mercredi 30 septembre 2009

Ocean Drive feat DJ Oriska or the french sound of summer

"Some people make it so why I couldn't do it ? I just wanna live all my desires"
That's the way goes the accoustic intro of Some people (mon désir) as well as its chorus. I didn't really took notice of this first single from Ocean Drive feat. DJ Oriska until follower Without you (perdue sans toi) came to my ears, using the same recipe, but englueing me into its musical mixture this time : same intro with a beautiful warm male voice with just an accoutic guitar which builds up with addition of layers of synthés, electro rhythm loops, sexy girl's vocal in french and anthemic catchy chorus.

I decided to learn more about who that Ocean Drive feat DJ Oriska project was and what a surprise : I found out the male vocalist is Gilles Luka, previously mindmaster of Galleon (remember So I begin, I believe and One sign in 2001/2002 ?) who wrote several hits for french pop/R&B goddess Nâdiya and went solo for a digital 80's influenced pop/rock album in 2008 80:08.

Ocean Drive was born by his association with two producers Just Uman and Nicolas Carel, and a little electro twitching by DJette Oriska. Although she is widely featured in the videos for Ocean Drive's first two singles, it is not her that sings the female parts in french but a vocalist named Sab.
I've read on their album's booklet french lyrics and additional production came from Johnny Williams and he is no newcomer in this business : with partner Louis Element, he was a leading force in the french dance music scene in the 90's, being part of Roman Photo, B-One and many more eurodance projects. He then went on becoming songwriter/producer with some real success as he was the one behind Allan Theo's hit album Emmène-moi in 1998 but more noticely the starting career of Lorie (writing and producing all her stuff for Près de moi, tendrement, Attitudes and many more). Another Gilles Luka usual partner in crime is brought in on two titles with rapper Smartzee. It is no wonder that with all the people and dedication involved in the project, Sony Music wanted With the sunshine, the album that has just been released, to become the sound of summer.

And I think it's perfect for the holiday clubbing, mixing 80's influences with elektro dance, french and english lyrics, male and female vocals, all together in a melting pot of musics. There's even a ballad, the touching and beautiful No one that was already featured on Gilles Luka solo album. His MySpace page reveals a new solo album (but in french this time) is on its way and the first single On s'évite (with a remix by Ocean Drive) displayed on his music sample player sounds irresistible : I can't wait !!

Let's go back to Ocean Drive and With the sunshine. The CD's first tracks are the two singles, Whatcha an all in english vocoderized and repetitive full on elektro number whose rhythm falls down in an odd calm pause before an electronical skat-ing. I don't understand its placing at #2 on the CD as I very much doubt it could follow Some people and Without you on the radios. But track #4 will for sure ! Because (connecte-toi) clicks on all the same buttons as previous singles with a great chorus and french verses and I can't see a single without these female vocals parts as the Ocean Drive project relies heavily on the DJ Oriska visual, even if she is not the one really singing. I don't forget these french lyrics make Ocean Drive elligible on radios in "french" quotas, and as that's rare in dance, a bigger exposure is guaranteed. With the sunshine (tellement loin) could also become single #3 but the lyrics are too summer-ish for an autumn release, I think.
I really like a lot We can make it, another all in english Gilles Luka song, and it is simply because the arrangements sound like a rip-off Giorgio Moroder's I feel love. That is not the first, nor the last, but it always have the same effects on me : I can't help but love this kind of disco with synthé layers constructed dance tracks. Don't give it up relies more on the usual sound but without french vocals so I guess it'll just stay a good album track. For nobody (donne-moi du son) is another Some people/Without you sound-a-like but the french vocals don't sound like being sung by the usual Sab : They sound more diva-like a la Geraldine from the Heben productions. In your eyes is a keyboard-led anthemic beautiful track and considering David Guetta's When love takes over success, it could possibly be promoed in the clubs to diversify their image a little. There's even bits of Visage's Fade to grey in the way this one sounds. Everyday is the one that sounds the more like a song escaped from Galleon's album but remixed with a little touch from 2009 and that makes me realize that, in fact, Ocean Drive isn't very far away from what Galleon was. There's only the additional elektro sounds of today and the french lyrics bits but the spirit as well as the lead vocalist are the same.
I've kept the two Smartzee featurings for the last as I thought they'd sound too R&B influenced for my tastes really. Digin' it is all rappin' it on minimal electro loops with a little bit of sung vocals but it is not catchy enough to follow the steps of Guetta & Akon's Sexy bitch hit. Your man has a stronger chorus and melody and a nice pulsating rhythm. Smartzee gives this track an energetic rap that boosts it up and if the electro/R&B trend keeps on building his way up in the charts, I think this final track could easily lift Ocean Drive ("without DJ Oriska but featuring Smartzee") back in the charts for a last round.

We're done with the album tracklisting, except for two last remixes, Without you by Romain Curtis, and the club extended mix of Some people. The real surprise would have been to discover a remix of the third single and then put a name on it. So will it be my favourite Because or For nobody, With the sunshine or outsider Your man ? Time will tell. All I hope is that Ocean Drive won't be another Galleon, two hitsingles, a further less successful third single and an album and off. Well, I know it may be just a summer project before re-launching his career but Gilles Luka has too much talent to just come and go from time to time in our CD players : there's place for him more steadily.

Just a last word about the dreadful multicolored cover image with DJ Oriska's sunglasses... the back page of the booklet has a way better designed multicolored look to offer, with a cola can with Coca look-a-like Ocean Drive logo and rainbow coloured soda drink escaping from it in a splash. THAT would have been a nice visual ! Maybe too camp, so uncommercial for the masses, but that's why I like it more...

mardi 1 septembre 2009

Whitney Houston's come back and it is as if she's never gone...

Already time for another review guys and it's only been two days that I have this album but I can't wait more to entice you go and grab yourself a copy of it in musicstores anywhere...
This must-have CD is I look to you, the big comeback album by the forever one and only US diva Whitney Houston. Well, I know it may sounds too much, because her latest offerings, 1998 My love is your love and 2002 Just Whitney (I don't talk of the christmas CD One wish in 2003) were a little so-so, with so many collaborations but so NOT what miss Houston is : a mainstream singer, made to sing big ballads and soul/R&B inspired pop, not to record tuneless hiphop with top rappers of the current billboard charts. What songs will she be remembered for : Whatchulookinat, My love is your love ? Maybe Heartbreak hotel and It's not right but it's OK, but only by the kids... Only her duet with Mariah Carey, When you believe, was a great moment of the post-Bodyguard era...
What we needed was the return of the diva who sang Saving all my love for you, The greatest love of all, Where do broken hearts go, One moment in time, All the man that I need, I have nothing and the unforgettable I will always love you. The comeback of the Voice who could sing her heart out in joyful and dancing pop numbers like Love will save the day, I wanna dance with somebody (who loves me), So emotional, I'm your baby tonight, Queen of the night, I'm every woman, Step by step.
Clive Davis, the artistic director of the lady on all her first albums, knew all that. Her personal problems with drugs, the violence from her man Bobby Brown, nothing should have let her away from her fans a year more. This album is her redemption, her resurrection, the comeback to life for a great artist, rising up above the ashes of past years' bad times. Some will say her voice has lost some power, because of the drugs and, like it shows on the CD cover photograph, she's 43 now. But (nearly) all songs on I look to you, and there's only 11, sound like top material recorded by a top performer. All I have to say is "Go buy it !"

It starts with Million dollar bill and it sounds like a very retro disco/funk winner. Penned and co-produced by Alicia Keys, this first single (but not first title used for promotion) has a good organic rhythm and arrangements with a catchy chorus that will instantly makes you feel good, nod your head in rhythm and get your feet tapping. At 3:24, this old school pop winner is way too short : you want to push the Repeat button when it's finished. Nothin' but love
follows and this one is a collaboration between producers Fernando Garibay and Danja with help from Harvey Mason. It is a hand-clapping uptempo song with nice background vocals supporting the lady. Despite what usually works with Britney on Danja's productions, there is no sign of vocoderized vocals here but the track sounds very modern and club friendly. The tempo is calmed down a little with Call you tonight, a nice and pleasant mid-tempo summer popsong, with a great guitar arrangement all along and sing-a-long chorus. This Babyface inspired number is written and produced by StarGate and I can't help but think these norwegians may have lost one third of the team when they decided to relocate their studios in the US but their talent is still intact and their greater-by-each-day success is truly deserved.
A simple piano starts the R.Kelly song that gives its name to the album, I look to you
, and we're back when Whitney's singlehits were big anthemic ballads where her voice alone could take some lyrics and empower them into a torching song that made every lovers around the world watch the sundown hand in hand and kiss before the film "the end" credit appears. Is it too Cliché for you ? Not for me. Despite my love for dance/house, I'm a true romantic at heart and that kind of big ballad takes me away and have me singin' along for my neighbours' shame. Will it be a single or not ? Who cares ? Nowadays, singles are only promos for radios and with albums like that, nearly all songs are singles in our hearts (and iPods).
Next is the only song of the album that features a vocal contribution by another artist and it is Akon who gets this special treatment. Written and produced by him, this standout track, that was one of the first recorded and destined to be a single, says it all in its title : Like I never left
. And it's a sure hit. It's got a finger-snapping beat, an instantly memorable chorus, the trademark nasal vocals by Mr. "#1 hit" Akon and I even wonder why it hasn't been the first single. It is followed by the only cover version of the album, A song for you, originally by Leon Russell, and it all starts with an accoustic and somewhat jazzy piano intro. It sounds as if we were in an old smockey bar next to an old pianist doing his thing with closed eyes, with a classy lady singing next to him for the audience. But then it surprisingly changes, with a nearly housy beat and electro loops, into a full-on clubby vocal anthem. It is another StarGate production and it definitely is a winner in my heart !
Now is the time for I didn't know my own strength, the first song that was promoed to get prepared for the album's release. Especially penned for Whitney Houston, this classic Diane Warren ballad was one of the first recordings with David Foster on production duties. As if we were still in the golden years when the magic pair had half the Billboard's top ten in their hands. The lyrics are really moving because reflecting somehow Whitney's own bad times and I predict a single release. A dance remix has already leaked and, like for all Diane Warren anthemic ballads, it has becomed a fabulous club anthem, in the hands of Rafael Lelis. Worth it, co-written and produced by Eric Hudson, trendy producer (Mary J.Blige, Jesse McCartney, Brandy, Leona Lewis...) and son of one of Madonna's Holiday songwriter, is another old-school inspired mid-tempo with a hand-clapping beat that makes you want to sing along to it. At 4'45, it is the longest song out there and Whitney's voice sounds really inspired on it, making me think of Mariah Carey at her best, sometimes. Strangely enough, its chorus sees Whitney going "This is for the lovers... this is for you" when the following track's name is For the lovers. So track #9 already is another Danja production and at its first notes, it makes me think of a Michael Jackson song, with a syncopated beat pulsating all through the song. When the chorus comes, it sounds all the more uplifting but I should confess this one really sounds modern in the electro/R&B trendy way that nowadays american girls want to sound (think Rihanna, Lady Gaga, etc) but it suits the 46 year old lady with ease, and there's single potential for sure with this one.
Next is the other Akon song/production and I got you
starts with flashing synthé sounds before the chant begins. A spanish accoustic guitar stays in the sonic background while Whitney Houston tries to give life to this really flat mid-tempo. Wasn't there something better recorded in the studios to just include this second Akon song inside the 11 tracks CD ? That makes me wonder why the album is so short. By current standards, it should have featured a couple more songs at least, but I know it wouldn't have been the guarantee for more quality. With Salute, it's already time to close this album and it's a pleasant mid-tempo written (and produced this time) by R.Kelly. I especially like the "salute" word closing the chorus and the nice work done on the background vocals but let me say the two last songs on the album don't do justice to the rest of it. There is something missing to finish it in a grande finale ; there's not even a hidden track or something to cheer it up a little after the last two more depressing than joyful rhythms... But we still have got the perfect 9 first tracks to be replayed if you use the Repeat button so what are you waiting for ? ...Repeat.

04/09/09 Edit : I've just discovered Million dollar bill is being promoed with ...a Freemasons remix : I just can't wait to see it get a full release !

David Guetta's 4th album "One Love"

I told you previously in my french DJs' summer albums post that I couldn't wait for David Guetta's fourth studio album One love to be released and now it's been released a week ago and I've listened to it more than a couple times, I can review it fully.

Well, I guess I was awaiting too much of it, its first single When love takes over gave me great expectations while second one Sexy bitch should have let me know it was gonna be a mixed bag, full of too much US R&B influences... Not that it isn't a great album but David Guetta's moved a little too far away from his usual sounds for me.

1/ WHEN LOVE TAKES OVER feat. Kelly Rowland 3:12
The song starts with these gorgeous Coldplay inspired piano notes and builds up into the anthem of the summer 2009, maybe the club anthem of 2009, who knows? It could be. The song has everything : a beautiful melody, great arrangements, memorizable lyrics, perfect chorus, a nice slowed down bridge and a powerful vocalist. I really hope Kelly Rowland has learned of her recent hits (all in the club territories, over her R&B flops) and will work on a full electro-house solo album. Doesn't even Beyoncé get remixed to have higher hits (Freemasons somewhere?).
I must have listened to this song a million times already but I'm sure I ain't never gonna get bored of it... Did I told you it reached #1 in the UK charts? 20/20.

2/ GETTIN' OVER feat. Chris Willis 3:00
The song starts like previous Guetta/Willis collaborations, with minimal keys and soulful Chris Willis voices belting out but then, at 1'10, comes a dirty elektro loop that is on full repeat mode to get on our nerves before more nearly acapellas by Chris Willis heal our ears, but then the awful sounds come back and alternate with the "just no gettin' over you" final parts. It seems to me like David Guetta had recorded a Love is gone clone and wanted to disturb it a little, to make it sound raw, so re-arranged with cut/paste techniques : sometimes beautiful, sometimes boring : 14/20.

3/ SEXY BITCH feat. Akon 3:16
Having recently watched a lot of Kid Cudi vs Crookers' video on MCM, I can't forget Sexy bitch verses' sounds a lot like Day N Nite : minimal beats and confessional conversational lyrics. But then comes the pre-chorus then real chorus with full uplifting elektro treatment... This one is a grower, with the underground appeal it's been censured into Sexy chick for US radios : it's already reached #1 in the UK charts : 18/20.

4/ MEMORIES feat. Kid Cudi 3:28
Weren't we talking of Kid Cudi ? He is next on board with a darker voice on Memories verses and a full "Hey hey, hey hey" chorus line that must be one the the poorest chorus lyrics I have ever heard! But it must be about the rhythm, not about the lyrics, to make people move bodies and dance. So it's okay, I suppose. I won't trade it for the joyful Day N Nite though... 12/20.

5/ ON THE DANCEFLOOR feat. Will.I.Am & Apl de Ap 3:45
This first of three Black Eyed Peas/Will.I.Am collaborations starts with an annoying and repetitive rap before the music gets even more annoying mixing acid loops and shoutings by the boyz. This one's got me using the SKIP button each time I listen to my CD ! 00/20.

6/ IT'S THE WAY YOU LOVE ME feat. Kelly Rowland 4:10
Thankfully for my ears, When love takes over, Part II comes in with a more syncopated arrangement that makes me nod my head in rhythm but still an uplifting melody and charming vocal by Miss Kelly Rowland. Oh how I would like this one to be released as a single... but I doubt another Guetta/Rowland will be granted with such a bliss unless 2/3 of this tracklisting becomes singles : 19/20.

7/ MISSING YOU feat. Novel 3:07
A pulsating rhythm, a warm voice and african inspirations all melt into the following track, but just like on Gettin' over, there's too much elektro loops at some times to make it really work in my heart : 15/20.

8/ CHOOSE feat. Ne-Yo & Kelly Rowland 3:57
Now this is what some would call a missed opportunity : gettin' Kelly Rowland AND Ne-Yo sing on the same song and finally get THIS ! It sounds like an unfinished demo with an annoying repetitive chorus line "You wanna make me choose" repeated like endlessly on speeded up beats all with noizy blib-blips... I don't understand how this studio jam (afterhours and after smokin' a lot for sure) could have saved its place on the CD and really hope This kind of "music" ain't the future of Music ! 02/20 (for Kelly's contribution...)

9/ HOW SOON IS NOW with Sebastian Ingrosso & Dirty South feat. Julie McKnight 4:09
David Guetta or his record company must have been in the know some tracks were hard on the ears because they are always followed by old-school house anthems and How soon is now, a collaboration with Sabastian Ingrosso, Dirty South and Fred Riesterer is another perfect feel-good-with-your-hands-in-the-air lightful anthem where Julie McKnight's beautiful voice shines all through it : 20/20.

10/ I GOTTA FEELING (FMIF REMIX EDIT) by Black Eyed Peas 3:54
Some people may not know but Black Eyed Peas' recent #1 hit I gotta feeling from their #1 album The E.N.D. is produced by David Guetta and this remix by Mr. Guetta and Fred Riesterer has its own place on his album. For once, I like it more when the 'Peas are singing than when David's alone at twitchin' the knobs : over 30'', it becomes very annoying, and there are too many alarm sirens sounds too. I believe my parents would instantly die by blips overdose if I was tempted to hold them listening to it till the end ...and it's less than 4' long ! 12/20.

11/ ONE LOVE feat. Estelle 4:01
Once more, salvation comes from a true diva, from England this time (she may have found her American boy but she's all a british girl!) and Estelle's one and only collaboration gives its title to the album. One love has got some african inspired beats with non-primal electro arrangements and a beautiful vocal line, nearly gospel at times. Another anthem in the making and for sure a future single ! 18/20.

12/ I WANNA GO CRAZY feat. Will.I.Am 3:24
"Let's go!" shouts Will.I.Am in I wanna go crazy intro and I'm fearin' another awful mess ...that it is not, for once. This new collaboration is not the one I like best out of this bunch for sure but this time they made it hearable till the end. Allow me to think that Will.I.Am ain't a singer nor a good rapper on my shores... His flow is very binary, but isn't rap musically very primary too? 15/20.

13/ SOUND OF LETTING GO with Tocadisco feat. Chris Willis 3:45
Previously Guetta's favourite Chris Willis comes back for a second track, a new collaboration with Tocadisco and, just like Tomorrow can wait, it's another winner. Mr. Willis should get the chance to have a solo album of his own, for his vocals are always so soulful, and at the same time so perfect for house music ; I can't understand how he is so under-used by dance music producers round there. I'd hear it easily on radios if it was released as third single over Gettin' over apparent choice ! 17/20.

14/ TOYFRIEND with Afrojack feat. Wynter Gordon 3:17
Toyfriend starts with oriental chants with what sounds like a boat siren and it sums up perfectly what the song is : a journey into India/Africa with an electro mixing desk in our baggages. I can nearly see it in the background of a DVD showing David Guetta on a flight to Ibiza or Istambul. Refreshing but not my cup of tea... 13/20.

15/ IF WE EVER feat. Makeba 4:40
A nice female voice opens up for the final track of One love's tracklisting, with beats sounding like waterdrops falling behind the melody line. But when the chorus comes, all breezy and light, with a powerful wall of sound, it is a pleasant surprise. But the speed falls back for verse two, before a pulsating beat arrives in time for second chorus and lead the song into clubland, afterhours. It must be 5 'o clock in the morning, time to cool off at the beach before movin' back home for a nap... Ibiza dream : F*ck me, I may be famous? lol 16/20.

16/ WHEN LOVE TAKES OVER (BLAME REMIX) * feat. Kelly Rowland 5:13
First of two digital bonuses is an electro meets 2step/garage remix of the first single and I can't hide the truth : it's a real massacre !!! This remix has erased all the lightness of the track and the drum'n'bass rhythm has never done anything to me : 06/20.

17/ IT'S YOUR LIFE * feat. Chris Willis 3:45
Chris Willis gets a third card on the album's digital edition with It's your life, a better song than half the tracks on actual CD so I can't understand how it could have been put aside ...well, except Willis ain't a big name like Ne-Yo or Will.I.Am in the US bizness so it's safer to keep this one as a bonus. It is another winning collaboration between the two's, with aerial arrangements, hypnotic but discreet groove and amazing vocal performance : 18/20.

I NEED YOU NOW feat. Samantha Jade
Now's another new song that only appears mixed in between others on the One love megamix on bonus CD for the special edition release. I need you now is another wonderful club anthem (except Miss Jade ain't got Miss Rowland's powerful voice) that should have won its place onto the physical CD! All I need now is to find where the complete (unmixed) version of the song is available to download and buy it straight away to complete my special One love folder on my mp3 player. 17/20.

* Digital Bonus Tracks

So what? it's a mixed review... but if I let aside a couple of tracks that are unhearable and a couple others that don't fit to my tastes, there's still enough to make a great electro/house album, more than able to cross-over in the US and make his electro/R&B sound the sound of tomorrow. Minus these bad tracks' notes, the global appreciation goes up from 13,4/20 to 15,6/20.
One more thing to add : for the first time, David Guetta has joined forces with other co-producers than Joachim Garraud on this album #4. In an attempt to prove that he is a producer of his own, who ain't staying in mister G's shadow, he has mainly worked here with Frédéric Riesterer or Jean-Claudre Sindres and Antoine Clamaran's co-producer Sandy Vee, and it does still sound like Guetta.