Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cameron Blake - With Strings: Live

Baltimore singer/songwriter Cameron Blake has piggybacked the release of his album "Hide And Go Seek" with the release of his first Live album. "Cameron Blake With Strings: Live" plays like a greatest hits record with a twist (at least for me, as the song list contains a number of my favourites).

Performing live with an orchestra is not a new concept, however, Cameron has chosen a more subtle approach and uses a String Quartet and percussion section to fill out his eclectic brand of folky art house music. Cameron is no stranger to the use of strings in his music. In fact, the violin plays an important role in his songs. On this live recording, the string quartet builds into each song creating an epic jazziness that is emotionally stirring and grandiose.

Songs like "Baby Come Home" and "The Love Song Never Died" get a fuller sound while retaining their playfulness. I'm not sure how, but "Hudson Line" feels even more heart-breaking and "This Is All" just sounds huge. Cameron's stirring cover of Randy Newman's "Baltimore" ends with a jazzy interlude by the quartet and percussion sections that plays into the next song. A nice touch.

I tend to overlook Live albums, having been burned a few times with poor productions. For me, a live album has to truly stand out or else it's no better then a greatest hits album. Here, Cameron has provided a collection of great songs in a live setting with just the right nuances to make it stand alone as an album I'd listen to outside of his studio recordings. The production is also top notch. The instruments are clear and can be heard individually, yet there is still the rawness of the live setting captured exceptionally.

If you're already familiar with Cameron Blake's music, then you are guaranteed to enjoy "With Strings: Live". If you're new, then this is just as good a place to start with as "En Route" or "Hide And Go Seek"

Check out some samples at Cameron Blake website here and MySpace Page

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Ryan Adams Says "Thank You" To Denis D'Amour. AKA Piggy

Ryan Adams is a singer songwriter who I have heard of, but never heard anything by. In all honesty, I'll probably never hear anything else by Ryan except for the Heavy Metal tribute album "Orion" recorded as a thank you to the late, great Denis D'Amour "Piggy" of Voivod fame.

My only familiarity with Ryan Adams to this point was the fact that whenever I was browsing through Used CD stores, I'd always picked up his albums because of the cool cover art and then be disappointed because it wasn't heavy metal.

Anywho, a friend of mine mentioned that Ryan Adams recorded a heavy metal album and I was immediately intrigued. When I found out it was a tribute to Voivod, then I was excited. I have to admit, Ryan Adams put together one heck of a tribute album.

Right from the opening notes of "Signal Fade" to the closing number "End Of Days", "Orion" is a fine example of Voivod worship. Now Voivod has had a long and varied career, and Ryan pays homage Ala "Angel Rat" and "Nothingface" era. "Orion" could easily be slipped in the middle and not feel out of place.

"Angel Rat" and "Nothingface" are part of Voivod's mellower phase, but still relevant in their catalogue. Ryan Adams' "Orion" follows suit, retaining a sense of Voivod's intensity with galloping rhythms and backwards barred chords.

However, this isn't simply Voivod replicating. Ryan Adams does enough to keep the album fresh and stamped with his own style. In fact, "Orion" has moments that sound reminiscent of Alt/Indie Rock especially on songs like "Fire And Ice" and "By Force". Like Voivod, Ryan adds loads of melody to his songs as well as including a Sci-Fi concept to complete the package.

"Orion" is a short album, clocking in under 30 minutes with 13 tracks, but it is fast paced and exhilarating. What "Orion" lacks is Voivod's progressive tendencies and many intricate solos, but this is a minor point as the album comes across as a passionate and honest tribute to a highly influential musician and group.

Overall, if you are a fan of Voivod's "Angel Rat" and "Nothingface" I cannot see you not liking this album. Also, Ryan Adam's is clearly not trying to cash in on Piggy's death as its been 5 years since his passing and the album is VERY limited in its availability. Strictly Vinyl with no plans for wide release. That is unfortunate, because I would gladly purchase a CD copy. I don't even think it is available through iTunes either.

As a Metal fan and Voivod fan, I say "Great Job! Ryan. Piggy would be proud". As a bonus, Michel Langevin aka Away designed the album artwork.