By Cook Young, March 1999
As a result of attending the New York Music and Internet Expo on March 6th and 7th, I wound up having a slew of bands to report on this month and next. Fortunately, the task turned out to be far less onerous than I had first anticipated, since the lions share of the material was suprisingly good. In fact, you might even say that I enjoyed the process.
O.Z. Willis, No More Anything
Nydia, What's Up Wit Dat
Native, Exhale on Spring Street
Buzz Prophets, Kentucky
Valentine Smith, Valentine Smith
Bigger Than Plastic, INU
Skybolt Engine, Louisiana Rain
Anne O'Meara Heaton, Live
Gránian, Without Change
O.Z. Willis, No More Anything (© Riviere International Records)
O.Z. Willis takes you on a musical odyssey that carries you from angst-driven thrash metal to beautifully executed melodic passages. Guitarist Gary Call delivers vocals that are convincingly searing and by all means tuneful. The band cranks out a super blend of hard-edged rock, laced with an effective techno style. If you weren't already aware of it, O.Z. Willis will convince you that all is not necessarily right with the world and isn't that what rock and roll is all about? For more info, check the band's Web site.
Nydia, What's Up Wit Dat (© 1999 Sepia Entertainment Records)
Nydia's cassette tape sports a sexy little shot of the singer on the jacket which, to be frank, is enough to make me like the package already. Fortunately, there's some substance to accompany Nydia's style. Her R&B tunes groove along nicely. Soft infectious melodies float dreamily atop Tony Love and Tim Heyward's well-executed production. The lyrics could be a little better, but no one's perfect. For more info, check out Nydia's Web site.
Native, Exhale on Spring Street (© 1999 Native Enterprises Inc.)
Native has been banging about the New York City music scene for six years and judging by the sound of their follow-up CD, it's done them well. The band's country-tinged breed of rock is 99 percent flawless. Guitarist Mathew Hutt and percussionist John Wood handle the vocals adeptly. The material is infectiously catchy, the musicianship of the supporting cast Mike Jaimes (guitar), Matt Lyons (bass), Chris Wyckoff (keys), Dave Thomas (drums) is as solid as it comes. For more info, check out the band's Web site.
Buzz Prophets, Kentucky (© 1999 Tender Stone Entertainment, Inc.)
The New York City-based Buzz Prophets churn out some crisp sounding, edgy rock & roll slightly reminiscent of West Coast brethren Guns N' Roses and Pearl Jam. The Prophets have paid their dues, playing in respected local bands such as Reagan Youth and doing session work with major names such as Paula Abdul. Put simply, Scott Clark's vocals are top notch, Drew Wohl turns out one ass-kicking guitar lead after another, and rhythm section Anthony Mancebo (bass) and Charlie Bonet (drums) lock it down with the greatest of ease. For more info, check out the band's Web site.
Valentine Smith, Valentine Smith (© 1999 Another Round Recordings)
Valentine Smith's light pop rock sound sprinkled with Caribbean influences is enough to make me search for the nearest tropical drink (the kind with the umbrella in it). The CD is crisp and well-produced. The band is savvy enough to print Stephen Dima and Bill McGarvey's clever lyrics on the CD jacket. If you haven't gotten the idea yet, this record is an intelligent, melodic good listen. Members comprise Dima (guitars, keys), Kimberly Nordling (violin, flute), Joey Cassata (drums), Brad Finkel (bass) and McGarvey (vocals). For more info, check out Valentine Smith's Web site.
Bigger Than Plastic, Internal Neurotic Universe (© No Stealing)
Bigger Than Plastic's liner notes come with instructions like "Repeat Hook," "Repeat Build," etc., which is more than I can say for half of the software products on the market. A quick listen to their CD, and it's easy to see why their hard-edged brand of rock and roll has been complimented by a slew of regional music publications. The band is tight; the material is good on both lyrical and musical levels; the lead and harmony vocals are tuneful and well executed. For more info, contact Style Records (StyleRec@aol.com or 609-989-7798).
Bemshi, Mirror (© 1999 Bemshi Music)
If Bemshi's voice were a jet, it would soar fairly high her vocals are beautiful, quit-your-day-job type of stuff. Supporting musicians (V. Jeffrey Smith, Peter Lord, Bernard Wright, Will Calhoun, Leslie Lemon and Johnny Kemp) back her up nicely with some light, tight R&B-tinged grooves. The material is good but I detect some untapped songwriting potential here, especially with such strong vocals in the balance. I'll even go so far as to say that if this one area can be shored up, there's no reason Bemshi can't go all the way. (Mary J. Blige, watch out.) For more info, contact Bemshi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Skybolt Engine, Louisiana Rain (© 1998 Skybolt Engine)
Skybolt Engine's Sal DiBenardo has one of those charmingly raspy voices that hook you within seconds of your first listen. The band plays melodic pop rock in the vein of John Mellancamp, Matchbox 20 or maybe even Paul Westerberg, if you stretch things a bit. Louisiana Rain is definitely a good showing from this New Jersey-based quintet, although the guitar could be a tad tougher in my humble estimation. In addition to DiBenardo, the band comprises Rich Hodder (drums), Shawn Poe (guitar), Jim Raia (guitar) and Brian Scorben (bass). For more info, contact email@example.com.
Anne O'Meara Heaton, Anne O'Meara Heaton Live (© 1999 Spill Records)
Need something to listen to while you sit by the fireside with a hot cup of something? You could do far worse than putting Anne O'Meara Heaton's new CD on the spinner. The songs are pretty, as is Heaton's voice, which sits nicely over the simple, clean supporting music of a single acoustic guitar or piano. I do detect a pitch problem on rare occasion but it is nothing that a good producer or a second take wouldn't clear up. The songwriting is intelligent and thoughtful; the ingredients are there. For more info, check out Heaton's Web site.
Gránian, Without Change (© 1996 Garen Gueyikian)
New Jersey-based Gránian's track record speaks for itself. Among other accolades, they are the winner of Spin magazine and Geocities's best unsigned band contest. A quick listen to the band's debut CD and it becomes easy to see what has garnered them these praises. Granian's light, melodic pop is a super listen. Guitarist Garen Gueyikian's vocals are strong and tuneful. The material's good, and the supporting musicians Chis Nicolleti (guitar), George Schultz (bass), Tim Shahady (drums) do their jobs well. For more info, check out the band's Web site.
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