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December 2, 2004

Music Reviews:
Holiday Music

BY
DJ PLEZ

It’s the holiday season and what better way to show someone you care by giving the gift of music to those you care about. Better yet, give yourself a treat and buy some music for you own enjoyment. Here are some suggestions for you to keep in mind.
(Purchase music online at shop.chicagopride.com or at Borderline Music, 3333 N Broadway)

Full-length Albums

Holiday Music
Destiny Fulfilled by Destiny’s Child (Sony)
It’s been three years since we last heard from these women as a collective, but trust me, they have not forgotten how to make quality music. Their solo outings in the intervening years have only made them a stronger trio as this new CD demonstrates. This CD is also a bit of a return to their R&B roots, not quite postured to be an ode to the commercial pop world as was their previous CD. In my opinion that’s a very good thing artistically. It’s also testament to Destiny Child’s proven track record and the emergence and success of the nu-soul/R&B genre. There’s a sexy, but classy, feel to Destiny Fulfilled , a CD with very strong production values backing the soaring vocals. Rumors has it that this will be the last full-length effort coming from the group. If so, they’ve ended their run on a high note.
(Purchase Online)

Holiday Music
Want Two by Rufus Wainwright (Dreamworks)
All you Rufus fans will surely want to add this new CD/DVD double pack to your collection. The man that Elton John called an “as-yet unheralded American treasure” has just release the fourth CD of his career. Continuing with the themes he explored in 2003’s Want One , Wainwright presents 12 tracks on this new Want Two CD and includes a extensive 22-track DVD feature, making for a tremendous package. The DVD includes performances filmed live in concert at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium with songs from both Want One and Want Two .
(Purchase Online)

Holiday Music
Transient by Gaelle (Naked Music)
My excitement upon receiving this new CD was immense as I am a huge fan of Gaelle, a woman who’s voice can convey emotional depth and touch one’s soul. She did these things with the lead vocals on the deep house music classic by The Ananda Project, “Cascade of Colours,” and has now come out with a 12-track debut artist album that aptly displays the elegant beauty of her voice. While some might find this CD to be too restrained and limiting of Gaelle’s obvious abilities, there is much to praise about this effort. Those with an appreciation and fondness of chilled vocal deep house music, especially of the Naked Music variety, will want to add this new CD to their collection.
(Purchase Online)

Holiday Music
ClassiKhan by Chaka Khan (Sanctuary Records)
If you are looking for the ultimate stocking stuffer to give to a friend, family member, or co-worker, then this CD of jazz standards and pop classics sung by Chaka Khan is perfect. Khan’s voice is as strong as ever and her musicality is impressively presented here. She’s joined by the London Symphony Orchestra on much of the CD and covers such classics as “Hey Big Spender,” “I’m In The Mood For Love,” and Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” And what she does with Peggys Lee’s “Is That All There Is” showcases Khan’s immense talent and is guaranteed to give listeners the chills. As the years have gone by, Chaka Khan has produced a body of work that has elevated her to legendary status with many. Classikhan only adds to her already impressive credentials.
(Purchase Online)

Dance Compilation

Holiday Music
Tour De Beats mixed by DJ Tony Moran (Tommy Boy)
This new mixed compilation, a 2-cd set mixed by one of the circuit’s most popular DJs, Tony Moran, is exceptional! It is a mastery in musical programming for the peak hours on a Saturday nioght at your favorite dance club or of a circuit party main event. A pleasing blend and energetic balance of tribal beats and vocals, it's somewhat reminscent of Abel's Alegria CD, which came out this past summer. All in all, however, I think Tour De Beats is just a bit better effort. And for those of you who absolutely need your vocals, Moran gives you plenty without turning this mix into some cheese-fest, always maintaining the focus on the beat. He uses harder, more beat oriented remixes of tracks by Deborah Cox (“Easy As Life”), Suzanne Palmer (Luv 2 Luv”), Reina (“If I Could Close My Eyes”), and Kristine W (“I’ll Be Your Light”) to maintain a fairly consistent vibe with the highlight tribal tracks by Friburn & Urik (“I Need You” and “Show It”) and Willy Sanjuan (“Tribal Funk”). In my opinion Tour De Beats is truly worthy of your attention and is the perfect gift for the circuit boy in your life.
(Purchase Online)

Holiday Music
Top Shelf: Dance Volume 1 mixed by DJ Geoffe (Koch Records)
Demonstrating a desire to present a high quality product, the folks at Koch make a decent attempt with this commercial dance music mix. While the mixing leaves a lot to be desired, DJ Geoffe has done a good programming job with the selection of some solid tracks. The highlights are “Rocking Music” by Martin Solveig, “Steppin Out” by Chicago’s own Kaskade, and “It Just Won’t Do” by Tim Deluxe featuring Sam Obernik, with the jewel of the mix being the fantastic “Be Mine” by Gioia. This compilation, with its several tasty musical morsels, will fit well into the library of anyone who enjoys and appreciates the mainstream aspects of electronic dance music.
(Purchase Online)

Statrax “Unmixed” Vol. 1 by Victor Calderone (Statrax)
Statrax, Victor Calderone’s home label, has been red hot on fire during the past two years, producing several big hits in the tribal house dance music genre. This unmixed compilation CD puts them on one convenient source media. Included on this first volume are Calderone’s “Deep Dark Jungle” and “The Drive,” three mixes of Stacy Burkett’s “Shakedown,” and two mixes of “Resonate” by Calderone and & Quayle. This would be a great gift for any Calderone fan and for that budding bedroom DJ.
(Purchase Online)

Dance Singles

“Lose My Breath” by Destiny’s Child (Sony)
While much of the Destiny Fulfilled CD is subdued with ballads and lounge groovers, the first single, “Lose My Breath” is a rump-shaking funk-fest with terrific percussive backing from marching band snare drum line that adds liveliness and energy. There are several remixes out there floating around of varying quality and different styles to appeal to specific dance sub-genres. This includes efforts from Rauhofer, Hex Hector, and others. However, I advise all DJs and other dance connoisseurs to save their money and just rely on the original album version of this track. It’s that hot and will please folks on a dance floors as well as those dancing more privately at home or with their iPods in hand.

“Raindrops Will Fall” – Tamyra Gray (19 Recordings)
Gray is from the stable of American Idol contestants with actual talent and this single off of the Dreamer CD has been freshly remixed by Hex Hector and Mac Quayle. Not quite your typical diva anthem, this remix has been storming up the dance music charts. Moderately paced, it has good energy and tremendous production values that should find it in good favor with most dance floors.

“More & More” by Astrid Suryanto & Dave Micalizzi (Statra Recordings)
Bursting onto the dance world’s consciousness earlier this year with the phenomenal track “Rainwater,” Ms. Suryanto is back with her silky smooth vocals on the lush “More & More.” As is expected from Victor Calderone’s Statra label, this lyrically strong progressive house song is sophisticated fare of exceptional quality. Suryanto’s delicate but forceful voice is quite attractive and elevates this effort way beyond the cheesiness factor inherent in far too many of today’s vocal dance songs. In addition to the Original Mix, the maxi-single has a terrific minimalist deep tech house Geche Mix and a solid, if somewhat understated, Chus & Ceballos underground rub. But the real gem is the exceptional Ole Skool Mix, which expertly layers traditional Chicago acid trax elements on top of the song’s base progressive features, making for a modern day house music marriage of auditory beauty. Simply BRILLIANT!

“Vespa” by P-1 (Novo Records)
This track from the new group P-1 is a fun and breezy piece of house music sure to please a global audience. While the original mix is a slowish affair off of the group’s debut album called Step, the Slang Remix by Chicago’s Vince Lawrence is a funky groover which has served yours truly quite well in my DJ sets as an energetic building block toward a peak hour high. When wanting to create a sexy sultry downtempo mood, the LaManga Mix by William Steffey hits all the right notes with its sensuous Latin groove and soaring trumpets. While “Vespa” is the ideal summer dance track in its various forms, it’s a tune that’s delectably warm and thus most attractive during the winter months as well.

(Purchase music online at shop.chicagopride.com or at Borderline Music, 3333 N Broadway)

 
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