Tag Archives: review

Review of One More Life

Review of One More Life by Coco Scott
(written by Randall Wayne Belt)
November 2019

One thing about this artist is that she knows her strengths and makes the most of that by highlighting her stellar vocals and great pitch with sparse arrangements with piano and/or guitar, beats and accents of various kinds. One thing you’ll notice on her previous releases is that her voice is always the highlight of the song leaning on strong melody and vocal performance to carry her through. The song Falling is a good one to listen to to hear what I mean and is a fabulous song on its own . The melody and instrumentation have a very beautiful and Celtic feel.

Her song Smolder, another beautiful vocal oriented piece with rich piano backdrop, has the same Celtic underpinning.  As does the song “Wait For Me”. Scott puts all her heart and soul into her vocal takes, that much is obvious. And in that vein, as stated in her description of the song Wait For Me on her YouTube Channel, the description says, “we all make mistakes, but sometimes we don’t get to make up for them. ‘Wait for Me’ is a heart-wrenching plea for forgiveness. If you like any of the ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ soundtracks, you’re going to love this song!”

And the song is indeed heart-wrenching and continues with the sparse arrangement and emphasis on the vocal. After all, a lyrical song is all about the vocal and what is being sung. But this amazing vocalist is capable of much more than the sparse arrangements of Celtic underpinning, and she doesn’t leave it all there.

On Coco’s latest release “One More Life” the production gets more experimental with sounds and moves slightly away from the sparser arrangement style and takes on some more contemporary pop appeal.

1morelifecover

And it is a great success because the arrangements do not take away from the vocal but underscore it. On this song, which is my big focus here, piano starts as slowly the song builds and sequenced sounds appear – and then other sounds come in and build around the perfect vocal take and begin to pulsate by “Baby lets fly, I can’t wait another moment”. Electric guitar comes in just to make accents at this point. Then the beat picks up and pulses the song home even further while all is tastefully done and not subtracting from the vocal, but  rather, highlighting it!  The concept of less is more is working here as it has on other recordings of Coco Scott. Nothing is to intrusive. Nothing is overdone. Perfect arrangement.

Her voice is crystal clear like you are there in the room with her. A result of using very high resolution recording. Every syllable and consonant are crisp and clear and leave you hanging on the edge of your brain. One has to commend the recording engineer, as well as the singer, for capturing everything so well. Independent artists should take note of how well recorded this song is and use it as a vocal standard that can be achieved.

fullsizeoutput_5518coco2horiz

The song seems to be asking for “one more life”, “One more love”, which could mean another chance at love to perhaps get it right this time – as it seems perfect for once – a concept I think a lot of people can relate to. The line “Better late than never” says it well. The song is short and sweet coming in under 3 minutes as a radio friendly pop song should. It does what it needs to do and ends leaving you wanting to listen again, which I think is the ultimate goal of a song in terms of wanting more.

This song is much more preferable than much of what passes as pop that clutters the airwaves today. It is contemporary but it is it’s own thing. The music and luxurious tasty vocals are rich like the audio version of sleeping on custom satin sheets.

Hear/Buy One More Life on CDBaby:

Coco Scott Homepage

Coco Scott on Spotify

Watch and listen On YouTube

Heart Song

Review of Heart Song
by Randy Wayne Belt
October 2019

It’s autumn now and the smell of burning wood is in the air accenting the slight nip of chill beginning to make itself known. The perfect background music for warming up or winding down in front of the fireplace has been located.

lisaatpiano1

After listening to this album by Lisa Mitts in a nice relaxed atmosphere with, yes a real fire in the background, I have determined that the album’s title Heart Song was truly the best title it could have been given. As the title suggests, we can hear the songs emanate from the heart itself with the musical sounds giving life to emotions and feelings that otherwise could not be more perfectly expressed.

I don’t generally do reviews of purely instrumental music but I have to make an exception. This album could also work great not only as a soundtrack, or devotional background music, but is quite a charming album to have on during the Christmas Season.

Lisa Mitts is a Christian singer/songwriter from Washington state with influences of r&b, pop, country, jazz and rock. Her passion is to bring joy, love, and healing through music to everyone who listens. With also a good sized collection of albums under her belt that are more of an indie Christian pop and rock sound it is refreshing to hear an artist take a breather and express his or herself without words as Lisa so effectively does with the
Heart Song album, a collection of 10 piano driven songs released in 2018.

heartsongcover

The opening track Abide in my Love starts the album off setting the pace as a gentle piano piece with string sections woven in and throughout.

Divine Breath is the second track which continues the rich and full piano sound that was recorded just perfectly. Pianos are sometimes tough to get to sound the way you want them, but this was perfectly captured. There is just the right warmth that was captured by the microphone and placement of the mic giving this whole album the feel of a warm analog recording.

Falling Into winter is the next track and the minor chords carrying the song give you that sense of winter coming. It has a certain bleakness to it that speak of the frigidness of winter. But with it a certain beautiful sadness that is best highlighted by the main piano riff that works as a chorus if this were a vocal piece.

The albums’ title track Heart Song appears as track 4 and takes a gentle but bright and uplifting turn from the wintry past and moves on and upward to a more delightful sound and tone and just a touch of flute makes sound as it could be a background music track for an episode of Downton Abbey or the background music for a part of Pride and Prejudice. It has a classical feel to it that takes you back there. This one is my favorite!

lisatpianosmilesflip

 

Dancing in the Field is a roving piano tune with strings accompanied at times again. I could hear this for a soundtrack for a very deep movie. It has an edge of sadness to it despite being titled “Dancing in the Fields”.

Leading My Path comes in as track 6 and if words were written to this it could well be a hymn and does have hints of influence from the gentle sacred hymn As the Deer Panteth for the Water“, which again leads us back to the title of the album by mood and emotion. This was the longest track of the album clocking in at 5:42. You can get away with that on instrumentals and this one fills the time as if it is not passing at all.

Rushing River displays once again Lisa’s knack for melody and writing a catchy melodic phrase. In a bit more of a minor chord emphasis, this song also has a wintry feel of the icy cold water moving along and beginning to freeze as if in slow motion at your feet and backs up my claim that this could be a good Christmas Season album, well, as long as you are somewhere where it gets cold in winter!

Track 8 is titled Peaceful Wanderer and once again that knack for melody is on display and with the help of synthesizer strings in carefully selected spots of the song. The song and its chosen melodic phrasing does indeed give a sense of peace and a sense of wandering though not tooo far off.

Joy in the Morning begins to close the album and starts with yet another beautiful melody and structure and has a new twist with some double time melodic phrases thrown in giving the song a lot of added interest. The song explores more of the pianos range and does so effectively. It is a happy type of song just as the title suggests.

And finally, the closing track gives us the sense that the album is complete and is appropriately titled Soul Rest. It gives a sense of completeness and rest for the weary soul. You can hear on this song especially a sense of two different playing styles that I would guess were learned earlier then later and combined together to paint a picture of an accomplished pianist.

1974203_830355806980989_744089355_o

As an accomplished singer, songwriter, performer, and pianist it is no surprise that Lisa is an ISSA (International Singer Songwriter Association) 2019 recipient of the Female Songwriter of The Year (Bronze) and was also nominated in 5 categories for the Josie Music Awards, the largest globally recognized music awards for Independent Artists. She is also a prolific performer and serves as a worship leader. She resides in Auburn, WA with her husband David. They have four children and three grandchildren.

Put this one on and relax at the end of a long day and sit in front of a nice warm fireplace. Or put on a pretend fireplace on your TV screen, have a beverage and chill.

heartsongsvol2

And what is coming next for Lisa Mitts? Well, she has a pre-release announcement for – yes – Heart Songs Vol. 2: Songs of Peace.

In her own words “I wrote each one of these 11 new soothing instrumental songs by inspiration of God’s love and healing, all of them spontaneously at my keyboard. You will also love the beautiful strings on a few of them added by Billboard producer & sound engineer Kenny Lewis of Mixedemt Emotions who did an outstanding job mixing and mastering.”

The album is anticipated to release on Spotify and on iTunes and all digital outlets by Oct. 25th, 2019. A very limited number of physical CD’s (just 50 copies) are also being made and will be available by the end of this month. You can place advance orders by emailing to lisa@lisamitts.com or calling 425-277-2775.
website: www.lisamitts.com

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2pP7RonAsAN91ouZXLi5hC?si=vN3X0AxZSkO4-xTT2OT3vQ

iTunes: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/lisa-mitts/359488551

YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/lisamittsmusic

Somebody To Love

Review of “Somebody To Love”
by Randy Wayne Belt
Sept. 2019

With a distinctly mid western and southern charmed voice, not to mention a Dove Awards nomination and Josie Awards nominations, Karisa Kay brings and sings her song “Somebody To Love” to life by telling the story of two people who find love in each other for a lifetime.

coverwithwords

You get that sense in this song and can feel an emotion in the singing voice that just can’t be pretended especially on the powerful chorus. And when you see the video (below) you’ll understand why: The song is about her own grandparents. You’ll see the pictures and images and know they were from what we call “The Great Generation”, a generation that understood love for country, each other, and commitment. You can’t help but get a sense of longing for the same kind of thing by the artist when you hear the heartfelt singing.

Originally from Iowa, Karisa Kay is a country singer and songwriter strongly influenced by Gospel and her roots come from traditional country having been brought up listening to Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynnete, Crystal Gayle, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire. Those influences come out in her writing and singing and you can hear that she has a heart and soul of old country.

kk2

I like to start at the beginning and this song from the 2016 album is a good starting point. Appropriately fixed as the album title, the song “Somebody To Love” strikes me as the big hit of the same titled album. The song begins with what I call “the Americana beat” – you know, that shuffly country beat you might hear in a Tim McGraw song?

The body of the song is then accented by a bit of slightly crunchy guitar riffs, steel guitars or pedal steel, with a piano giving the under rhythm and at times a bit of accenting counter melody that you don’t notice unless you pick it apart (like a reviewer might do) with the beat. The song is like a revival of when country music was more traditional but with a slight contemporary twist.

Even if you are not a fan of country you’ll have to admit this song has a compelling and crossover chorus.

The chorus is very powerful and strong and grabs you and makes you feel like it is familiar and you want to hear it again and again. The harmonies are carefully placed to fatten up the sound. The key change at the end of the song gives the chorus an extra push without making it feel overdone, as choruses often do, by the end of the song. The lyrics at the end of the story perfectly lead into the last chorus with the line “all because two people found…somebody to love” making the chorus flow right off the last verse/pre chorus.

The songwriting sticks to traditional country theme but does it in a way that shows the song is well crafted, structured, and ready for radio. The sense of melody is apparent and the song will hook you in by the chorus and keep you coming back.

Karisa Kay web page:  https://www.karisakaymusic.biz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarisaKay76/

Listen on Spotify:

Watch the video:

https://itube247.com/video/karisa-kay-somebody-to-love/

Katie Belle Akin: Review of “You Are My Holiday”

 

Katie’s enthusiasm for music and singing has been consistent since an early age.  Following her dreams, working hard, and learning from her mistakes with an always upbeat attitude has helped her multi-task successfully as a musical entertainer and in fashion as a model.

Lucidpress

Since her very first music release, and even since my last review of her music, she has come a long, long way, and like a fine wine, only improves with time.

She has that special “it” in all that she does that brings me to her Christmas song, which I pulled from her back catalog of other great songs.  

Blessed with natural vocal talent and an ear for a good melody, Katie brings home the Christmas cheer easily with her song “You Are My Holiday“. I dug this song up by accident and was surprised I didn’t find it before. It is from 2012 but sounds as fresh as yesterday!  It is pure goodness!

I can hear this song being covered by other artists in the future in a big way. And it is also a great candidate for a Christmas movie soundtrack.

headshotwhitlace

The rich warm acoustic guitar played by song co-writer Kip Williams starts the song out accompanied by Katie’s naturally pure and very tuned vocals and with the snare brushes and brush hits that give it a light and smooth feel.

Katie’s vocal gives a rich, warm, and enchanting beginning to the song that when the chorus kicks in knocks you out with a fantastic hook that will be stuck in your head for life.

As the song progresses from the perfect opening sparse arrangement, more instrumentation comes in and the bass picks things up a notch and never lets it back down.

With dramatic vocal pauses before the chorus, the song is well arranged and puts the “Merry” into Merry Christmas.

The song will fill you with feelings of jubilee and bright cheerfulness washing away any kind of sadness that sometimes come to many this time of year. The song is like an escape into merriment and blissful joy.

Katie Belle’s Homepage:  http://www.katiebellega.com

Watch the video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/gvqd1IKorwI

 

 

Olivia Penalva | “Dream You Home” Single Review

by Randy Wayne Belt
Dec 23, 2017

(First published in Starlight Music Chronicles on Nov. 30, 2017)

I’ll admit I love the Hallmark Christmas movies.  There’s something about that time of year  that makes even the mediocre movies seem good or magical.  But the best ones always have great music behind them.  Olivia Penalva’s new Christmas song “Dream You Home” would fit well as a background track for one of the well produced Hallmark Christmas movies, or any other, for that matter. This song is far beyond medicocrity.

Olivia, who hails from Vernon, BC in Canada, has put together quite a gem with this new song.  It has that magical sparkle to it in the underlying arrangements.  It is not as much an in-your-face Christmas song as it is capturing the spirit behind the season, making it perfect for placement in any Christmas or Holiday movie.  The chorus of the song is very memorable and powerful and even having  this as a background track would make any movie even better. (Great tracks can MAKE a great movie)

Not only does the song have a great mix of sounds based around a sort of shuffle march type drum beat on the verses but the lyrics are well written and paint a perfect picture of what she is trying to convey.

My favorite lyric in “Dream You Home” is “The light in your soul shines brighter than gold in my heart – that’s where you are.”

olivia dreamyouhome1highercont

The images invoked by the song could be any number of situations. It could be a lost loved one or a significant other who is separated by distance or time, or even a soldier gone in a far away land during the Christmas Season and the song  is almost like the soldiers spouse singing to bring him home even if it’s only at home in the heart.

Olivia+pop+songstress+interview

The song does indeed grab your heart and imagination, which is, to me, the ultimate goal of a song – to speak to anyone or everyone in any situation.  This is one more thing that makes it an easy shoo in for anyone considering it for a spot in a Christmas movie.

Often, it is this time of year when many find themselves missing a loved one in some capacity, and it isn’t always the best time for many, but even still and even if you are not into Christmas or the spirit of it, and even if you are the Grinch himself, this song still weighs in on its own merit as a song with a powerful  chorus that demands attention and speaks to the soul.

This isn’t Olivia’s first Christmas song.  I reviewed “Christmas For Two” which was published in Starlight Music Chronicles’ December issue back in 2015

 

And also on my own blog: https://barleystation.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/review-of-christmas-for-two/

Since that time Olivia has progressed even further as an artist and has honed even further her vocal and songwriting skills. Recently reaching a million plays on Spotify, her newer music bears out how far she’s grown since then.

Her voice still has that same special warmth to it but with a sultry yet still innocent sound that will capture your ears, heart, and will leave a memorable impression when you hear it.  I compared her voice before, in a sense to that of Nora Jones, or Colbie Caillet.  In fact, since the last review, Olivia was able to be mentored by Colbie Caillet after winning teen artist of the year in the Starlight Music Chronicles “Artist of the Year Contest” in 2016.

As a winner, Olivia got to attend ArtistMax an Artist Development program in L.A. in March 2017. Artist Max was dreamed up by legendary producer and engineer Ken Caillet (Fleetwood Mac Rumours) and was mentored there by Ken and Colbie Caillet, and David Foster in L.A..

Link to Dream You Home on Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/album/69E17KNMwKzhFSPRHKNHQU

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OliviaMusicLive/

Website: https://www.oliviamusiclive.com/

YouTube Lyrics Video: https://youtu.be/Fp6F0TAK1AI

Olivia Penalva SMC 2016 TEEN Artist of the Year

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dream-you-home/1300720379?i=1300720661

Review of “Christmas For Two”

Review and Interview with Olivia Penalva

by Randy Wayne Belt

(first published in Starlight Music Chronicles Magazine)

As a connoisseur of original Christmas music it’s always great to find something new that is full of festive joy, delight, and fabulous vocals!   “Christmas For Two” by Canadian recording artist Olivia Penalva is just one of those songs.  With a fresh clean sound that has a somewhat Jazzy and R&B old motown rhythmic feel combined with a very contemporary vocal and lyric, Olivia delivers a song that reminds us of the joy of the season, and just enjoying life and having fun.  It is the perfect Christmas feel-good song!

 

As a singer, not only on this song, but in all of her work, her voice  has a timbre and character that make one think of a voice like that of Andrea Wittgens, Nora Jones, or Colbie Caillat.  Olivia’s voice has a mature tonal quality to it and a special warmth with a sultry yet innocent character to it that will capture your heart and ears.

Perhaps it’s that innocence of youth that can best create the atmosphere of a joyous life-is-good Christmas song.

Olivia_287

At a mere 15 years old, Olivia has already begun making a splash in music, and the addition of “Christmas For Two” to her repertoire will only further the ripples created by the waves she’s already making.

This new Holiday song has already gained some radio play alongside other well established artists with Christmas songs on this years Christmas playlists such as 103.5 QMFM in her home area of Vancouver, BC; Majic 100 in Ottawa, ON and more. But this isn’t her first airplay.  

Then there is Miss Penalva’s recent single “Ferris Wheel”, a song that has a carefree atmosphere with a strong rhythm section, once again, giving a solid beat behind the song which is, more than less, a celebration of life.  With another powerful vocal performance, the song will simply leave you in a good mood!  The control she has over her voice allows her to naturally move around her notes and move in and out of vocal inflections with great ease.  This is a very note worthy song also garnering airplay support.

(Official video for “Ferris Wheel” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMcmCV9-aBM    )

IMG_3423 (640x640) (4)

Another song I should mention is a song called “Forgettable” which Olivia co-wrote and collaborated on with a Canadian DJ Group called Project 46 who released it as part of their own album called “Beautiful”.  And indeed it IS a beautiful!  At this stage in her career, the music seems to be defined by strong rhythm section and very powerful vocals.

(Listen to “Forgettable” at this link:   https://soundcloud.com/djproject46/forgettable-ft-olivia-free-gift-info-below  )

So don’t shrug off the “fifteen years old” part because her voice is like that of an experienced 20-something, and one only needs to be reminded that when LeAnn Rimes came out with “Blue” and floored everyone with her mature sounding voice at age 14, they said the same thing with a similar “Wow” effect.  Her voice simply commanded respect and admiration.

So naturally, one of the questions I wanted to ask leads right into my interview:

Click Here to read my interview with Olivia in Starlight Music Chornicles Magazine

Song/Video review: “Taste of Heaven” by Radio Drive

 “Taste of Heaven” by Radio Drive

Article/Review by Randy Wayne Belt    June 14, 2015

It was no surprise to me when I learned that “A Taste of Heaven” by Radio Drive from St. Paul, Minnesota had been nominated  Best Alternative Song for 2014 by the Hollywood Music Awards. And in September of 2014 Bongo Boy Records included “A Taste of Heaven” on their first Compilation CD release to the  Asian market, among many other accomplishments for this artist including music that has been used on shows airing on Animal Planet and Discovery Channel and having signed to Artista Group, an international management agency.

Produced by Chris Garcia, who is known to bring the best out in engineering and vocal production, this song is certainly no exception in bringing out the best.  The vocals on this track are smooth, relaxed, and deliver the type of vocal this song needed. Neither would it surprise me that this song is doing well in the European market as vocally, Radio Drive’s man behind the engine, Kevin Gullickson, has that distinct European tone to his voice.  In many respects his voice and delivery remind me of Neil Finn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kevin Gullickson

“A Taste of Heaven” is an uplifting song that will just leave you in a good mood.  Not a jumping-around-good-mood, but a good mood where you feel a certain contentedness and satisfaction for the moment.  This track is full of layered sounds that give an effective backdrop of sound to the track from the very start that drives home the feelings and moods the artist wanted conveyed.  The song opens with nicely textured melodic guitar bits and builds into background vocals leading into the verse of the song, and the video for the song enhances this experience with it’s imagaries, subtle flashes of light, and scenes of two people enjoying each other’s company.  I would venture to say that if you’d like to hear U2, Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, with a touch of Neil Finn, all rolled into one song, then this is it.

The video flows along nicely with various interesting scenes where time seems to go by faster than normal.  I got the idea that this was meant to convey, intentionally or not, of how the relationship the song seems to be speaking of (and video seems to convey) makes you lose track of time and days and hours. Time goes by… unnoticed.  You’re in love. There’s that sense of timelessness when you are lost in the moment – you are enjoying the here and now, outside of time, just like heaven.  So I’m on the right track here aren’t I?  Well, just to be sure, I checked in anyway to Kevin’s interview on A.V.A. Live Radio with Jacqueline Jax from May 27, 2015 to find clues

(check out interview here) http://avaliveradio.com/behind-the-music-radio-drive-kevin-gullickson-on-a-taste-of-heaven/

and here’s what Radio Drive’s Kevin Gullickson says about the song: “A Taste of Heaven… was written to capture the time when I lived in New York City. I moved there in the month November back in the 80s and met my wife shortly afterward. It was such a care free time for us, living in the big city, doing whatever we wanted, all the excitement and variety the city had to offer – and of course being in love.”

Ok, I think I got it right! And my favorite lyrics from the song are (drum roll please) “you fill up and saturate my life with heaven”.  Now go watch the video:

What was I saying?  Oh yeah.. And now back to the nuts and bolts of it!  The song is saturated with good melodies and harmonies which always wins points with me because, well, I’m a melody guy.  As the song and its video progress, by the time you get to around the 3:50 to 4:00 mark, you have a pretty clear picture of what the song is getting at.  There you will find the overlapping of clouds giving a fitting backdrop to the song to relate to the imagery of the lyrics (heaven) overlapped with the artist on his guitar (on earth).

Rays of light, sunshine and positivity dominate and it becomes apparent by then, that the artist is painting a picture of a relationship that is more than just a “taste of heaven”, but at moments, may seem to be heaven on earth, or heaven meeting earth. This leads to the outro with a string arrangement sound that is fitting for such a sonic atmosphere relating to the imagery in the song. And that reminds me, did I mention this is a well constructed song? Kevin-Gullickson-Radio-Drive-752x440 It seems to just fly by and at no point was I feeling like I just wanted it to be over already. Rather, it ends by giving the listener a sense of completeness of the song and what he wanted to convey with it.  As an artist, it is always a good feeling when you can look back at the production and know that the producer caught your vision for the song as a team, and the team delivered it effectively.

Connect with Radio Drive on the homepage at  Radio Drive Home

And on social media: Radio Drive Facebook  On Twitter  @radiodrivemusic

And subscribe on YouTube:  Radio Drive’s YouTube Channel