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Product: Audio CD
Title: Finally Woken
Label: Ato Records
Artist: Jem
Rating: 3/5
Customer rating - 3 out of 5
What a Jem


Welsh singer Jem meshes together a half dozen musical genres in her debut "Finally Woken." The unclassifiable collection sounds messier than it is -- it ends up being sweet and sensuous with Jem's quietly throaty voice, even though it seems to fall through in the middle.
The album starts off strong with the tinkly, hip-hop-flavored "They," the ethereal "Come On Closer," and the sunny title track. But after the hard-edged "24," things start to slip down a bit with the forgettable pop "Missing You," childish "Ride," and pretty but unexciting "Falling For You." Then Jem takes a steep turn back up with the gentle "Stay Now," and the soaring, sweet acoustic pop "Flying High."
"Finally Woken" has the distinction of being really hard to classify. There's some pop, trip-hop, hip-hop, folk and some little tinges of rock here and there. Its biggest problem is that the middle sags, as if Jem loses her enthusiasm after the first five songs or so, only to rediscover it at the end.
Jem's voice is what makes this album -- her voice is throaty, soft and gentle, and it serves as the centerpiece of the music. She doesn't strike a discordant note or lose her vocal confidence. What is more, her voice is capable of covering up the lyrical deficiencies of some of her songs, like the poppy "Wish I" ("Baby, you're sailing away/Sugar, wish I could go too/But honey you know/I'm happy for you").
The writing itself is fairly standard pop fare, with plenty of love songs that don't have particularly good writing. They're not bad, but most of them aren't that great either. The exception is "24," with its plaintively morbid: "In 24 hours they'll be/laying flowers/on my life, it's over tonight!" And backing it up is a mishmash of electronic beats, acoustic guitar, strings, percussion and perky chimes, that are somehow turned into a pretty, fresh pop sound.
The writing and middle songs are not up to par, but Jem's beautiful voice and crazy-quilt music make this "Just Woken" thoroughly enjoyable debut, in spite of its major flaws. Pretty and fun, this is worth checking out.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Aida (2000 Original Broadway Cast)
Label: Disney
Artist: Elton John, Tim Rice
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
Original Cast Soundtrack


I will admit that when I first heard this recording, I quickly shelved it. I just couldn't understand why it won the Best Score Tony Award over Michael John LaChuisa's "The Wild Party." It wasn't until I moved to New York and saw the production that I pulled the CD out and gave it another chance. And I'm glad I did.
First of all, I would like to say to everyone that Adam Pascal is excellent in the role of Radames. Critics have called his performance uneven and went on to say that he should've stayed in RENT. I have seen the show 3 times now and Mr. Pascal has constantly been a delight to watch. Without him, Heather Headley, and Sherie Rene Scott, AIDA wouldn't be as good as it is. These three are amazing in the recording. Mr. Pascal's distinguishable voice is very much welcome in the song "Elaborate Lives." And his entrance song "Fortune Favors the Brave" is also brilliantly sung.
I am not going to lie when I say that Sherie Rene Scott is my favorite of the trio. What a fabulous voice she has. She entrances listeners with the opening song "Every Story is a Love Story." Then she brings down the house with the Motown-inspired "My Strongest Suit." And through the course of the show you see her character change from a materialistic and shallow princess to a mature and honorable monarch as she finds out that Radames in in love with Aida and not her in the song "I Know the Truth."
Heather Headley is also amazing as Aida. Her vocal talents are shown to great effects in "Easy as Life," "Dance of the Robe," and "The Gods Love Nubia." She portrays a strong-willed woman with great effect.
Just to mention, John Hickok who plays Zoser, Radames' father, is also really good. He is in great voice in "Another Pyramid."
I encourage everyone to go out and get this CD. Approach it with an open mind, for you won't find a typical musical comedy but a rock-inspired musical experience.



Product: Audio CD
Title: Northern Exposure II: West Coast
Label: Ultra Records
Artist: Sasha & John Digweed
Rating: 5/5
Customer rating - 5 out of 5
This is the one!


The "west coast" volume of this second Northern Exposure release is mixed by John Digweed (the east coast cd is mixed by Sasha) and comprises a series of German trance anthems mixed to perfection. This is quite simply one of the best mixed trance cd's ever released, and offers an excellent introduction to this melodic and rhythmic genre that is so little-known in the United States. It includes some of the most popular trance "anthems" that came out of Germany in 1996 in 1997, such as "Netherworld" by LSG (Oliver Lieb), "3.2" by Humate, "Enervate" by Transa, and "Blue Fear" by Armin. A fabulous mix!



Product: Audio CD
Title: The Lost World: Jurassic Park - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Label: Mca
Artist:
Rating: 4/5
Customer rating - 4 out of 5
A very good film score


While this score is not quite up to the "Jurassic Park" score, it still has some very good and stirring moments. It has dark and eerie moments that can make your hair stand on end .. dramatic pounding beats with synths and drums that will set your heart to pounding and your blood racing .. and also some quiet moments that are quite soothing. The Jurassic Park theme appears briefly in "The Hunt" as well as in its full glory in the final track. The cd case is very unusual. It is a cardboard fold out, with a 3D dinosaur scene. It makes for a great collectors item for fans of Jurassic Park.