PILIHAN HARI RAYA Various Artistes Warner Music
HERE’S a good shoutout for local commercial musicians for the festive season. A rearranged pop compilation, the album covers 23 well-known Raya songs you’ve heard in shopping centres, on radio and on television.
Stalwart Datuk D.J. Dave offers a pristine rendition of Menjelang Hari Raya (a 1977 song) while the most recent is the 2012 Kemaafan Lebaran, sung by Firdaus (featuring Faris Awanband and Youk Bunkface).
I like both as well as Suasana Di Hari Raya, a 1985 hit, sung by Anuar and Ellina, with another version by the inimitable Datuk
An obviously really popular song with an unforgettable melody is the 1981 Dari Jauh Kupohon Maaf, sung by the late Datuk Sudirman Haji Arshad.
Aman Shah, a hottie in the 1980s, sings Kepulangan Yang Kunanti while you will surely remember the 1973 Aidilfitri, sung by Sanisah Huri.
Black Dog Bone offers an emotive, rock rendition of Cahaya Aidilfitri and Dave closes this album with a fun, cube remix of Menjelang Hari Raya.
I would keep this album just to have a compilation of good Raya songs. You can’t go wrong with these songs in the house when entertaining guests.
Universal Music (Imported)
THIS is the studio swansong of American R&B singer Etta James who died in January this year from leukaemia and Alzheimer’s disease at 74.
You may know her songs — At Last (covered by Christina Aguilera), I’d Rather Go Blind (Idol’s Joshua Ledet) and others like the heart-breaking All I Could Do Was Cry.
This legendary singer, a six-time Grammy winner, sang the blues like no other on this 28th album, which she finished in November last year.
If you’ve never heard of James, give these 11 tracks a listen. It’s a mix of country, R&B, and rock but the groove is old-school soul.
A 2003 autobiography called Rage To Survive: The Etta James Story reveals a traumatic life, but one always filled with song. James’ life may explain that rich, expressive tone in her voice. She was 56 when the book came out.
In the book, James says she started in her singing career in gospel music and on the radio, when aged five, then called Jamesetta Hawkins. Her mother was 14 when James was born in Los Angeles in 1938, and she was raised by friends and relatives.
At 12, her foster mum died, and James went to find her mother in San Francisco. With little adult supervision, she began to slide into juvenile delinquency.
Her love of music kept her together but James’ career was a slowburner.
Her 1973 eponymous album earned her first Grammy nomination. I think music fans only started to appreciate her low, gravelly voice in the 1990s.
The book states that she became a heroin addict by 21, and waged a battle on many front — illness, unpaid royalties, bad love choices. She managed to kick the heroine addiction in her late 40s.
Through her ups and downs, James kept releasing records, still keeping crowds rocking with her music, voice and often suggestive gyrations on stage.
In 1994, a year after she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, James recorded Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday. That brought James her first Grammy Award. In 2003, she received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
It is unfortunate that American president Barack Obama’s 2009 inaugural ball saw Beyonce Knowles singing the 1961 James classic, At Last, and not the grande dame herself. That would have been a real treat for music fans and the lady herself.
James has offered albums in pop, jazz, southern rock and other genres because of her versatility. For me, she excels in soul and R&B.
In The Dreamer, check out her deep-voiced, honest oh yeah-filled versions of Otis Redding’s Cigarettes & Coffee as well as Champagne & Wine, Bobby “Blue” Bland’s Dreamer, Ray Charles’ In the Evening and the closer Little Milton’s Let Me Down Easy.
My favourites are a bar-room sounding Groove Me (by King Floyd) and a slowed-down, intense rendition of Bob Montgomery’s country-pop standard Misty Blue.
Etta James made the blues come alive. There isn’t one particular album that critics say is her best, but The Dreamer is a good start for ad-school blues.
WELL-known artiste Reshmonu has joined local artistes Jeyaganesh Velayudan (Jey), Jagatheswaran Suppayah (Jegan) and Sarvin Raj Suparmaniam (Vinz) to form Ashtaka. This self-titled debut album is filled with irresistible beats and harmonious voices, even when rapping verses.
Singing mostly about love and relationships, the eight songs are in various Indian dialects — Tamil, Punjabi, Malayalam — and English.
I like most of the tracks including the soulful Ereggae-infused Kanne, light rock Ellorum Ondragellam (Let’s Get it Together), dancey Vaadi En Pillai, and the dappan kootho (a distinctive South Indian percussive sound) tribute called
Aattam Podu with its nadaswaram inclusion. Nadaswaram is a loud, wind instrument, popularly played in Hindu weddings and temple ceremonies.
This is definitely a repeat play album. My finger is on Aattam Podu. See where yours go!