MusicianFinder.com - Get Your Jam On
 

Home > Reviews > What We're Listening To and Reading> October 2010

 
             
    What We're Listening To
  What We're Reading
   
             
   
Angelfire — Steve Morse & Sarah Spencer
Angelfire
Artist:
Angelfire
Album:
Angelfire
Genre:
Folk, Classical Acoustic
Bottom
Line:

A radical departure for Steve Morse showcases his acoustic side behind beautiful vocal music.

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 3.5
Vibe: 3.5
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars 3.5

It’s funny to see a photo of Steve Morse on the rear cover of the CD sleeve holding one of his Music Man guitars. It barely gets a workout compared with his nylon-string acoustic, which is the primary delivery vehicle for this collection of eleven excellent tracks sung and co-written by Sarah Spencer.

Sarah’s voice is beautiful, and the forty-two minute collection of music struck me sort of like a guitar-based version of Enya. It’s soothing, it’s melodic, it’s haunting, and her voice goes from lead vocal to supporting instrument role with ease. Think Sarah McLachlan, Céline Dion, Enya, and even a hint of country star Deana Carter and you’ve got a great picture of the sound of this beautiful voice.

Steve’s acoustic guitar work on the CD is nothing short of fantastic. It’s a fleet-fingered exercise sure to challenge his musician fans as they try to cop some of his acoustic prowess. The extraordinary Dave LaRue handles bass duties ably, and Van Romaine lays down drums and/or percussion from one track to the next. Overall, this is a fantastic new age guitar and vocal album.

“Terrible Thing to Lose” is one key track for fans hoping to hear some electric guitar work, and unlike the more traditional hard rock or jazz fusion tones we’re used to hearing, Steve delivers some cool digital delay lines with harmonics and some ripping acoustic guitar soloing.

“Take It or Leave It” is another cool track that stood out for us, featuring some really great vocal harmonies, and finished off with a ripping electric guitar solo at the end. Some of the songs are slightly up-tempo, including the catchy “Everything to Live For,” and after hearing this musical collaboration, I would love to hear this duo pursue another record focused on slightly heavier, more up-tempo tunes. There could be an amazing light-rock sound with a touch of jazz-fusion goodness to be found. And after listening to this CD repeatedly, if Steve doesn’t continue working with this vocal beauty, you can bet she’ll be snatched up by some other musical artist, label, or producer. Nice work!

— SK
 
Paul Cusick — Focal Point
Paul Cusick
Artist:
Paul Cusick
Album:
Focal Point
Genre:
Progressive Rock
Bottom
Line:

Melodic and modern prog with all the right ingredients.

Musicianship: 3.5
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 3.0
Vibe: 3.0
Overall Rating: 3 Stars 3.25

On Focal Point, multi-instrumentalist Paul Cusick delivers almost an hour’s worth of melodic progressive rock that strikes a nice balance somewhere between Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, and Pink Floyd.

Right from the start of the opening title track, we were hooked, as Paul’s songwriting has all of the ingredients for delivering something comfortable and familiar to any fan of Steven Wilson, though his music doesn’t get quite as heavy (though it does have some hard rock moments).

Paul plays almost all of the instruments on his solo release, truly making it a solo effort, and while most artists tend to fall short when doing everything for themselves, Cusick is a real talent. From the beautiful orchestration of “Fade Away” (which also features some great Roger Waters-like vocals) to the Chris Squire-esque base playing in the title track to the Wilson-influenced guitar playing and vocals of “Big Cars,” Cusick delivers a quality performance on all instruments, though there is some guest drumming on a few tracks from Alex Cromarty (great stuff on “Soul Words”) and IQ/Frost*’s Andy Edwards.

There’s plenty of piano anchoring the majority of songs, along with orchestral parts, synth textures, an occasional Gilmour-influenced guitar solo, vocal harmonies, and more. Other favorite tracks include “Hold On,” where Paul demonstrates that you can write progressive rock music with strong pop sensibilities. Actually, he does this throughout the CD. While some people might debate whether this is pure prog rock or neo-prog, the music is all very accessible, and he keeps many of the songs to lengths under five minutes. It will be interesting to hear whether he evolves in a manner similar to Porcupine Tree, which began as a single musician/songwriter and evolved into a full rock band over the years. Either way, we’re looking forward to hearing more great stuff from Paul Cusick.

— SK
 
 
 
Power Tools for Pro Tools 8
Power Tools for Pro Tools 8
Title:
Power Tools for Pro Tools 8
Author:
Rick Silva
Subject:
Product Instruction
Bottom
Line:

Great reference tool for almost any level, though some basic music recording experience and previous Pro Tools experience is useful.

Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars

Pro Tools 8 has been around for about a year already, but many of us are only now beginning to upgrade our studios. Others already made the upgrade but haven’t yet fully learned to take advantage of the new features in the industry-leading DAW.

Rick Silva does an excellent job explaining how to make the most of Pro Tools 8, starting from the ground up and building a core of knowledge that enables you to find your groove, literally and figuratively.  The book is well organized, starting off with some basic definitions and concepts (i.e., waveforms, sample rates) and by the end of the book covers the finer details of mastering! Odds are you could use a lot of the information found between those end points.

The book features many examples, and the DVD is useful in that it contains not just example session files, but QuickTime movies illustrating/explaining how to accomplish certain things.  Moreover, time and again the book encourages the user to experiment and “just try it!”  It was refreshing to read a tutorial/reference book that encourages creativity and individuality instead of asking the reader to imitate by rote. One other neat feature is that each chapter has a quiz at the end of it, but don’t worry. Passing or failing is completely up to you.

In reading the book, we repeatedly found ourselves saying “I didn’t know you could do that!” and “So that’s how you do that!” There’s no better praise we can offer than that. With Pro Tools offering so many different ways to accomplish various tasks, many engineers either don’t know where to begin (Pro Tools newcomers) or they continue to use old methods that have been vastly improved upon as Pro Tools has matured through various revisions.

Pro Tools plug-ins are also explained, and there is a useful section explaining Elastic Audio, an exciting and critical new feature in version 8. Not all sections are applicable to all readers (for example, using Air-series instruments like Velvet or Strike), so those sections could be skipped. But the book is written in an engaging, informative way, so you may find yourself reading it cover-to-cover just to learn more.

All in all, a great book that should appeal to a wide variety of users, but absolute newbies to recording audio should first get some basics under their feet. Well done!

— JB

Don't forget: You can order this book at MusicDispatch.com. Music Dispatch and MusicPlayers.com are also offering you 25% off plus free shipping on 35 related titles. Enter promo code MP9 at checkout when ordering. Follow this link or click one of the Hal Leonard banner ads on our site to reach the special book discount page.

 
Iron Maiden The Final Frontier
Iron Maiden
Artist:
Iron Maiden
Album:
The Final Frontier
Genre:
Heavy Metal
Bottom
Line:

Iron Maiden’s constantly “maturing” sound may not be for everyone.

Musicianship: 3.0
Songwriting: 3.5
Production & Engineering: 2.0
Vibe: 3.0
Overall Rating: 3 Stars2.88

When singer Bruce Dickenson and guitarist Adrian Smith returned to Iron Maiden in 2000, the band proceeded to record many fine albums, each one increasingly more ambitious and dare I say it, more “progressive” than anything we heard from the band previously. To my ears, Maiden’s last studio album, A Matter of Life and Death, represents not only the peak of the band’s post-2000 studio output, but it is good enough to rate on par with anything they recorded in their 1980s heyday.  Needless to say, personal expectations were high when it came time to listen to their most recent release.

The Final Frontier marks Maiden’s 15th studio album and once again the performance is “ambitious and progressive.”  So much so, I hated the album upon first listen!  Let’s face it — it clocks in at 75 minutes with many songs at or exceeding the 10-minute mark. There is a lot to digest here!  After three or four listens, though, it all began to sink in and make sense. 

While the album includes all the hallmarks of a great Iron Maiden album (harmony guitar lines, big vocals, tempo changes, etc.) it deviates enough stylistically to give one the sense that the overall delivery is a bit of a curveball. Take, for instance, the first five minutes of the title track. You would be hard pressed to find anything in the Maiden catalog that sounds like it.  Or, the odd tonalities in some of the soloing, especially on tracks like “Isle of Avalon” or the excellent “Starblind.”  

On the other hand, some of the pieces are vintage Maiden to the core, such as “The Talisman,” a nine-minute epic recalling the nautical themes of earlier Iron Maiden classics, and the excellent “The Alchemist.”

Two specific areas need to be noted as they both constitute near fatal issues:  First, Bruce Dickenson’s typically awesome voice sounds a bit strained on this release.  For example, the chorus of “Mother of Mercy” sounds like he ran up a flight of stairs before he recorded the vocal track.  This is inexplicable, because as anyone who saw the band on the fabulous “Somewhere Back in Time” tour can attest, he sounded as good, if not better, than he did in 1985.  Second, the overall fidelity of the disc is unsatisfactory; it lacks a brilliance that gives the impression of a muddy mix compounded by throwing a blanket over your stereo speakers.

So, this release is quite a mixed bag really. It’s nowhere near the quality of the last release, though not horrible by any means.  If you are new to the band, run (don’t walk) away from this release and get your hands on Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, and Powerslave.  As an introduction to the post-2000 Iron Maiden sound, you will almost certainly want A Matter of Life and Death.

This one sadly, is just for the hardcore fans.

— JQ
 
 

 

 

   
           
             
             
  About Us    Advertise with Us    Contact Us
 
   
  © 2016 MusicPlayers.com LLC. All rights reserved.