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International Music Releases from the Second Half of January- Reviewed

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James/ Live In Extraordinary Times, Alternative Rock, Nothing But Love Music

One of the most consistent British bands in the post-1990s era, James has attracted a huge following with both its albums and live shows. Naturally, its latest live album comes as a treat.

A highlight is Tim Booth’s distinct vocals, and he’s in supreme form on the old favourites She’s A Star, Giving It All Away and album Closer laid, besides the more recent What’s It All About. Lead guitarist Adrian Oxaal, rhythm guitarist Saul Davies, keyboardist Mark Hunter and drummer David Baynton-Power chip in to provide the perfect alternative rock sound.

The song list combines popular with new. All I’m Saying, a tribute to a departed friend, and Many Faces, which talks of unity, are filled with emotion, whereas Heads is a foot-stomping, percussion-heavy protest song.

Interestingly, James anthems like Born Of Frustration, Say Something, Sit Down and Come Home don’t appear here. But that’s good as this offers something differently pleasant.

Rating: 8/ 10

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Therion/ Leviathan, Symphonic Metal, Nuclear Blast

While many Indian metal fans are familiar with Opeth and Katatonia, Sweden has actually produced many talented bands in the genre. Therion, the brainchild of guitarist Christofer Johnsson, has been a pioneer in the symphonic metal space.

The sound is a blend of heavy metal guitar and Hammond organ, crisp drumming, operatic vocals, hard rock screams and lyrics inspired by mythology and occultist beliefs from different regions. Thus, you’ll find influences ranging from Metallica, Iron Maiden and Dio to Andrew Lloyd Webber and modern classical composer Carl Orff.

Based on Gaelic mythology, The Leaf on the Oak of Far sets the pace, with vocalist Thomas Vikstrom joined by symphonic back-up singers. The songs have a good blend of melody and aggression, and mention must be made of the title track (inspired by a sea serpent from the Old Testament), Tuonela, El Primer Sol, Nocturnal Light and the singalong slower piece Die Wellen Der Zeit.

Interestingly, Therion started as a death metal band in the late 1980s with the names Blitzkrieg and Megatherion. By adding the symphonic and operatic vocal elements, it definitely acquired its own signature sound.

Rating: 7/ 10

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Rhye/ Home, Ambient Electronica, Loma Vista Recordings

Rhye is the creation of Canadian musician Michael Milosh, known for his effeminate voice which has even drawn comparisons to the fabulous Sade. He blends ambient and electronica sounds with 1980s-inspired Rhythm n’ Blues, relying on lush synth-driven arrangements.

The latest Rhye album may get a good initial response because of its warm, somewhat sensuous tone and strong production, but beyond a point, a certain monotony creeps in. By emphasising more on mood than melody, a large section ends up sounding repetitive and formulaic.

A few tracks like Hold You Down and Sweetest Revenge break the mould and deserve repeat listens. Black Rain has a retro disco-soul aura that makes it nostalgic. However, the presence of the 49-piece Danish National Girls Choir on some tracks seems only meant for the record books, adding little value.

Despite the bouts of blandness, the 13-song set is worthy enough to be played in the background of a fine dining restaurant. Keep the volume low, of course.

Rating: 6/ 10

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Joe Lovano & Trio Tapestry/ Garden Of Expression, Jazz, ECM Records

Veteran American tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano formed Trio Tapestry two years ago, with a view to focusing on compositions that were intense and rich. On Garden of Expression, he teams for the second time with pianist Marilyn Crispell and drummer Carmen Castaldi.

The eight tunes are marked by wonderful interaction and accommodation between the three musicians. The absence of upright bass opens up possibilities for the drummer, but the playing is subdued.

The opening piece Chapel Song is evidence of Lovano’s virtuosity, whereas pianist Crispell manoeuvres around the main melody line on Night Creatures. West Of The Moon is characterised by the subtle shifting of tone. Sacred Chant and the Orient-influenced Zen Like are meditative and soulful.

Besides releasing many albums as a leader, Lovano has accompanied masters like drummer Paul Motian, guitarist John Scofield, trumpeter Dave Douglas and singers Judi Silvano (his wife) and Roseanne Vitro. This trio adds another dimension to his musicality.

Rating: 8/ 10

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Narendra Kusnur

Author: Narendra Kusnur

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