Brother Ape is a very fine act consisting of four very talented as well as skilled musicians. Stefan Damicolas (vocals, guitars), who is writing most of the material with all tracks arranged together with the rest of the band, Peter Dahlstrom (vocals, bass, keyboards), Gunnar Maxén (bass, keyboards, vocals) and Max Bergman (drums, percussion). Musically their sound is a unique blend of progressive rock and fusion. At times chord changes are somewhat in the vein of 70's fusion bands such as Weather Report or Brand X, but performed with quite heavy, but also kind of sophisticated guitars rather than 70's keyboard sounds. They've also got one foot in the more traditional progressive rock style with Saga, Yes, Rush and maybe also some A.C.T influences with the end result creating an original yet accessible sound of their own. Dashes of Zappa's rockier style can also be found in their music.
Columbia has managed to squeeze an impressive, perhaps excessive, number of compilations out of Janis Joplin's relatively slim body of recordings. With this two-CD set, The Essential Janis Joplin, the label's at it again, though it's a good one to get if you don't want to collect all the Joplin releases, and certainly don't want to get the expensive Joplin boxes, but want more than what fits onto a single disc. Including both solo recordings and highlights of her stint with Big Brother & the Holding Company, it has all the songs fans and critics would consider milestones in her career: "Ball and Chain" (a version recorded live in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival, not the more familiar one from Cheap Thrills), "Piece of My Heart," "Down on Me," "Summertime," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," "Tell Mama" (the live 1970 performance from the expanded edition of Pearl), "Get It While You Can," "Mercedes Benz," and "Me and Bobby McGee." And there are also good tracks that aren't as overly familiar, like "Coo Coo," "Misery'n," "Maybe," "Work Me, Lord," and "A Woman Left Lonely."
TO VENUS AND BACK pairs a disc of studio tracks with a disc of live concert recordings. The first disc features some of Amos' most electronic-sounding productions to date. Though her acrobatic singing is given its usual full rein, many of the studio songs feature intricate, effects-rich orchestrations. The album-opening "Bliss" begins as a windswept soundscape, only to open up into a hook-laden chorus. "Juarez" is an intoxicating stew of disembodied voices, roiling synthesizers, and propulsive percussion. "Glory of the '80s" visits a night of drug-fueled hedonism during a decade that defined excess. "Josephine" is a standout track that will appeal to fans of Amos' more open, piano-centered work. The second disc culls tracks from Amos' 1998 Plugged Tour. The live rendering of "Cornflake Girl" is a particularly stirring affair, noteworthy for Amos' vocal bravura and for the cascading sheets of piano that she adds during the song's climax. Also featured is "Cooling," a track that Amos has never committed to album. No Tori Amos fan will want to be without TO VENUS AND BACK. Album was nominated for the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Performance.
These two concerts from Montreux in 1991 and 1992 catch Tori Amos right at the start of her solo career. The first, from July 1991, was filmed a few months before the release of her "Little Earthquakes" album and the second from July 1992 followed a few months after. There is a fascinating progression from one year to the next as she grows in confidence and skill as a live performer, buoyed by the critical and commercial success of the album. Naturally most of the songs are taken from "Little Earthquakes" but there are also rare songs from her various EPs released across the two years which didn't make it onto the album including her distinctive takes on Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and "Thank You" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit".