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Sarah Pillow - 2003 - "Remixes"

(110 min 2CD, Buckyball)


******

Prolusion. "Remixes" is the second album by NYC singer Sarah PILLOW. Most useful of the related reviews on ProgressoR: Sarah Pillow - "Nuove Musiche", Tunnels - Overall Review, Marc Wagnon - Overall Review, Brand X - "Trilogy".

Disc 1 (42 min)
******

TRACK LIST:

1.  If Music Be the Food of Love (Purcell) 3:10
2.  Flow My Tears (Dowland) 4:08
3.  To Pansies (Lawes) 1:06
4.  Audite Me (Sances) 5:48
5.  As Life What Is So Sweet (Webb) 2:29
6.  Ode du Premier Jour de Mai (Passerat) 2:04
7.  Il Romeo (Strozzi) 2:57
8.  Aura Soave (Luzzaschi) 2:45
9.  O Let Me Weep (Purcell) 6:15
10. To Lilies (Lawes) 1:11
11. Laetamini in Domino (Sances) 4:34
12. Due Luci Ridenti (Caccini) 4:01
13. To Dewes (Lawes) 1:27

Produced by McFarlane & Ballard.

LINEUP:

Sarah Pillow - vocals 
Ronn McFarlane - lute 
Mary-Anne Ballard - Viola da Gamba
Jennifer Peterson - harpsichord
Dongsok Shin - organ 
Karen-Marie Marmer - violin 

Analysis. Music historians still can't agree on the origin of Baroque music. Ones say it comes from the Italian Barocco, the others assert that it's from the Portuguese Barocco. However, both sides agree in opinion that Baroque music directly preceded the birth of 'serious' Classical music. Sarah Pillow and her famous cohort (all four of the current Brand X members) were the first of our contemporaries to introduce the Prog listener to early Baroque music by uniting it with Progressive Rock, which has become their revolutionary "Nuove Musiche" album from 2000. It was really wise of them to do the next step with such a perfectly constructed ProGduction as "Remixes". The point is that unlike its predecessor, this double CD album of completely new material features not only modern interpretations of songs from that era, but also those sounding like the originals, which will certainly serve as a necessary bridge for those who liked "Nuove Musiche", but could not completely get into it, as well as those still on their way to comprehend what is now known as an academic music of the two branches, Classical and Avant-garde. While the essence of the advanced form of Baroque music lies in the contrast between parts of many different instruments, which makes it difficult for a quick comprehending, the aesthetics of its early manifestations usually suggested the presence of only one or two instruments in the show and one singer, the compositions being destined mainly for a Church. So it doesn't seem to be accidental that the first disc was recorded in the "St. John in the Village" church in NYC. The tracks included are the works of the very first Baroque music proponents, among which English composer Henry Purcell was probably the most prolific, although he died only at 36. For those still not in the know, Mrs. Pillow is a classically trained musician, possessing a voice of a heavenly beauty and covering a wide variety of vocal styles, from jazz to opera, the latter being the essential part of the music on Disc 1. Are you ready for Church or, rather, Gothic romances? Here they are, with elements of opera. Most of the songs feature Sarah's singing going to the accompaniment of only one instrument, which is either the lute, as on Flow My Tears, To Pansies, As Life What Is So Sweet, Ode du Premier Jour de Mai, To Lilies and To Dewes, or the harpsichord, as on the opening track and the next to last. Imagine Mood for a Day from Yes's "Fragile" developing alongside dramatic female vocals having its own, independent storyline, and you are more or less close to the idea of what you can expect from these tracks, particularly those with lute. If classical-like guitar pieces are your cup of tea, you will definitely fall in love with these, and inasmuch as the more complicated compositions are placed in the middle of the CD, you'll have time to prepare yourself for them. The culmination is yet to come. Star of Sirius's part II from Steve Hackett's "Voyage of the Acolyte", with Sally Oldfield on vocals, can be used as a distant point of comparison with regard to the other songs: Il Romeo, Aura Soave, Audite Me and Laetamini in Domino, each featuring two instruments: the rare Viola Da Gamba, whose sound is pretty low and is closer to cello, and either harpsichord or organ, and O Let Me Weep, the only track performed with three instruments (plus violin). These show some certain departure from the romance formula towards a confluence of quasi-classical music and opera (one-man opera, to be precise), with the typically operatic rises and falls of vocal lines and the timbre plays. Disc I is an amazing acoustic journey to the distant past of European classical music, which may leave cold only those exclusively into pop and the like primitive genres.

Disc 2 (58 min)
*****+

TRACK LIST: same

LINEUP: 

Sarah Pillow - vocals 
Marc Wagnon - vibes, midi-vibes; keyboards
Percy Jones - fretless bass; keyboards
John Goodsall - electric & acoustic guitars
Frank Katz - drums 
With
Mary-Anne Ballard - viola (13)
Susan Pereira - Brazilian percussion (6)
Vanderlei Pereira - Brazilian percussion (6, 12)

Produced & arranged by Wagnon.
Additional arrangements: Pillow, Goodsall & Jones.

Analysis. The track list of this disc is identical to that of Disc I, of course. Nevertheless, most of the originally shorter songs appear to be twice as long as the originals (hence the total playing time has increased from 42 to 57 minutes), while three compositions have been shortened. These are To Lilies, To Pansies and To Dewes. The former is very short and there is nothing apart from Sarah's narration. On the other two (the latter being purely symphonic in character), the vocal themes unfold to the accompaniment of vibraphone and violin respectively. Overall, the project's most recent renderings of the classic Baroque music works are lighter than those they presented back in 2000, so as I've mentioned above, this album might serve as an essential stage to comprehend "Nuove Musiche" (it's a new music indeed). The elements of pop and funk have been widely used on the first two tracks: If Music Be the Food of Love and Flow My Tears, the latter being notable for the bright Moog-like solo as if played by Manfred Mann, while the vocal approach has rather much in common with that of Kate Bush. Ode du Premier Jour de Mai and Due Luci Ridenti both have a strong ethnic sense, due to the powerful Brazilian percussion, the vocals being also done in the Latin American music traditions. Later on, Sarah returns to her unique way of singing, doing mainly either opera-like or jazz-tinged vocals and vocalizations, such as on Il Romeo and Audite Me, both featuring some marching drums and the vibraphone at the helm of the arrangements. From a progressive standpoint, the highlights include As Life What Is So Sweet, Laetamini in Domino, Aura Soave and O Let Me Weep. The former two represent a quasi Jazz-Fusion at its best, and the other two are pronouncedly symphonic, with lush keyboard patterns and acoustic guitar solos masterfully interwoven with electric textures.

Conclusion. Generally, it's clear that the intention of the album's creators was to lead the listener step by step this time around to the comprehension of the entire material, and they have greatly succeeded. These musicians are geniuses, and although Disc II is progressively somewhat inferior to "Nuove Musiche", overall, "Remixes" is an album that shows a high level of musical art and is definitely the best place to start getting into the music of this and related projects.

VM: July 8 & 10, 2005


Related Links:

Buckyball Music


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