Monday, January 9, 2017

Martin Nievera-My Souvenirs (2001)


Here's a wonderful keepsake to add to your contemporary soul collection! While shopping around for something else in the easy-listening music catalog yesterday, I recalled another popular, hugely-successful artist that had been recommended to me six years ago: Filipino singer Martin Nievera. I'm so surprised now that he hadn't graced my ears much sooner than this 2017 year, considering how much time I've been spending on the OPM circuit and enjoying the likes of Gary Valenciano, NEOCOLOURS, Lea Salonga, SIDE A and Regine Velasquez, and especially since this man is a pure legend, having been recording and performing since the early 80's. While I do plan to return back in time to my favorite decade to enjoy the beginnings of his celebrated career, a world of new music memories were created for me, in the meantime, after my hour-long plus adventure here on Martin's fourteenth overall solo album. It all started with the moving opening ballad, "Never Said Goodbye", where I would get formally acquainted with his beautifully soulful voice, which captivated me even more when it soared and shined in the climactic final movements; it was during that very first song where I realized that I had indeed found another keeper. Shortly afterwards, I'd get my second realization: his exquisite excellence in delivering the magical duet and having the great vocal chemistry to be paired up with any singer he chooses. He performs the magically starry love song, "The Greatest Love Affair", with his father, Bert Nievera; "The Last Time I Felt Like This" with Kyla (whom I've had pleasure of hearing before as well); "It's All Up To You" with an unfamiliar female vocalist named Mikalia; and my favorite one of the bunch simply entitled "Forever", which reacquainted me once again with the lovely and piercing voice of Regine Velasquez. I had, in fact, imagined Martin holding the unofficial title of 'The Peabo Bryson Of The Philippines', thinking about all of the many colorful duets that Peabo himself has performed right here on my own American soil over the decades. The songs I admired most were all of the ones whose theme was poetically romantic dedication, and they all so happen to contain the simple word 'you'. Coincidentally, Track #3 is entitled with just those three exact letters, and it's more proof that the songs with the simplest and shortest titles tend to be the ones that are most meaningful and make the biggest impact on me. The music is so enchanting; it's the light guitar and breezy woodwind accompaniment to to the slowed groove and Maertin's tender vocals that had me sold before he even sung any words! "You’re My Everything" is full of beautiful poetics with only the acoustic guitar and high-quality cinematic instrumentals creating the perfect romantic backdrop. "I'll Be There (For You)" contains some of the most thoughtful lyrics (I like the last part of the chorus that begins with 'when your stars don't shine anymore'). Then there's "You Are My Song", which shows off just how majestic and stunning Martin's voice can be. Besides those amazing dedications, there's a trio of gems that require you and your ears to dedicate your full and undivided attention. "The Promise" is one that gave me the notion that Martin surely has found major success, at some point in time, in the operatic crossover pop genre and/or performed in live theater, given his distinctive crooner's voice that he portrays throughout this warming, dreamy number, which brings to mind any of those peaceful Christmas tunes from the traditional holiday songbook. It's the thunderous climax here that elevates "The Promise" to being one of the premiere highlights of this Martin Nievera adventure, although his stunning, showstopping vocal display is not to be denied on neither "Promise Of Love" nor "To Say Goodbye". I saved the best treasure among these souvenirs for last: "The Greatest Love Of All". I was absolutely THRILLED when I saw it on the track-listing! It occurred to me that I'd never heard the George Benson original from the 70's, but I sure knew and loved the thunderous Whitney Houston version, so it was her voice that I heard echoing in my mind while listening to Martin's piano ballad interpretation in his more gentler, slow jazz approach. A song I cherished back in the 80's—it definitely made this hour-long plus adventure complete for me, and it's just one of the reasons why this musical keepsake will not end up staying on the shelf inside the souvenir shop:

1. Never Said Goodbye
2. The Greatest Love Affair [with Bert Nievera]
3. You
4. You're My Everything
5. The Last Time I Felt Like This [wiith Kyla]
6. The Greatest Love Of All
7. You Are My Song
8. Forever [with Regine Velasquez]
9. The Promise
10. Promise Of Love
11. To Say Goodbye
12. I'll Be There (For You)
13. It’s All Up To You [with Mikaila]
14. Ikaw Lang Ang Mamahalin
15. Kahit Isang Saglit
16. Pag-Uwi

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