Lady Luck (03/10/2000)
Christina, Evolution (Pao Records 1999) - Christina is a classically trained vocalist from Canada who makes a splash with her debut CD, Evolution.
In addition to her good looks, Christina delivers one killer track: a French cover of "Habanera," from the opera Carmen. "Habanera" is a show-stopper, and is more than worth the price of admission.
Christina has been studying music and drama for more than 15 years, and has performed on stage as "Grace Farrell" in "Annie," "Ms. Sherman" in "Fame" and "Sandy" in "Grease." Christina also speaks four languages: English, French, Italian and Spanish.
In fact, the album includes two versions of "Habanera": one in French, and the other in Italian. While I don't understand the lyrics, the version in French rhymes better. ("Carmen" was written by Georges Bizet.)
Musicians on the album include John Spiro on bass, Dario DeCiccio on guitars, Ken Greer on slide guitar, Jeff Alan Greenway on keyboards, Ansgar Schroer on harmonica, and Tony Carpino on the live performance of "Habanera." The album was produced and arranged by Dario Deecie.
Christina's biography notes that she "had the pleasure of performing for Ed Mirvish's 80th birthday celebration." Guess I missed that gig.
Six of the album songs are originals written or co-written by Christina, including "If You Love Me" and "Place in My Heart." In the main, the album features a soft pop sound, reminiscent of Vonda Shepherd.
No matter how you feel about the rest of the album, "Habanera" is a real treat. Give a listen to lovely Christina.
For more information, contact:
Post Office Box 79087
Concord, Ontario L4K1Y7
Jimmy Cliff, The Ultimate Collection (Hip-O 1999) - Reggae great Jimmy Cliff is treated to a terrific one-disk overview on The Ultimate Collection. Featuring 19 tracks, ranging from 1969 through his 1999 new release, Humanitarian, the collection hits all the high points.
Though the late Bob Marley was a charismatic personality, Jimmy Cliff was the first artist to put reggae on the international charts. Born James Chambers in 1948, the singer adopted the name Jimmy Cliff in 1961 when he began performing. (Says Cliff, the name "implies the heights I aspired to.") After a series of local recordings, Cliff signed to Chris Blackwell's new reggae-based boutique in 1969, and began his recording success.
Among the highlights are the rarely-heard 1970 protest song, "Viet Nam" (a darned catchy number), and Cliff's cover of "Wild World" by Cat Stevens (Cliff's version reached number 8 on the UK charts, but was not played in the U.S. because of Stevens' chart success).
Also included is the mid-70's "Bongo Man," and his 1993 hit, "I Can See Clearly Now," from the soundtrack to the motion picture, "Cool Running."
Yet, Cliff's greatest success came with the 1972 film, "The Harder They Come," in which he starred as a Jamaican musician-gangsta. The soundtrack album, which included the title song together with "You Can Get if You Really Want To," "Many Rivers to Cross," and "Sitting in Limbo," was hugely influential. (As stated in the extensive liner notes, "Many Rivers to Cross" was recorded over the past 25 years "by everyone with vocal chords.")
In the end, Cliff set his own course. Says Jimmy, "I've often done things that weren't necessarily best for my recording career, because my soul, my spirit, demanded it. In 1972, Chris Blackwell told me he could make me one of the three or four biggest stars in the world. But at the time my head just wasn't into it. Spiritual and cultural matters were much more important to me."
Jimmy Cliff is a great artist. Though his career turned after he left Blackwell and Island Records for Warner/Reprise in the 70s, Cliff remains an icon of reggae music. Look for the Ultimate Collection.
Pornosonic - Unreleased 70's Porno Music (J-Bird Records 2000) - Here's a weird offering. Pornosonic is said to be a set of unreleased tracks from 70s porno films, with veteran actor Ron Jeremy providing introductions before, during and after reach of these racy cuts.
Pornosonic features a 70's retro sound circa Shaft, with lots of keyboards and sleazy horns. With songs like "Dick Dagger's Theme" (from the 1972 film, "Dick Dagger's Big Dick Dilemma"), "Prepare for Takeoff" (from the 1976 film, "Mile High Club"), and "Layin' Pipe" (from the 1974 film), there's little intellectual stimulation on this album.
J-Bird Records is trying to make a name for itself as a publicly-traded corporation. Releases like Pornosonic may stir media interest, but won't generate much in the way of sales.
Producer Don Argott describes his inspiration for this release as follows: "I was in the middle of doing it with my girlfriend and fantasizing about being the star-stud in a porno. I had on some really cool retro station that was helping me with my groove, but the commercials kept throwing me off. Then it hit me! There should be an album just for this purpose."
Songs like "Cramming for College" have little lasting value. Yet the album is professionally made, and lives up to its billing. Pornosonic is a strange trip down an even stranger memory lane.
- Randy Krbechek © 2000
Check CD Shakedown for Weekly
Reviews of Music CDs and New Albums