SINGLE REVIEW: Romance (from the White Light Collection) by Tony Newton

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http://tonynewtonmusic.com/

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 virtuosic bass player that he played on many classic Motown recordings as part of the legendary team of session musicians the  Funk Brothers. Tony can lay claim to playing on hits by Michael Jackson, Diana Ross & The Supremes and Stevie Wonder, amongst many others.

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.

This piece for solo piano, Romance, follows on from his previous release Prophecy (which I reviewed very favourably back in August) and is also taken from his album White Light Collection. After the tumultuous drama of Prophecy this piece is more mellow and meditative as well as being infused with a deeply romantic vibe, as the title implies.

Once again, it has been composed in Tony’s unique ‘novaphonic’ style, beginning with a magical introduction based on quintal harmonies at the upper end of the piano. It then branches out into an instantly memorable and haunting melody, which is simple but highly effective and embellished by mellifluous ornamental runs in the right hand. The left is based mostly on low-end arpeggios that drive the music and add to the mood. Conjuring an intoxicating sound world, the music gradually casts a mesmeric spell on the listener across the five and a half minute duration of the piece.

Overall, this is another classic solo piano piece by Tony Newton. Musically, it feels as if Tony has landed on the perfect midway point between jazz and classical with the rich and exotic harmonies of the former combining with the accessible melodicism of the latter. His unique use of harmonic language also means his music stands apart, although I can’t think of another living composer working on his level. Tony Newton’s music is truly in a league of its own.

 

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Preview the White Light Collection HERE

 

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: I Might by SNY

SNy I mgight

https://www.sonnystoj.com/home/

SNY is a hip-hop artist hailing from the Gold Coast in Australia. He’s been making music from a young age, teaming up with music producer Jacob Rohde after high school and they have been now working for five years together. He considers his main influences to be Michael Jackson, Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa. He’s released several tracks including Livin’, Fountain, Drip Walk and Moncler as well as an EP, The Distance Between Dreams.

This track, I Might, has already amassed over 200,000 views on YouTube. It’s a laid back hip-hop track that begins with vibrant strings that recur throughout to excellent effect. Starting with vocal refrains and effects, SNY enters with an assured rapping style that suits the vibe of the music perfectly. The beat is intricate, constantly morphing and progressing with a fine detail to detail and the rhythm is augmented by deep dub bass, which means the track will kick in the clubs.

Lyrically, I Might is essentially an ode to the joys of a hedonistic lifestyle full of girls, money and enjoying certain substances which SNY portrays very entertainingly in a Wolf of Wall Street kind of way: “I want to f*** for no reason….”. The cut-up vocals between verses act as a very catchy hook and a nice contrast to the rapped verses.

Overall, this is a fine hip-hop track by an artist who has honed his style to perfection and knows exactly what he’s about. Its the perfect soundtrack to a party with its summery vibe and SNY proves he has the emcee skills to compete with the best in the business. This track has already been a major success, so the future is looking very bright for this young Australian rapper.

 

VERDICT = 8.5 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

SINGLE REVIEW: Miss Perfect by JK Theta

#MakeADifference+Album+Cover

https://www.jktheta.com/

JK Theta is an R&B/pop singer and songwriter hailing from the Tampa Bay area in the United States. He was born in Mountain View, CA, and has been singing since childhood but turned professional aged nineteen. For two years, he was performing with a group called Decades Rewind but decided to forge a solo career. He has been busy working on his debut album #MakeADifference, from which this song is taken.

Miss Perfect is an upbeat piece of modern pop that shows aspects of his many influences from pop solo greats like Michael Jackson, Prince and Bruno Mars to vocal groups like Boys II Men and Maroon 5. More specifically, this song brings to mind Off The Wall-era Michael Jackson and the slick, highly musical sound of Bruno Mars. It melds infectious Nile Rodgers- esque funk guitar, a bouncy bassline and tasteful use of brass at certain points in the track to great effect.

JK instantly grabs your attention with a superb vocal performance that lies halfway between Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake, stylistically. The vocal melody is irresistibly catchy throughout, especially the instantly memorable chorus. His lead vocals are aided by tight, perfectly executed backing vocals that shows the influence of his favourite harmony groups. Lyrically, it’s about coming across the girl of your dreams, a subject many will relate to.

Overall, this is a fantastic single from a highly talented singer and songwriter who has taken the best aspects of his many influences and formed his own unique style. While it has a very modern pop sound, the use of authentic musicianship gives it an old school vibe that means it will appeal to pop fans of all ages, right across the board. To put it simply, Miss Perfect deserves to become a worldwide hit. With further music of this quality, JK Theta is surely destined for the top.

VERDICT: 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: Origin of Times by Danjul

Screenshot-2018-3-31 Origin of times

 

Danjul is a singer songwriter and performer based in Los Angeles. He has been developing his music since 2008, when he started searching for producers to collaborate with. In 2010 he started working with Matthew A. Nelson, who intuitively understood him as an artist. He cites his influences as Michael Jackson, Brandy and Justin Timberlake, and I can also detect the influence of Prince in his work. However, Danjul has created his own unique style/sound during the three years he’s taken writing and producing his debut album Origin of Times. It’s a musically ambitious piece of work that consists of eight diverse tracks.

It begins with an atmospheric, minute-long spoken word instrumental that sets the tone for the whole album. Over echo-drenched piano and choral synths, Danjul lays his heart bare immediately, stating, “My life began surrounded by darkness, yet I’m still determined to find my light…..therefore, I share with you my greatest sacrifices……”. It’s a gripping and powerful way to begin an album.

City of Chaos, the second track, is a remarkable piece of songwriting and production. A fusion of electronica, rock, dance and RnB, it’s the musical equivalent of a rollercoaster ride. It’s the first taste of Danjul’s versatile vocals, leaping from a verse delivered in a low range to the heights of his falsetto. Yet it all seems effortless. The track is packed with hooks, the catchiest being the “Hell yeah!” refrain, augmented by gritty low electric guitars. It’s the most futuristic sounding song I’ve heard for a while.

Third song Chapter of Love has already been released as a single/lead track and understandably so. It’s an emotive RnB ballad that showcases Danjul’s extraordinary vocal talents. The music has a stately grandeur and classiness that brought to mind both Prince and Michael Jackson in their pomp, especially the rich falsetto harmonies. With its instantly memorable chorus, it was an obvious choice for a single and could be the song that breaks him into the big league.

Fourth track The Path is unique as a sonic experience as well, another fusion of dance and RnB with an almost cinematic vibe from the superb production. It’s a heady cocktail of synth strings, dreamy lead guitar and inventive percussion. There’s a slight Latin feel to the intoxicating and exotic rhythms that brought to mind the infectious tribal pop of Shakira. The central hook is simple but hugely effective, a spiritual call-to-arms: “Come on, follow me….walk the path…“.

Story of She is another slice of perfectly executed pop, from the inventive and nuanced arrangement to the vocal performance which is restrained yet emotive. It is one of the more mainstream moments on the album, which provides some stable ground for the more experimental and daring songs that surround it. Both The Path and Story of She are potential singles and perfect for radio.

Magic Carpet is another fantastic track with an exotic sounding intro. It launches into a hypnotic 2/4 beat and sounds like The Weeknd in a really blissed out mood. The title hook has a mesmeric quality that increases with every listen.

Tower is perhaps the deepest song on the album, seemingly about the struggles and difficulties of completing this artistic project. Starting with a minute of strings and swirling synths, Danjul confesses, “It took me years to build this, my blood and tears carved it…”. It builds gradually to a cathartic and hugely uplifting sonic tour de force.

Final track Madhatter’s View is a fine way to finish; another Prince-influenced piece of RnB that sounds like its been sent back to 2018 from twenty years into the future! The electronic grittiness brought to mind the cutting-edge production style of Taylor Swift’s recent Reputation album. Aptly, it finishes in a flourish of strings and harps to complete the journey.

Overall, this is a dazzling debut album from a unique artist. His vocal talents alone would guarantee a certain level of success as a singer, but his original and versatile music should help to catapult him into similar realms of success that his musical heroes achieved. Credit should also go to his visionary producer and collaborator Matthew A. Nelson, who’s produced this with his finger on the pulse. It’s a strange quirk of nature that some people simply seem born to be stars, and, on this evidence, Danjul could well be the next big thing in the world of pop.

 

VERDICT: 9.1 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: The Summit Symphony by Antonio L. Newton

summitcoming1Antonio L. Newton is a composer and multi-instrumentalist with a career in the music industry that spans over thirty years. After being somewhat of a child prodigy playing in orchestras, it was as a virtuosic 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.

If that isn’t impressive enough, 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. This symphony contains seven movements of highly complex instrumentals that are orchestral in nature though electronically rendered rather than real orchestras and choirs.

The symphony also goes by the nickname of Evolution ‘because it represents the seven mystical levels of consciousness which humans and humanity personally evolve to reach their highest potential’. The music, in the composer’s one words, a blend of ‘pseudo-classical, contemporary and New Age’. Remarkably, this constitutes the World Premier release after more than 21 years sitting among several other Newton unreleased body of work(s).

First movement Hope shows Newton’s gift for orchestral writing, with interweaving parts interspersed with choral voices creating a rich sonic texture. The harmonies structures are complex and challenging, but the music retains a fundamental melodic core, never becoming atonal or dissonant (Newton uses the term ‘transonant’). As it is through composed, meaning there is no repetition of material, the music is constantly morphing and evolving, which holds the interest throughout.

Second movement Communion is slower and more meditative in nature, just piano and strings. The dense chordal structures are a good example of Newton’s unique and highly original approach to harmony. There is as much influence from jazz as there is from classical here, and it brought to mind the contemplative moments of A Love Supreme by John Coltrane.

Confrontation, the third movement, is similar in its instrumentation to the first piece, opening with a fanfare type musical figure which becomes a leitmotif for the whole composition. While the method is very modern and highly original, the way the sense of tonality feels like it is constantly shifting under the feet brought to mind the late period works of Wagner, who also had his own radical ideas on harmony. This piece always held my attention despite its length and imposingly complicated structure. The instrumentation in this piece is notable for the lack of piano, which is an instrument Newton favours, being extremely accomplished, as evidenced by the number of solo works he has written for the piano.

My favourite piece on the album is the fourth movement, Communication. The music is darker and notably more intense than what has preceded it, with stormy cello lines predominating, bringing to mind the sturm und drung of Beethoven. The music is gripping throughout its almost eight minute duration as brass, strings and woodwind lines swirl and clash, leading to a tumultuous climax towards the end.

By contrast, the next movement Evolution is deeply tranquil with a highly mystical and ethereal feel, spectral-sounding synths melding with beautiful choral lines to create a unique soundscape. This is the closest to what would be termed New Age or ambient music, though the dense chordal clusters that emerge later in the piece remind us this is still very much the same composer.

Illumination, the sixth movement, continues this other worldly soundworld, wisps of delicate, icy synths drifting and morphing with spacey sound effects to create an unreal sense of dislocation. This is the most sparse, minimalistic piece on the album but is powerful in an understated way. The final movement Affirmation is a return to the orchestral fanfare of earlier pieces, with a stirring sense of hope and achievement created by the pulsing string motifs and stabs of brilliant brass. It is a very uplifting ending and a suitable one for the album, the resolution of a spiritual and musical journey, and this track alone is an epic journey at twenty minutes long.

Overall, this is a very innovative and accomplished album , highly ambitious both artistically and musically, yet a fully realized vision. Not many composers can claim to have developed their own form, but not many are like Newton, who is also one of few who can lay claim to originality. The word artist is thrown about in the music industry so much that it has lost all meaning, but Antonio L. Newton is a good reminder on what an artist really is and this is a fine piece of musical art.

For those interested in learning more about this symphony, there is a booklet that comes with it containing not just information on the genesis and philosophical meaning of the work but also a selection of poems that are to be read in combination with listening to the symphony. These help to further elucidate the ideas behind the music as well as being part of the art work themselves. The booklet also contains detailed program notes for the symphony (such as instrumentation used, and some notable aspects of the compositional style of each movement) and a biography of his life so far.

 

Alex Faulkner

 

Verdict 8.4 out of 10

 

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