Sunday, June 12, 2011
NAME IT WHAT YOU WANT
Fusing the musical head and heart is always a delicate balancing act. Some artists overreach, straying too far into the intellectual ether, losing that precious connection with a wider listening audience.
Tristan Clopet's songwriting recipe perfectly combines clever subject matter with melodic hooks, making each note count and delivering something that can be universally enjoyed. Eclecticism is the key element that will bring you back to this disc for repeated spins. Lots of great chances are taken, exotic instruments employed, yet all remains focused and in context.
There is one attribute that separates this guy from many of his contemporaries:
Expressive, capable of hitting soaring heights, though never deployed in a way that is over the top (unnecessary showing off, over-extending notes), Clopet's vocals need no assistance from the bland pitch-correction devices that are now so ubiquitous on the pop landscape. Influences can be detected, though he has synthesized them into a style that is his alone. Topping this, his skills as a writer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist are formidable.
There are so many high points in the ten songs that comprise Name it What You Want, that it is tough to pick just one or two. "A Summer in Sussex" kicks off the album in an uptempo fashion with scatter-shot, slightly stream of conscious wordplay, shifting gears toward the finish. The one-two punch in sequencing lands the brilliant "A Chat With My Brain" next, which was a wise choice for the taster single that preceded this set.
The intro alone to "Toutes Directions" is enough to make you want to hand over a vital organ just to claim part ownership of its construction. Don't let that stop you from enjoying the rest of it, though. Tight, funky guitar riffs intermingle with an inventive piano part that will echo in your head for days.
All before the first verse even begins.
Instances of interesting arranging tricks abound, there's a particularly inspired break that uses a rush of strings in "An Introduction...To Forward Thinking" which seamlessly flows into the guitar solo. These nuances serve to enhance the listening experience. One of the most ambitious pieces found here is the closer, "The 4:45 Through Remembrance". Threading several ideas through a very haunting four minutes of music, this stunner comes across with the swagger of a mini-epic, complete with atmospheric vibraphone and a fluent, classical piano flourish midway through.
"Ladies and gents, we've reached our final destination."
This is very mature work, mixing introspection with exuberance. All ten tracks are stellar. Worthy of note: It's very exciting to hear a new artist with a vision for their output that supersedes the notion that it's merely empty "product" to be consumed and tossed aside. The praise which I have heaped upon this record may seem over-effusive- until you listen to it. Every superlative is well deserved. This is music that you'll be able to enjoy today, twenty years on and beyond. Name It What You Want? Brilliant Debut.
Right now, Tristan Clopet and his band are touring, spreading the word and bringing these songs to life on stage. You can find out where he's heading next right here
Masterfully produced by Raymond Richards, Name It What You Want is available now
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Every dream has a soundtrack...
With soaring, extraordinary music, THIS TIME takes you from the streets of South Central Los Angeles to New York’s Park Avenue on a unique musical journey in this uplifting story. The musicians are legendary recording artists, The Sweet Inspirations
Myrna Smith, Estelle Brown and Portia Griffin
Somewhere in the world, The Sweet Inspirations are being played on the radio at this very moment. The Sweets were background session singers on dozens and dozens of hit records and albums, including among others: “A Natural Woman”, “Spanish Harlem”, “Chain Of Fools”, “Don’t Play That Song” (Aretha Franklin), “Moondance” (Van Morrison), “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”, “Alfie”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, “Don’t Make Me Over” (Dionne Warwick), “Son Of A Preacher Man” (Dusty Springfield), as well as singing with Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone, The Drifters, Wilson Pickett, Luther Vandross and backing-up Elvis Presley in concert and recordings throughout the last eight years of his life. Perhaps the most famous back-up group in history, The Sweet Inspirations were also solo artists with seven albums on Atlantic, Stax and RSO Records from 1967 – 79. Originally from Newark, New Jersey and members of the New Hope Baptist Church, Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney Houston, and aunt of Dee Dee Warwick and Dionne Warwick) was the first member of The Sweets. Sylvia Shemwell then joined the group and the girls quickly found their way onto records with the likes of Wilson Pickett, Garnet Mimms and Aretha Franklin, who was then struggling to make a name at Columbia Records. In 1965, Myrna Smith (also from New Hope Baptist Church) and Estelle Brown (from Harlem) came in to form the line-up most remembered today. In late 1969 the group underwent some radical changes. Cissy Houston left the group in order to pursue a solo career. After the death of Elvis, The Sweet Inspirations recorded one more album on the RSO label in 1979, then retiring for a period before re-emerging in 1994 to perform worldwide in Elvis Presley tribute concerts including “Elvis - The Concert”. In 1996, Portia Griffin joined the group as lead singer and in 2002 they began recording a new album, IN THE RIGHT PLACE, with producer / composer Peitor Angell on Frixion Records, as documented in THIS TIME. Their first single off the album, “Celebration” reached #32 on the Billboard Club Chart.