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Music Reviews

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October 8, 1997

Test of Strength

Let's start with a pair from my sweetie, Gail:

PoliceVarious Artists, Reggatta Mondatta (Ark 21 1997) -- Reggae's biggest talents have come together to pay tribute to the Police on Reggatta Mondatta. Among the featured artists are Maxi Priest, one of Britain's preeminent crossover reggae stars, the gifted Aswad, seminal R & B singer Betty Wright, and reggae heir Ziggy Marley, who deliver entrancing covers of some of the Police's biggest hits.

The Police develped their distinctive "White Reggae" on such albums as Reggata De Blanc. Sting's inspiration was drawn from the ethnic undertones and organic theme of reggae; this shot the Police over the universe.

This remarkable album features rapturous renditons of classic Police tunes. The legacy of Sting continues to be embedded in the pulse of your anatomy. Reggatta Mondatta opens with "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," followed by "Roxanne", "Spirits In The Material World", "Jamaican In New York," and my favorite track, "Every Breath You Take". Actually, every track on this CD is soooo COOL! (You will want to keep listening to feel the mood and movement).

Let the magic mystife your spirit and enlighten the soul, you will be suoled by the movement of the saxophone, trumpet, drums and the groove of the vocals. Think of Reggatta Mondatta as a gift to the heart.

HerculesSoundtrack to Hercules (Disney Records 1997) -- Hercules is the 35th full-lendgth animated feature film from Disney Studios. The musical score is an enjoyable companion to the film, and includes an amalgamation of pop, gospel, classical and comical ballads. The music is by Alan Menken accompanied by lyrics of David Zippel.

The story of Hercules starts with narrator Charlton Heston, who exudes power and inspiration. "Go the Distance", an impressive ballad, is featured on the album several times. It is intitial sung by Roger Bart (Young Hercules) with wonderful tone, expressing his desire and determination to find his place in life.

The next cut another version of "Go the Distance" performed by international superstar and Grammy Award-winning singer Michael Bolton. Then follows "Zero to Hero," a Gospel-tinged tune of the Muses which is a delightful, up-tempo and great to dance along.

Another fun number is "One Last Hope", with vocals by Danny Devito: it has many funny lines the children enjoy. I think we have listened to, "So, ya wanna be a hero, kid? Well. whoop-de-do!" a hundred times. Devito has a comic approach which really appeals to the young. And don't forget starlet Meg (vocals by Susan Egan) on the soulful ballad, "I Won't Say".

Hercules is a treasure not to be lost. Discover the magic that this Disney soundtrack inspires.

Maura O'ConnellMaura O'Connell, Wandering Home (Hannibal/Rykodisk 1997) - Wandering Home is the 6th stateside release from Irish treasure Maura O'Connell. With an engaging delivery and a vibrato that hasn't been heard in pop music in more than 30 years, Wandering Home is not your mainstream pop album.

Which it isn't intended to be. O'Connell began recording with the Irish traditional group DeDananna. With Maura as lead singer, the band recorded the Irish hit album Star Spangled Molly. However, when fans started referring to O'Connell as "Molly" she decided to move on, and eventually landed in Nashville, where she has recorded with the advant gard folk/acoustic music scene (including fiddle player Mark O'Connor and mandolinist Bela Fleck).

Says O'Connell, "The seed for 'Wandering Home' was planted a long time ago in the house where I grew up. There, singing was as natural as eating and breathing. We entertained ourselves (and the frequent guests) with a song or tune or story or joke...Last year, the seed grew and bloomed with the birth of my son. When he needed comfort, I found the old songs there, quietly ready on my lips...The songs brought back my own memories of my childhood, and the music that passed is a legacy from my mother to my three sisters and I. I am glad to be home."

Recorded in her native Dublin, Wandering Home nevertheless contains the folk influences that O'Connell has absorbed in Nashville. From songs like "West Coast of Clare" to the haunting "I Hear You Calling Me" (my favorite track) to Richard Thompson's "Down Where the Drunkards Roll," O'Connell is a skilled song interpretor.

For a bit of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, try Wandering Home.

Black WatchThe Black Watch, Seven Roller Coasters (Catapult Records 1997) - Seven Roller Coasters is an indie EP from Los Angeles foursome, The Black Watch. While I had a hard time getting a handle on the album as a whole, one single stands out - "Steve Albini."

With a lush string background, singer J'anna Jacoby professes her love for Uber producer Steve Albini with a tongue in cheek irony that is reminiscent of The Beautiful South. While I can't vouch for the whole album (maybe you saw the band during their recent appearance in Fresno), "Steve Albini" (with its line, "I want to be your only punk rock girl") is a gem.

-- Randy Krbechek

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