Music Review: Anouar Brahem – The Astounding Eyes of Rita

24 02 2010

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Album Artwork

# Title Length
1. ” The Lover Of Beirut” 7:44
2. ” Dance With Waves “ 3:56
3. ” Stopover At Djibouti” 6:34
4. ” The Astounding Eyes Of Rita” 8:41
5. ” Al Birwa “ 4:51
6. ” Galilee Mon Amour “ 7:17
7. ” Waking State “ 7:48
8. ” For No Apparent Reason “ 6:35

Album Lineup

Anuar Brahem – oud

Klaus Gesing – bass clarinet

Byorn Meyer – bass

Khaled Yassine – percussion (darbouka, bendir)

Studio Albums

  • 1991 – Barzakh with Lassad Hosni and Bechir Selmi.
  • 1992 – Conte de l’Incroyable Amour with Barbaros Erköse.
  • 1994 – Madar with Jan Garbarek and Ustad Shaukat Hussain.
  • 1995 – Khomsa with Richard Galliano and Bechir Selmi and Francois Couturier.
  • 1998 – Thimar with John Surman and Dave Holland.
  • 2000 – Astrakan Café with Barbaros Erköse and Lassad Hosni.
  • 2002 – Charmediterranéen with Orchestre National de Jazz and Gianluigi Trovesi.
  • 2002 – Le Pas du Chat Noir with Francois Couturier and Jean-Louis Matinier.
  • 2006 – Voyage de Sahar with Francois Couturier and Jean-Louis Matinier.
  • 2009 – The Astounding Eyes of Rita

Anouar Brahem was born in 20 th October 1957 in Halfaouine in the Medina of Tunis. Encouraged by his father, an engraver and printer, but also a music lover, Brahem began his studies of the oud, the lute of Arab world, at the age of 10 at the Tunis National Conservatory of Music, where his principal teacher was the oud master Ali Sriti. An exceptional student, by the age of 15 Brahem was playing regularly with local orchestras. At 18 he decided to devote himself entirely to music. For four consecutive years Ali Sriti received him at home every day and continued to transmit to him the modes, subtleties and secrets of Arab classical music through the traditional master / disciple relationship.
Little by little Brahem began to broaden his field of listening to include other musical expressions, from around the Mediterranean and from Iran and India… then jazz began to command his attention. “I enjoyed the change of environment,” he says” and discovered the close links that exist between all these musics”.


I’ve decided for this album because of the Arab instrument oud that Anouar Brahem beautifully mastered and is pampering us with. The oud is a pear-shaped, stringed instrument commonly used in Middle Eastern music. It is often seen as the predecessor of the western lute, distinguished primarily by its lack of frets. The Oud is a chordophone. Legends attribute the invention of the Oud, in the 3rd century, to Lamak, the grandson of the first man- Adam. Modern musical historians place the inception of the Oud much later. The ancestors to the Oud may go back to Pharaonic Egypt. In Europe the Oud eventually evolved into the Troubadour’s Lute.

Those are characteristics of oud quoted on Wikipedia:

Oud defining features:

  • Lack of frets: The oud, unlike many other plucked stringed instruments, does not have a fretted neck. This allows the player to be more expressive by using slides and vibrato. It also makes it possible to play the microtones of the Maqam System. This development is relatively recent, as ouds still had frets in AD 1100, and they gradually lost them by AD 1300, mirroring the general development of Near-Eastern music which abandoned harmony in favor of melismatics.
  • Strings: With some exceptions, the modern oud has eleven strings. Ten of these strings are paired together in courses of two. The eleventh, lowest string remains single. There are many different tuning systems for the oud which are outlined below. The ancient oud had only four courses – five by the 9th century. The strings are generally lighter to play than the modern classical guitar.
  • Pegbox: The pegbox of the oud is bent back at a 45-90° angle from the neck of the instrument. This provides the necessary tension that prevents the pegs from slipping. The tension of the strings helps to hold what would otherwise be a week joint together. The design is elegant and evolved before the design was written down. The nut, is held in place by the string tension and does not need to be, and is not usually glued. The pegs do not slip if tapered accuratly. If they do chalk is used to make the stick more; soap to enable them to slip more. Proprietary compounds, pastes, sometimes called pegdope are also used.
  • Body: The oud’s body has a staved, bowl-like back resembling the outside of half a watermelon, unlike the flat back of a guitar. This bowl allows the oud to resonate and have a particular tone quality. The shape is structurally very strong and stable enabling it to be very thin. It can be 1.2 mm. Although made of dense hardwood good instruments are not heavy. The guitar structure would not be stable if the build was as light.
  • Sound-holes: The oud generally has one to three sound-holes, which may be either oval or circular, and often are decorated with a bone or wood carved rosette.

“The Astounding Eyes of Rita”

Now that we know what we’re listening to, let’s concentrate on the music.

Anouar changed the lineup from his previous two Studio Albums, 2002 »Le Pas du Chat Noir” and 2006 “Voyage de Sahar” where he was accompanied by  pianist François Couturier and accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier. On »Astounding Eyes of Rita” accordion and piano are replaced by bass clarinet, bass and percussions.

Album starts with oud flajolete notes. It immediately takes you to the mystic Orient. But not Orient of today. I felt like listening to one of the stories of One Thousand and One Nights. Throughout the album Anouar achieved to create very lively feeling. He takes his listener and tries to make him a participant in his storytelling masterpieces. The creation of this sort of lively feeling throughout the album is very hard to achieve. I remember only few albums that gave me similar feel and the one that Anouar reminded me on is “Beyond The Missouri Sky« by Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny.

The sound of the oud beautifully lingers with melancholic sound of bass clarinet played by repeatedly awarded jazzist Klaus Gesing. (Klaus Gesing’s Website)

Simple compositions create an imaginary place of beauty and graceful, dignity full, secret, long forgotten world that drowns listener in every time Anouar’s oud speaks. Yes Speaks. On this album Anouar rarely uses his voice and there is no need to. He is telling everything he needs so well trough his instrument. Gentile, hypnotic mumblings on “Stopover At Djibouti” ,  ” The Astounding Eyes Of Rita” ,”Walking State”,…  are just minimalistic additions to a yet perfect soundstage. I couldn’t help but to imagine Arabic dancer moving gently to the sounds of music, her cloths waving in a warm breeze of desert landscape.

Album Peaks: Album as a whole

Timbre throughout album “The Astounding Eyes of Rita” is astonishing. Melodic improvisations of Anouar Brahem and jazzy sometimes ripping sounds of bass clarinet set a perfect soundstage with solid bass lines and dynamic percussions in a background as a rhythm section. I’ve already included the album in my collection of Hi-fi testing albums. Highly recommended to all melodic-folk jazz enthusiasts.

Wolfgang Sandner from Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeïtung wrote: »The Calif El Outhek once said, very wisely, referring to Al Mawsili, the master of Arab vocal art:” each time he sings I have the impres-sion that my kingdom becomes greater”. In listening to Anouar Brahem play I can say that the kingdom of music becomes greater” […] Prophetic music. When the Tunisian Anouar Brahem plays the oud, the musical cul-tures of the East and West are reconciled […] He is so calm and sovereign that the man from Tunisia, reclining on his divan, seems to have gone much further than many a jazz musician busily seeking for new music.«

Familiar to: Al di Meola, Pat Metheny,…


Music Review: Davy Knowles & The Back Door Slam – Coming Up For Air

23 02 2010

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Album Artwork

# Title Length
1. “Coming Up For Air” 4:38
2. “Riverbed” 3:38
3. “Mistakes” 4:15
4. “Hear Me Lord” 6:03
5. “Amber’s Song” 3:12
6. “Tear Down The Walls” 5:01
7. “You Can’t Take This Back” 4:52
8. “Country Girl” 4:28
9. “Keep On Searching” 5:06
10. “Saving Myself” 3:11
11. “Taste Of Danger”  (with Jonatha Brooke) 4:40

Band Members

“Coming Up For Air” Studio Lineup

  • Davy Knowles – electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, lead and backing vocals
  • Kevin McCormick (from Jackson Browne’s band) – bass
  • Mauricio Fritz Lewak (from Jackson Browne’s band) – drums
  • Benmont Tench –  keyboards
  • Peter Frampton – guitar, bass and backing vocal duties

Studio Albums

With Back Door Slam

  • Roll Away (2007)
  • Back Door Slam – EP (2008)
  • Back Door Slam: Live from Bonnaroo (2008)
  • Coming Up For Air (2009)

Coming Up for Air is a 2009 album by Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam. It is the follow-up to Back Door Slam’s debut album Roll Away. Since Back Door Slam (the name taken from a Robert Cray song) released their 2007 debut record Roll Away a lot has changed.

After a brief break from two years of non-stop touring Davy Knowels replaced Adam Jones and Ross Doyle with Kevin McCormick and Fritz Lewak. Joining them was R&R Hall of Famer Benmont Tench (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), who played Hammond organ on several of the album’s 11 tracks. Some “Back Door Slam” fans have responded negatively to the change in line-up, with many saying that the band has lost its magic without these two talented musicians.

Knowles enlisted Peter Frampton to produce the album and veteran soundsmith Bob Clearmountain (Springsteen, The Who, McCartney) stepped to the console to mix the record. Frampton also co-wrote two songs on the album with Knowles.

The distinctive turtle artwork was designed by Manx (Isle of Man) graphic artist Kit Nelson.

Davy Knowles, once a guitar prodigy but now blues-rock star, has known what he wanted to do with his life since the age of 11.

“I was in the car with my dad, and he put on a cassette of Dire Straits’ ‘Sultans of Swing,” explains the 22-year-old guitarist, singer and songwriter. “I just fell in love with the music then and there. That track changed my life, and I realized, ‘I really want to be able to do that.”

Promptly, he took his father’s guitar and learned how to play the song by ear. As Knowles grew older, he was influenced by other artists (like Dire Straits) that he found in his father’s music collection such as Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton, and Robert Johnson. As a child, Knowles briefly took guitar lessons, but did not prefer the traditional way of learning how to play. After he stopped taking lessons, he quickly took up the guitar and self-taught himself.  Knowles attended Castle Rushen High School in Castletown, where he met future band-mates Ross Doyle, Adam Jones, and Jamie Armstrong.

“Coming Up For Air”

Yeah, the blues-rock feeling of 60’s comes alive in the purest form on this 11 track solo effort from Davy. I first heard Davy Knowles on record he’s done with Gov’t Mule. I remember that I couldn’t believe that the voice and guitar on the record was one of the teenager. I guess Davy’s always got “the blues” in him. Some people are born with it and the Davy is definitely one of them.

In comparison to the “Roll over”, “Coming Up For Air” is much more melodic and clean sounding. Producer Peter Frampton reduced the familiar »Debut Albums« garage feeling. But if you think of Peter Frampton throughout his solo carrier he was never guitar slammer, he rather focused on playing with a lot of soul and feeling. And that’s what comes forward in the sound stage of “Coming Up For Air” a lot of blues soul that always forces you to close your eyes while guitar starts to play.

Furthermore, from the comment of Davy it is clear that this clean sound is something that he always wanted: “Communiqué is my favorite Dire Straits album. I WANT THAT CLEAN TONE. Just to have, mind you – it’s nice to rip…”

On few Album tracks can also be heard influences of Irish traditional music on Davy that melts perfectly with Davies style of guitar playing (Amber’s Song, Country Girl,…).

The rhythm guitar on some songs reminds me on the John Butler Trio with a lot of groove and a funk edge. Although he takes time for guitar solos on each song, he doesn’t extend the pop-hit length of a song. He stays in the written form and leaves the further improvisation for tours.   Although he is not overdoing the guitar like some guitar virtuosos, you can still hear how natural and feeling full his notes sound. It’s just blues at its best shape.

Vocals are the next best thing beside great guitar skills for me. Soulful singing of Davies furrowed blues voice. Love the sound of vocal on softer song’s, for example Mistakes or Amber’s Song. I also like what Davy did with George Harrison song “Hear Me Lord”.

Album Peaks: “Hear Me Lord”, “Tear Down the World”, “Taste of Danger”,…

Nick Anderman of the Village Voice wrote: “Davy Knowles, the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, is talented like very few bluesmen these days. He shreds like a young Robert Cray and wails like the love of his life was just hit by a truck,” while Shane Harrison of the Atlanta Journal Constitution said: “If this were a more just world, the band’s startlingly talented guitarist, singer and songwriter Davy Knowles would already be a star.”

Despite the thousands of miles he’s already logged on the road – 300+ dates in 18months to support their debut CD in America – Davy’s anxious to get back out there to play. “You should play music because you love doing it,” he says, “If you can hang in for the long haul, you’re doing what most people can’t, and you’re incredibly lucky.”

If you think of the success of some Blues-Rock Musicians in the past, it is clear that blues is “a dying race” in pop culture. It is nice to hear extraordinary talented, young representative that revives the former glory of Blues music and Blues-Rock icons like Beck, Clapton, Young,…

Familiar to: John Bonamassa, Black Keys, John Butler Trio,…

Music Review: Massive Attack – Heligoland (2010)

22 02 2010

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Album Artwork

Track Listing

  1. 1. “Pray for Rain” (vocals by Tunde Adebimpe) – 6:43
  1. 2. “Babel” (vocals by Martina Topley-Bird) – 5:18
  1. 3. “Splitting the Atom” (vocals by Grant Marshall, Horace Andy and Robert Del Naja) – 5:15
  1. 4. “Girl I Love You” (vocals by Horace Andy) – 5:26
  1. 5. “Psyche” (vocals by Martina Topley-Bird) – 3:23
  1. 6. “Flat of the Blade” (vocals by Guy Garvey) – 5:29
  1. 7. “Paradise Circus” (vocals by Hope Sandoval) – 4:58
  1. 8. “Rush Minute” (vocals by Robert Del Naja) – 4:48
  1. 9. “Saturday Come Slow” (vocals by Damon Albarn) – 3:42
  1. 10. “Atlas Air” (vocals by Robert Del Naja) – 7:47

Band Members


  • Robert del Naja (aka 3D)
  • Daddy G

Studio Albums

  • Blue Lines (1991)
  • Protection (1994)
  • Mezzanine (1998)
  • 100th Window (2003)
  • Heligoland (2010)

Heligoland is the fifth regular studio album from the collaborative British, Bristol trip-hop music production duo Massive Attack.  It was recorded from October 2008 through to June 2009.

The group formed in 1987 around their influential and legendary Dug Out club and Jamaican-style soundsystem, playing a blend of hip hop, new wave reggae, early house and techno which shaped their acclaimed 1991 debut, Blue Lines. Mezzanine, their third album released in 1998 proved to be a creative and commercial peak selling in excess of three million albums.

Heligoland is released seven years after their previous non-soundtrack, standalone studio album, 100th Window. 100th Window, was created mainly by Robert del Naja (aka 3D), Heligoland is cooperative effort of both original band members Robert del Naja (aka 3D) and Daddy G. Album is named after German archipelago Heligoland.

The artwork, as with every Massive Attack album since Protection, is collaboration between Tom Hingston and Del Naja, this time based on Del Naja’s paintings. Maybe it will be interesting to some that the cover image has been banned on the London Underground, due to it being deemed by Transport For London, to too closely resemble “street art”.

Heligoland is the kind of album that I had to give a couple of tries before the music really got to me. And in my experience that’s not a bad thing.  Opposite, the music that had to be listened a couple of times over again to catch, usually stays in my Hi-Fi system the longest.

First words would have to be the Heligoland is a natural continuation of the previous works by these magnificent artists. The feel of the music that follows them throughout their discography is similar, with tension and dread in all the tracks and familiar trip-hop stoned atmospheres. When I listen to music of Massive attack I always get the feeling that I’m the part of some psychedelic David Lynch like movie scene.

Most of people compare new Massive Attack releases to their commercially most successful Music Albums Blue Lines and Mezzanine. But to me, Masssive Attack are so unique, their sound so different from anything else on the scene, that every new album sounds very fresh and almost essential addition to furrow up the music everyday.

The record features always-chosen Horace Andy plus the following invited vocalists: Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio, Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Hope Sandoval of Hope Sandoval And The Warm Inventions and Mazzy Star, Guy Garvey of Elbow and Martina Topley-Bird, as well as guitar playing by Adrian Utley of Portishead (on “Saturday Come Slow”), keys from Portishead collaborator John Baggott (most notably on “Atlas Air”), keys and synth bass from Damon Albarn (“Splitting the Atom” and “Flat of the Blade” respectively), bass by Neil Davidge (“Girl I Love You”) and bass by Billy Fuller of Beak> on various tracks.

Album Peaks: The album as a whole. My favourites maybe “Rush Minute”, “Saturday Come Slow”,…

I’ll post parts of the Interview of Robert del Naja done by Steve Harnell in CrackerJack.

About how Heligoland is different/similar to previous Massive Attack releases:

»If you’re doing something you’ve done before, there’s an overwhelming sense of repetition which eventually kills you. The human mind is always hungry for new experiences. I think it’s instinctive with us. The thing I’ve always found exciting is disassembling an idea and pulling it apart. It’s that anarchy that I’ve always loved. I was a bit young for the punk thing, but it informed me dramatically. The collage of things when people turned ideas on their head and forced them into places they shouldn’t have been, whether it was storytelling, painting or music, I’ve always dug that.«

On the question how the Album should be listened:

»You don’t have to capture everything in one moment. It’s like buying an iPhone and adding apps to it. It’s something you can completely alter as you go along to suit yourself. There are no rules. The old model is no longer relevant. As a soundsystem we used to rip apart people’s songs for fun. People can do with this record what they see fit. There’s a part of me that wants the album to work as a complete piece over 50 minutes and another that just says screw it, tear it apart and do what you like with it. This is all there to be stolen from and abused. Music isn’t a precious commodity.«

My suggestion, choose the quiet evening, put the Massive Attack’s Heligoland on repeat in your Hi-Fi system, sit back and relax in your favorite listening spot and this time, take a good book that you’re reading along and the first few listening, let the Heligoland music be the background for whatever experiences are going on in your head.

Heligoland won’t let down old MA fans and people that like and can digest with pleasure sound specifics of sometimes claustrophobic trip-hop. It is a great musical work that takes you from everyday life to surreal, dreamy, trans-like perceptions of creative compositions of this legendary trip-hop pioneers.

Familiar to: Portishead, Tricky,…

Music Review: Rebelution – Bright Side of Life

18 02 2010

Website, My Space

HQ on web

Album Artwork

Track Listing

# Title Length
1. “Bright Side of Life” 4:05
2. “More Than Ever” 3:41
3. “Outta Control” 4:05
4. “From the Window” 4:39
5. “Suffering” 4:04
6. “Too Rude” 3:25
7. “Dubzilla” 2:15
8. “Bump” 5:23
9. “Lazy Afternoon” 3:30
10. “Moonlight” 4:20
11. “Change the System” 4:51
12. “Wake Up Call” 4:17
13. “More Than Dub” (bonus track) 4:00

Band Members


  • Eric Rachmany – Guitars, Vocals
  • Marley D. Williams – Bass
  • Rory Carey – Keyboards
  • Wes Finley – Drums


  • Matt Velasquez – Guitars, Vocals

Studio Albums

  • Rebelution (2006)
  • Courage to Grow (2007)
  • Bright Side of Life (2009)

Rebelution is a reggae/rock group from Santa Barbara, California. The group, formed in 2004, originally consisted of the vocalists and guitarists Eric Rachmany and Matt Velasquez, keyboardist Rory Carey, drummer Wesley Finley, and bassist Marley D. Williams, three of which were attending UC Santa Barbara at the time of formation.  Shortly after the release of their debut album, Matt Velasquez left the band in order to pursue personal interests in his own side project called Drum Major Instinct.

I’ve been looking for fresh, summer music for a while now. I have quite enough of the snow and freezing temperatures and can’t wait for some sun, mountainbiking, windsurfing,…

Rebelution was the answer. Don’t expect complicated music compositions, this folks are all about fun and carefree aura. Perfect for lazy summer mornings with no problems on your head.

The whole “Bright Side of Life” album is acccompanied by dub/reggae rithm, and soft melodic guitar rifs/solos, with positive lyrics of echoed vocal of Eric Rachmany. You will find some sweet horn lines on almost half the songs on the album and even hear a bit of social criticism especialy at the end of the album on “Wake up call” and “Change the System”.

Album Peaks: From The Window, Bump,…

“Bright Side of Life” made it all the way up to the #3 album in the United States on iTunes in August 2009. A few words from Eric Rachmany on how he sees the evolution of your music from Courage to Grow to this album (The Pier, 31.7.2009):

“There has been a real progression in our songwriting and the arrangement, which all put in our two cents. We had a lot more time with this album to think about it and I think the message is kind of a continuation from Courage to Grow. We want people to feel an encouragement and we are in a position to be role models in society. So we feel it is our duty to put out positivity through our music. Bright Side of Life is a continuation of that feeling of motivation.”

“I also think the songs are a lot more developed and we added a lot more different genres into this album too. We have a pop song. a roots reggae song, hip hop and straight rock, though the foundation is reggae. We like to mix it up with all the different styles.”

I’ve also read an statement of drummer  Wes Finley in Modern Drummer Blog (2009-09-22) and will quote the part:

»Recorded music today is more of a free marketing tool than it is a commodity, which is why the only way to make a buck these days is to tour–extensively. Nonetheless, this should just be seen as a sort of necessary evolution. As much as technology can enable the music maker, it may make him or her lazy. Touring pushes performers to reproduce their music day after day in different geographic locations, thus proving themselves to their audience and listeners. Besides, what’s more fun than seeing your favorite band play their music live, right before your very eyes?«

Right aproach in my opinion. Give a Rebelution a try, I guaranee their music feels good…

Familiar to: Sublime, Dispatch, Pepper, The Expendables,…

Movie Recommendation: Pi

18 02 2010

Pi (1998)

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis

HQ on web

Movie Recommendation: Antichrist

18 02 2010

Antichrist (2009)

Director: Lars von Trier

Cast: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg

HQ on web

The Blog

18 02 2010

Hello and welcome,

the purpose of this Blog  is to write short reviews and recommendations of  new Music releases.

Let me add that for me, music review is always subjective perception of artists work. This blog is not here to criticize or undermine music creations, but to suggest to you the Albums that caught my attention.

Occasionally I will include movie recommendations, movie scenes or my favorite artists profiles on the blog.

Thanks for your support, comments, visits,…