ALBUM REVIEW: Strange Dreams by Charles Robinson

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Charles Robinson is a recording artist, composer, pianist and alto saxophone player based in Texas. He was exposed to a wide array of musical styles and genres in his youth and this eclectic range of influences is reflected in his music. Just some of his artistic inspirations include John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Prince, Chick Corea, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, amongst many others.

After attending Alcorn State University where he studied piano/saxophone and marched with the world renowned Sounds of Dynamite marching band, he went on to serve in the military as well as serve as musical director for several religious organizations. He released his debut album , The Golden Ratio, in 2018.

This album, Strange Dreams, consists of thirteen instrumental tracks. It starts out with the intense Bel, which is driven by a brooding, circular bassline that draws you in and underpins the whole track. The drums start out as very jazzy before breaking out into an insistent full beat, over which Charles runs riot with his virtuosic, smoky Rhodes playing. Aside from this is a subtle use of synths, which adds to the atmosphere and subtle mystical vibe. The style is certainly heavily jazz-influenced but Charles explores various kinds of jazz fusion across the course of the album, and this is a great opener.

The second track Supermoon is more traditionally jazz with another recurring bass figure, this one on double bass. The atmospheric synths linger in the background and  there are no drums, allowing Charles to weave an intoxicating spell with some superb piano playing that covers the length of the keyboard. His mellifluous flair is not to be underestimated, with not only his skill but the way he always structures his playing in a melodious fashion, never just virtuosity for its own sake.

The following In Your Face! is a return to the electric piano-led sound of the first track and again features a moody, repeating bass motif, though only in certain sections as it gets more expansive in others. The most surprising aspect of the track is the crisp, funky breakbeat that Charles might find hip hop artists want to sample. Aside from some more wonderful echo-drenched Rhodes, there are brief passages of flute (or at least a convincing flute-sounding synth!) which adds to the instrumental texture. One of the album highlights for me.

Soul Dance takes us somewhere else, this one built upon a bed of infectious, exotic world music percussion which cooks up a tasty groove, full of nuance and intricacies. Again, Charles mesmerizes you with some blissed out electric piano work. The surprises keep on coming with Elysian Fields, which is essentially a drum and bass track set at a rapid tempo. The busy drums and bass, along with pulsing EDM style synths, is contrasted with the mellow jazz piano playing and the dichotomy creates an effective tension. The bassline is particularly good on this one.

Turbulence is one the album’s epics at nearly six minutes long, this one based around a simple but effective beat and driven by low-end Stevie Wonder-style synth that is allowed time to grow and breathe, musically. Heaven’s Gate is even more laid back, built on a hypnotic, tranquil groove. As you can tell from the titles and alluded to earlier, there’s a strong mystical, spiritual vibe to his music which is something he shares with one of his musical heroes, John Coltrane. The music throughout has a transcendent quality that takes the listener to some far out places, and this aptly named track is no exception.

Soul Moon Trap is one of the album’s finest moments with a gorgeous piano melody that Herbie Hancock would have been proud of. A pulsing, ostinato bassline holds it together over a slinky bossa nova beat. Robinson’s piano playing here is exceptional. Mercury Retrograde stands out for its complex, angular electronic rhythm full of triplets and syncopations and some more fine piano work.

Parachute is wild, a frenetic rollercoaster ride of a track featuring a hugely infectious beat and bassline which provides the bedrock for some extraordinary piano and synth combinations. This is a remarkable fusion of jazz, soul and hip hop like nothing else you’ll have heard.

The Journey is one of the most unusual tracks and finds Robinson at his most mystical sounding. It’s one of the epics at a shade under six minutes and as the title suggests, takes the listener on an expansive sonic journey. Some sections sound relatively conventional but there’s some strikingly unexpected chord changes that make you feel you’re floating in the ether.

Next comes the title track and again the title is apposite. Robinson conjures up a mesmerising soundscape with a cavernous, powerful beat allied to a loping, understated bassline. A swirl of synths weave in and out, along with some more stellar passages on the piano.

The closing Morning Light (For Hendrix) is a lovely way to finish. As the title obviously suggests, it’s dedicated to the genius of Jimi Hendrix. Set to a lilting, low key groove Robinson takes a back seat and provides supporting Rhodes, allowing his guest guitarist to let rip with some versatile and inventive electric jazz guitar. Listen out for the passage where the guitar and bass play a complicated line in tandem, simply stunning musicianship and it ends things on a high note, literally.

Overall, this is a fascinating jazz fusion odyssey by a versatile, highly imaginative musician and composer. Taking jazz and fusing it successfully with soul, hip hop and rock is no mean feat and Charles Robinson performs this balancing act with some style. Completely at ease on his primary instruments, he also balances his considerable virtuosity with melodic craft so that it never descends into jazz noodling. There’s not a dud track on the whole album and Strange Dreams deserves to be recognised as jazz fusion of the highest quality.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10           

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: JORODU by JORODU

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JORODU is the artistic moniker of composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Jose R. Duque who is based in Miami, Florida but a native of Venezuela. Jose has been involved with numerous successful artists and projects of his own including being the drummer/percussionist for the Randy Armstrong Trio and leader of Jose Duque’s RELOAD.

He has written the score for two films released in Spain (2012 & 2013), released eleven independent albums and recorded/produced albums for artists including Corazon and Superpower. His biggest influences are great jazz and prog rock drummers such as Bill Bruford, Philly Jo Jones and Jimmy Cobb.

This eponymously titled album consists of nine instrumental tracks and musically an eclectic fusion of rock, jazz, funk, world music and electronica. Opening track, Fortuna non Omnibus Aeque, gets the album to a vibrant start. It’s an epic funk track with jazzy overtones, Jose himself putting in a stellar performance behind the kit. Built around a memorable lead guitar riff, the track features some remarkable musicianship from all involved.

Javier Espinoza contributes a superb bassline that works in perfect tandem with Jose’s crisp, incredibly fluent drumming. Smoky sounding Rhodes fills out the sound and the group take turns in expressing their remarkable virtuosity on their respective instruments. Jose himself does some mindblowing fills around the halfway mark, augmented by stunning lead guitar and electric piano solos. A great start to the album.

Second track Nulla habeo nomen is a slower, darker sounding track based around a slinky groove and an ascending low-end melody on guitar. As with the first track it’s full of musical detail and sophisticated nuance, such as the use of syncopations and accent shifts which keeps the music never less than riveting. The guitar gets crunchy and heavy in places, showing the influence of heavy rock and metal.

Ubi Umbra Vivit shows the more jazzy side to JORODU’S music, based around a quirky piano melody in a complex time signature. There is an exotic vibe to the whole track, especially the sitar-like keyboards that show the world music influence. This is one of the mellower pieces, clocking in at an epic eight and a half minutes. Jon Durant contributes fretless and cloud guitars on this one.

Verbum Dismissum is one of the album’s most funky tracks built on a punchy groove and a rolling, mellifluous bassline. This lays the platform for some Stevie Wonder-style Rhodes and some versatile lead guitar from Phil Sargent. This track is a powerful showcase for Jose’s drumming skills as he performs some breathtaking whirlwind fills around the kit and maintains the restless energy and momentum until the very end.

Victa lacet Virtus is the album’s centrepiece and biggest epic at over ten minutes long. It’s a languid and melancholy progressive jazz track featuring the evocative female vocals of Beatriz Malnic. Rather than singing lyrics, she uses her voice as an instrument in itself, often singing in tandem with the other instruments. The whole track has real atmosphere and feel, and Jose not only contributes drums but also uke bass, piano and a keyboard solo. Superb.

Ego Vade A Gades shows the Latin American influence both in the rhythmic and melodic elements. It fuses dance rhythms with jazz in a very clever and inventive way, with contrasting sections keeping the listener on their toes. There are wonderful passages of jazzy piano by Mike Effenberger and Phil Sargent plays a very exotic solo on a nylon string guitar, which adds authenticity as well as a unique musical flavour. Another highlight.

Tion, Uqbar, Orbits, Tertius is perhaps the most progressive track here music, with some fiendishly complex switches in time signatures yet accomplished with consummate ease by the musicians involved. It’s a brooding fusion that melds jazz, funk and elements of rock so you never quite know what’s coming next. This is perhaps a great track to introduce JORODU to someone as it encapsulates their wide ranging versatility and extremely high skill levels.

Eighth rack Ludo Duo is a real change of pace, a mellow, dreamy piece of bluesy jazz that makes clever use of harmonics and samples. It also displays the effectiveness of subtlety and restraint with tasteful, understated performances that gradually build in urgency, resulting in a punchy climax.

The final track on the album, Amor MCMLXXX, is by far the simplest musically but its a richly evocative and stately instrumental, with a haunting melody. It is composed and performed entirely by Jose, showing yet another side to his musical oeuvre and specifically his gift as a melodic composer and keyboardist. It’s an apposite way to conclude the album and bookends it perfectly.

Overall, this album is a tour de force of eclectic genre fusion and exceptional musicianship. Jose Duque is a phenomenal drummer, but is equally adept at several other instruments and is joined by several musical cohorts of peerless proficiency. The music itself is never less than hugely enjoyable, with a mercurial quality that keeps the listener coming back for more. This album will go down a storm with progressive jazz and rock fans but should appeal to all discerning music lovers out there.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 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: Soul City by GentleBeatz

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GentleBeatz is the artistic moniker of a hip hop/electronica composer and producer currently based in Mozambique. He describes his musical style as lo-fi hip hop/chill-hop. In fact, he incorporates and fuses many eclectic genres into his sound including jazz, reggae, soul, blues, EDM, R&B, folk, indie and world music. His work is mostly instrumental in form and he explains that creating music is partly therapeutic, as a way of dealing with life’s anxieties and difficulties.

This track, Soul City, is taken from the eight track album of the same name. It’s a mellow, mid-paced hip-hop instrumental that makes a strong impact despite its short duration, less than two and a half minutes. It starts with the sound of crackling vinyl, and a languid, dreamy guitar line that quickly latches in the listener’s mind. It has the authentic feel of funk music from the 70’s with its subtle but seductive bassline, yet also has the modern addition of a slinky hip-hop beat.

On top of this are brief bursts of electronica which further add to the modernity of the sound and these gradually become more recurrent as the track progresses. Around halfway through a female vocal refrain emerges that complements the guitar motif perfectly and towards the end the guitar switches to a low octave, giving the feeling of gradually coming down to earth after a flight. It’s this wealth of nuanced detail that marks out GentleBeatz’ music as superior.

Overall, this is a highly impressive fusion of hip-hop, R&B, funk and electronica that is, most importantly, very enjoyable to listen to. GentleBeatz takes the soulful sound of 70’s funk/R&B and brings it up to date with slick hip-hop beats and a modern, cutting edge production style. It is similar to what Mark Ronson was doing in the earlier part of his career, and I hope GentleBeatz gets a break in the industry as his music would bring pleasure to many.

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Timberline And Mountain Crest by Forest Robots

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Forest Robots is the musical brainchild of electronic artist and composer Fran Dominguez and this project has an interesting and unusual genesis. It began when he began pictorially documenting his travels to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. When his daughter was born, he started to attach narratives to his collections to teach his daughter about the wonders of nature. This led to feeling inspired to compose music to go with these narratives and Forest Robots was born.

In May this year I gave a glowing review to the album Supermoon Moonlight – Part One. This follow up album, Timberline And Mountain Crest, has been completed just eight months later and consists of ten tracks. It is somewhat of a musical progression from the previous album; whilst Supermoon Moonlight had been based around nature-inspired ambient electronically with orchestral elements, here he retains the same natural inspirations whilst branching out into a more rhythmic style, incorporating synthwave, soul and funk. It has been described as Ambient R&B, and that is a good description.

Opening track Sudden Bioluminescence is a fine representation of this more expansive style. It starts with a swathe of atmospheric synths combining with pulsating, rhythmic synths which build the tension nicely. Then we hear an intricate yet languid dance groove enter, filled with subtle syncopations and rhythmic intricacies.

This becomes the foundation for a series of lead synth melodies which complement each other perfectly and maintain an excellent sense of melodic continuity. After breaking down midway, it builds back up then cleverly combines the various themes to great effect. It’s a very complex track, yet easy to listen to and built out of only three chords.

The evocatively named Where The Wild Summer Storms Run lives up to the promise of its title. Locking quickly into a tight 2/4 groove, the ear becomes hooked to the catchy synth melodies. A second section featuring some 80’s style chiming synths is a nice touch and towards the end we hear a theremin-style synth that adds more flavour to the sonic texture. One of the strong aspects of this album is how the titles perfectly fit the music, or rather how the music paints and portrays the title in sound.

Third track Through The Trees And Into Wide Open Landscapes is a good example of this quality. Beginning with the meditative ambient style which characterized Supermoon Moonlight, it gradually evolves into epic electronica with interweaving rhythms and melodies working in perfect synchrony.

This one works as a showcase for his compositional and programming skills, and the overall effect is hypnotic. Towards the four minute mark the music seems to evaporate and morphs into an otherworldly, disconnected section that evokes the ‘wide open landscapes’ of the title.

Between The Orange and Purple Horizon starts with a beautiful harp-esque synth melody, joined by a swingbeat that wouldn’t sound out of place on a hip hop record. As the piece develops, it gradually becomes more serene and dreamlike with some truly magical electronic sounds. You can easily picture the horizon in your mind’s eye, conjuring images of being stood on a mountain top staring at the sky. A transcendent track and one of the album’s finest.

After two epic five minute pieces, the eighty second Treading Where Others Have Perished acts as a nice contrast, a sparse but potent track that maintains the elevated vibe from the previous one.

Sixth track As The Sun Rises Between Timberline And Mountain Crest is essentially the title track of the album and feels like its centrepiece. It consists of a delicate, haunting piano figure that perfectly captures the sense of quiet awe and wonder a person can feel in nature. Aside from the repeating piano melody, we hear equally subtle bass which just lets one note per bar ring, giving a ‘floating in mid air’ effect which is augmented by sparse but powerful string synths.

On A Desolate Shore Under A Full Moon stands out from the pack with its angular, highly intricate funk beat and pizzicato strings that work as the main melody. The second section contains a multiplicity of melodies and percussive elements which acts as a counterpoint to the relative sparseness of the main section. I loved the use of a glockenspiel-type sound which gave it a magical feel, again apposite considering the title.

Track eight, Farewell Sudden Summer Storm Clouds has a tranquil quality, sort of what you might describe as the calm after the storm. There’s a slightly exotic, Eastern aspect to some of the themes and once again shows his talent for handling complex melodies and textures. When the soft beat breaks down at the end it allows the music’s subtleties to breathe and it finishes on a mystical high.

When Forest Leaves Begin To Change is about summer turning into autumn, an ambitious concept to try and capture in sound. But, indeed, the plaintive melodies do have a distinct autumnal vibe and you can feel yourself drifting away in its intoxicating and mesmeric sound world. Again, the music gradually builds in a clever, organic fashion and really blossoms at the end.

It leads to the album’s final track It’s Quietest At The Edge Of The Crestline which brings us full circle in terms of the title and overall concept. It’s an unearthly, hymnal piece of ambient music that casts a potent spell with the translucent, natural beauty of its sound and mood. Again, it captures that sense of deep wonder that the greatest of nature’s vistas can evoke and makes a fitting conclusion to this musical journey.

Overall, this is a sonic odyssey that takes its artistic inspiration from a deep love of nature, like much art of the past, musical, visual and literary. However, by incorporating the genres of ambient, soul, funk and synthwave in a seamlessly integrated way, it resurrects this form of inspiration and brings it decidedly into the modern era. It will appeal not only to ambient fans, but electronica fans in general  and, in fact, music lovers right across the board. With a wealth of melodic and rhythmic detail that reveals itself on repeated listens, Timberline and Mountain Crest is a journey you will want to take again and again.

VERDICT: 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Miracle by Evolution of The Groove

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https://www.facebook.com/ETGband/

Evolution of The Groove are a nine-piece fusion band founded in 2010 by Steven Cunningham and Chris Sclafani. The concept was to combine musicians from various musical backgrounds to create a unique sound. Their music is truly an original hybrid of funk, rock, R&B, hip hop, soul, gospel and jazz and their influences are eclectic as you would expect, from Jill Scott to The Beatles, from Erykah Badu to Hendrix and Miles Davis.

This song, Miracle, is the perfect apotheosis of their inimitable sound. Starting with a funky beat that sets the groove and a dirty, low end guitar riff that any hard rock/metal band would be proud to call their own, Jaylin Brown’s soulful vocals act as an effective contrast. The music explodes with full brass in the second section, full of punchy syncopations, and Jaylin gets to show her excellent vocal range.

The main hook of the track is on the verse: “Waiting every day for a miracle to come and sweep me away..”. Just when you think the sound can’t get any more varied, Chris Sclafani takes over on lead vocals, his understated tone acting as a nice counterpoint to Jaylin’s more expressive style. The song is about struggling with life’s troubles yet manages to be incredibly uplifting.

After the third verse the music really goes to another level, with the brass becoming more dominant, and in the space of a minute the music flips between jazz, funk and progressive rock, with fantastic guitar and keyboard solos from Andrew Rohlk and Nelson Valentine. It ends with one last blow out chorus and verse that leaves the listener on a high.

Overall, this band have achieved what many attempt but few achieve; they’ve fused all their eclectic styles into one giant melting pot and the result is a potent and original sound. Not only are the musicians and singers first rate, but Miracle shows their gift for writing inspirational and catchy music with depth to the lyrics. Everyone should get to experience Evolution of The Groove.

 

VERDICT =  9.4 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Dreamland by Jennifer Maidman

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Official website: www.jennifermaidman.com

Jennifer Maidman is a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer originally from Upminster, England. Jennifer has had a remarkable and extensive musical career casting back to 1976, with her first release being L-L-Lazy Days as a writer member of the group Red Hot. While working at Decibel Studios in London  she recorded and mixed Marc Bolan’s I Love To Boogie.

She then went to become a founder member of Penguin Cafe Orchestra (1984-2007), several members of which contributing on this album. As a musician, producer or writer has worked with an array of famous artists including Joan Armatrading, Ian Dury, Boy George, Shakespeare’s Sister and Linda McCartney, to name but a few. Amongst numerous commercial successes, the album Hormonally Yours by Shakespeare’s Sister stands out. It went double platinum, spawning the hit single Stay which reached number one in several countries.

This album, Dreamland consists of seventeen tracks and it’s an epic musical odyssey that encompasses an eclectic range of genres including rock, funk, jazz, pop, psychedelia, spoken word and musique concrete, Irish folk and world music…. sometimes within the same song!

It was recorded largely in 2016 at Dreamland studios in Woodstock, in Upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains. Jennifer has recruited a team of musicians of the highest quality (Jerry Marotta on drums , David Torn plays guitars  & Annie Whitehead plays trombone, Paul Brady, Robert Wyatt, Sam Brown, Mitt Gamon) that have helped her realize her creative vision, and the flawless production matches the musical ambition of the project. Jennifer produced the album herself, another string to her bow.

Opening track Conspiracy of Dreamers is an odyssey in itself, a smoky, seven minute rock/funk track with soul and gospel thrown into the mix. Lyrically, it’s very apposite for the era, and could be perceived about wanting to escape and transcend the endless political and social turmoil. It also relates to the whole album’s theme of achieving your dreams and achieving freedom to be truly yourself as an individual.

While the album does deal with universal themes and issues, it is essentially about the emotional and spiritual journey Jennifer has gone through as a transgender person. The documentary that accompanies the album gives insight into its genesis and subject matter, with second track Hinterland containing a spoken word excerpt that depicts the sense of emotional isolation she felt growing up. This documentary was made by Dakota Lane and has been selected by the NYC Indie film festival to be screened in May.

This sense of isolation and turmoil is explored in Outside, which is a complete contrast to the musical fireworks of the first track. Just piano and Jennifer’s vocal comprise the soundscape, the sparseness suiting to the vulnerability and emotional rawness of the lyrics. It brought to mind the fragile beauty of Antony and The Johnsons, with Antony also a transgender artist.

The following Red Heart reverts back to the style of the opening song, a driving piece of rock/funk about expressing a passionate and sensual temperament. The music captures perfectly the primal energy that the song is depicting and hits upon a killer groove. The musical modulations cleverly reflect the subject matter and creates a fierce musical tension.

This Man Is Dangerous is one of the most emotive songs on the album, about how Jennifer felt almost like a malevolent presence in the world as a man: “Caught in the shadow of a man you’ll never be, running from a face without a name….”. The Letting Go is another epic eight minute song, and this one brought to mind the more reflective songs on David Bowie’s last two albums. There is a similar worldly wisdom to the lyrics, borne from authentic lived experience.

O Caroline is a nice change of pace, an acoustic ballad that brought to mind the songwriting of Ray Davies of The Kinks and is one of the most conventional love songs on the album, musically, with a very catchy hook. No Man’s Land is another well arranged and detailed song with an orchestral feel.

In parts, it sounds like E.L.O. and early Pink Floyd, when Syd Barrett was the main creative force, and at times has the jazz-tinged symphonic grandeur of Brian Wilson’s legendary Smile album. Lyrically, it depicts the healing ability of both music and love as well as a feeling of finding home after a long period of estrangement.

Bird Dreams is an evocative spoken word instrumental that somehow seems to have delved into the collective unconscious and captured the wisdom that comes in dreams: “To be a bird, one must first learn the art of perfect waiting….a sea of agitation drowns the precious moment…the demon of logic consumes your precious bird dreams….”.

Open The Door is a welcome return to the funky and uplifting soul-infused rock of the earlier songs. About halfway through, it modulates and drifts off to some wonderfully unexpected places. The jazz influence is more manifest in the haunting Land of Dreams, with rich, Bacharach-esque chordal voicings. Lyrically, it brings us back to the album’s title and underlying theme, and achieves a remarkably dislocated, dreamlike sense of floating outside time and space.

Here, another short audio excerpt from the documentary (featuring the voice of its maker, Dakota Lane) depicts the imagery of a crow, and the parallel between the freedom of bird flight and Jennifer’s journey of self is obvious. The brief but lovely Home takes us back to the delicate piano balladry of Outside (this one with a beautiful string arrangement) and lyrically seems pivotal to the album’s theme: “Born such a long way from our home….”.

The Magic Voice is one of the finest songs on the album, an ode to the redemptive and spiritual power of music itself (“A mystical phone, a shaman in my head…”) and the kind of quirky and inventive pop at which the British have always excelled. It brings to mind the restless inventiveness of Todd Rundgren’s similarly mystical and epic album A Wizard, A True Star along with The Beatles at their most avant garde.

The way the music drifts off into another sonic universe from around the three minute mark is very cleverly executed, flowing seamlessly into the transcendental last two tracks, both instrumentals. Higher Than Life? has a tribal feel that made me think of the wild freeform jazz of Miles Davis’s classic Bitches Brew.

The closing Crow’s Dance brings us back to earth, as if the crow has finally reached its destination. It’s a joyous mélange of Irish folk and world music featuring accordion, brass, strings, mandolin and more. It’s superbly arranged with a subtle intricacy and somehow seems the perfect way to complete this epic emotional and musical story.

Overall, in an era where art and culture is increasingly adapted to the short attention span of the modern generation, to make such a sprawling and musically ambitious album cannot be commended highly enough. It shows artistic integrity and bravery, and the result is a unique musical document of her own emotional journey, saying plenty of truthful wisdom about life and the world along the way. A wonderful album by a very individual artist which richly deserves all the plaudits it receives.

VERDICT: 9.4 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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Watch a short documentary on the making of the album:

Buy the album from CD Baby HERE