Oceania – Oceania II

Oceania - Oceania IIThe long-awaited follow-up to 1999’s stellar self-titled album sees Oceania – vocalist Hinewehi Mohi, Killing Joke alumnus Jaz Coleman, and an assortment of other players – staying on course, mixing native Maori instrumentation and poetry with modern musical styles. And if the fact that I can’t seem to stop listening to it is any reliable indicator, this second album is even more compelling than the first.

Oceania II features wistful, emotional numbers such as Hawaiki, Niniwa and Kurupana, and hypnotically ethereal club tunes such as Rongo and Tauararai (the latter two of which are possibly my two favorite songs on the whole album). There’s a rather experimental number, Akonga, in which Hinewehi Mohi trades off verses with a recording of her great uncle which dates back over 30 years. Some of the shorter tracks are instrumental interludes with more traditional instruments; many of the full-length songs, however, have a decidedly modern feel to them.

4 out of 4As mentioned before, Tauararai and Rongo are highlights of the album, along with the soaring coda “Mana”. Unlike the first album, there’s no booklet of helpful Maori-to-English translations; you’re on your own in interpreting the lyrics. If you don’t speak a word of Maori, you’re still in for a treat – you can focus fully on the gorgeous vocals and the relaxing feel of the whole thing. Very, very highly recommended.

Order this CD

  1. Koauau Pongaihu & Ku (0:40)
  2. Hawaiki (4:40)
  3. Akonga (5:36)
  4. Kurupana (4:14)
  5. Nguru (0:56)
  6. Tuhira (4:22)
  7. Niniwa (4:40)
  8. Taurarai (6:26)
  9. Hue Puruhau (0:42)
  10. Rongo (3:44)
  11. Pukaea (0:20)
  12. Haka (1:51)
  13. Pukaea (0:24)
  14. Mana (4:55)
  15. Koauau Pongaihu & Ku (1:43)

Released by: Toi Iho
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 45:13

Dave Edmunds – Riff Raff / I Hear You Rockin’

Dave Edmunds - Riff Raff / I Hear You Rockin'For the follow-up to 1983’s reasonably successful Information, rocker Dave Edmunds turned once again to Jeff Lynne not just for production help, but for the ELO frontman’s unique songwriting style. The result was Riff Raff, a 1984 album which further pushed Edmunds into a more modern style. Kicking off with a Lynne-produced cover of the Four Tops’ “Something About You”, Riff Raff is a bit of a mish-mash, veering back and forth between different songwriters (Edmunds himself only penned one song, while Lynne wrote and produced “Breaking Out”, “S.O.S.” and “Far Away”). Somewhat surprisingly, with Edmunds producing the tracks that Lynne didn’t produce, the “sound” is fairly consistent from song to song. Within that context, though, Lynne’s songs fare the best, again sounding very Secret Messages-era due in no small part to the presence of keyboardist Richard Tandy, with “S.O.S.” being the best of the three.

This budget-priced release also contains – thanks to the almost unthinkably short running times of some LPs in the heyday of records – the 1987 live album I Hear You Rockin’: The Hits – Live. All things considered, this live recording may be a better representation of Dave Edmunds’ sound as he rocks out chestnuts from his own catalog (from “I Hear You Knockin'” to “Slipping Away” for an appreciative crowd, with his band expertly reproducing the sound of the studio recordings. He also covers plenty of numbers from “Queen Of Hearts” to “The Wanderer”.

3 out of 4All in all, a nifty double-shot of vintage Edmunds; Riff Raff didn’t quite manage to be as acclaimed an album as Information did, despite the effort to revisit so much of what made Information a success, but the inclusion of the live album sweetens the pot enough to make this a solid three-star CD.

Order this CD

  1. Something About You (3:03)
  2. Breaking Out (3:26)
  3. Busted Loose (4:33)
  4. Far Away (4:11)
  5. Rules Of The Game (4:10)
  6. Steel Claw (4:18)
  7. S.O.S. (3:14)
  8. Hang On (3:24)
  9. How Could I Be So Wrong (3:20)
  10. Can’t Get Enough (3:08)
  11. Girls Talk (3:21)
  12. Here Comes The Weekend (2:10)
  13. Queen Of Hearts (3:04)
  14. Paralyzed (2:53)
  15. The Wanderer (3:01)
  16. Crawling From The Wreckage (3:11)
  17. Slipping Away (4:30)
  18. Information (3:59)
  19. I Hear You Knocking (2:38)
  20. I Knew The Bride (2:52)
  21. Ju Ju Man (3:20)

Released by: BGO Records
Release date: 2002 (compilation) / 1984 (Riff Raff) / 1987 (I Hear You Rockin’)
Total running time: 71:46

Logan’s Run – music by Jerry Goldsmith

Logan's Run soundtrackJerry Goldsmith’s music for Logan’s Run may prove to be just about the only element of the movie that had stood the test of time while still winning almost unanimous praise. Granted, I’m quite the fan of the movie itself, but it’s hard to deny that Goldsmith may have done a better job of painting the film’s emotional curve than the director did.

There are essentially two components to the score: a three-note theme for the futuristic city dome, and a more expansive melody for Logan’s burgeoning romance with Jessica. While the love theme may be more pleasant on a pure listening level, I find that it’s that city theme which I focus on, on an intellectual and structural level. Goldsmith puts those three notes through so many different permutations that it’s fascinating – in rapid-fire succession, the three notes form the electronic sound that opens the movie, as well as the orchestral figure that eventually overshadows it. But it’s also at the heart of the Carousel music, the nursery music, everything. Both structurally and musically, it’s pure genius.

Once the movie reaches its halfway point, the electronics disappear as Logan and Jessica leave the city behind and venture into the outside world. The city theme still follows them, though, now accompanying pursuing Sandman (and Logan’s former friend) Francis in the form of a low menacing orchestral reading of the same theme. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit – the characters’ first glimpse of the outside world is treated with one of the most beautiful pieces of music Jerry Goldsmith ever wrote. It’s that good.

The complete score is heard here, in chronological order, including cues that were shortened or left out altogether due to trims that had to be made to reduce the movie’s nudity to a level where it would get a PG rating and not an R. Also included is a pop instrumental version of the love theme, though I was around when this movie first came out, and I certainly don’t recall hearing that hitting the radio airwaves at the time.

That’s the CD – but the CD is only half the package. This is the first disc I’ve bought from Film Score Monthly Magazine’s ever-growing selection of limited-edition soundtrack CDs, and as impressed as I’ve always been with the magazine itself, the CDs may well be even better. The detailed liner notes that accompany the CD do a fantastic job of putting the film and its music in context, and then goes through the score track-by-track, cue-by-cue, offering detailed analysis of each piece of music and its place in the complete score. Thematic elements and development, rhythm and structure are all analyzed in depth, but not to a degree that the layman can’t follow along. I was almost hesitant to offer any analysis of the score in this review at all, for fear that I’d wind up parroting the liner notes, but if anything, those notes helped draw my attention to the nuances in Goldsmith’s work all the more. If this is indicative of Film Score Monthly’s other CD offerings (and, judging by the fact that releases of other soundtracks such as The Omega Man and The Towering Inferno have already sold out, I’d guess that it is), I’ll be visiting their store more often and I heartily encourage you to do 4 out of 4the same.

In short, the music from Logan’s Run is a treat, and the added bonus material is a nice, deep dish of tasty, tasty gravy that heightened my enjoyment of the music quite a bit. Highly recommended!

Order this CD

  1. The Dome / The City / Nursery (3:05)
  2. Flameout (3:23)
  3. Fatal Games (2:26)
  4. On The Circuit (3:49)
  5. The Assignment / Lost Years (5:59)
  6. She’ll Do It / Let Me Help (2:41)
  7. Crazy Ideas (2:38)
  8. A Little Muscle (2:22)
  9. Terminated In Cathedral (1:28)
  10. Intensive Care (3:00)
  11. Love Shop (3:43)
  12. They’re Watching / Doc Is Dead (2:45)
  13. The Key / Box (4:22)
  14. Ice Sculpture (3:35)
  15. The Sun (2:15)
  16. The Monument (8:12)
  17. The Truth (2:03)
  18. You’re Renewed (2:58)
  19. The Journey Back / The Beach (1:36)
  20. Return To The City / Apprehensions (2:30)
  21. The Interrogation (3:58)
  22. End Of The City (2:23)
  23. Love Theme from Logan’s Run (2:27)

Released by: Film Score Monthly
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 74:18

Ben Folds – Ben Folds Live

Ben Folds - Ben Folds LiveCulled from the tour supporting of his excellent 2001 album Rockin’ The Suburbs, Ben Folds Live gives us a chance to hear Folds unplugged – just one man and his piano…as if that’s somehow a limitation. Folds makes the best of some of the more “produced” numbers by getting the audience to provide some backup (most notably on “Army”, which demonstrates that there were a lot of damn good singers in his audience that night, as does “Not The Same”). In other cases – “Fred Jones Part 2”, “The Luckiest” and “Jane” among them – he doesn’t need any elaborate backing; the songs are strong enough to stand on their own merits.

Some lesser-known live chestnuts of the Ben Folds Five era also pop up, including the excellent “Silver Street”, and even a cover of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” makes the list. Folds himself is quiet and unassuming, occasionally introducing the songs with a preamble explaining their origins, but he doesn’t go on and on about it. At one point, he interrupts the intro to “Brick “to assure everyone present that the abortion-themed number has no political agenda, but merely relays the raw emotions of the event, and then promptly 4 out of 4apologizes for stopping her performance for that explanation. Without even trying to be funny, he still is – and I think all this adds up to something called showmanship without being overly showy.

Definitely one of the better live albums I’ve heard, and certainly good enough to convince me to jump at the chance to see Folds live should he pass this way anytime soon.

Order this CD

  1. One Angry Dwarf And 200 Solemn Faces (4:17)
  2. Zak And Sara (3:24)
  3. Silver Street (3:41)
  4. Best Imitation Of Myself (3:13)
  5. Not The Same (4:31)
  6. Jane (2:34)
  7. One Down (4:03)
  8. Fred Jones Part 2 (4:40)
  9. Brick (4:45)
  10. Narcolepsy (6:04)
  11. Army (3:41)
  12. The Last Polka (3:55)
  13. Tiny Dancer (5:23)
  14. Rock This Bitch (1:17)
  15. Philosophy (7:17)
  16. The Luckiest (4:39)
  17. Emaline (3:50)

Released by: Epic
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 71:14

Paul Melancon – Camera Obscura

Paul Melançon - Camera ObscuraHailing from Georgia, Paul Melancon is working on carving himself a nice little niche in indie power pop circles. And to listen to Camera Obscura is to discover why he’s earning that respect – Melancon is obviously a student of the Beatles and Brian Wilson, wistful melodies and vocal harmonies, and densely wordy songwriting. The song that drew me to this album is an unabashed valentine to Melancon’s personal pop pedigree, a song in which the singer yearns to “be just like Jeff Lynne.” That proclamation in itself would be enough to get my attention, but this song is easily the high point of the album as it effortlessly appropriates many of the ELO frontman’s trademark licks – call-and-respond backing vocals, stratospheric synth glissandos, a guitar riff that tastes just a little like “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”, and real live strings. If someone was going to pay a musical tribute to Lynne, I can’t think of a better way – and yet the song is playful too, trading on Lynne’s reputation as a studio-bound recluse and hinting that the person singing the song, by trying too hard to be like his hero, is headed for a ruined relationship.

Those aren’t the only bittersweet lyrics, and that’s far from the only good song. “Little Plum” summons up a Beach Boys vibe that begs for a singalong, “Hitchcock Blonde” tells a sordid tale of a bad girl about to get even badder (but with a surprisingly bouncy melody), and “Fine`” may well be the best song on the entire CD, with a slow, stately return to the kind of expansive soft-rock vocal harmony that used to be the mainstay of groups like America. I went through the entire CD and got stuck on this six-minute track, listening to it over and over 4 out of 4again until I started singing along with the background harmonies, having learned the lyrics just from repeat listening. It’s a beautiful thing. Not many songs get me to do that the first time around.

You can bet that, when Paul Melancon’s next album comes out, I won’t be taking my sweet time to get it. Further proof that many of the real hidden gems of rock ‘n’ roll are, without a doubt, migrating to the indie labels. Camera Obscura is just a stellar album.

Order this CD

  1. Overture (3:31)
  2. King Sham (3:21)
  3. Sherman (4:46)
  4. Now Wait For Last Year (3:34)
  5. Entr’acte (3:25)
  6. Jeff Lynne (4:25)
  7. Hey, California (4:39)
  8. Little Plum (4:04)
  9. Hitchcock Blonde (3:50)
  10. Finè (6:44)
  11. You’re So Good To Me (unlisted bonus track – 2:40)

Released by: Daemon Records
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 44:59

Royksopp – Melody A.M.

Royksopp - Melody A.M.This is one of those things that just sounds so unlikely the first time someone mentions it to you – oh, it’s a lounge/dance music outfit from Norway, you’ll love it. Sure, whatever, you think, and a couple of months after hearing it, you’ve got a copy of the bloody thing sitting on your CD shelf. Royksopp is actually a duo, though in this case it’s a duo of musical hermit crabs, both adept enough in studio trickery to make themselves sound like a full band, and sometimes more.

The hook that really drew me into this CD was “Royksopp’s Night Out”, a quirky mock-orchestral instrumental which sounds like maybe it’s trying to be something grand and epic…and then sounds like maybe it’s just been pulling your leg from the word go. There’s something here that reminds me of Alan Parsons’ best instrumental pieces, both in terms of execution/style and song length, and it always grabs me. In a good way.

Running a close second on my favorites list for this album is the light vocal dance number “Remind Me”, a less elaborate tune which is still catchy, and sounds like it’s been sent forward in time from the early 80s new wave/new romantic movement. Musically, it’s exceedingly simple – a verse of the vocal, followed by a keyboard echoing the same melody note for note, and nothing ever really resolves into something you could definitively call a chorus. But it’s hooky enough to reel me in for repeated listens.

Other highlights include the smoky, jazzy female vocal of “Sparks”, and the trippy rhythms of “So Easy” and “Epie”. Aside from the Alan Parsons instrumentals, Melody A.M. also reminds me of Art Of Noise’s adventurous Seduction Of Claude Debussy, an album I’ve grown to appreciate much more since I initially reviewed it.

4 out of 4Melody A.M. is an album that just about anyone could find enjoyable, even if only one or two songs grab them immediately, and Royksopp is just one fortuitous inclusion in the soundtrack of a movie, TV show or commercial away from getting some massive exposure. But you can beat the rush and check them out early – this is some good stuff.

Order this CD

  1. So Easy (4:10)
  2. Epie (6:14)
  3. Sparks (5:27)
  4. In Space (3:33)
  5. Poor Leno (4:00)
  6. Higher Place (4:33)
  7. Royksopp’s Night Out (7:33)
  8. Remind Me (3:41)
  9. She’s So (5:24)
  10. 40 Years Back \ Come (4:45)

Released by: Wall Of Sound
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 49:22

Doctor Who: The Sixth Doctor Audio Adventures

Doctor Who: Music From The Sixth Doctor Audio AdventuresFollowing the success of its double disc compilation of music from the first four audio adventures featuring Paul McGann, Big Finish Productions decided that grouping its music compilations by Doctor and not by composer was the way to go. Hence, this collection of the original scores from three 2002 audio plays starring Colin Baker – two of which, musically speaking, were among 2002’s best.

Or maybe that’s three. I wasn’t that thrilled with Bloodtide as a story, but listening to the music by itself, I can see that I hadn’t given Alistair Lock enough credit for finding really obscure motifs to build the music around. In this case, he musically references the fluting three-note sounds emitted by the Silurian technology in 1970’s Doctor Who And The Silurians, as the bipedal reptiles are once again on the move in this story. Lock’s flair for making synth-orchestral textures sound realistic is evident here – it’s a very good listen.

Project Twilight‘s techno influence works well for that sinister modern-day story. As stand-alone music…well, if you haven’t already heard it and been enthralled by it in the context of the story itself, Jim Mortimore and Jane Elphinstone’s disturbing, heartbeat-and-piano-driven music may not do much for you. Even though I loved the music within the play, it could just be that all of the Twilight cues are too similar to one another to be heard all in one sitting. It’s good stuff though.

The One Doctor may just be Alistair Lock’s finest contribution yet to Doctor Who in its audio form. Cinematic and quirky, seldom have the music and the actors’ performances sold each other so well. One cue in particular, “The Cylinder”, strikes a dramatic chord powerful enough for any big-screen blockbuster, while others (such as the groan-inducing “Lonely Jelloid”) are hysterically funny, even when heard with no 4 out of 4dialogue or sound effects. If you think that the idea of listening to music from an audio-only drama production is silly, give The One Doctor a listen before swearing it off completely.

All in all, this just might be the best Big Finish music compilation yet. Highly recommended, along with Project Twilight and The One Doctor themselves.

Order this CD

  1. trailer: Bloodtide (1:04)
  2. Tried (2:57)
  3. Convicted (2:26)
  4. Into The Cell (2:31)
  5. Lost Brother (1:28)
  6. The Jailhouse (1:19)
  7. The Cave (1:20)
  8. Empty Cells (1:00)
  9. The Adult Myrka (1:16)
  10. Regressing Lawson (1:19)
  11. Deep Freeze (1:53)
  12. Goodbyes (0:49)
  13. trailer: Project Twilight (0:52)
  14. Bite Me (5:04)
  15. Corpuscle Free (4:39)
  16. Arrow To My Heart (3:52)
  17. Flow (8:41)
  18. trailer: The One Doctor (2:04)
  19. The Signal (1:12)
  20. Unheralded Arrival (0:40)
  21. Sokkery Celebrates (2:53)
  22. Doctor In The News (1:18)
  23. Banto’s Scam (1:23)
  24. The Two Many Doctors (1:03)
  25. The Cylinder (1:43)
  26. Finding ZX419 (2:15)
  27. Mel’s Christmas Story (1:31)
  28. The Assemblers (1:14)
  29. Challenge Mentos (2:17)
  30. The Lonely Jelloid (2:54)
  31. The Treasures (1:31)
  32. One Doctor Identified (1:09)
  33. Sally Meets The Fans (1:28)
  34. The One Doctor (1:11)

Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: 2002
Total running time: 71:36