Sunday, November 1, 2015

TEN SHARP - Under The Water-Line (1991)


My piano-playing skills still aren't very sharp yet; a few leisurely strokes of an electronic keyboard system I was gifted recently proved that point. But the keyboard-playing skills of the one providing the accompanying melodies for the Dutch pop duo that called itself TEN SHARP are pretty sharp; it's just one of the many things that attracted me to the music here on "Under The Water-Line". I feel like I'd already gotten acquainted with this Dutch duo sometime in my yester-years. Something about the vocals of lead singer Marcel dramatic and gritty when he's at his strongest. And then I realized that their music is classified as sophisti-pop—a slick jazz/pop genre that I like so much that includes the likes of SPANDAU BALLET, SWING OUT SISTER and, ironically, JOHNNY HATES JAZZ. So based sorely on that, I would think I definitely heard at least a song or two by TEN SHARP, except it's probably been so long that I just didn't remember. Created some brand new music memories for myself, then, the moment my ears took in the amazing love tribute paid on the album's opener. It's not often that the singular second-person pronoun is used by itself as a title to a song, but once I heard all of the wonderful things that Marcel sings about the love of his life, it's apparent that there's a whole lot more about "You" beneath the surface. The line from the lyrics that touched me the most is this one: 'you're my always shining star'. I'd already found total adoration with that beauty by the time I heard its marvelous acoustic version at album's end; in fact, the acoustic version is so powerful with the primary beats taken out and Marcel's dynamite voice carrying the song through that I became giddy with joy! While I'm thinking about beautiful tributes now, I may as well mention the tribute song on this album that reigns as my #1 favorite: "Ray". Yet another simple three-letter word, and one that I had presumed was referring to the sun—as in 'a ray of light'. But paying closer attention to the lyrics allowed me to see that the song is all about the legendary soul icon Ray Charles; the direct references to 'black man' and "Georgia On My Mind", one of Ray's famous hits, are a dead giveaway. Fitting that these TEN SHARP guys would dedicate a song to him, considering that Ray Charles himself is an accomplished pianist himself (talk about sharp skills!), and there is indeed more skilled keyboard work going into the music here, especially in the introductory movement. And now I've gotta mention a couple of other songs where the introductions served as dazzling instrumental pieces: "When The Spirit Slips Away", which has that fuzzy, theatrical/stage play feel, and "Closing Hour", which almost kinda teases with its sublimely jazzy swing before the music arrangement shifts to a more mainstream, easy-listening pop/rock style. And since I've been raving about keyboard skills and piano skills and such, I should deem the tender acoustic piano piece "Lonely Heart" as another one of this album's highlights. Can't neglect to mention a little more about the jazz element that's so instrumental (yeah, pun intended) in the presentation of these fine masterpieces; it made Track #6's "Who Needs Women?" into a delightful listen, aside from the entertaining lyrics telling about everything wrong that a lady can do to a man:

1. You
2. When The Spirit Slips Away
3. Rich Man
4. Ain't My Beating Heart
5. Lonely Heart
6. Who Needs Women?
7. Some Sails
8. Ray
9. When The Snow Falls
10. Closing Hour
11. You (Acoustic)

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