Music Morsels

March 2007

by Mark Waterbury

Vixen - Live and Learn
Demolition Records - DEMCD156

The all lady rock quartet Vixen is back with a vengeance. This first official CD since 1989 is laden with powerful guitar licks, hooky song structures, thought provoking lyrics and harmonic vocals. Their roots in 80's rock are obvious, but they inject the music with bit of a modern touch, evident on edgier tunes like "Pacifist," "I Don't Want It Anymore" and "I'm Sorry." From melodic power ballads to full throttle rockers, including a smoking cover of "Suffragette City," Vixen proves they still know how to rock the house.



Alyssa - 5 song EP

Alyssa’s voice will touch your soul right from the first strains of “No White Dove” from this lower Hudson River valley singer/songwriter. The R&B edge to this track is followed by a more folk driven ballad “Endless Search” and then the surprising tempered hip-hop pop of “Beats.” In just a few songs, Alyssa proves to have immense vocal and lyrical talents, and the knack for using diverse music stylistic subtleties to augment what she is trying to say. It helps you to absorb and fully savor her wonderful music.


  Todd Snider

Todd Snider - The Devil You Know
New Door Records - B0006663-02

Todd Snider proves again with his new CD why he is considered one of the greatest in the more modern breed of singer/songwriters. Hitting the accelerator right out of the gate with the wild rockabilly romp “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” Todd spins his tails in delectable fashion. The gritty acoustic blues of “Carla,” taunt country rocker “Thin Wild Mercury” and cow punk laced groove of the title track are absolute killer. Dare I invoke the name of singer/songwriter deity, but if Townes Van Zandt was a rocker, his name may have been Todd Snider.


  Billy Ray Cyrus

Billy Ray Cyrus - Wanna Be Your Joe
New Door Records - B0006997-02

You can’t help but smile at Billy Ray Cyrus’ self-degrading “I Want My Mullet Back.” But you also can’t help admitting that Billy Ray has given us a very good album. Rooted in the southern rock side of country, you cannot ignore this because of what you may think when you hear this guy’s name, because you will be missing out on some great tunes. The heartfelt tributes to Dale Earnhardt (“The Man”), and Lynyrd Skynyrd (“The Freebird Fell”) showcase the emotive extremes of his vocals. A comeback is possible for Billy Ray if people realize the musical integrity that went into this work.


  Gigi DeNisco

Gigi DeNisco - Too Close For Comfort
Towne Crier Records

South Florida singer/songwriter Gigi DeNisco’s voice has a bluesy, folk soul, providing a powerful conveyance for her thoughtful lyrics.  The subtly intense musical backdrop of edgy, emotive acoustic driven modern rock is the perfect vehicle for her voice. From snappy rock grooves like “Pony Ride” to passionate ballads like “Don’t Give Up On Love” and the jam-edged folk of “All Night,” Gigi DeNisco could be a twenty-first century Bonnie Raitt.


  Trevor Justice

Trevor Justice - Life Without Fear
Green Beat Records

New York’s Trevor Justice writes lyrics that can be inspiring, humorous, and straight to the point, presenting them with a robust voice somewhere between Stephen Curtis Chapman and Harry Connick Jr. The music he weaves around it is hard to pigeon hole, except that it is undeniably enjoyable. From the burgeoning power of “Who Will Rescue The Earth” to the edgy rocker “Qualified” and bluesy ballad “So I Believed,” Trevor conveys his messages with honesty, poise, and charisma.”


  Don't Die Cindy

Don’t Die Cindy - Most Imperfect Skies
Cake Records - CAKE71212

“Wrong Side of Town,” the lead track on the new CD from this Panama City, FL band wakes you up with scorching punk-edged guitars, and then draws you in with incredible vocal intensity and surprising harmonic backdrops. This is a masterful weaving of influences as diverse as U2, The Police, Social Distortion, Foo Fighters and even a touch of prog rock. The resulting music is fresh, complex, intense, and extremely high in the musical integrity listenability factor.


  Shawn Camp

Shawn Camp - Grace and Mercy 3 Song EP
HMG Nashville

Channeling his Christian beliefs into his songwriting, country performer Shawn Camp is sure to shake the earth when a full CD comes out if this three song taste is any indication. “Goin’ Underground” tributes coal miners, in a powerful weaving of classic and modern country ballad styles. “One Drop” has a snappy grove and a more introspective view on how God changed Shawn’s life. Musically excellent, vocally superb and lyrically inspirational, watch out for this guy.


  Paul Hemmings Trio

Paul Hemmings Trio - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band Live
Leading Tone Records - LTR-06-002

You can take or leave “tribute” records, but if you love jazz, and if you love the Beatles, you can’t ignore this one. OK, Beatles purists may want to hear more faithful renditions, but if you open up your mind and truly enjoy good music, you have to dig it. This is one of the hottest jazz fusion trios out there, and their instrumental interpretations showcase their prodigious musical capabilities. I think the Fab 4 themselves would agree this is an honorable tribute.


  The New Loud

The New Loud - Me (Secrets) You
I Heard You Wanna Fight Me Records - Fight 003

If The Killers were more fueled by Elvis Costello and 80’s new wave, this is what they could sound like. Innovative and brash, songs like the wildly rocking “Better This Way” and “My Hot New Moves” are sure to become very popular in college dorm rooms everywhere. “Secrets” sneaks in enough subtle hooks to be radio friendly. This Milwaukee foursome packed their musical soul into this four song EP, so you had better watch out for them.



Heaven & Earth

Heaven & Earth - The Making of Heaven & Earth featuring Stuart Smith
Black Star Records - BSRDVD001

If you ever really wanted to get the full inside story behind the recording of an album, then this DVD about the making of modern classic rockers Heaven & Earth’s self-titled CD is a must, Founding members guitarist Stuart Smith and drummer Richie Onori along with producers Howard Leese and Pat Regan, and a host of musicians who work with the band, provide one of the most complete documentations of an album's creation ever released. It is obvious that Stuart is a highly regarded musician and songwriter, considering the level of musicians who contributed to this CD and DVD. Including interviews and perspectives from Keith Emerson, Carmine Appice, Joe Lynn Turner, and Foreigner vocalist Kelly Hansen, as well as live and studio footage including Richie Sambora, Glenn Hughes and Toto’s Bobby Kimball among many others, the who’s-who of musicians is an interesting aspect on its own. With sections about every song on the album, you get poignant stories, humor, stunning music and a touch of technical comments in a storytelling fashion that keeps you intrigued throughout. You will definitely want to listen to everything said, or you may miss some interesting and truly funny stories; pay close attention to the ski trip story, and the making of “It’s Got To Be Love.” The interviews are interspersed with live and studio footage, snap shots, and other embellishments to augment the story telling. There is a huge amount of bonus material, including more in depth technical info about the recording process and equipment used, further interesting and humorous stories and bloopers, and of course, live performances. With the latter, you have to understand that some were shot as home movies and therefore the sound and picture quality is not the best. This does not detract from incredible musical moments, like Stuart, Howard Leese and Joe Lynn Turner’s stunning acoustic version of “Shadow of the Tyburn Tree” from the 1998 NAMM Convention. Production is happily cleaned up for a phenomenal rocking studio version of Bach’s “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring,” and a jaw dropping twin guitar solo with Stuart and Al Mirikitani on “When The Blues Catch Up With You” live at L.A.’s Key Club in 1999. You also get a more professionally recorded video of a new song “When Stars Collide” from Heaven & Earth’s 2006 Lake Havasu Rock Fest performance. Roll this all together and you have around four hours of pure entertainment in all facets from one of rock and roll's greatest somewhat undiscovered jewels. If you have not discovered Heaven & Earth yet, this DVD would be a great starting point.


Adam Rich
Division of Serge Entertainment Group