SINGLE REVIEW: Awakeness by Luckydabo$$

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https://luckydaboss.com/

Luckydabo$$ is a rap/ hip hop artist currently residing in Oklahoma City but originally from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. As a child he showed a strong interest in music and when he migrated to Brooklyn in New York he began making music tracks with friends. He has now developed into a bilingual artist, rapping in both English and French and he released his first project The Me$$age last year to great acclaim from both critics and fans.

This track, Awakeness, is taken from The Me$$age and it’s a perfect introduction to his unique style and sound. After a powerful vocal-heavy introduction, a slick, laid back hip-hop groove kicks in which provides the platform for Luckydabo$$ to lay down his free-flowing rhymes. His rapping style and delivery is highly distinctive, alternating between English and French which gives a universal feel to his music. His fluency and ease on the mic is faultless in either language.

Lyrically, Awakeness is an example of the fundamental spiritual message behind his music. Essentially, he promotes the idea of uniting people from all over the world to help improve the living conditions of those who face hardship, such as those living in his native home, Africa. One of the track’s most memorable hooks is the powerful rallying cry: “Gotta get some food on the table, gotta get you fed….”

Overall, this is a refreshingly different hip hop track by a unique artist with a clear and powerful artistic vision. Music is perhaps the most inspiring and effective way to bring together people from all walks of life and Luckydabo$$ is using his considerable talents to preach love and peace, rather than the aggression and violence that features in so much contemporary hip hop. With a large fan base garnered already, I hope his music and influence spreads far and wide. The excellent Awakeness should be another strong step forward towards that goal.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Follow Your Heart by Tony Newton

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Tony Newton is a composer and multi-instrumentalist with a fascinating history anda career in the music industry that spans over thirty years. After being somewhat of a child prodigy playing in orchestras, it was as a virtuoso bass player that he played on many classic Motown recordings and can lay claim to playing on hits by Michael Jackson, Diana Ross & The Supremes and Stevie Wonder.

He also acted as musical director to Smokey Robinson and in his youth was the prize student of his bass tutor, the legendary James Jamerson (himself a Motown recording staple). He can also lay claim to being one of the creators of the Jazz-Rock-Fusion genre with Miles Davis’ drummer in the Tony Williams Lifetime. Since then he has developed his talents as a composer and even formulated his own acclaimed harmonic language which he calls ‘novaphonic sound’, which is based on quartal and quintal harmonics.

Following his last two releases from his White Light Collection (Prophecy and Romance) which were both solo classical piano pieces, this track Follow Your Heart is taken from the same album but shows a whole different side to Tony’s musical style. It’s a funk rock/soul epic at fourteen minutes long (an eight minute version is also available, accompanied by a video) featuring Tony on bass and a stellar cast of musicians playing a wide range of instruments including keyboards, guitar, drums, a string section and French horn as well as female backing vocalists.

After a brief spoken word intro, we hear a Tubular Bells-style melody on piano with some female vocal extemporizing. The song breaks out into a taut funk-rock groove based around a simple but effective guitar riff, played in unison with strings on certain lines. Tony’s mindbending bass playing underpins the music and drives it forward relentlessly. This forms the foundation for Tony to give a great lead vocal performance, augmented by gospel-tinged backing harmonies along the way.

The song itself is hugely spiritual and uplifting, about letting your intuition and soul guide you through life, along with love. Around the five minute mark there’s a marked rhythmic shift which works well with the anthemic title hook. From then on the music grows organically, with a wonderful jazzy piano and lead guitar section, as well as a superb bass solo from Tony around the nine minute mark.

From there the music climbs even higher through modulations, culminating in a final section that features Tony rapping, entering an almost mystical section that brought to mind the end of Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On album.

Overall, this is a track that shows the enormous scope of Tony Newton’s musical vision and highly accomplished musicianship. With a hugely talented group of musical cohorts, Tony has created a monumental fusion of funk, rock, program, soul and even rap that takes the listener on an epic journey. With its inspiring message and infectious positivity, true aficionados will appreciate the special gift that Tony Newton gives the world with his music.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: What Matters by Sienna

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http://www.sienna-web.com/

Sienna is an avant-garde EDM artist who is currently based in Norway but originally hails from Japan. Her music is an inventive meld of electronica, house, jazz and traditional-contemporary Japanese. She has performed extensively across Europe over a 10 year period as both a performer and DJ. She has collaborated with renowned artists like Nils Petter Molvaer, a psychedelic trumpeter from Norway, Mick Karn, an English bassist (now deceased) and famous group The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, whom she opened for in the UK on several occasions.

This song, What Matters, is a wonderful showcase for her unique musical sound. It’s a six minute alternative electronica track that floats serenely over a blissfully laid back beat. Starting with Sienna’s evocative and distinctive vocals, she is joined by sparse but effective percussion and pulsing kick as well as subtle, ethereal synths. We also hear an exotic, Japanese instrument somewhat reminiscent of a sitar.

As the song progresses, the arrangement builds gradually with flourishes of delay-drenched piano and around the four minute mark the drums progress to a full beat. This languid groove syncs perfectly with the vocal melody, which is augmented by tight backing harmonies.

At the five minute mark prominent strings played in quartal harmony take over, bringing the music to a haunting conclusion. Lyrically, it is rather poignant, about letting go of the pain from a romantic relationship with acceptance: “Some scars don’t fade or heal easily…..may you be a bird to fly high and free…”.

Overall, this is a highly original piece of alternative electronica which captures Sienna’s unique artistry as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer. She has developed her own style and signature sound, though natural reference points would be the cinematic and dreamy sound of Lana Del Rey, along with the avant garde eclecticism of Bjork. Hopefully, enough people will get to experience the magical Sienna sound as she deserves to be widely heard and appreciated for her intoxicating, innovative art. I look forward to hearing more of her work in the future.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Amazing by Russell Lee

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Russell Lee is a Canadian born country rock singer/songwriter now residing in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He enjoyed a great deal of success in 2017 through the release of his album What Do I Do. The lead single from that album garnered an enormous 500,000 views on YouTube. He received six nominations at the Manitoba Music Awards and also had the privilege of playing the main stage at the world renowned Dauphin Countryfest. Since then, he has been working on a new album, Meant To Be.

This track, Amazing, is taken from that album and makes a great showcase for his first rate skills as both a singer and songwriter. It’s an uptempo country rock song with a strongly romantic theme, about feeling gratitude to have someone special in your life and letting them know you’ll be there for them.

Starting with strummed acoustic guitar, the first verse is fairly sparse with Russell’s strong and distinctive vocals allowed to take centre stage, backed by drums, organ and a little electric guitar. The sound is enriched by the perfectly executed layered backing harmonies which recur throughout the song.

It builds to a touching, memorable chorus as he appreciates how fortunate he is: “It’s amazing to me, you want to be by my side. After the second chorus we hear a well crafted lead guitar solo, something we don’t hear enough of in modern music. Special credit should go to the high standard of production, as good as anything you’ll hear on the radio and the performances of all the musicians involved are all of the highest calibre.

Overall, this is a well written country rock song, performed and produced to perfection by Russell Lee and his talented musical cohorts. With a likeable voice that’s easy on the ear and a fine way with melody, his commercial radio friendly sound bodes well for the song’s success. He already has a large fanbase, and with further material as strong as this he should continue to reach bigger and bigger numbers of people with his music.

 

VERDICT = 8.6 out of 10           

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: BAG SZN by Kid Fre$h

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https://web.facebook.com/lamarcus.d.mckinney?_rdc=1&_rdr

Kid Fre$h is a hip-hop artist, rapper and songwriter hailing from Texas. He decided to consider a full time career as a rap artist after his first two singles, Loyalty (ft. T10) and Rollie, were released to great acclaim. In 2017, he followed up with Smoke Somethin’ and signed a record deal in 2018 with NuSouf Music. In the same year he released the Limitless E.P. and in 2019 he has already released the tracks Pe$os and No Pressure. He has amassed literally millions of listens on Soundcloud and a large following on social media.

This latest track, BAG SZN, is a slick hip hop track where Kid Fre$h really gets to showcase his versatile and highly proficient skills as an emcee and lyricist. As a rapper, he has a distinct, recognizable style and is remarkably fluent on the mic. His talent for verbal dexterity and lyrical flow is a force to be reckoned with, as good as any of the current crop of hip-hop artists.

It begins with a brief but entertaining spoken word intro, before an insistent, intricate beat joins forces with a deep, dub bassline to provide the foundation for Kid Fre$h to lay down some rapid fire rhymes. The track’s main hook appears early and grabs the listener immediately: “It’s the season to get rich, it’s the season to get sick….”

His lyrical delivery is aggressive and exhilarating, effortlessly stamping his presence strongly on the music. What stands out is his superb command of rhythm which is as important as the ability to produce fluent lyrics, and he achieves some effortless verbal gymnastics as the track progresses. This profusion of dense lyrics is counter pointed by the effective simplicity of the title hook.

Overall, this is a first rate, extremely catchy hip-hop track from a rapper with an infectious, arresting style and delivery. Aside from his obvious abilities as an emcee, the track’s arrangement and production can stand alongside the most successful hip-hop out there. This will maximize Kid Fre$h’s potential to cut a swathe through his numerous competitors and contemporaries and eventually reach the pinnacle of the hip hop scene, where he undoubtedly belongs.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Thirteen Days (ft. Toby Wilson) by David Arn

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https://davidarn.com/

David Arn is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from Ohio originally, but now based in Virginia. His music is mostly acoustic and strongly lyric driven, allowing his words to be clearly delivered with an authentic, gravelly voice that sounds full of life experience.

You can hear the influences of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan as well as the sophisticated lyrical style of Van Dyke Parks and Randy Newman, though his style is very much his own. He has so far released two full length albums, Postmodern Days and Walking To Dreamland (which I reviewed very favourably in 2015).

This song, Thirteen Days (ft. Toby Wilson) is a delicate, heartfelt acoustic ballad with a distinctly melancholy and moving emotional undertone. Musically, the song is built on a bedrock of exquisitely recorded, crystal-clear picked acoustic guitar and double bass, which gives the music a slightly jazzy feel alongside the Americana/folk style of the overall song.

Throughout, it also features the contribution of guitarist Toby Wilson, whose mellifluous lead acoustic guitar playing adds an extra level of finesse and class.
These sophisticated touches still allow plenty of space for David ‘s warm, resonant lead vocals. Here, he gives an affecting, deeply intimate performance depicting a heartbroken lover dissecting the end of a deeply romantic relationship.

The poetic quality of the lyrics shows the influence of masters of the songwriting craft like Leonard Cohen, who would have been proud of a line such as, “The loom of comfort is hard to weave, my hands wear out from fatigue….”. This rich imagery is contrasted by the simplicity of the title hook, which perfectly evokes how time can suddenly drag when someone special has left your life.

Overall, this is a superbly crafted and performed acoustic ballad detailing the emotional fallout of an intense love affair. David Arn’s songwriting is honest and from the heart, with a power and poeticism that you associate with only the very finest in their field. I hope Thirteen Days helps David Arn achieve the wide ranging recognition and success his talent deserves. The excellent music video that accompanies the song should help that happen.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Mr. Blue by Love Ghost

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http://loveghost.com/

Love Ghost are an alternative rock band hailing from Los Angeles. Despite their relative youth they have already achieved a great deal, having opened live for Buckcherry, Berlin and Smash Mouth.

Their music is heavily influenced by grunge and heavy rock bands from the 90’s including Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Alice In Chains. You can also hear the influence of a band like Yellowcard who augment their rock sound with violin.In this case, Love Ghost features Mya Greene on viola who performs a similar role.

Last year, they released their full length debut album, Lobotomy (which is highly recommended, read my review here). This latest single, Mr. Blue, sees them taking their anthemic alternative rock to the next level.

Starting with a call and response melody between low-end guitar and viola, the track bursts into life with a meaty drum sound and sharp high-end guitar octaves. Finn Bell’s distinctive lead vocals then grab the focus, his voice lying halfway between R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.

The song itself is well structured and sonically powerful, moving from a relatively sparse verse then building up to an explosive chorus that quickly sticks in the memory. Lyrically, it depicts a troubled relationship and personal worldview: “You left your heart on the table, I wasn’t even stable……I say the world is tainted, I am Mr. Blue…”. The Nirvana-style vocal harmonies on the chorus are very effective.

Throughout the track there is a subtle sheen of electronica which becomes more prominent after the second chorus, giving the production a modern sound as well as contrasting effectively with the viola. Special mention should go to the production quality overall, as it’s as good as anything you will hear on the radio and the band’s musical vision sounds fully realized.

Overall, this is another excellent release from Love Ghost which sees them refining their signature sound and creating an alternative rock anthem that could open a lot of doors for them. The radio friendly sound and production style bodes well for its success, but it maintains a raw edge which will please those more into the alternative side of rock and helps it pack a real punch.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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