SA ROCK DIGEST SPECIAL EDITION
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This issue is a special edition focussing on new and recent
Almost all the reviews posted here are by Stephen Segerman except where indicated. More at: http://rock.co.za
Please feel free to contribute a review of your favourite artist or album, new or old for future issues of the now increasingly misnamed South African "ROCK" Digest.
Visit the Indie Music Explosion for more info on a number of these new releases.
This is a discussion forum for anything about
South African rock music; past, present and future.
Read it, digest it, enjoy it, send in your comments
and tell your friends....
"Rock" is a very general term encompassing rock and roll,
pop, folk, rock, ethnic-rock, prog-rock, jazz-rock, country-rock,
soul, R&B, metal, indie, alternative, new wave, reggae, etc, etc.
Don't get hung up...if you want to say something about the music
YOU like, go ahead, say it.
Add your contributions by sending e-mail to: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or
go to: http://www.rock.co.za/files/contactme.html and fill in the form.
If you've sent in a contribution or request and its not here yet, please be patient,
it should appear soon.
WHILE NO-ONE WAS LOOKING - LITTLE SISTER (March 1999)
While No-one Was Looking is a collection of hits spanning a retrospective of a career
that started in 1990 and saw them go from a club act to chart toppers.
From Hard Rock to acoustic guitars with harmonies, the Lonman sisters, Debbi and Jenni, have travelled the musical highways and byways.
'Dear Abbie', is rated as one of South Africa's all-time greatest pop/rock songs. This
"no-holds-barred" song of teenage pregnancy and angst is still powerful and moving.
Tracks on this 15-track CD include 'Inside Out', 'Love Is A Weapon', 'Peace On Earth', 'No Man Should Fall' and 'You Bring Out The Best In Me'.
If you enjoy good lyrics, wonderful female vocal harmonies, excellent production,
stunning guitar solos and superb songwriting, then get this CD...now!
Visit Little Sister at: http://www.4littlesister.com
-- Brian Currin
HOMEGROWN - THE HOMEGROWN BAND (1998)
The Homegrown in the title has less to do with the obvious natural implications and more to do with the muso feel of this album. Steven Baker wrote all of these emotive and strong rock ballads and assembled a classy bunch of session musicians and leading lights to flesh out his compositions. Jarrod Hassetts gruff and experienced vocals, reminiscent of those of John Hiatt, add a range of emotional undercurrents to these songs. John Paul Destefani adds a whole range of guitar licks and tricks to Steven Baker's keyboards and Bert Askes underpins the whole exercise with a steady beat.
These ten songs all work off a classic rock sound with short, taut arrangements.
The Youth Are The Future opens with its yearning vocal and Oh Yeah chorus responses. This runs straight into the chugging energy of I Heard It On The Radio and the poppy Me And Nicole. I Believe In Love is a subdued ballad and Celebrate soars on Hassetts emotional vocals. Although a low-key production, Homegrown is a musicians album but manages to avoid being too esoteric thanks to these interesting and evocative rock songs and the professional but empathetic musical arrangements. A quality piece of work all round.
MILLENNIUM - BACKSTREET BOYS (May 1999)
South African-born producer and songwriter (and husband of Shania Twain), Robert John "Mutt" Lange has had a hand in this new album from those wonderboys of pop, The Backstreet Boys.
This album has some great tracks on it, from funky dance numbers to classic Backstreet Boy ballads backed by some excellent guitar-picking. The opening song "Larger Than Life" would not be out of place on a, say, Mike and The Mechanics album. Uptempo, funky and with a short, but stunning guitar solo this song rocks...serious!
Give it a listen, you might be pleasantly surprised...if not, don't worry, there's always
something new by somebody else, is'nt there?
There is no denying the Backstreet Boys popularity, so please don't write off their music because of a "only-MY-music-is-good-and-all-other-music-is-rubbish" attitude.
(Replace "rubbish" with expeletive of your choice.)
OK, lets start a debate about what constitutes "good" or "bad" music.
Is rap crap? Is metal mindless? Is Britney Spears throwaway? Are all cover versions
worse than the originals? Has nothing good come out since 1974 (1982, 1959...insert year of your choice)? Is all new (or old) music shit? Do you hate live albums (or studio albums, or compilations or... insert...oh you know the drill).
Send your comments to mailto:email@example.com.
I will post all articulate and well though-out arguments, but reserve the right to edit long (and/or boring) diatribes.
-- Brian Currin
SPLASHY FEN (April 1999)
Like the clear mountain streams that run down from the Drakensberg, where these Splashy Fen Festivals have been regularly held, the music on these two CDs is of the pure and undiluted variety. 35 examples of the wonderful acoustic music produced in South Africa over the past decade, presented here in their live and untouched forms ("No preservatives added!"). A glance through the set list illustrates the wealth of talent on show here, from Jennifer Ferguson, Lesly Rae Dowling and Heather Mac to Dave Goldblum, Vusi Mahlasela, Syd Kitchen, David Ledbetter and many more. From the opening track 'Chucking Up The Mountain' by Plagal Cadence, which became the unofficial anthem of this festival, to 'Makweru' by Tananas which closes off this double set, 'Splashy Fen' is a broad and expansive collection of the finest roots music from South Africa. Many of these artists are not that well known and have been ploughing their own musical furrows for many years, without an appropriate reward. But with David Marks fighting their cause, and diligently recording and archiving their music, there is hope that this intelligent and emotive music could just achieve the recognition it so richly deserves.
The booklet that accompanies this double CD is comprehensive and informative. Each track has its own detailed story and this allows these songs an extra dimension and relevance. The booklet also contains lists of all the artists who have performed at this festival over the past nine years. Highlights include Dorien du Toit's blues tribute to the late James Phillips. Heather Mac and Mark Harris' touching 'Bittersweet', the Silver Creek Mountain Band's love song to 'Jeffreys Bay', the Famous Roaches' version of Dave Goldblum's 'Sign Language' and Goldblum's own version of 'Say Africa'. To single out these highlights however is to do the whole set a disservice. If soft, gentle, live, acoustic folk music (with a twist of humour) is your bag, then this double CD set is an essential purchase. If you've been to a Splashy Fen Festival, then this will bring back strong memories. If you haven't been, then this will definitely convince you to do so next year!
TRIP OF AFRICA - JORGE CARLOS (1998)
One of the best-kept secrets in SA music these past few years is this
Argentinian-born multi-instrumentalist and producer,
Jorge Carlos Arrigone. For the past ten years, Jorge has been crafting
his music and sound designs for many of the advertising industry's
commercials. He also found the time to co-found (with Clive Nankin)
the Red Hot Rhythm Section recording studios in Cape Town where he
engineered, produced and added his special brand of magic to numerous
SA albums and singles. He now works out of the new Sasani Studios
situated in the Waterfront in Cape Town. Jorge is a master
percussionist, having begun playing at the age of eight. He specialises in African and Latin percussive instruments including djembes, congas, bongos, timbales,
shakers, tambourines, marimbas, kalimbas and mbiras.
From the age of 12, Jorge moved on to the bass and regular guitar and
honed his talents very much influenced by the innovative rock and jazz
of the '70s. With a strong working knowledge of the piano and
keyboards, Jorge was well equipped to meet the eclectic musical
challenges of the '90s.
In 1997, Jorge recorded, engineered and produced a full album of
contemporary dance-pop for his wife, the well-known singer and
entertainer, Ayala. After a year of production, Jorge decided to
remix the album with a more contemporary dance sound and the
resulting album drew complimentary reviews and heavy radio play
on a number of national stations. Around November '97, Jorge found
himself caught up in the booming Cape trance scene. After experiencing
many of the outdoor (and indoor) trance gatherings in and around
Cape Town, He decided to record his own trance album utilising
electronic trance, live African percussion and assorted wildlife
sounds, all bound up in a cutting edge production. The album was
completed in mid-1998 and was showcased to rapturous acclaim at a
few selected trance gatherings. A "P&D" deal was signed with
Nebula BOS and the 'Trip of Africa' CD was widely expected to
succeed both locally and internationally.
Subsequent sales and reviews have proved these predictions to be
accurate. The 'Trip Of Africa' CD quickly sold out its first
pressing and orders for this album have been received from all
over the world. It has much airplay on assorted SA radio stations,
including 5FM, and has also been played on Melbourne radio. Carlos
has been performing at venues all over South Africa and has been
working on tracks for his eagerly-awaited sequel to 'Trip Of Africa'.
DANTAI - OPERATION LAHLELA (1999)
Dantai is a unique kwaito/R&B group at the forefront of a new Cape Town kwaito onslaught and this long-awaited debut album is going to seriously challenge Gauteng's domination of the S.A kwaito scene. This vibrant band is taking the country by storm and their first single, 'Pyjama Jam', is already on the Top 10 on Metro FM. Songs off this CD are being aired on most radio stations and the 'Pyjama Jam' video, which is being shown on all TV channels, features Hakeem Kazeem (Larry from the Fresca ads) as a special guest.
Operation Lahlela is Nebula BOS Records' fastest selling new release to date.
THC - TOWARDS HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS (1999)
This album, in addition to having a beautifully designed cover is a fine example of the New Age trance music emanating from South Africa. THC, from Durban, are essentially an energetic live performance ensemble who use a combination of didgeridoo, electric and bass guitars, all forms of percussion and voice in addition to dancers, fire manipulation etc. The album sold more than 1000 copies before being officially released to the retail trade.
NAGUAL - SHAMANARCHY (1999)
This is also a groundbreaking trance/dance album recorded and produced in Knysna by experienced producer Howard Butcher. The added electronic
elements to this album give it a sophistication and listenable quality. Like THC, Nagual is an active musical group, performing and touring continuously.
RUSTLERS VALLEY - SOUND JOURNEY (1999)
Another festival compilation CD containing studio and live tracks from various acts which have performed at this well known annual music festival including. Featured acts include Colorfields,THC, Nagual, Madala Kunene, the sangomas of Rustlers Valley and various African trance acts.
PAUL OFFERMAN - CAPETOWN MOODS (1999)
Relaxing and spiritual mood music. This is an instrumental piano album containing 13 pieces written and performed by the Cape-based former classical pianist, Paul Offerman. Each piece was inspired by and named after a specific place on the Cape Peninsula. This CD has been very popular with tourists and the general South African music-buying public.
617 - NOVEMBER 5
Fallen in love with any new albums lately? Not a song on the radio or a few tracks on a new CD. No, I'm talking about a whole album, the length that used to fit on a vinyl record. No room for remixes or extra songs that should have been accidentally deleted. Just ten songs that have to be heard from beginning to end (in one sitting preferably), and, no matter how many times you play it through, it still not only amazes you, but always leaves you feeling there's a lot you've missed. It's rare I know, but still possible.
Abraham (the "D" in The LED) is the man behind the words and music on '617', the first release by November 5, and he's created a piece of music that will hopefully find its way into as many ears as possible, because it is really a wondrous and uplifting album. The opening track, 'Otis', is a stirring rocker that mixes scuzzy guitars with a lovely piano melody, but, from then on, the album settles down into an unbroken, beautiful groove. I imagined 'Otis' was some kind of tribute to Mr. Redding, but it is in fact a rant at a lift! ("O-tis!
takes you down"). 'Tell' slows things down and 'Wish You Were Here' is not a Floyd cover but there are complimentary echoes of that song and era. 'Faces' builds slowly and emotionally and is followed by track five, called 'Five', which is simply five seconds of silence, a kind of cathartic pause in the middle of the album. It seems to work, as 'Grand Parade' then rises out of the middle of these songs with its grand pianos and sweet and soaring vocals. 'I'll See You Through' and 'Wheel' competently precede 'Jeu Veux De Toit' with its orchestral backing and simple melody, enhanced by Tertia's lovely vocals. Finally, 'Tonight' picks up the pace and gracefully brings this absorbing album to a reluctant close.
Few new albums bear back-to-back listenings these days, but this one does. It must be love
RETURN TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH - RICK WAKEMAN (May 1999)
25 years after the epic musical reworking of Jules Verne's Journey To The Centre
Of The Earth, Rick Wakeman has composed a complete new work on the same theme.
The story of 3 nameless explorers following the trail of the previous expedition is a little contrived, but the music and guest vocalists make up for it.
To hear Justin Hayward (from The Moody Blues), Ozzy Osborne (Black Sabbath) and one of SA's greatest musical exports, Trevor Rabin, all on one album is fantastic.
Also featured is gravel-voiced Bonnie Tyler, Katrina Leskanich and Tony Mitchell.
This album emulates the original by using the London Symphony Orchestra and London Chamber Choir again. Actor Patrick Stewart steps into South African-born David Hemmings shoes, who had narrated the original in 1974.
The CD tracks can be programmed to leave out the narrative tracks ("program only the even numbers"!), which is a good thing as I found the narration a bit boring and over the top (though essential to the story, I guess).
Some of the compositions are very classical in style, sounding to my untrained ear like Tchaikovsky. "The Dance Of A Thousand Lights" could easily have come from
Trevor Rabin gets to sing and play guitar on "Never Is A Long, Long Time". Not a particularly outstanding track, but good nonetheless. No one song really stands out, but as a whole the album works is a coherent piece.
Some of Rick's synthesizer solos are straight out of the early 70's era when Keith Emerson, Jon Lord and Rick Wakeman were "the Keyboard Wizards". Great stuff.
The cover painting is by my favourite artist, Roger Dean.
More about Roger at: http://www/new.co.za/~currin/roger.html
Rick Wakeman's official website is at: http://www.rwcc.com
-- Brian Currin
ON THE RUN - OFF THE EDGE
Here we have 2 distinct points of view.
First the argument against:
It's so far from being 'off the edge' you're in danger of being hit by a Mack truck... it's so middle of the road! So much of the album just sounds as if it's been done
before Boston, Kansas, Foreigner, anything by Jim Steinman but without the
saving grace of Meatloaf's voice. In fact, when I actually sat down to
listen to it uninterrupted, the first, and only, track to stand out from the
rest was, as it turns out, not written by the band. 'It Ain't Fiction' is
the only track that has any instrumental tension/urgency and Groenwald's
vocal makes me wonder why they bother to employ Marshall, whose voice just
doesn't have the muscle for the sound they're trying to achieve. Technically
proficient, Groenewald and Hanmer ought to have listened to their first
album [Off The Edge from 1984] and tried to recapture some of the raw
enthusiasm and imagination that coloured the couple of tracks I've heard
from that album ... this is just too 'produced'.
I struggle to get really enthusiastic about anything that sounds like it was
written/arranged for MTV and, sadly, with songs like 'Take It On The Run'
plummeting the depths of lyrical banality, the only thing I can find to like
about the album (so far and unlikely to improve with subsequent listenings
because I can't see there being too many of those) is the fact I won it in a
competition and didn't waste good money on it.
-- Nigel Walsh
This is a new-old album, by an old-new band. Cryptic? You bet! But the music isn't, its just good Rock (with a capital R).
The album On The Run released independantly this year by Off The Edge,
features the stunning guitar-work of Peter Hanmer, the solid bass and vocal
talents of Tony Groenwald and the incredible voice of Judy Marshall.
The late 70's/early 80's rock scene worldwide was sadly overshadowed by Punk and Disco and Electropop at the time, but some great Overseas bands were around recording some great albums...Boston, Rainbow, Foreigner, Yes, Starship, Kansas, Styx, Heart, etc to name just a few.
The album On The Run has been 16 years in the making and the influences of those bands mentioned, shine through brightly. Peter's guitaring goes from Pink Floyd-style atmospherics to chugging Keith Richard or ZZ Top-type riffs to soaring epic guitar solos.
The lyrics are inciteful, challenging and important. From love songs to street children to running away from SA, the issues of life and living are tackled boldly.
Judy's vocals are a revelation. Her powerful rock voice soars and swoops and leaves you wanting more.
The band is unsigned, but the CD packaging is superb with all the lyrics included.
You are going to hear a lot more about this album, not least because I like it and will keep talking about it. It really grows and grows on you.
Visit http://listen.to/offtheedge for cover scans, track list and MP3s
OK, make up your own mind.
-- Brian Currin
HAMMERHEAD HOTEL - FALLING MIRROR
as yet unreleased
This album rocks, shocks and blows you away. Its blues-y like Gary
Moore, epic like Pink Floyd, tuneful like R.E.M., quirky like Syd
Barrett and much harder than previous Mirror albums.
I got goose-pimples listening to Allan Faull's soaring guitar work and Neilen Mirror's incredible vocals and biting lyrics. Tully McCully played both bass and drums on this album and he provides a solid base for Allan to leap from. And leap he does...straight into unchartered territories. If you like Dave Gilmour, Deep Purple, Oasis, Hendrix,
BB King, Derek-era Clapton...then this is an album you gotta hear.
This album is not yet licenced to any record company, but we hope to
see it out soon. Watch this space!
-- Brian Currin
One Day Soon - Karma
This album is simply and succintly "Good Karma" and is really worth buying.
Serendipity - Karoo
Cool acoustic rock sounds, sometimes mellow, always interesting.
Urbanzulu - Busi Mhlongo
Looking and sounding like Grace Jones fronting Juluka, Busi reveals
why she is regarded as the best singer in Africa, with sparkling tunes and arrangements to spare. Essential!
Just released is 'When I Died I Was Elvis', Sugardrives' third album after the patchy 'Hey God Its Me Again' and the reputation-cementing 'Sand. Man. Sky.'.
Many think that Sugardrive are going to be massive, this album will provide proof either way.
Look out too for the second album from Famous Curtain Trick titled 'Land of No Cadillacs'. The first single "Night Breeze" is a catchy acoustic folk-rock song with Nadine Raal's strong vocals to the fore.
New Springbok Nude Girls, produced by Kevin Shirley, due very soon.
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