Music Morsels

35 Album Capsules
by Mark E. Waterbury


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Copyright 2004 by Music Morsels, a Serge Entertainment Publication.
Editor: Sandy Serge
Contributing Columnists/Writers:
Mark E. Waterbury, Scott Turner

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TM©  December 2004

Album Capsules
Reviews by Mark E. Waterbury


Trans Siberian Orchestra - The Lost Christmas Eve
Lava Records - 2A 93146 A
The crowning touch to this epic project's holiday trilogy is musically brilliant, just what you would expect from the brainchild of Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva, Al Pitrelli and Robert Kinkel. From soothing fireplace stories like "Christmas Dreams" to the driving guitar power of "Christmas Jam" TSO serves their usual delectable feast including blues, jazz, classical and of course blistering rock and roll. A stunning display of songwriting talent and musicianship as TSO once again spreads Yuletide cheer in their own unique and inspiring way. URL:

Vanessa Williams - Silver and Gold
Lava Records
Pop vocal diva Vanessa Williams creates an exquisite and highly enjoyable collection of her takes on classic and contemporary holiday tunes. "Joy To The World" gets a snappy jazz vibe, while "Silent Night" is passionately reverent. A new composition "December Lullaby" is a soulful gem with a solid R&B groove. Vanessa's voice is phenomenal throughout, from the sweet purity in the title track to the gutsy jazz house croon on "Christmas Is." URL:

Trout Fishing in America - Merry Fishes
Trout Records - TRT-17
This popular variety act from Arkansas kick starts the holiday season with a CD packed with blues, folk, rock, and lyrics ranging from the slyly sardonic to outright wacky. "Rockin' Chocolate Fantasy" speaks of sweet overindulgence over music harkening to the E-Street Band. "A Day Off" lets you kick back and enjoy your repose with a piano laced jazz boogie. Highly entertaining with a touch of uniqueness and some very good musicianship as well. URL: E-mail:

Rick Seaton - Ivory Angels: Christmas Carols Reinvented
Denver's new age pianist Rick Seaton heralds the holiday season with his luscious but innovative interpretations of holiday classics. "What Child Of This" showcases Rick's unique style of each hand playing different but complimentary melodies. "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" are nicely augmented by further instrumentation, almost in a light rock vein. Rick is an obvious talent, and he proves it here creating extraordinary holiday warmth. URL: E-mail:

Peace Songs - For A Better World
A Better World Acoustic Expression - 001-2004
This collection of acoustic songs from international artists promotes peace wonderfully. The folksy "Gift (One Iraqi Child)" from Aussie Joe Dolce is particularly timely and thought provoking. L.A.'s Madras contributes the hauntingly beautiful "Hollows" while the song "Weapons of Mass Instruction" is a heartfelt and thoughtful plea from Canadian James Gordon. The music is excellent and maybe in the holiday season people will be more likely to listen to the poignant words. URL: E-mail:

Digital Activity - XMAS Vol. 1
Disturbing Music
If you want a different spin on holiday music, this is a CD to invest in. Remember the electronic artist Synergy? Digital Activity's music is somewhat similar, using some of Synergy's techniques, only very updated and more pop-oriented. Arranger/programmer Westen (one of Santa's elves?) converted the Digital Activity studio into Santa's workshop. This CD is complete with digitally synthesized renditions of some of the most popular Christmas Carols including Jingle Bells, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and Silent Night. It's great for any Christmas festivity - good background music that won't interfere with those personal conversations. "Christmas Soundscapes" with a rock flavor for the entire family, perfect for a very cool yule. Email: URL - - ss

Vanilla Fudge - Then and Now
Fuel 2000 - 302 061 439 2
Vanilla Fudge have retooled some old favorites, along with adding new takes on songs from the likes of N'Sync and the Backstreet Boys - wait a minute - did I say N'Sync and the Backstreet Boys?! Yes, but the Fudge has always been known for igniting a red hot rock fire under songs of various genres. Their smoking versions of "Tearin' Up My Heart" and "I Want It That Way" fit right in with stalwarts like "Keep Me Hangin' On" and "Shotgun." This is classic rock at its finest and most incendiary, further entrenching the Fudge as a timeless and ageless rock legend. URL:

Big Fuzz - Exercising the Demons
Harmonized Records - HAR-016
This new project from Deep Banana Blackout leader Fuzz weaves retro styles of classic heavy rock, funk, blues and a bit of jazz into a fun little throwback. The crushing Deep Purplish rocker "Top Of the Hill" is followed by the hard driving funk of "Next 2U" and the psychedelic power ballad "Never Be The Same." While not really modern, the innovation and talent create killer music that can be enjoyed by rockers of many generations. URL: E-mail:

David Steele - Underneath the Ice
City Canyon Records
England's David Steele makes you think a bit of Bowie and Sting with his voice that exudes both deep emotion and warmth. To back up his vocals David delves deep into his songwriting well, combining modern folk and light alt rock styles with thoughtful instrumentation. From the aptly ethereal ballad "Ghost" to the brooding but inspiring U2ish "Words and Rhythm" this Brit has an infectious style in all aspects of his music. URL: E-mail:

Paul Speidel Band - Blue Extensions Volume 1
PSP Recordings - 1001
Veteran Boston instrumental guitarist Paul Speidel's latest CD is primarily blues oriented, with his indelible stylings lending extra flavor to standard blues riffs and rhythms. Paul travels the blues countryside, with trips to Texas in the country-fried "Hear My Cry" to the back streets of St. Louis in "E-mail E Rag" and the Great Smokey Mountains in the homespun "(It's) A Married Thang." Paul proves once again to be a master of both electric and acoustic guitars. URL: E-mail:

Tommy Byrnes - Alehouse Insurrections
Sovereignty Records - 001
Launching the CD from Massachusetts' Tommy Byrnes is a breathtaking Celtic flute fueled piece reminiscent of music used in "Titanic" and "Shrek." Tommy's rock soul kicks in on "First Light" with influences of Jethro Tull and the Young Dubliners becoming the vehicle for his voice steeped in the green hills of Ireland. Continuing his foray through traditional stylings, folk, and progressive rock, Tommy takes you on a journey you are sure to enjoy. URL: E-mail:

Isidore - self titled
Brash Music - BRH 0010-2
This project from The Church's Steve Kilbey and Remy Zero's Jeffrey Cain was several years in the making but well worth the wait. A dark, mysterious but enthralling effort, Steve's unmistakable vocal timbre melds perfectly with the music Jeffrey creates. Standout songs include the eerie pulsing "Memory Cloud," the ambient rant of "Saltwater" and the twisted, jazzy groove of "One for Iris Doe." The music makes you hope that this will not be a one time project. URL: E-mail:

Kick Axe - IV
Song Haus Music - 6 5582-55033-2
Canadian 80's rockers Kick Axe return with an effort that, well, kicks ass. While not tilting in any modern rock directions, this fivesome can still rock very hard while keeping their melodic faces intact. Flat out guitar monsters like "Right Now" and "Time" are interspersed with efforts like "Woe" and "Who Knows Ya" that do push the songwriting envelope a bit while keeping the signature vibe intact. Not really retro or modern, just good solid intense rock. URL:

Dio - Master Of the Moon
Sanctuary Records
Ronnie James Dio is one of rock's most legendary and talented vocalists, with his latest release adding another loud exclamation point to that statement. His songwriting is also tilting towards the "Holy Diver/Last in Line" era, creating guitar heavy rock with thunderstorm rhythms and that Dio touch of magic. It's a bit stripped down but that works to great effect, a simple but slyly intricate nuclear wheeled machine for Ronnie's 24 karat vocal cords. URL:

Metal Church - The Weight of the World
SPV - SPV 80000701
The latest recording by these sometimes unfortunately overlooked architects of modern metal shows they can still rock with bruising force. Vocalist Ronnie Monroe sounds somewhat like the long departed David Wayne, and the twin guitar assault of Kurdt Vanderhoof and Jay Reynolds is as volcanic as ever. The signature feel is there, with touches of prog and even a whiff of their native Seattle's grunge. Metal Church once again earn the right to be called metal legends. URL:

Saxon - Lionheart
SPV - SPV 80000728
Survivors of the original "new wave or British metal" in the late 70's, Saxon can melt the speakers with the best of them. Biff Byford's voice still soars like a lightning bolt with eagles wings, leading the charge of classic metal that can still hold it's own with many of today's acts. The triphammer "To Live By The Sword" and the dramatically progressive "Searching For Atlantis" are two of the more stand out tracks on this roaring middle finger flipped at modern metal.URL:

Jump 5 - Dreaming in Color
EMI Music - SPD 774698
With everyone in Christian music seeming to lean towards more commercial styles (rap, metal, punk) Jump 5 is a more conventional act that conveys their messages with a feel good, popish vibe. Clean cut is a vernacular you think off, but this foursome is also talented, with great harmonic vocals and light, peppy rock that does get alternative around the edges. A passionate CD that can reach youth as easily as more aggressive styles with its simple honesty and fun vibe. URL:

Keyth Lawrence and the Purple Circle - Figures
I Said! Records
Pianist/vocalist Keyth Lawrence lends his stunning classical piano training to this ear-opening effort that toys with various edges of alt rock, folk, blues and jazz. Keyth's hauntingly emotional voice lends a further level of intrigue to the music, ranging from the balladic "89 Of You" to the rockin' groove of "Skylar's Ride" and the twisted ambient blues of "Another Evening." Add to this the thoughtful lyrics and you have a performer to watch out for. URL: E-mail:

The Graze - Iowa Anvil
J-Shirt Records - js01
In spite of their name, this band is from Seattle and they only owe some of their sound to local acts, such as the unplugged Nirvana vibe of "Rely." Their influences can also range from the Beatles and Pink Floyd to Beck on their more acoustic driven, moody songs that retain highly emotive undercurrent. When the rock turns crunchier, as with "I Am the Little Girl," you can then feel early Sub Pop vibes, but this act has its own personality, too. URL: E-mail:

U.N.I.T. - Untitled
Urban Ikon
The debut from Connecticut rappers Sinis and Baff, collectively known as U.N.I.T. harkens to roots rappers like Too Short and the Gheto Boys, with a touch of Tu-Pac's stylings. This duo is highly talented both in the avenues of their street smart lyrics and the poignant way they convey them in harmonic hip hop unity. With tasty sampling and embellishments that honor their Puerto Rican heritage, U.N.I.T. has created a fresh voice in rap by respecting their roots. URL: E-mail:

Gilbert Kaneda - demo
Atlanta's Gilbert Kaneda is a singer/songwriter that seems to take pages from Dylan, Jim Morrison and Buddy Holly to heart, and then run them through his soul to create a hybrid of thought provoking lyrics sung in a robust and heartfelt timbre that lends a modern folk vibe to the music. The stripped down feel places you in intimate company of Gilbert's psyche on this debut. A twenty-first century poet with deep running roots. URL: E-mail:

Matt Marka - Good-Bye Gracious
P-A-W Records - P-A-W 007
Matt Marka creates compelling music occasionally resembling the more power pop late recordings of fellow Twin Cities residents the Replacements. While his roots may tilt in that direction, he has a unique slant on songwriting that combines brash guitar fueled alt rock with bubble gum sock hop subtleties, as in the rollicking "Just A Touch." Mournful sounding ballads like "I Came Home To You" are showcases of Matt's excellent voice. URL: E-mail:

Red Animal War - Polizada
Ice Planet Records - IPZ-003
Red Animal War drives a potent rock machine that takes hard core influences like Fugazi and Sacred Reich and tempers them with a touch of U2 and REM. The resulting creation can burn with a brash drive like in "Lung In the Hollow" or launch a more hooky but still fervent groove as in "Blaze." Atmospheric but potent vocals, intelligent lyrics, and tight rhythms add to the inventive songwriting. E-mail:

Bulleon - Best Kept Secret
On their second CD, England's Bulleon further perfects their craft of weaving Texas country with a more Brit slant on rock and blues. Tasty, harmonic vocals from both male and female singers are combined with delectable guitar picking and solid rhythms. Standouts include the bluesy piano graced ballad "House In the Country," and the snappy toe tapper "59' Vette." Stellar musicianship and songwriting proves that Bulleon may truly be one of the UK's best kept secrets. URL: E-mail:

Shave - Trans Universal Worldwide
Headchange - CD0027
Long Beach, CA's five piece rock act Shave drives a rock machine with brash vocals, jangly guitars and pounding rhythms. You have a retro vibe ala more aggressive Bowie, jolted with an electric punkiness nodding towards Social D. Sardonic vocals add a further dimension, particularly in songs like "Rival Bowler" and "Eight Ladies Early 90's." Raucous and refreshing rock with some killer guitar solos, too. URL: E-mail:

Martita Roca - Angelical
Miami LA - MLA300
Martita Roca's music is as hot and sultry as the summers in her hometown of Miami. Her voice has a breathless sort of sexuality that works to great effect with her versatile styles. With various latin and other musical backdrops including pop driven dance as on "King of Rhumba," the power rock ballad "I Love You" and the sweet jazz of "My Head Won't Say Goodbye," this is a wonderful collection of music from a lady who could be on the rise to diva status. URL: E-mail:

Memphis Radio Kings - The Devil's Dutchman
Hot Stack Records - HS003
Seattle's Memphis radio Kings third CD smokes from end to end with their amalgamation of back alley blues, cow punk boogie and alt folk nature. With an edginess found in bands like Jason & the Scorchers and the Old 97's, these guys take their various root elements and twist them until taunt before booting them in the ass. They are all great players, with incredible songwriting capabilities both lyrically and instrumentally. They deserve a breakout with this CD. URL: E-mail:

Rawk Dawg - We Only Came To Rock
Music Room Publishing - MRP-RD2004-2
The second CD from California's Rawk Dawg features more blistering rock and roll with whiskey blues fueled vocals slightly reminiscent of Phil Lynot. Growling guitars and gritty rhythms take their cues from Kings X, KISS and the Black Crowes. This band is one that has that uncanny knack of taking a fairly simple approach to rock and squeezing every microcosm of power out of every aspect they can. This makes for powerfully enjoyable music. URL: E-mail:

Chris Tomlin - Arriving
Sixstep Records - SPD-94243
Contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin's voice catches your ears with it's intense passion, letting you experience the faith based message he is conveying rather than merely listening to it. Music that is easy on the ears, primarily in the folksy light rock range still creates an interesting backdrop that at times mirrors the vocal intensity. The messages are offered with sincerity and musical talents, proving that Chris is using his blessings to their fullest extent. URL: E-mail:

RPM - A Young Person's Guide To Being An American
7940 Records
L.A. based RPM is a young lady with a potent voice and matching power rock to back her up. "Toy Soldiers" has a brooding guitar strength with an explosive chorus. "Imperfect" has a more hooky but also edgy quality, while the title track has a poignant intensity in a power ballad setting. RPM obviously has some deep rooted political views which are dominant in the thoughtful lyrics. A welcome new voice in both musical and lyrical message aspects. URL: E-mail:

Army of Freshmen - Beg, Borrow, Steal
33rd Street Records
Don't let the mellow keyboard interlude fool you, when the headlong rock kicks in you know what type of a ride you are truly in for from this So Cal act. Army of Freshmen take that new punk approach traveled by Good Charlotte and The Ataris, and shake up the vocals which morph from harmonic resonance to crazy snarls. Another uniqueness is the keyboard wizardry that carries influences from Greg Guiffria and Dennis DeYoung, a welcome eccentricity. URL: E-mail:

Gigi - four song demo
Red Hat Records
This is a lovely first glimpse at the talents of this singer/songwriter from New York City. A very intriguing voice that makes you think of a cross between Joni Mitchell and Allison Krauss. Her singing is masterful, and the musical vehicles range from luscious folk on "Emmy" to the cyber drum and bass throb mix of "Blue Cowboy." These four songs will make you ravenous for more Gigi. URL: E-mail:

Valerian - Intimations of Sorrow
City Canyons Records
Finnish rock act Valerian provides a unique blend of melodic but power driven metallic rock with different vocal personalities and an insane twin guitar attack. "Homesick" has a near hooky pop metal quality, while "Corporation Mule " goes more progressive with it's grungy cords and raw feeling production. "Mine Forever" is an interesting hybrid of ballad and snappy but airy rock. Stranger but also more innovative than a lot of heavier music out there. URL: E-mail:

Billy Atwell - Surreal Excursions in Non-Silence
Billy Atwell is a multi-instrumentalist and composer with a vast bag of tricks ranging from new age to metal with numerous stops in between. "Redgate Twilight's" pulsing ambiance is followed by "Bearing Down's" edgy progressive rock and the potent metal of "Army of One." Billy's acoustic guitar prowess is evident on the lovely "The Scarlet Letter." A phenomenal talent who showcases them in many entertaining ways. URL: E-mail:

The Shades - Darker Side of Fun
New York's The Shades have a big sound steeped in jazz, R&B, blues and rock with incredibly soulful vocals by Julius Dilligard and Nicole Heart. Solid rhythmic grooves drive the instrumentation, which is flavored primarily with organ, horns and guitars. From the gutbucket blues take of the Eagles' "Take It To the Limit" to the funky rocker "If I'm Wrong" this band really knows how to cook with a blazing musical bonfire. URL: E-mail:

Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius - Live Wires
D-Zone Entertainment
Veteran violinist/singer Joe Deninzon presents us with this gift of hot songs from his rockin' live shows. Think a bit of Zappa, the Dixie Dregs or Blues Traveler, with the violin being the focal point. Joe's talents are flat out phenomenal, and the progressive rock tapestry he weaves around himself is carried out to perfection by his amazing back up band. He does let his players show their own chops, but Joe is the star, and a brightly burning one at that. URL: E-mail:

Copyright 2004, Serge Entertainment Group