BARBARA – Single Review: “Waiting Outside Alone”

Since bursting onto the British music scene at the beginning of 2021 with their wonderful debut single “BRB”, pop duo Barbara has built a loyal following with their pleasing retro brand of, in their own words, “soft, syrupy progressive fop pop”. The music project of Henry and John Tydeman, two charming brothers from Brighton and Hove, England, Barbara describes their sound as “a bit of 70s US AM radio, a dash of English music hall, the effortless catchiness of a Broadway musical, a sprinkling of sequined power pop, luscious Disney strings and glorious golden harmonies.” Listening to their feel-good music, I’d say that’s a perfect description I cannot improve upon.

They followed “BRB” with three more singles, including the delightful “Rainy Days in June” (which I reviewed last November), as well as their debut five-track EP Mildly Entertaining this past April. Now they’re back with a terrific new single “Waiting Outside Alone“, which drops today, November 9th. As with their other songs, John and Henry sang vocals, with keyboards played by Henry, guitar by Dean Llewelyn, bass by Jack Hosgood and drums by Lawrie Miller. The song features their signature sunny vibe, with a bouncy, toe-tapping 60s groove fueled by subtle bass, snappy drums, a colorful mix of chiming and gnarly guitars, and cheerful synths, punctuated by some tasty organ notes. But the highlight for me are John and Henry’s beautiful lilting harmonies, which are quite marvelous. I love how well their singing voices complement one another.   

In sharp contrast to the song’s carefree, upbeat sound, the thoughtful lyrics touch on a darker, more serious subject. Barbara explains “The lyrics reflect an intense, youthful frustration; ‘Waiting Outside Alone’ both calls out the reactionary elements that have come to dominate British politics, and laments the sidelining of young people from the fractious national debate.” The same can be said about American politics. “Waiting Outside Alone” is song we need today, and I love it.

Everywhere we walk about, we stop to talk about people, and places and things,
It’s all we want to think, kick up a stink about people, that wait in the wings by the side of the stage, in the words on the page of the editorial, the dictatorial view,
Shouldn’t the commentator’s comment be true?

Where did the chancers, dreamers, blue eyed schemers,
Men in suits and window cleaners go?
Ooh, wo, ho, oh, oh

Coz I’m waiting outside alone,
And the rest of the world don’t know,
That it breaks me down, the way those clowns are treating me, keeping me, waiting outside alone

Everywhere she goes she says she’s making this country’s case and staking her well-found reputation on stiff upper lips and soldier songs

Stiff upper lips won’t save the men in suits and badger baiters oh,
Ooh, wo, ho, oh, oh

Coz I’m waiting outside alone,
And the rest of the world don’t know,
That it breaks me down, the way those clowns are treating me, keeping me, waiting outside alone

Coz I’m waiting outside alone,
And the rest of the world don’t know,
That it breaks me down, the way those clowns are treating me, keeping me, waiting outside alone

Do I have to be on my own?
Ooh woo ooh ooh ooh
Ooh, woo ooh ooh
Treating me, keeping me….

Connect with Barbara: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube

30 Day Song Challenge Day 10 – “For All We Know” by The Carpenters

Well, I somehow managed to skip over the correct Day 9 subject of the 30-day song challenge and mistakenly went directly to Day 10 for Saturday’s post. So, for today’s Day 10 post I’m going to tackle “A song you never get tired of listening to“. And once again, this was a tough call, as there are hundreds of songs I love that I never tire of hearing. But pick one I must, and to make my selection a little easier, I’ve chosen a beloved song I’ve not previously written about. My pick is “For All We Know” by the Carpenters. (I have previously written about the Carpenters though, when I featured their song “Superstar” in 2019.)  

As I wrote in that earlier article, with their successful run of great singles from 1970-75, beginning with their massive hit “(They Long to Be) Close to You”, the Carpenters were one of my favorite acts back then. Their music was beautiful, with the kind of lush orchestration I love, and Karen Carpenter had the voice of an angel. Her distinctive, pitch-perfect contralto singing voice remains one of the finest of any female pop singer ever, in my opinion. I loved their music so much as a teen that I wrote a paper about them for my 11th grade English class (the only time I wrote about music or an artist until becoming a blogger several decades later). 

“For All We Know” was written for the hilarious 1970 comedy Lovers and Other Strangers, with music by Fred Karlin and lyrics by Robb Wilson Royer and Arthur James Griffin (both Royer and Griffin were founding members of the soft rock group Bread). (Most of the songs recorded by the Carpenters were written by others, other than their hits “Goodbye to Love” and “Yesterday Once More”, which were co-written by Richard Carpenter and John Bettis, “Only Yesterday” by Carpenter, Bettis and Kōji Makaino, and “I Need to Be in Love” by Carpenter, Bettis and Albert Hammond.) The song was originally sung by Larry Meredith for the film’s soundtrack, and when Richard heard his version while watching Lovers and Other Strangers, he felt the song would be perfect for their style and Karen’s voice.

For the recording of the song, Richard initially wanted Jose Feliciano, who was a big fan of theirs and wanted to play on one of their records, to play guitar on the intro. They went into the studio, where Feliciano came up with an intro on his nylon string acoustic guitar, however, the following day Feliciano’s manager demanded that he be removed from the recording. (Wikipedia) Disappointed but undaunted, Richard removed Feliciano’s guitar intro and replaced it with a beautiful oboe intro by Earle Dumler (an esteemed musician who played on several Carpenters records, as well as with an eclectic range of artists such as Stan Kenton, Tim Buckley, J.D. Souther, Frank Zappa, Helen Reddy, Barbra Streisand, Robert Palmer and Nina Simone, among many others over the years). Though I haven’t heard Feliciano’s guitar intro, I believe Dumler’s sublime oboe intro had to have made the song much better. Besides Dumler’s oboe, the other instruments on “For All We Know” were played by Richard Carpenter (piano, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano), and Wrecking Crew members Joe Osborn (bass) and Hal Blaine (drums).

“For All We Know” was also recorded by Shirley Bassey at the same time as the Carpenters’ version, where it was a hit in the UK, peaking at #6, and later by Petula Clark and Nicki French. But it was the Carpenters’ recording that’s the best known and most popular, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #1 on the Easy Listening chart in 1971. The song also won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

An interesting bit of trivia I learned in researching the song for this write-up is that the Motion Picture Academy did not previously allow artists to perform a best original song nominee at the Oscars if they had not appeared in a film, which finally explains for me why Anne Reinking sang “Against All Odds” (in a terrible performance that included a bizarre interpretive dance) at the 1985 Oscars instead of Phil Collins, but I digress. Since the Carpenters were not allowed to perform “For All We Know” at the ceremony, they requested that it be performed by their friend Petula Clark. Clark would later perform the song in tribute to Karen Carpenter at her concert at Royal Albert Hall on February 6, 1983, two days after Karen’s untimely and very sad death. Here’s a video of that poignant performance:

LYIA META – EP Review: “You Think About Me”

As I stated in my previous review, so many artists and bands I follow and have previously written about are releasing new music at a dizzying pace, and I’m doing my best to keep up with as much of it as I possibly can. One of my favorites who I always try to make time for is Malaysian singer-songwriter Lyia Meta, an immensely talented, gracious and lovely recording artist with a powerhouse singing voice. I generally prefer female voices in the deeper ranges, and Lyia’s rich, soulful and smoky vocal style fits the bill quite nicely.

Based in Kuala Lumpur, Lyia’s a multi-faceted artist in a literal sense. She can sing just about anything, and in fact, has recorded songs in a wide range of genres including blues, jazz, pop, country, rock and even metal, bringing her international recognition and acclaim. She’s been nominated for, and won, numerous awards, including Best Overall Female Act at the Voice Independent Music Awards (VIMA) in May 2016, the 2018 Josie World Music Artist Award and 2019 Artist of the Year (multi Genre), Best Music Video for her song “Daylight” at the ACCORD CINE FEST in August 2021, and most recently this past October, 2021 Texas Sound International Country Music Awards for Vocalist of the Year and Virtual Entertainer Of The Year. On top of all that, she’s also a highly accomplished visual artist with several exhibits to her credit. You can check out some of her phenomenal work on her WordPress blog. (She even did a wonderful pencil drawing of me in 2019 as a thank you for my support of her and other indie artists’ music, which was a both a tremendous surprise and an honor.)

A prolific artist, Lyia has released three EPs and more than a dozen singles over the past six years, beginning with her debut EP This is Lyia in 2016. I first learned about her in early 2018 when she reached out to me about her fantastic single “Without Walls”, which I instantly loved and wrote a review of. I’ve written about her numerous times since, most recently last April when I reviewed her soulful track “This One’s For You”. (You can also find some of my other reviews under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Photo by Khahin Meta

Her latest release and third EP, You Think About Me, which dropped January 31st, sees Lyia revealing a sassier, more playful side, with five delicious tracks exploring various aspects of romantic love. While she’s written many of her own songs, Lyia also collaborates with other songwriters and musicians from time to time, not only to broaden her own musical horizons, but also to support other songwriters. The songs for You Think About Me were co-written and co-produced by Lyia and Nashville-based musician and producer Bob McGilpin, who also produced and played several instruments on “This One’s For You”. Like a lot of long-distance collaborations these days, the two recorded the EP remotely, with Bob recording the music, as well as engineering, mixing and mastering the tracks, at his studio in Nashville, while Lyia recorded her vocals in Kuala Lumpur. 

You Think About Me has a retro R&B feel, with generous helpings of soul, funk and jazz to spice things up. Kicking things off is “Uptown Tonight“, a delightfully upbeat song with an infectious R&B groove, bolstered by a lively blend of exuberant trumpets and jazzy sax. Lyia sings her praises of going out for a night on the town with her man, dressed in their finest clothes and livin’ large, while also expressing gratitude for their good fortune: “I never thought I’d live a life like this. If it’s a dream, don’t wake me up, cause I don’t want to miss going uptown.

On the soulful “Black High Heels“, Lyia croons of her sexy moves and the spell she casts on her man when she presents in her black high heels: “You can tell by the way I walk, I’m a woman of class and style. I got a swing in my step and a sway in my hip that just drives you wild. You can try but you can’t conceal. Cause I know how to make you feel. Knock you out when I walk out in my black high heels.” I love the song’s sultry groove, with McGilpin’s smooth Wurlitzer, cool sax and funky bass accentuating the torrid vibes. Then there’s Lyia’s sensuous smoky vocals, nicely punctuated by a well-placed sassy little yelp in the final chorus.

You Think About Me the Way I Think About You” is a sweet, uptempo love song with a bit of an Americana/pop feel, thanks to it’s toe-tapping melody and McGilpin’s pleasing organ riffs. To my ears, it sounds like a song Cher could have sung back in the 70s. The endearing video, filmed in sepia tones, shows Lyia singing to her husband Zack, nicely capturing the lighthearted feel of the song.

Lyia’s powerful vocals really shine on the soulful “A Real Man Can“, where she fervently sings of the things that are most important in a romantic partner, which is a true and meaningful love she can depend upon: “I’ve been told ‘I love you’ more times than just a few. But it doesn’t mean a thing if their heart’s not in it too. I need more than just the words to keep it real. It’s got to come from a deeper place, a place only they can feel. I want the kind of man that puts his woman first. I want the kind of man who holds her when she hurts.” McGilpin’s warm piano and strings, gentle guitar notes and smooth sax create a captivating backdrop for Lyia’s beautiful, emotive vocals.

The EP closes on a high note with the rousing “You Always Come Home to Me“, featuring a catchy head-bopping groove and more of McGilpin’s wonderfully exuberant brass section of trumpet and jazzy sax. Lyia joyfully sings of how badly she misses her man when he’s away, but confident he’ll always be true to her because she keeps him happy in the love department: “But I don’t worry about where you are, or where you might be. Yeah, you always come home to me. Cause I’m not the jealous kind, but I keep my man satisfied.

You Think About Me is a great little EP that showcases Lyia’s amazing and versatile vocal gifts, as well as Bob McGilpin’s masterful musicianship, arrangement and production skills. Together, they’ve crafted a wonderful collection of songs that make for a fun and enjoyable listen.

Lyia was originally scheduled to attend the Texas Sound International Country Music Awards 2021 event in Jefferson, Texas last October, both to accept her awards and also to promote Malaysia as an ‘attractive destination’ for Americans at two seminars to be given by her and Zack during the music festival. Unfortunately, she was unable to obtain financial support from the Malaysian government to make the trip. The good people of Jefferson raised $5,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, but it wasn’t enough. So, Preston Taylor, Vice President of East Texas Performing Arts Inc, insisted Lyia do a pre-recorded show in Malaysia that would be aired at the event. Here’s a video of their performance:

Connect with Lyia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

JAMIE ALIMORAD – Single Review: “Give a Little Lovin'”

Jamie Alimorad is a talented, charismatic and congenial singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. Music has been a big part of his life since his early teens, and by the time he was a college student at Northeastern University in Boston, he released his first EP Cornerstone (in 2010), then followed up two years later with his critically-acclaimed full-length album Words Left Unsaid, winning several music and songwriting awards. His very first video, for the song “Beautiful” from that album, has been viewed over 2 million times. Jamie then experienced a creative slump lasting several years, during which he became filled with crippling self-doubt, wondering if he’d ever be successful again.

He eventually decided to take a few classes with famed singer-songwriter, musician and producer Gino Vannelli, who offers small Art of  Song & Voice Master Class sessions at his music studio outside Portland, Oregon. The two hit it off, and Gino eventually became his mentor. The two began working together writing and recording songs for what would become Jamie’s outstanding second album This is Tomorrow Calling, which was released in September 2019. (You can read my review of the album here.)

Jamie in the studio with Ross Vannelli

Now Jamie is back with a great new single “Give a Little Lovin’“, his first release in more than two years. The song was co-written by Jamie and composer, songwriter and producer Ross Vannelli (Gino’s brother), who also produced and arranged the track. The duo spent several months last year writing, arranging, recording, and mixing lots of new songs that Jamie plans on releasing in 2022. “Give a Little Lovin'” is the first of them. Drawing inspiration from the music of Prince, Morris Day & The Time and Bruno Mars, the two have fashioned an infectious and upbeat pop gem imbued with sexy swagger and funky grooves. From the wonderful opening guitar strums to the swirling synths, sultry strings, funky bass and lively drumbeats, the song is a master class in arrangement and instrumentation. Everything about the song is flawless and fresh-sounding, without ever feeling over-produced.

Jamie told me the song is “essentially about the chase; man sees woman, falls in love/lust with woman. Will she let him in?” As always, his strong, emotive vocals are exquisite, perfectly capturing his feelings of being intensely besotted with a beautiful woman:

Cross my heart and hope to die
I want you and that’s no lie
Never been so captivated
Don’t wanna make it complicated
I hope that I can make it clear tonight

From the moment that I saw you
I couldn’t live my life without you
I wanna make it all about you
Oh oh oh oh oh

Give a little lovin’

“Give a Little Lovin'” is marvelous, and if Jamie’s upcoming songs are half this good, we’re in for a treat!

To learn more about Jamie, visit his Website
Connect with him on:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon 

BARBARA – Single Review: “Rainy Days in June”

Barbara is the music project of Henry and John Tydeman, two charismatic brothers from Brighton and Hove, England. Bucking the current music trends of hip hop, dancepop, 80s revival, post punk and godawful bro-country, their sunny, uplifting sound is a charming and anachronistic blend of – in their own words – “a bit of 70s US AM radio, a dash of English music hall, the effortless catchiness of a Broadway musical, a sprinkling of sequined power pop, luscious Disney strings and glorious golden harmonies.” Listening to their songs, I’d say that’s a fitting description I cannot improve upon.

The guys released their wonderful debut single “BRB” this past January, then followed in May with “New Communications”, a lighthearted take on the pitfalls of social media. Both songs garnered support by BBC Introducing and Louder Than War, and this past summer, they had the pleasure of performing at the Isle of Wight Festival. Now they’re back with a breezy new single “Rainy Days in June“, which dropped November 26th. Lovingly produced by Tom Rees, vocalist and guitarist for Welsh band Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, the song is a delightful ode to the joys of being alone. John and Henry sang vocals, with keyboards played by Henry, guitar by Dean Llewelyn, bass by Jack Hodgood and drums by Lawrie Miller.

Barbara really do channel the 70s on “Rainy Days in June”, with a pleasing and catchy pop melody that reminds me of songs like John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back”. In fact, it would make a great theme song for a TV sitcom. The sunny keyboards, buoyant rhythms and colorful guitars create a joyful backdrop for John and Henry’s lilting harmonies. Their smooth vocals are sublime, perfectly capturing the carefree sense of contentment with quietly sitting alone at home with a good book, away from the craziness and noise of crowds. It’s a terrific song, and my personal favorite among their three singles.

People say I'm silly to be sitting on my own
They're going to a party, but I'd rather be at home
Rainy days in June, but I'm making the best of it
I'm a halfway through this hardback
And I long to get back to the rest of it
These rainy days

Rainy days in June, with nothing to worry me
And there's no one I need to see
And no where important to go
But god knows I remember there were hundreds of people
And so, I'm ashamed that I took to my heels and slipped away

In a nod to the throwback vibe of the song, the brothers used a great vintage photo from the 60s of their grandparents John and Pauline for their single cover art. And for the delightful video, they used footage taken from their holiday in France this past summer.

Connect with Barbara: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music: SpotifyApple Music / SoundcloudYouTube

SAM RAPPAPORT – Single Review: “Journeyman’s Ballet”

Sam Rappaport is an engaging, tousle-haired singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, New York, and he’s just released a wonderful new single “Journeyman’s Ballet“. It’s his second single as a solo artist, following the release this past February of his debut single “Till the Morning Comes”. Sam is also a founding member of Brooklyn indie R&B/blues rock band Gooseberry, who’ve released a number of terrific singles over the past couple of years.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California, Sam began playing piano at the tender age of five, however, he never considered himself good enough to be a “musician”. Throughout his youth and well into his years at Vassar College, basketball was his first love. But as he told NYS MUSIC earlier this year for their article about his debut single: “I held onto the NBA dreams as long as I could, but once I hit college it was pretty clear that those dreams were out of reach. Still, I spent the first three years of college thinking that I’d end up overseas playing in some Euro league. I remember finishing a practice my senior year, running to the bathroom, heaving all the liquid in my body into a trash can, and thinking–I don’t want to do this anymore. So I quit.

After college, Sam worked at a variety of jobs, including as a case manager at a welfare office, a reporter for local newspapers and a bartender at a Sichuan restaurant. But through it all, he never lost his passion for music. He settled for a few years in Chicago, where he played keyboards for R&B singer Brandon James, then relocated to Brooklyn, where he honed his music skills by playing at open mics, house parties and comedy shows. Through those performances, as well as his live shows with Gooseberry – not to mention both his and Gooseberry’s fine music releases – he’s garnered a growing base of loyal fans and followers. I was amazed by the outpouring of love and support for Sam and his single on Instagram today.

“Journeyman’s Ballet” was written and sung by Sam, who also played piano. The remaining instruments were played by Daniel Alvarez and Jordan Dunn-Pilz of the band Toledo, who also produced the track. Mastering was done by Mike Kalajian of Rogue Planet Mastering. The song has a pleasing jazzy soft-rock vibe reminiscent of late 70s/early 80s Steely Dan. Sam’s sparkling piano keys are nicely complemented by Daniel and Jordan’s lilting guitar notes and gentle percussion that enhance, rather than overpower, allowing his lovely piano to really shine. Sam’s smooth, understated vocals are soothing and lovely, and perfectly suited to the song’s languid melody.

About the song’s title, Sam explained it’s “about the dance of someone who is avoidant, always on the move, always looking to escape, to outrun the monsters within. This dance does welcome isolation.” The lyrics speak to those operating under the delusion that they can escape their problems or outrun their personal demons, hoping for a desired outcome simply by changing jobs, romantic partners or where they live, without directly addressing their inherent issues first. (I hate to admit that I’ve been guilty of this myself more than once.) In the song’s chorus, he ponders “Who are we for the mile we walk alone? Who are we when the lies become our home? Who are we when the night turns day, and the monsters still remain.

For the song’s video, Sam enlisted the help of Cassandra Angelini-Vazquez, who dressed him in a tutu and filmed him at Coney Island. Unfortunately, the video won’t be ready for several more days, so for now we’ll have to settle for this audio and a still of Sam standing in New York Bay.

Sam’s music may be found on: SpotifyApple MusicYouTubeAmazonBandcamp

SHIMMER JOHNSON – Single Review: “It’s Fate’s Turn”

I first learned about silky-voiced singer/songwriter Shimmer Johnson in early 2018, when she followed me on Twitter. She has a beautiful and resonant singing voice that puts her in the company of other contemporary female vocalists like P!nk, Kelly Clarkson and Sara Bareilles. Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, she started out writing and recording Country songs, but wanting to broaden her musical horizons, a few years ago she relocated to Los Angeles. In addition to her amazing vocal talents, she’s also a fine guitarist and pianist, and has been working with several songwriters and producers. In the process, she’s recorded and released an impressive repertoire of stellar songs.

Shimmer creates and sings lovely and compelling songs about life and love that we can all relate to. Her clear, pitch-perfect vocals are strong, but with a raw vulnerability that she skillfully employs to beautifully convey the subtle yet powerful emotions expressed in her heartfelt lyrics, enabling us to connect with her songs on a deeply personal level. Her 2017 single “Pride” has been streamed more than 239,000 times on Spotify, while her gorgeous 2020 single “Never Be the Same” has garnered 100,000 streams. I first featured her on this blog in February 2018 when I reviewed her uplifting single “Getaway”, and this past January, I featured her single “Love is Possible“ on one of my Fresh New Tracks posts. She followed that single in February with her exquisite debut album Inner Me, and now returns with her latest single “It’s Fate’s Turn“. The song was co-written with Thornton Douglas Cline and her husband Corey, and released via Catalyst Records.

On this track, Shimmer’s vocals sound more emotional and fragile than on many of her previous songs. She sings with a trembling vibrato that quite effectively conveys a sense of both apprehension and firm resolve as she dips her toe into uncertain waters, hoping that this time things will work out. Musically, the song has a languid, hauntingly beautiful melody that’s driven forward by the wonderful interplay between emotive piano keys and shimmery guitars, complementing each other quite nicely in the creation of an enchanting soundscape for Shimmer’s bewitching vocals.

The lyrics speak of never giving up on finding happiness and fulfillment in life, no matter how many roadblocks you’ve encountered and missteps you’ve experienced along the way: “I felt defeated, over and over again. I felt cheated, how would I ever win? Life is hard, when easy becomes the game. Take a spin to bet on a chance of change. You can be wrong a thousand times. Then suddenly, everything’s right. It’s fate’s turn. Don’t turn off the lights. Lessons learned. My lining is in sight. Cause this time it’s real. No one tells me how I feel.”

“It’s Fate’s Turn” is another in an unbroken string of superb singles by this incredibly talented vocalist. I’m confident we’ll continue to hear more great music from Shimmer well into the future.

To learn more about Shimmer and her music, check out her Website

Connect with Shimmer:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

LYIA META – Single Review: “This One’s For You”

One of my favorite female vocalists is Malaysian singer-songwriter Lyia Meta, who I’ve featured numerous times on this blog over the past three years. (You can read some of my previous reviews listed under “Related” at the end of this post.) Based in Kuala Lumpur, Lyia is an exceptionally talented, gracious and strikingly beautiful woman, with a dazzling powerhouse voice to match. I honestly believe she could sing just about anything! She’s also a highly accomplished visual artist, and you can check out some of her phenomenal work on her WordPress blog

With her deep, soulful and smoky vocal style, combined with a masterful ability to cover multiple genres ranging from blues, rock and metal to pop and country with ease, she’s become an international music star, winning numerous awards over the past several years, including the 2018 Josie World Music Artist Award, and 2019 Artist of the Year (multi Genre), both of which were presented to her in Nashville, Tennessee. More recently, she’s been nominated for a Texas Sounds International Country Music Award 2021, and her hard rock song “We Are Lords” has been nominated for a Munich Music Video Award, is a finalist for Best Original Song in the UK International Music Video Awards, and made the first ballot for consideration of a Grammy for Metal Performance by The Recording Academy. And on April 18th, Lyia participated in the Ladies Who Rock For A Cause Virtual Music Festival, whose goal was to raise awareness and funds for ataxia, an incurable and rare neurological disease.

Photo by Khahin Meta

A prolific artist, Lyia released six singles in 2020, and has already dropped two this year, the latest of which is “This One’s For You“. While she often writes her own songs, she also collaborates with other songwriters and musicians from time to time, not only to broaden her own musical horizons, but also to support other songwriters. “This One’s For You” was written by Los Angeles-based songwriter Denise Dimin, and produced by Nashville-based Bob McGilpin, who also played guitar, bass, piano and drums.

The song is sublime, with a retro adult contemporary feel similar to some of the great torch songs of the 50s and early 60s by such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Nat “King” Cole and Frank Sinatra. Bob McGilpin’s musical arrangement is brilliant, and I love his tinkling piano keys and guitar notes that give the track a cool jazzy vibe. Lyia’s smoky vocals are smooth and lovely, perfectly complementing the track’s mellow arrangement. But they’re emotive and heartfelt too, conveying a sad resignation as she sings the bittersweet lyrics addressed to the woman who’s now with the man she once claimed.

This one's for you
You're the one who has taken my place
You won, guess I should bow out with grace
Be happy with my pride

My hat is off to you
You did what I just never could
Though you know I always thought that I would
God knows I've tried

If you think you'll make him happy
Go on, you got the best
Give him good times
Give him love
And for me, there's nothing left

I raise my glass to you
You succeeded where I always failed
Guess things are good, but oh what the hell
I guess you're satisfied

Thanks to you, I'm free
I do what I please
Right now, I'm just not sure what that means
Sometimes it hurts so much inside

I didn't think this could happen
It's all a big mistake
You've got him now
You've got his love
And who is to blame

Cause if you think you'll make him happy
Go on, you've got the best
Give him good times
Give him love
And for me, there is nothing left

The official video shows Lyia in her element at a recording session at Big A Productions in Kuala Lumpur.

Connect with Lyia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

JAMIE ALIMORAD – Album Review: “This is Tomorrow Calling”

Jamie Alimorad

Singer-songwriter Jamie Alimorad has had music in his blood practically all his life. As a teen, he played in a garage band, for which he wrote all the songs, and in high school, he was literally the face of the music department. By the time he was attending college at Northeastern University in Boston, he released his first EP Cornerstone (in 2010), then followed up two years later with his critically-acclaimed full-length album Words Left Unsaid, winning several music and songwriting awards. His very first video, for the song “Beautiful” from that album, has been viewed over 2 million times! Writing and recording songs had always seemed to come easy to him. Then, suddenly, it wasn’t so easy anymore.

Starting in early 2015, and continuing over the next few years, he wrote and recorded dozens of songs for a new album, but none of them satisfied him. He grew frustrated and filled with crippling self-doubt, wondering if he’d ever be successful again. So, he took a couple of classes with famed singer-songwriter, musician and producer Gino Vannelli, who offers small Art of  Song & Voice Master Class sessions at his music studio in Troutdale, Oregon. Jamie took one of his songs “A Moment Is All I Ask” to the second class, and after working on the song together, he and Vannelli realized they’d make a great team collaborating on an original project. That project ultimately became Jamie’s second album This is Tomorrow Calling, which was released on September 27th.

Working with Vannelli was an artistic rollercoaster ride for Jamie, filled with unique challenges and opportunities. He recalls “No one had ever told me in music, ‘It’s not good enough.’ No one had ever said, ‘You could be better.’ Gino put me on an island. No map, no shelter, no supplies. Make the island paradise, find a way out, or die. Those were the options, and it was up to me to create my tomorrow. Eventually Gino and I recorded eight songs together. Upon moving to Los Angeles, I did two more cuts with [Gino’s brother] Ross Vannelli. These two legends took me under their wings and opened my eyes to who I am. I’m eternally grateful for everything they’ve done for me.”

For the album, Jamie sang lead and backing vocals, and played keyboards, acoustic guitar and programming. Gino Vannelli played additional keyboard, organ, acoustic guitar, synth bass, drums, percussion and programming. Ross Vannelli sang backing vocals and also played keyboard, electric guitar, synth bass, drums, percussion and programming. Additional keyboards and programming were provided by George Whitty and Greg Goebel, electric guitar by Dalton Cyr, and backing vocals by Julie LaMeng and Moorea Masa. The album was produced by Gino Vannelli, though two of the tracks were produced by Ross.

Jamie’s pleasing sound could probably best be classified as adult contemporary pop-rock, although his music includes elements of folk, Americana, country and jazz. His thoughtful, relatable lyrics are set to catchy melodies and brought to life through superb instrumentation and rich sound textures. Listening to This is Tomorrow Calling, I’m struck by how good it sounds – the beautiful arrangements, lush soundscapes and, most notably, Jamie’s marvelous vocals. Every track is superb, showcasing his skillful songwriting, musicianship and impressive vocal range, but I’ll highlight my personal favorites.

The album opener “Brighter Days” is a terrific, upbeat song about not letting your problems overwhelm you, and staying positive in the hope that things will get better. A phrase in one of the lyrics is the album’s title, and really encapsulates its overall theme of love and resilience. “When living’s hard and you think you’re better off dead. This is tomorrow calling, there are brighter days ahead.” The genre-bending song has an infectious dance beat, with a bit of a country-rock vibe thanks to twangy guitars and some great vocal harmonies, and hits us in all the right feels. In conjunction with its release this past August, Jamie partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to raise funds for their cause. Proceeds from sales of a “Brighter Days” t-shirt at will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

On “Not Just Another Pretty Face“, Jamie sings of the many virtues of the object of his affection in addition to her good looks. “You’re more than a heavenly sight. Not just a Renoir on the wall, or a statue in a marble hall. You’re not just another pretty face. That’s what I love most of all.” The jazzy piano, organ runs and lively percussion, along with his smooth vocals and occasional scatting, make for an incredibly delectable song in the style of Michael Bublé.

Down on Golden Shores” is a lovely but bittersweet song about loss, with some especially poignant lyrics like these:  “Poor Louie was one of the best-looking dudes you ever did see. Kandahar sure did a number on his perfect body. /My Alex was so full of life. I thought someday to make her my wife. But the world is full of best-laid plans, made by sea and golden sands.” The piano, gentle guitar, harmonica and strings are all sublime, as are Jamie’s heartfelt vocals.

The radio-friendly “Not Ready to Say Goodbye” was the lead single from the album, and with its haunting melody, beautiful guitar work and infectious Latin rhythms, is definitely one of the standout tracks. Jamie passionately implores to the woman he’s fallen for to not end their budding relationship: “I fell head over heels, I jumped when you said jump. Too fast, too deep, just call me a chump. Not ready to say goodbye. Not ready to take the fall. Not ready to say goodbye. I’m in it for the long haul.”

A track that jumped right out at me on my first listen of the album was “Lucky Me“, a delightful kiss-off song that Jamie wrote as needed therapy after a bad breakup. The amusing lyrics describe how he quickly fell for her, only to discover that she was toxic: “They popped right out of my head when I laid my eyes on her, not knowing what kind of claptrap lay in my future. Lucky me! She came and went in a New York minute. Lucky me! It’s a beautiful world and I’m right back in it. The two best days of my life: One was finding her. Ooh the second one was losing her. Lucky me.” With its jazzy organ, guitar and percussive grooves, the song has a cool, late 70s Steely Dan vibe, and is one of my favorites on the album. And need I mention yet again how good Jamie’s vocals are?

How Could I Love Again” is a poignant song about having such a deep, intense love for someone that you don’t believe you are capable of ever loving another. The beautiful, piano-driven melody provides a moving backdrop for Jamie’s heartfelt vocals as he laments “Once I loved one woman such, that I thought to die without her touch. Because I loved her far too much, how could I love again?

On the album closer “Nights In the Back Bay“, Jamie seems to recall his experiences while attending college in Boston, and wanting to recapture the passion and creativity he had for making music back then. “I remember when the road had no end. My faith has been shaken, my heart keeps aching to return to those nights in the Back Bay. I’ve gotta get born all over again.” Musically, the song has a hauntingly beautiful melody that sounds brooding at times, yet uplifting and hopeful at others. The laid-back twangy guitars give the track an Americana feel, and the tinkling piano keys, synths, bass and crisp percussion are all wonderful.

This is Tomorrow Calling is a gorgeous work, with some of the finest production values of any album I’ve heard in a long while. Jamie and the Vannelli brothers should be very proud of their creation, as it’s impressive on every level. While its laid-back, easy-listening style probably won’t appeal to everyone, anyone who enjoys quality music, great lyrics and beautiful male vocals will enjoy this album.

Jamie will be opening for Gino Vannelli on Saturday, October 12 at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, CA.

To learn more about Jamie, visit his Website
Connect with him on:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon /  Google Play

EML’s Favorite Songs – CARPENTERS: “Superstar”


From the moment I first heard “(They Long to Be) Close to You” in the early summer of 1970 until the mid-1970s, the Carpenters were one of my favorite acts. Their music was beautiful, with the kind of lush orchestration I’ve always loved, and Karen Carpenter had the voice of an angel. I loved them so much I actually wrote a paper about them for my 11th grade English class – perhaps an early presage to my much later calling as a music blogger? They had a successful run of huge hits from 1970-1975, and one of my favorites is the bittersweet “Superstar“.

The song was written by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell, and originally titled “Groupie Song”. But when it was recorded by Delaney & Bonnie and released as a B-side on their single “Comin’ Home” in December 1969, it was re-titled “Groupie (Superstar)”. The song tells the story of a female groupie’s one-night stand with a rock star, whom she hopes will return to her. It was covered by a number of artists, including Joe Cocker (on his Mad Dogs & Englishmen Live Tour album, with vocals sung by Rita Coolidge), Bette Midler (on her debut album The Divine Miss M), Cher, and Australian rock group McPhee, among others. But it was the Carpenters version that stands head and shoulders above the rest, and became one of their biggest hits, peaking at #2 (Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” had a 5-week run at #1 in the fall of 1971, preventing “Superstar” from reaching the top).

The story goes that Richard Carpenter first became aware of “Superstar” after hearing it sung by a relatively unknown Bette Midler on The Tonight Show in 1971. He loved the song and thought it would be perfect for Karen, and wrote a new arrangement to fit their style. Shockingly, when he played it for her, she wasn’t thrilled with the song. She later recalled “For some reason that tune didn’t hit me in the beginning. It’s the only one. Richard looked at me like I had three heads. He said: ‘Are you out of your mind!‘” But after they recorded the song, she grew to love it too.

“Superstar” was produced by Richard Carpenter with Jack Daugherty, and recorded with members of The Wrecking Crew, the famed collective of Los Angeles area session musicians. As the song’s storyline was originally more risqué than what was typical for the Carpenters, Richard changed a lyric in the second verse “And I can hardly wait to sleep with you again” to the somewhat less suggestive “And I can hardly wait to be with you again.”

The song is breathtakingly beautiful, with rich orchestral instrumentation highlighted by a soaring horn section, gorgeous oboe played by Earle Dumler, a somber, understated bassline by Joe Osborn, drums by the legendary Hal Blaine (even though Karen was herself an accomplished drummer), and lovely keyboards by Richard Carpenter. Karen’s distinctive contralto vocals never sounded better or more resonant, beautifully conveying the fervent longing for someone you love to return and ease your loneliness. “Superstar” is one of my favorite songs of the 1970s, and for all time.

Long ago and oh so far away
I fell in love with you before the second show
Your guitar it sounds so sweet and clear
But you’re not really here
It’s just the radio

Don’t you remember you told me you loved me baby
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby oh baby
I love you, I really do

Loneliness is such a sad affair
And I can hardly wait to be with you again
What to say to make you come again…ooh baby
Come back to me again…baby
And play your sad guitar

Don’t you remember you told me you loved me baby
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby oh baby
I love you, I really do

I still remember the exact moment in February 1983 when I heard that Karen Carpenter had died from heart failure at the age of only 32, as a result from years of suffering with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. I was in my car on the way to a meeting, and nearly burst into tears. Like so many other great artists and musicians who passed away far too soon, Karen’s death was a tremendous loss to the music world.