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International Music Releases from the First Half of March 2021- Reviewed

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Judith Hill/ Baby, I’m Hollywood! Rhythm n’ Blues, Regime Music

The class and experience show. After all, Judith Lee has sung backing vocals for Michael Jackson, Josh Groban and George Benson, and had her debut album co-produced by Prince. Vocally, her inspirations seem to be Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Diana Ross, Sade and Whitney Houston.

The best thing about Hill’s third album Baby, I’m Hollywood! is its variety. Over 14 songs lasting an hour, she almost sums up the history of black American music. There are laidback ballads, rhythm n’ blues, funk, blues, soul, big band jazz influences and dance tunes in good measure, with some great use of piano, synthesisers, bass, horns and percussion.

Half American, half Japanese, Hill is at her best on the high notes of Give Your Love To Someone Else and the soulful Candlelight In The Dark, with its glorious back-ups. For variety, we have the marvellously orchestrated Silence, the theatrical Miss Cecelia Jones, the piano-backed When My World Is Blue and the rock-flavoured title track.

Hill’s perfect pitching and subtle nuances make her a singing student’s delight. Her subjects mix personal experiences with societal observations. This isn’t the album one must avoid at any cost.

Rating: 9/ 10

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Kings Of Leon/ When You See Yourself, Alternative Rock, RCA-Sony

Comprising three Followill brothers and their cousin, Nashville band Kings Of Leon has built a reputation in alternative arena rock. Their new release When You See Yourself comes five years after Walls and continues in the same direction.

While the songs are tight and Caleb Followill’s vocals smooth, one finds a lot of obvious influences. The Wave has a hangover of U2’s One, Supermarket reminds you of Coldplay’s The Scientist and 100,000 People takes off from The National. There’s some inspiration from The Strokes too.

Yet, you’d want to repeat the title track, The Bandits and Golden Restless Age. Time in Disguise impresses with the line “Close your eyes and what do you see, is it a man or masked machine? Is It the world I belong to shed a light, it’s just time in disguise”.

Matthew Followill, the cousin, excels on guitar, with his tone and trademark fill-ins. Leave aside the deja vu, and this is good accompaniment on a drive.

Rating: 7/ 10

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Cassandra Jenkins/ An Overview On Phenomenal Nature, Indie-Folk, Ba Da Bing!

American singer-songwriter Cassandra Jenkins made her debut four years ago with the country-influenced album Play Till You Win. On her second release, An Overview On Phenomenal Nature, she broadens her sound, using lush synths and saxophones with indie-folk elements.

The songs remain personal in nature, telling stories of relationships, loss, experience or interactions with strangers. The opening track Michelangelo takes off from the earlier album with the lines, “I’m a three-legged dog working with what I got, and part of me will always be looking for what I lost”.

Jenkins’ rendition is expressive. Stand-out tracks include New Bikini, about how water cures everything, and the gradually built-up, spoken track Hard Driven. On Crosshairs, she sings, “All I want is to fall apart in the arms of someone entirely strange to me”.

Producer Josh Kaufman gives the album a polish, and the instrumental finale The Ramble lends a twist. A few spots drag in the middle, but at just over 30 minutes, this is a quick, focused listen.

Rating: 7/ 10

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Alice Cooper/ Detroit Stories, Hard Rock, earMusic

After a quick listen of rock star Alice Cooper’s new album Detroit Stories, three things come to mind. The first is that this is pure, classic, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll. Secondly, some of these numbers are worth numerous repeats. And three, one can’t wait to see the 73-year-old master of shock rock perform these live.

Beginning with a rendition of the Velvet Underground’s Rock ‘N’ Roll, featuring guest guitarist Joe Bonamassa, Cooper maintains the high energy on Go Man Go. There’s a melodic power ballad in Our Love Will Change The World, originally performed by Outrageous Cherry, and an anti-suicide message in Hanging On By A Thread.

Versions of the MC5’s Sister Anne and Bob Seger’s East Side Story get the Cooper touch. Ace producer Bob Ezrin works on the album, and co-writes and plays keyboards on many songs, and U2’s Larry Mullen Jr drums away on Shut Up And Rock.

The album features 12 guitarists chipping in on different tunes, with Bonamassa enlivening the blues-drenched Drunk And In Love. That adds variety to Detroit Stories, which proves that on his 28th studio album, Alice can still take you to wonderland.

Rating: 8/ 10

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Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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