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Karen Vallo, Somehow You’ll Know

06 Nov, 2015 Andrea Guy

karenvalloKaren Vallo is a member of the New Jersey group, The Jellybeans. Somehow You’ll Know was a song that was going to be recorded by the band, but scheduling conflicts allowed Karen to record it as her own.

At eighteen, Karen has a voice that many singers years ahead of her wish they had. Her voice is full of sweetness and purity which gives a little bit of levity to a song that is about loss and not just about a boyfriend, this is a song that goes much deeper. It is more about the loss of someone that can’t be replaced rather than someone that will be forgotten with the next handsome face that turns the head.

The songs that we are used to hearing Karen sing with The Jellybeans have a pop edge. “Somehow You’ll Know” is another departure. This song could easily have been pulled from a Broadway show. It was written by Anthony Coviello, who is the primary songwriter for the band.

Lyrics like “Life will go on regardless of how I feel. I live day to day hoping time will help me heal. I was blessed to be given the life that I knew and I thank the Lord for each day I had with you” aren’t what you’d expect to hear coming out of the mouth of such a young girl, especially when you think of what the current crop of young singers are singing about.

This song is full of emotion and should appeal to anyone that needs a song about the loss of a loved one. It is a song that speaks to the heart of the listener.

“Somehow You’ll Know” may just be the beginning of a new chapter for Karen Vallo. Those people that have heard her singing with The Jellybeans already know that she can sing, this song will let the world know exactly how well.

Karen may be in college now, but I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from her soon.

Reviewer: Andrea Guy
5 stars out of 5

Miss Gabby, Care Share Groove

19 Dec, 2014 Andrea Guy

 

missgabbyMiss Gabby looks like any kid’s idea of the perfect babysitter. Care Share Groove is her debut album, and it is bound to delight both kids and parents.

Her songs are are full of energy and fun. They make you feel good and they will educate the little ones in your life, without them even knowing. All ten songs on Care Share Groove were penned by Miss Gabby. The topics of the songs range from animals to manners to eating habits.  The songs are short and catchy; most clock in right around two minutes.

“Let’s Sing a Song” opens the album. It is a delightful pop tune for all ages. The lyrics “Let’s sing a song that is easy to sing, with a catchy chorus and a melody,” sum up this song perfect. One listen and you’ll be singing this one all the time.

“Clean Up” is a song about that thing we all hate doing, cleaning up after ourselves. The style of the song is pure 60s guitar pop. The guitar riffs are playful and the chorus is silly and catchy. The song is so fun that it might even make everyone clean up their own messes.

Miss Gabby has a light, youthful voice that is full of sweetness. It is easy to listen to her sing because she doesn’t go all cutesy. Her style is folk pop for kids.

The only time she really ventures into the realm of silly is on “Furry Friends” which feels like a song taken straight from a kids’ TV show. The song is a trip to the zoo, complete with some great sound effects.

Miss Gabby teaches us a thing or two about manners on “Manners.” She makes saying please and thank you, as well as excuse me something that is done with ease and is likely fun.

One of the songs that really stands out is “Grumpy Day.” It is one part pop and one part blues. It pretty much sums up how every child gets, heck, how everyone feels now and then.

Miss Gabby goes calypso on “Down at the Beach” a fun little song that reminds you to put on the sunscreen.

“Love No Matter What, My Friends” is a hippy folk song. This is another song that can step away from the genre of children’s music. It’s an acoustic ballad, which reminds us to love and accept each other. The message of this song comes across loud and clear.  This short little tune packs a social punch that everyone should hear, and it does it without coming across as preachy, well not all the time.

Touching and coughing and germs, oh my. That’s the topic of “Wash My Hands.” This is probably the only time that Miss Gabby comes across as preachy, though all in the name of good health and hygiene.

“Fruit and Veggies” is a dance-y, silly bit of fun. Most of the lyrics are Miss Gabby singing fruit and veggies, but the arrangement is wild and crazy. It may not make you want to eat your vegetables but it may make you want to sing about them.

Miss Gabby knows her way around a song. She has a playful style that is fun to listen to and though her songs are geared to the younger crowd, she doesn’t sing down to her audience. The music is enjoyable and if the kids learn something as a result, that’s an added bonus.

Care Share Groove is a great addition to any child’s music collection. Miss Gabby mixes music and learning in a way that is fun for all that are listening.

 

Reviewer: Andrea Guy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

 

 

 

Dwight Townsend, Omega To Alpha

07 Oct, 2014 Andrea Guy

omegatoalpha

Dwight Townsend’s Omega To Alpha may not be the CD for the teenage crowd, but anyone that loves the music of the Rat Pack, or simply enjoys more classic tunes, will want to make this album part of their collection.

This is a very comprehensive album. It is two discs, totaling thirty six tracks, of standards that just about everyone has heard. The 79 year old singer, is bound to impress with his baritone that at times sounds much like Dean Martin, especially on the album’s opening track “Are You Havin’ Any Fun.” that was made famous by Tony Bennett.

He tackles popular show tunes like “Over The Rainbow” and “Send In The Clowns.”  These two tracks stand out over the others on the first disc, though there isn’t a miss to be found anywhere among the selection on Omega To Alpha.

Send In The Clowns” really stands out, because those that are familiar with Sondheim’s musical A Little Night Music, will be used to hearing it sung by a woman. Dwight does a bang up job with this slightly melancholy tune, filling it with just the right amount of longing.

“When I Fall In Love” is a song that most will be used to hearing sung by a tenor, such as Michael Crawford.  Both voices are beyond compare, but imagine, Crawford’s is milk chocolate and Townsend’s is a deep rich dark chocolate.

Songs like “Lollipops and Roses” remind us how romantic things were, back in the day, when sex wasn’t the selling point of everything.  The arrangement is elegant, and gives the song a grown up sound, even though the lyrics are innocent.

If any song on this album could be singled out as the best, it would have to be Nat King Cole’s masterpiece, “Unforgettable.” Dwight’s version is right up there with some of the best covers of this song, and that includes the cover done by Nat’s daughter, Natalie.

The second disc has some stellar songs, as well. “Smile” stands out over most. This song feels like it should be the most covered standard in the world. It has been recorded by the likes of Michael Jackson and Elvis Costello, to name but a few. Pop stars may add glitz to the song, but Dwight brings it back home.

Hearing Dwight tacked “The Glory Of Love” might have you longing for Bette Midler to join him, as she did this song so spectacularly for the soundtrack to Beaches. Dwight adds a playful spark to this song, which will have you singing along.

The songs on the second disc seem to be more playful. “I’ve Got Plenty of Nothin’” and “Its A Lovely Day Today” are two such tracks. These two songs are just plain fun.

No matter what song you chose to listen to on Omega To Alpha there is one thing you’ll notice about the music. It is simpler. The arrangements may be theatrical. Some might even call the arrangements posh, but the lyrics are more about love and boy meets girl, than anything you’ll hear on the radio today.

The truly impressive thing about this album isn’t the songs, or the fact that they are still relevant today, in all their innocent glory, but Dwight’s voice. It’s hard not to throw the age card out there, but at 79, he still sounds fantastic. “Are You Havin’ Any Fun” is the most recent recording on the record, and his voice couldn’t be better.

If any album could be labeled as perfect, Omega To Alpha would fit the bill. Dwight Townsend has the voice that brings these standards to life, not by putting a new twist to them, but by singing them in the way they were meant to be sung.

Put this album on, and jump in the “wayback machine” and enjoy the music from a much simpler time.
Review by Andrea Guy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Charles Szczepanek, Winter Day Dreaming

30 Dec, 2013 Andrea Guy

There has probably never been another CD so appropriately named as Charles Szczepanek’s Winter Day Dreaming. This collection of instrumental holiday tunes will put anyone in a festive mood.

Winter Day Dreaming consists of nine holiday favorites played by Charles Szczepanek and two original compositions. This is the perfect addition to anyone’s holiday music collection. Solo piano brings a wintry element to the music. The tinkling of the keys seems to add a chill to the air.

Holiday music is something people love or hate. There’s no way that you can hate the music of Winter Day Dreaming. Though the songs are nearly all classics, there is nothing cheesy or gimmicky about the arrangements that Charles has done. These are just songs that everyone knows, stripped down to their barest, just a piano bringing their melodies to life.

Whether you are listening to “What Child Is This” or “O Holy Night” you’ll feel like you are in an intimate setting, perhaps in front of the tree, or the fire, with hot cocoa at hand. Whatever you visualize, you’ll probably feel the stillness and peacefulness of the music.

“O Holy Night” has a particularly quiet arrangement. This is a song that is usually comes with a full orchestra, and yet, Charles brings it down a notch or two. It is so calm and so soothing. The piano almost sounds like a music box playing.

“Silent Night” has a similar arrangement. It is hard to give words to the music that Charles has created. It is easy to string adjectives along, such as beautiful, stunning, gentle and calming, but those only touch the tip of what he’s done here.

“Silent Night” is now a lullaby and that is perfect when you think of the lyrics that you aren’t hearing. Even though they play through your head with each note.

Charles does a marvelous job with “Carol Of The Bells.” The keys ring out the tune, as lively as any bells could do and without fanfare. This is probably the most energetic melody on the album, especially as the melody reaches the crescendo.

“Snowfall” is one of Charles’ original compositions. The arrangement, like those on the traditional tunes, is one of lightness. This is music that is very visual. Without even knowing the title of the song, you can easily picture a blanket of white covering a country landscape and feel a bite of cold in the air.

“Winter Day Dreaming” has a lilting melody. It is easy to imagine this song in the background of a holiday film, probably a romantic comedy. It would be playing as the guy finally gets the girl.

One of the most beautiful songs found in this collection is “Angels We Have Heard On High.” As Charles’ fingers glide over the keys, it may be hard not to sing along with the melody, though the piano keys do some lovely singing of their own.  Charles has some drama and flair towards the end allowing the song to pack a nice punch.

The album closes with “Auld Lang Syne” which is appropriate. Christmas is over and the New Year is waiting. The solo piano seems to sound lonely sending off the old year.

In a world where big and flashy things are all the norm, Charles Szczerpanek delivers a holiday album that is just the opposite. This album is beautiful in all its simplicity. One man, one piano and eleven songs that will fill you with holiday spirit even in the middle of summer.

If you are looking for something that isn’t all glitz and glamour for your holiday music collection, Winter Day Dreaming is the CD you must have.

Review by Andrea Guy
Rating: 5 (out of 5 stars)

Mick Brady, Triple The Pickle

26 Sep, 2013 Andrea Guy

Cover
There are some albums that you know you are going to like, just by seeing the title. How can you not like an album called Triple The Pickle? It is impossible, unless you are lacking a sense of humor.

This album is for the kids…maybe.  “Doing The Rock N’ Roll Hop” opens the album and its 60s vibe gives it a universal appeal.

“Dear Lunch Lady” is pure brilliance. The song is described by the band as possibly The Pogues in preschool, and truthfully, Mick Brady does sound like Shane MacGowan. Again the song may appear to be for a more youthful audience, but as they sing “put a hairnet on” because there’s hair in their fries, you know that only an older listener will truly appreciate these brilliant lyrics.  And, it should be noted, that while Brady handles the vocals, the lyrics on Triple The Pickle were all written by Jeff Mondak.  Any fan of “That 70s Show” will instantly envision Hyde’s mother Edna, when this song plays.

From rock to Irish punk, it is hard to imagine where Mick Brady may go next, but on “There’s a Party In The Kitchen” he delivers a bit of old school country. Joe Ryan’s pedal steel guitar gives this song its wonderful appeal. It is a folksy song about kitchen utensils after everyone has gone to bed. Such fun!

Next up is “I Saw My Teacher At The Beach.” The title is enough to produce snickers from young and old alike. The lyrics take the song just the way most kids would expect it – the shock and surprise that our teachers are real people and have lives outside the classroom.

The best line by far has to be “Congress ought to make a law to stop the kind of thing I saw. I saw my teacher at the beach.”

As you reach “Serengeti Betty” the adults are taking this album away from their kids and sticking it in their own collection. This song is reminiscent of the songs by Woodie Guthrie, whose tunes have been given special treatment by Wilco and Billy Bragg.

Jeff Mondak’s lyrics are youthful, playful and fun, but they definitely aren’t what you’d expect when you pick up a children’s album.

“Toledo Has Zombies” is going to be a new Halloween anthem. It is dark and creepy but with a touch of wit similar to Warren Zevon. Toledo’s zombies very well may be hanging out at some point with “The Werewolves of London.”

“The Mysterious Room” is another song that could be a mash up of The Pogues and Warren Zevon. “The Mysterious Room” being the teachers’ lounge.

The album’s title track is pure fun. “Triple The Pickle” has a very old fashioned tone. The song conjures images of saloons in the Wild West. Oh and it really doesn’t have anything to do with pickles.

This is another one of those songs that has lyrics that the adults will probably appreciate more than the kids. Mondak’s wit cannot be hidden. “Triple the pickle and double the rent. I don’t think it’s broken, but Lordy it’s bent.”

Brady manages to include songs that will appeal to parents and kids, and some of the songs geared to the kids will be enjoyed by their folks as well. It is all because of his snarky wit.

It is difficult to pick a favorite. Could it be “The Off To School Blues” which just about everyone has sung at some point of time or another or “Inspector 47′ a song about that invisible inspector that checks every package being sent out. In this case, the inspector’s job wasn’t done very well.

Triple The Pickle is an album that everyone can enjoy, at least everyone with a good sense of humor, who still happens to be a kid at heart, or even a kid!

 

Review by Andrea Guy
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)