E.P. REVIEW: The Troubled Boy At The Bonfire Disco

Troubled Boy at the Bonfire Disco - Cover

Freddie Bourne is an American singer songwriter hailing from Jackson, New Jersey. He has been very highly placed in various talent competitions including winning Liberty Idol in 2010. He is known for fronting the bands Exit 22 and Sahara from Jackson and Manalapan, New Jersey, respectively.

His solo career began in 2012, and he has opened for acts such as Tyler Hilton from the television show One Tree Hill, Jersey Acoustic Music Award Winner Chelsea Carlson, and played for Gavin and Joey DeGraw’s bar The National Underground. He released his debut album, Only Human, in 2013.

This EP, The Troubled Boy At The Bonfire Disco, consists of four tracks and constitutes his fifth project. The style is essentially contemporary pop, a blend of Lewis Capaldi-style acoustic/piano singer-songwriting with some EDM aspects incorporated to give the sound a modern edge. This is perfectly encapsulated by the excellent opening track, I Hope You Don’t Forgive Me. Based around picked acoustic guitar, Bourne delivers a haunting vocal melody in his distinctive, emotive singing style.

You can hear the influences of songwriters like James Blake, Daniel Powter and Richard Marx in the melancholy, intimate nature of the music, at least at first. After the chorus hook, it breaks into an unexpected EDM section, before returning to the second verse augmented by warm strings. With its radio friendly sound and subtle but effective title hook, this has huge hit potential and also as soundtrack music.

Second track Jeni is another well crafted song, this one more straightforward stylistically, essentially anthemic pop/rock that brought to mind Paolo Nutini and Coldplay, circa A Rush Of Blood To The Head. Bourne gives another compelling vocal performance in his plaintive upper register, with subtle touches of electronica emerging in the second verse. The concise guitar solo working in tandem with synths was a nice touch and once again, the vocal melody sticks quickly in the memory. This would also make a fine single release.

The EDM production style returns to the fore on the intro to Pale Blue Sky, before breaking down to a sparse verse. This allows the vocals to dominate, backed by a minimal beat and haunting piano arpeggios. The simple hook of “I’ll fly with you…” proves addictive and the way the arrangement builds to an EDM finale is cleverly done. Again, the commercial potential is big, owing to the wide ranging appeal of the pop/dance crossover sound.

Final track Spacedust has an equally languid tempo, Bourne delivering a Chris Martin-esque falsetto vocal that sounds natural and uncontrived. Once again, it is something of a slow burning epic, gradually building in texture and rhythm towards an understated but highly intricate blend of picked acoustic guitar patterns and interweaving synths. This track will again have a large across the aboard appeal, particularly those who love Coldplay’s more recent output.

Overall, this is a consistently strong collection of songs by an upcoming artist gifted with both a unique style of his own and a contemporary, commercial sound. In an era where male singer-songwriters are dominating the charts worldwide, Freddie Bourne has everything it takes to make it to the top and this EP could potentially be a major step towards that goal.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ARTIST AWARD: Tony Newton

TNewton_Awards

TNT Xtreme’s music visionary, legendary composer-bassist-keyboardist-vocalist-producer, Tony Newton, is a musician’s hall of fame member who has performed on over 100 gold and platinum hit recordings. He can lay claim to playing on hits by Michael Jackson, Diana Ross & The Supremes and Stevie Wonder, amongst many others. Two of Tony’s Gold records were for his first renowned group, The Eighth Day, for She’s Not Just Another Woman and Crawl Before You Walk.

Tony played on several Number One hits: Where Did Our Love Go, Baby Love and Stop in the Name of Love by The Supremes, as well as Nowhere To Run by Martha and the Vandellas. He studied piano with teachers of Debussy and Donanyi and had the same composition & theory teacher of Frank Zappa, Dr. Matt Doran.

Acclaimed for his dynamic work with the famed jazzrock- fusion group, the Tony Williams Lifetime, Newton, one of the original architects of jazzrock-fusion penned the classic compositions, Snake Oil, Red Alert, and others. Tony also performed and composed with legendary guitarist and friend Robby Krieger from The Doors on Robby’s solo CD, Cinematrix.

Newton has a long musical history, participating on many hit recordings and tours, throughout his long and prolific musical career. Robby Krieger has famously referred to Tony Newton’s writing skills as “the Holy Grail of Rock & Roll or Jazz or any medium you can think of.”

This year, 2020, Tony Newton has received the Artist Of The Year Vision Award For Excellence, Innovation, Originality and Musicianship from the Academy Of Music Arts. He was given the award at a ceremony on April 24th. After an introduction from the hosts, Tony appears via video link and gives an inspiring, emotional speech about what a great era it is to be an independent artist.

He describes how he’s been able to follow his heart and pursue his spiritual vision of writing, performing and producing innovative music. His inspirational motto is, “Anything is possible”. He talks about how winning the award has inspired him to explore and expand, to an even greater depth, his musical creativity and to reach new fans around the world as he continues to achieve his musical goals.

He then performs a live rendition of his epic track Follow Your Heart, taken from his album White Light Collection (you can read my original review here). This is actually the shorter version of the song at eight minutes long and he’s backed by a highly talented group of musicians and backing vocalists.

It’s the perfect showcase for Tony’s unique Rock-Funk Fusion as well as a truly uplifting message. Tony gets to display his considerable virtuosity as a bass player, playing a 6-string bass. The music takes us through so many sections from the taut and funky verse to the gospel-infused final section. He really shines as a vocalist in this climactic part of the song and it was the ideal choice of material for this occasion.

Overall, this is a richly deserved award for a genuine music legend whose career spans all the way back to playing on classic Motown records and who now has developed a musical style all of his own. He’s a special artist who understands the spiritual power of music and uses it to uplift and inspire, so it’s gratifying to see him get such plaudits and well earned recognition from his peers.

 

VERDICT = Legend!

Alex Faulkner

Watch the award presentation ceremony here:

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Spin Me by Project Rod Williams

Spin Me - Final Cover(1)

Project Rod Williams is an electro-dance pop studio ensemble which is the musical brainchild of songwriter/musician Rod Williams. Musically, it is a fusion of classic 70’s disco music like Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer, 80’s synth pop such as Depeche Mode and Erasure and more modern pop artists like Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams. In 2019, he released his album Fire which I reviewed very favourably (you can read that review here).

This album, Spin Me, consists of ten tracks with every song written and produced by Rod Williams. Shake It On The Dancefloor gets the album off to an exhilarating start, an infectious high energy disco track that brought to mind Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson.

From its opening bars, it’s a riotous explosion of driving bass, bursts of colourful brass and catchy funk guitar licks. As with the Fire album, Project Rod Williams is a collective featuring several lead and backing vocalists who swap roles from song to song.

This one is energetically performed by Ben Dial, with some finely arranged backing vocals from Aleisha Leo. I enjoyed how the track allowed for an extended instrumental section, featuring the excellent saxophone playing of Fabian Hernandez. Loaded with hooks, it’s perfect dance pop.

Don’t Stop Me Baby is great in a different way, this one a smoky and slinky Rnb/electronica track featuring a sassy and charismatic lead vocal from Aleisha Leo. Built around an insistent beat, it starts out with a Daft Punk style synth riff before the revolving vocal melody of the verse grips the ear.

The title hook is just one of several that sticks in the mind quickly, with the “DJ, don’t you stop, DJ, turn it up” also proving addictive. The swirling, highly melodic bassline deserves a special mention here, infusing the music with great energy. Both of these opening tracks would make excellent singles, with obvious potential to be huge in the clubs.

Go To Town (Get Busy), another sung by Ben Dial, is slower in tempo but just as catchy, based around a simple but effective 2/4 groove. As usual, the arrangement is full of neat touches, such as the interplay between the sharp guitar lines and the synths. The anthemic chorus hook is the focal point, sung in octaves towards the end to great effect.

Lyrically, it is more overtly sexual, about the point in the night where you’re ready to leave the club and take things further. It brought to mind Prince at his most explicit though the words are never distasteful, just risqué: “Let’s lose control, yes bare it all, bite and kiss with our hungry lips….”.

The title track comes next and it grabs you instantly with a toe tapping, Latin American-influenced rhythm and ultra funky wah wah guitar. Ben Dial gives another fine lead vocal performance, with some excellent falsetto backing harmonies providing contrast. Once again, amorous concerns are the lyrical subject matter and it sustains the sensual mood created by the previous track.

Fifth track Dangerous Lover maintains the memorable melodic style and catchiness of the opening songs but this one has a more serious lyrical theme, about not being seduced by appearances and having a relationship with someone who isn’t with you for the right reasons: “They’ll always please their man as long as his money is in their hand, they’ll lay in bed every night, just make sure your pocket never gets light…”. Musically, the lead vocal is augmented throughout with backing harmonies from Rod Williams and the dual vocal sound is what makes this song stand out.

Crimes For Passion contains another salutary moral lesson, this one containing a lead vocal by Matt Williamson who does a great job. Whereas the protagonist of Dangerous Lover finds out a woman just wants him for his money, this song is about a woman already in a relationship and is cheating with a lover that she discards when he’s not needed: “Oh, you live your lie, pretending all is fine, while I wait like a fool here alone in my room….”.

How Can You Say You Love Is True is another emotive song, this one written from the viewpoint of discovering out his partner is cheating on him. The musical backing reflects the emotional nature of the song, with melancholy piano lines and heart rending strings providing the melodic counterpoint to the well crafted vocal melody.

Because, the eighth track, almost feels like the sequel to the previous song, continuing the musical bedrock of piano and strings and lyrically exploring the emotional turmoil that results of lies: “You moulded me this way, my heart was unsculpted clay…”. The poignant vocal melody is delivered with sensitivity by Ben Dial and these songs show the more tender side of Rod Williams’ songwriting.

Tears is an interesting song, combining this emotive lyrical style with a modern pop/EDM backing. Backed by a mid-paced disco beat and swirling synths, this track stands out for the strength of its lilting vocal melody and a further example of Williams’ songwriting craft. This one is another potential single in my opinion.

The closing song Now also has some surprises up its sleeve. Sung once again by Matt Williamson, it’s the first time we hear acoustic guitar on the album, which forms the instrumental backbone of the track. It sets the mood for another tale of heartache, giving some perspicacious insights on the possessive nature of romantic relationships: “Now I’m in deep, I can’t breathe when you’re away from me, now I wanna keep you trapped like a bird in a cage”. It’s a deep and affecting finale to an album that starts out so much lighter in tone.

Overall, this is another fantastic modern pop album from Project Rod Williams. Featuring a plethora of talented collaborators, Rod Williams proves once again he is equally adept at writing upbeat dancefloor tracks as well as the more deeply emotional, reflective songs that show the more painful side of love and romance. With top notch production and first rate performances from all concerned, Spin Me deserves to be a major success.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen HERE

E.P. REVIEW: How Will I Justify This Habit Today by Made On Tape

Album cover (4)

Made On Tape is the artistic moniker of a bassist currently residing in New York City with roots in Metro Detroit. He has been involved in several music projects in the past including being the co-founder of a female fronted indie rock group called DDWhite, helped Collin Stanley make his debut EP (you can read my review and listen here) and created a rock band called Working Flakes. He has also worked on Broadway.

Made On Tape is his first solo project, and it refers to the equipment used which involves a  TASCAM tape recorder, an 80’s Roland drum machine and a reel-to-reel recorder from the 1970’s. This EP, How Will I Justify This Habit Today, consists of five instrumental tracks. As mentioned above, all the music was recorded onto tape which gives the sound a distinctive warmth and “fatness”.

The opening track How begins with a swirl of reversed synths before a series of punchy drum breaks leads us into the main section. Naturally, being a bassist, the lead melody is provided by a propulsive, bouncy bassline which works in tandem with the taut groove of the drums. This is augmented by subtle but highly effective lead guitar lines and even more subtle synths that fill out the soundscape nicely. The stop-start drums makes for a fine dynamic, with handclaps adding further variety later on.

Will I is based around a four to the floor beat and another funky, swooping bassline which is doubled up with a morphing synth on the main melody. The beat gradually grows in intricacy, augmented by high end funk guitar. The staccato bass riffs are counterpointed by a jazz-inflected rolling bassline in places which makes for a nice contrast. Even the synths resemble wah-wah guitar at points and the result is a very catchy 70’s influenced funk instrumental that would sound great in a club or as a theme tune.

Justify is built around a slick 2/4 groove and another taut staccato bassline that brought to mind The Beatle’s Taxman, though the overall sound made me think of Another One Bites The Dust by Queen. It has a similarly infectious rhythm and melody, with the prominent lead guitar lines adding to the texture, sometimes working in tandem with the bass. Things turned somewhat psychedelic towards the end, repeated drum fills creating a mesmeric effect as they collide with a suddenly sinister bassline and eerie synths. Great track.

Fourth track, This Habit, starts with just an instantly memorable bassline and glockenspiel chords, which then doubles the melody. It creates a pleasing tension before the drums enter, and the sound brought to mind the famous Prince productions of the 80’s. The roaming bass melody keeps the ear interested throughout, with some fine counterpoint synth melodies in the background.

The EP closes with Today (perspicacious readers will have realised by now that the tracks spell out the EP title!). It’s the fastest and most intense track, featuring a truly virtuoso bass performance. Again, it has a distinct aspect of the psychedelic in certain sections, the interplay between the bass and metamorphosing, modulating synths creating a bewildering effect at times. The mysterious, haunting synth chords that end the EP leaves the listener dangling and wanting more. Once more, this could be very effective as part of a soundtrack and rounds off the EP in a strong way.

Overall, this is a very accomplished set of instrumentals with a unique vintage sound. Centred around consistently vibrant and inventive basslines, the music continually intrigues the ear and goes to some unexpected places. A blend of funk, jazz and various styles of electronica, the music is accessible yet unlike anything around at the moment. For anyone searching for something a little left of field and loves old school analog warmth, I can heartily recommend Made On Tape.

 

VERDICT= 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: The World Again by Martin Del Carpio

072 The World Again

Martin Del Carpio is an experimental electronica artist hailing from New York. His music is a unique hybrid of electronica, avant garde, spoken word and musique concrete, as well as occasional songs which he performs lead vocals on himself.

Previous releases include 2011’s X album, followed by Goddard in 2013. A retrospective compilation called Lost Illusions was released in 2014, while 2015 saw the release of an experimental music project called Notes From The Underground. 2018 saw the release of Involution to which I gave a highly favourable review (you can read that here)

This latest track, The World Again, is a reworked and re-recorded song originally released in 2011. Martin describes this as an “orbital Chimera version”. It’s a slow burning, haunting epic that has an expansive, almost cinematic, soundscape. It opens with subtle mood-setting synth and softly strummed acoustic guitar.

Martin’s emotive and sensitive vocals enter, bringing to mind the plaintive, almost mystical tone of Neil Young’s After The Goldrush. This song has a similarly magical effect, transporting the listener into otherworldly realms. The opening lines match the transcendent grandeur of the music, Del Carpio at his most poetic: “A complicated dance, unspoken words, your soul vibrates, you should let them know your heart’s failure, your heart’s desire….”.

In this time of enforced isolation caused by the current pandemic, this song about self reflection and looking to the future could not be more apposite. Despite the song’s stately tempo, it maintains a traditional structure, gradually building to a chorus of understated power and melodic beauty. It recalls the moving music of Wish You Were Here-era Pink Floyd.

Almost imperceptibly, the arrangement grows with a subtle but highly effective pulsing beat whilst in the background we hear a kaleidoscopic swirl of ambient synths. Harmonies are added along with some truly ethereal production effects on the vocals.

Overall, this a wonderfully captivating piece of songwriting and production that might be the finest thing Martin Del Carpio has yet released. Managing to balance the personal with the universal, the music takes us on an inner journey and makes us look at the world in a new perspective, like all great art. And, in the midst of a world pandemic, we need great art and new perspectives to guide us more than ever.

 

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW/INTERVIEW: God Is At The Wheel by Charlene Nelson Scott

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https://www.charlene2020.com/

Charlene Nelson Scott is a singer, songwriter and producer hailing from Washington, DC, strongly influenced and inspired by her Christian faith. She began singing just aged three and by her teens was was appearing in musicals as a solo artist or with numerous singing groups.

She has since performed internationally to many dignitaries and has often performed to audiences of thousands. From her teens she showed an interest in music production and has now written and produced over 100 songs in multiple genres. She has been a Stellar Award nominee and has received much critical acclaim along the way.

This track, God Is At The Wheel, is an excellent showcase for her singing, songwriting and production abilities. It begins with a spoken word intro before breaking out into a gospel infused RnB track with a slinky and simple but effective beat, a funky melodic bassline and smoky electric piano.

The title hook is immediately infectious, delivered in rich stacked harmonies, which makes for a fine contrast to the comparatively sparse agile verses. Charlene has a captivating and charismatic voice, full of character, as well as having a fine vocal range.

The lyrical message is about having faith in God’s plan for us and trusting that ultimately it is God who controls our fate. This is summed up most succinctly by the final verse: “So trying to do life without God is like a self driving car that could lose control at any moment.” It’s a metaphor that connects with everyone and applies universally.

Overall, this is an uplifting and inspirational song by a multi-talented artist with a deep faith. Charlene has forged a style all of her own, combining RnB, gospel and spoken word to create a sound with broad ranging appeal, regardless of faith. She has already reached many with her music and God Is At The Wheel will help her reach many more.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

 

I got to ask Charlene a few questions about her life and her musical inspirations:

Your strong faith is a major influence on your music, what artists have inspired you along the way as well?

Yes, it is. Ella Fitzgerald, Earth, Wind & Fire, Emotions.

 

Did you always see writing and performing music as your spiritual calling rather than just a potential career?

Great question and no, it’s sincerely been an evolvement. Having been raised in church, my voice didn’t really fit the style normally presented in these settings.

Touring internationally as young as 14, the rareness of my voice and expression afforded me unique platforms like singing before a crowd while standing on a box on the ravaged backroads of Trinidad & Tobago or being asked to sing solos at a private event in a dignitary’s home while in the United Kingdom.

I knew I was gifted with a special instrument, but it wasn’t until I experienced the impact it had on listeners as my song of choice always centered around my Faith.

 

The world is going through troubled times; do you feel music has an important role to play in helping people get through it?

ABSOLUTELY! Music is a calming force, the rope you can hold onto when you’re falling off the cliff. Equally as important, the Mental Health community reiterates how crucial music is to the wellness of our psychological state and ability to cope. And unifies us even though we’re compelled to fight for the greater good through social distancing. The ‘One World’ event sent virtual hugs and hope to countless millions globally!

 

What’s next in the pipeline for you after this single release?

Promoting our newest album release, ‘In God We Trust’.
Online concerts and appearances.
Serving our local community – safely and enthusiastically!
Songwriting and Recording.

 

Where can people find out more about you and follow your work?
http://www.Charlene2020.com

 

ALBUM REVIEW: The Language Of Clouds by Scott Howard

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https://www.scotthowardmusic.com/

Scott Howard is a singer and songwriter from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Music played a big role in his childhood. Born to an entrepreneurial opera star in New York State, Scott Howard’s mother began the Long Island Lyric Opera which propelled him into the world of inspiring, finely tuned, and captivating music. His musical journey is closely bound with his spiritual journey as he is resolute to use his song writing as a force for good after the tragic loss of his son, Maxx.

His inspirational songs have already reached many, with his debut album, Ascended Man, accumulating 6.4 million streams. He uses a special kind of instrument tuning, 432 Hz, which is regarded by some as the frequency of the universe and therefore has a spiritually uplifting effect on the listener.

This album, The Language of Clouds, is the follow up to Ascended Man and consists of four songs. The album begins strongly with Written in the Clouds. It starts with a beautiful intro consisting of strummed acoustic guitar and celestial sounding synths. From the opening lines you can tell Scott takes a deeper approach to lyrics than most: “What language do you speak when you say hello to a cloud, out loud?”.

Scott is blessed with a strong and distinctive voice which some have compared to Cat Stevens, and he has a similar inclination towards the mystical. After a succinct verse it builds to a powerful and memorable chorus with poetic words: “Thunder and lightning be along to say, “Wake up and find your way”. Lyrically, it’s about becoming spiritually awakened, the underlying message essentially behind all of Scott’s music. Interestingly, the arrangement ends on another verse rather than the traditional repeat choruses.

The following Queen of Hearts has an equally crystalline sound, the theme of this one more romantic, about finding your soulmate. Beginning with exquisitely recorded acoustic guitar, the first verse sets the scene of trying to find true love: “When I was a younger man, a little voice called to me, “You’ll meet the woman of your dreams, a real life fantasy”.

The second verse depicts a more realistic and down to earth perspective on building a lasting love relationship: “To rebuild our hearts takes every moment, bricks and blood and tears to make a love that lasts forever, at least a million years…”. Once again, it explodes into an uplifting, epic chorus, Scott displaying his excellent vocal range.

Third track Dreamer is more up tempo, driven by infectiously rhythmic acoustic guitars. It’s another philosophical and reflective song full of spiritual wisdom: “Everything that’s evergreen is turning brown…. life is always changing, life is rearranging”. Once again, it features an anthemic and singalong chorus, one of his real strengths as a songwriter.

The album closes with a live performance of the profound and inspirational Harvest Blessings, which is about the dawning of a new spiritual era: “As the trumpets herald the new earth, the time to weep is over….”. The lyrics have a deep poetic and mystical quality that brought to mind Dylan and Leonard Cohen at their most spiritual.

He closes the song with a powerful message that it is how we think that creates our future: “The truth is yours to find…so manifest your best….your mind creates nightmares and miracles…”.

Overall, this is a wonderful short album from a unique singer/songwriter with a powerful spiritual message to convey. Combining the mystical introspection of Cat Stevens with the anthemic energy of Bruce Springsteen, Scott Howard has already inspired many. The Language of Clouds could see him reach many millions more with its universal appeal and many words of wisdom enshrined in memorable melodies.

 

VERDICT= 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner