened music gifts awaiting my anxious ears, I continue to move forward with catching up with some of the treats from my favorite artists that I've been missing out on. That means completing my listening to Haddaway's studio discography, which I at last accomplished today with the forty-three minutes of sheer entertainment that this "Pop Splits" album turned out to be! I had been curious what the 'splits' referred to, then realized that, on alternate versions, the twelve songs were divided into four sections: 'Nestor' (Haddaway's middle name), 'My Soul', 'Party Trax' and 'Nice Trash'. Of course, I had to conjure up my predictions on the type of music that would be featured in each section, though I would discover that, although I would be fairly right on, I would still be pleasantly surprised yet again. Starting with my rave reviews about the 'Party Trax' seems appropriate, considering that Haddaway has always been known as one of the iconic stars of the Eurodance genre. Here is where we find the disco-groovy, feelgood opener, "What In Your World?" (as in, what in the world would it take to make a believer out of the woman?), plus "Lay Your Head" and the big-time jam, "Not In My Bed", where a soulicious female diva joins in to help Haddaway deliver the title lyrics in the chorus which, after being looped repeatedly throughout virtually the entire 3+ minutes, gives the song its addicting, catchy charm. But the interesting thing here is that those three aren't the only high-energy jams featured on this "Pop Splits" adventure! Indeed, there's another Euro-disco trio waiting to be indulged in from the 'Nice Trash' section, which I had assumed would be something more along the lines of alternative rock, as I tend to associate some forms of rock music with 'trash'. "All I Want Is You", the follow-up to the album's opener, is a simple feel-gooder where his earnest words of 'all I want is you' above the cheery crowd ambiance, the sparkly glitz and the thumping bass line are enough to make it a new Haddway favorite of mine! "Fallen Angel" maintains that Eurodance glitz and disco bass line while also mantaining the 'heavenly' feel that nearly every 'angel' song I hear possesses, in some form or another (here, it's all in the chords of the chorus—a lofty, carefree air about it even). Then there's "High On You", which my ears met with instant satisfaction the very moment the starry, late-night twinkly sound of the chords beneath the beat sparked my senses. In short, there is absolutely nothing 'trashy' about this particular trio! I would get some Haddaway alternative rock elsewhere, however. On the funky concluding cut, "Catch U If I Can", the message is all about man's determination to get the love he wants. "Missionary Man", I assumed, would be a cover of the EURYTHMICS classic from the 80's (I know it well!), but the message is totally different. This too is a new Haddaway favorite—not only because the outstanding vocals throughout (the soulful backup voices and that soulicious female soul diva partnering with him all throughout), but also because of the fabulous music arrangement consisting of an eclectic mix of rock, techno and synthpop. As I stated in my review of Haddaway's previous album, "My Face", the Trinidad-born singer shows off some true versatility whenever he performs the touching ballads. For the 'My Soul' section, we have three good ones: "It Was Nice" (a rather bittersweet song about a romantic joyride that's reached its end, but with the possibility of that ride resuming later on), "Shout" and "Turn Her Love" (almost bluesy in nature, with the screaming guitar riffs throughout adding an extra mournful edge to the song), plus the piano-driven piece called "Spaceman", whose story about people asking if somebody is 'out there' in space casts a warming glow onto the listener:

1. What In The World?
2. All I Want Is You
3. Fallen Angel
4. It Was Nice
5. Missionary Man
6. Shout
7. Turn Her Love
8. Not In My Bed
9. Lay Your Head
10. Spaceman
11. High On You
12. Catch You If You Can

Friday, June 9, 2017

Haddaway-My Face (2001)


Yes—this is indeed a face I've seen many times.....and one that I'm sure a lot of dance music lovers have seen many times as well! While I've been on my current Eurodance kick, it occurred to me (there always seems to be something 'occurring' to me during my music explorations, in fact) that it's been a while since I've indulged in any tunes by some of my all-time favorite artists from this genre. That's why I decided today to reconnect with The Great And Honorable Haddaway (and yes, I do say he deserves that title), who rocked the dance music world way back in the day with his memorable hit, "What Is Love?". Well it seems I've just created some new memories for myself, as I would enjoy my first ever listen to this album released (already) sixteen years ago, which further revealed to me that I haven't gotten around to hearing much of Haddaway's post-New Millennium discography (except for the amazing 2010 single , "You Gave Me Love"). I was reminded that Haddaway has one of the most refreshing voices within the wide world of Europop music upon taking in the killer beat of the opener called "Bounce". Yeah, I would agree that this jam is definitely something to 'bounce' to; totally digging the deep bass, the glitzy synthesizing and that special choppy rhythm heard at the end of each verse. Nearly lost in the cool arrangement of the music is the story about a man whom he i's trying to convince to 'bounce' out of a locked-in marriage. Ahhh, back to vintage Haddaway on the disco-groovy follow up, "Deep", which is the ultimate feel-gooder! Deep in the arms of heaven, deep in the arms of love—something to feel good about alright! There's a bonus treat taking the form of a special live version later on where the high-energy Euro-disco is replaced with a funky, pop/rock arrangement, which is still makes for a listening delight! "You've Got The Music" is explosively great with its bombastic beat and scintillating orchestrals igniting the senses right from the get-go; it's jams like these that are the reason why I miss Haddaway and the whole Eurodance era of the 90's and early 2000's! Fueling that music nostalgia further is the thunderously epic, high-speed techno-tastic (my reinvention of the word 'fantastic' there) thriller, "Push Push". One thing that I've always admired about Haddaway is his versatility, exciting the dance lovers with the Euro-disco thrills while also satisfying the easy-listening audiences with his middle-tempo cuts and soulful ballads. The latter part of his versatile repertoire is where the bulk of my new Haddaway hits can be found. There's "Gotta Be" (and you 'gotta' love the funky Europop beat and the chords in the first five seconds), which has some really beautiful and thoughtful lyrics as he confesses that he doesn't want to have to find the woman with another man; "It's Not Far" (something about the chilled, breezy ambiance the light guitar flowed well with me here); "Love Is Blind" (I dig the old-school vibe to this one, plus the sad overtones accented by the chords and the one line that touched me a lot: 'are couples just a number at the end of the day?'); "Man Of Me" (some epic, thunderous production beneath the blissful sunniness of the melody to report on this one); the shining moment that is the acoustic piano piece that very much deserves to be called "Heaven"; the equally heavenly "Bit Of Angel" (I like how he compares himself to being a little but of heaven, a little bit of hell and everything else in between); and the funky, bluesy rock party on the somehow charming, intimate concluding cut called "Miss Joan". Whew! It's difficult to choose which of these wow me more than the others when faced with so many goodies to rave about here:

1. Bounce
2. Deep [Radio Version]
3. You've Got The Music
4. Gotta Be
5. Push Push
6. Man In The Moon
7. It's Not Fair
8. Love Is Blind
9. Show Me Your Dreams
10. Man Of Me
11. Bit Of Angel
12. Heaven
13. Deep [Live Version]
14. Miss Joan

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

D-NIGHT - Let It Go (1998)


Just a little something that I dug out of the 90's catalog to satisfy my Europop fix, and with it, I breached brand new cultural music horizons once again! The Slovakian group that called D-NIGHT released only this one album, but as I've learned in my lifetime of music-listening, it is often an artist's lone album that spawns some new music addiction in me! This time, it's the sixth track simply called"Why?", and it's all because of the groovy Europop rhythm and the glitzy, synthesized arrangement that accompanies it—absolute ear candy! I was actually hooked even before the first words of the group's MC guy begins laying down the slick rap, which itself is something cool to like here (I like the part when he halfway begins singing the alphabet: 'A-B-C-D....') and long before the lady of the group delivers the feel-good chorus in her distinctively thick, Eastern European accent. Got equally addicted to a couple of unexpected treats. One was the instrumental-only Euro-house rave groove that is "Popcorn"; now here is something else nice to include on my expanding 'Ambient Chill-Out' mix. Then the other became my latest 'Music Surprise Of The Day', D-NIGHT's Europop remake of the JOHN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS classic, "I Love Rock 'N Roll". Always fun times when these 80's golden oldies are revived by a new artist! Glad they kept the signature screaming rock guitar riffs and that signature 'yeow!' that Joan Jett screeched after every pass of the memorable chorus, though it's done here by one of the guys in a rather distorted voice that almost sounds comical, in fact. It's a classic Euro-house/Europop affair in that male MC/female vocalist style that ruled the 90's on such jams as the bouncy, reggae-inspired opener, "Feel The Rhythm" (I like the way the lead girl says 'REE-thum' in her Slovakian accent) and the thrilling concluding cut, "Sex With You" (the way she goes 'hey batta' and 'that's right, everything is alright, right?' are the catchiest parts of the whole song). "About Family" has a catchy chorus, too: 'no, I love my mama, no, I love my papa, no I love by sister, no I love my brother'—all about the family indeed. And in that spirit of making sure every good Europop album has that one great, moving slow song to balance things out, there's the beautiful piece "My Last Hope", which I'd say is the place where the lead girl's vocals—sharp, high-soaring and gritty—are at their strongest:

1. Feel The Rhythm (Radio Mix)
2. I Love Rock 'N Roll '98
3. Reach
4. Let It Go
5. Popcorn '98
6. Why?
7. V.I.N.Y.L.
8. My Last Hope
9. About Family
10. Sex With You