Brett Dean is not shy about revealing what his music is ‘about’. Whether inspired by certain individuals (as in Epitaphs), or by an ecological or human disaster (as in his String Quartet No. 1, on the now all too topical plight of refugees), Dean’s works are usually – perhaps invariably – driven by extra-musical narratives. Rather than tease out any innate structural puzzles or tensions, his music typically falls into short little dramatic narratives – no movement on this disc lasts as long as eight minutes, many of them rather less than five. The most obviously successful work here is Quartet No. 2, ‘And once I played Ophelia’, effectively a dramatic scena. Its soprano soloist is no mere extra voice (as in Schoenberg’s Second Quartet) but the leading protagonist. Allison Bell’s genuinely affecting performance is backed by the Doric Quartet’s expressionist scampering and sustained harmonies, the strings occasionally coming to the fore in the manner of a Schumann-style song postlude.
Recorded just a few years before her tragically early death at age 49, these performances at her annual Christmas Eve concerts at New York's Bottom Line find Laura revisiting her own stunning songs as well as cover songs she held close to her heart. These riveting, spare arrangements feature only voices and piano and include To a Child; And When I Die; Save the Country; Angel in the Dark; Wedding Bell Blues; Broken Rainbow; Wind; Emmie; Let It Be Me; Ooh Baby, Baby; Dedicated to the One I Love 24 impassioned performances on 2 CDs!
Italian pop star Laura Pausini's first English LP, From the Inside, is a guilty pleasure for any closeted fan of easy-listening pop (Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, Backstreet Boys). The album kicks off with the glorious "I Need Love," a song that earned her U.S. exposure when the ABC daytime drama All My Children used it as a love theme. Other highlights include "Every Day Is a Monday," a Europop mainstream song laced with a wah-wah guitar, and the Dion-like "Without You." Pausini is clearly influenced by Dion. Her voice doesn't soar to the heights that Dion reaches, but she comes close in songs such as "If That's Love" and "Every Day Is a Monday." Like most albums filled with love songs, "surrender" is a theme throughout From the Inside, especially in the funky ballad "Do I Dare" and the Europop "Surrender." This is one album to surrender to.