Dig These Discs :: Sir Ivan, Hunter Valentine, Heaven And, Stacey Q, Mary Chapin Carpenter
Can't we all get along? That's at the center of Sir Ivan's album. The peace activist has a collection of songs pieced together specifically for his message. Country singer Mary Chapin Carpenter has a set of original compositions that also fall into line with Sir Ivan, as she takes a look at some of the recent events that have happened in the world.
But if thinking isn't really your cup of tea, '80s one-hit wonder Stacey Q has a greatest hits album that will get you off of the couch. If you aren't relaxed and grooving after listening to this week's collection you might want to check your pulse.
Sir Ivan - I Am Peaceman
Sir Ivan is a peace activist who gave up his vast family fortune to take up a career singing and spreading the word of peace.
In order to do that, he has released the album I am Peaceman, which takes popular songs and reworks them into dance floor versions of their former selves. For the most part, his versions are sufficient, if not unforgettable.
As "Peaceman," Sir Ivan is offering a collection of that even the most ardent hippie would be hard pressed to try to top. With remakes of "Happy Together," "Hare Krishna," "Peace on Earth," and "San Francisco" the album is a throwback to the summer of love.
As a rule of thumb, "Imagine" is a song where the less is more rule applies best. Turning that song into a dance track is not okay.
Most of the other reworkings are fun to listen to, but unless you are on an eco-friendly granola kick, this may not be an album that racks up a high replay rate.
Hunter Valentine - Lessons from the Late Night
All-girl rock band Hunter Valentine is releasing the follow-up EP to their debut album, The Impatient Romantic. Their newest set, Lessons from the Late Night, is a collection that will satiate the band’s existing fans, but probably not gain them any new ones.
Lead singer Kiyomi McCloskey sounds like nails on a chalk board. She obviously is trying to pattern herself after some of the classic female rock singers--Joan Jett comes to mind--but McCloskey’s voice is severely limited and does nothing to work towards her strengths. Then again, if listening to a cat drown with a rock music background is your idea of a good time, then Hunter Valentine might be your cup of tea.
McCloskey’s screeching is at its worst on the opening song, "The Stalker." By the time the seven-song set is done, she has mellowed out and it’s not so hard to listen, which makes "A Youthful Existence" the highlight of the set.
However, even on a song like "Scarface," which is almost like sing-talking, she is able to reach certain notes that end up sounding like nails on a chalk board.
Heaven And -- Bye and Bye I’m Going to See the King
The six song EP Bye and Bye I’m Going to See the King by Heaven And is overly drawn out. With the average length of the songs being over seven minutes, it can be hard to get through the entire set in one sitting.
The title track is a quiet guitar strummer that takes so long to get going that by the time it does the pay off, it isn’t worth the buildup. In fact, towards the end of the song it sounds like the band is just starting to tune the instruments and forgot it was being recorded.
Things only get weirder on the third track, "Om." You might be left saying "Um..." instead, as it’s hard to figure out what is going on in the track. At times, it seems like it’s just noises being strung together, while other times it does appear to have some semblance of order.
On occasion it seems like chaos in the name of the game for Heaven And. Looked at as a piece of avant garde music, the EP takes a new whole new life.
Stacey Q - Greatest Hits
Did Stacey Q have any hits other than the classic "Two of Hearts?" As her Greatest Hits album will attest, she had plenty of singles--14, to be exact. But with the exception of "Hearts," none ever got nearly as much notoriety for the singer, whose real name is Stacey Lynn Swain.
This being a greatest hits compilation, "Hearts" opens the album--as it should--and the following baker’s dozen of songs are a hodgepodge of similar-sounding songs from the singer’s Better than Heaven album, while ignoring some of her other albums completely, like Hard Machine.
Purists of Stacey Q’s collection will be disappointed to know that the ’80s dance floor queen has remixed and reworked many of the songs on the album from their original versions. They’ve been updated subtly, but noticeably, to give listeners just shy of an hour of pure dance music.
Stacey Q has vocal limitations that would be easy to fix nowadays. She may have been a little bit ahead of her time, but now you can relive highlights from her brief career.
Mary Chapin Carpenter - The Age of Miracles
Mary Chapin Carpenter’s The Age of Miracles is the singer’s tenth studio album.
The album came to be after Carpenter had a pulmonary embolism. She has returned to health, and brought with her a number of songs that are perceptive and full of insight.
The Age of Miracles succeeds the most when it’s at its most simplistic. Not much is needed for the singer to make an impact with the album. Carpenter, who wrote the entire album, is able to draw from both recent and historical events (Hurricane Katrina, Tiananmen Square) for inspiration, without taking away from the listening pleasure.
Carpenter does more here with her folk stylings than she has on previous albums. It may take away from some of the country audience that has followed her on the more mainstream country albums she has released--though the uptempo song "I Put My Ring Back On," which singer Vince Gill guests on, is sure to entice some.