Album Review: Frightening Beauty by Xyra and Verborgen

Album Name: Frightening Beauty
Artist: Xyra and Verborgen
Year/Label: 2001 / Independent

Review by Anna Maria Stjärnell

It’s not often you come across a singer as impressive as Xyra Harper Cann.
On her bands second album she sings in the smoky voice of a true diva. She brings to mind the deep, exotic tones of Nico and Marlene Dietrich. Nico is an obvious influence, and Xyra sings a tribute to her called “When She Walks Into the Room”. It’s a dramatic and evocative song.
The music on this album has folky and cabaret touches throughout that fit together perfectly. At times the band reminds me of Roxy Music’s melancholy air and sophistication. They cover Roxy’s “While My Heart Is Still Beating” beautifully too.
The album ends with a jazzy reading of “My Funny Valentine”. This is a truly lovely and stunning record that deserves to be heard by many.

Posted on March 30, 2000

Track Listing
1. Frightening Beauty
2. Find me
3. Random Inquiry
4. Prisoners in a Free Society
5. While My Heart is Still Beating
6. Until I Find
7. Delicate Anger
8. Seeds of Dissension
9. You Forgot to Answer
10. When She Walks into the Room
11. Nibelungen
12. The Fool’s Journey
13. Minstrel of the Grail
12. Funny Valentine..

[Xyra Official Site]

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Concert; Sarah Slean/Tori Cassis in Minneapolis

Artist: Sarah Slean

Date: February 15, 2000

Opening Act: Tori Cassis (yes, I know they played in reverse order)

Venue: Collected Sounds Living Room

City: Minneapolis, MN

Review by [Amy Lotsberg] Producer of Collected Sounds

I hosted my first Living Room Concert featuring Sarah Slean and Tory Cassis on Tuesday night February 15th. Background on performers:

Sarah Slean is a singer songwriter from Toronto, ON. She plays piano and sings like an angel.

Tory Cassis is a guitar player-singer-songwriter also from Toronto. He was nominated for a Juno Award for Best New Male Artist for 2000 and though he did not win, he deserved to!

The Show:

Well since this was my very first Living Room Concert I was a bit nervous but as soon as the band got there I was put at ease. They are all so very nice and easy-going.

The musicians consisted of: Sarah, Tory, Bass Player Derek Brady and Mark Mariash on the Drums.

They set up their “stage” in our dining room, which adjoins to the living room. Luckily we didn’t have a lot of furniture to move since we didn’t have much in our dining room! People started arriving and the band took a little break to get some dinner while we chit-chatted and in some cases, got to know each other. Most of the folks in the room I knew but some others had heard about the show from either the internet or were friends of friends so it was a mixed group. One person (Hi Travis!) drove 12 hours from Regina Saskatchewan to be there!

Sarah opened and from the first note she played she had us all in the palm of her hand. Some of her songs are very low-key and semi quiet and while she played these it was so still in the room you could hear a pin drop.

There were some folks there who were familiar with her music and she took requests as well as performing the songs she had planned to hear. I think one of the highlights was when the whole thing was over and almost everyone had left, one fan said to her, “I was really hoping you would play ‘Blue Parade’ tonight.” so she sat right back down at the piano and played it just for him (and the 4 or 5 others that were still there). It was such a treat! She is an amazing and captivating performer.

Tory Cassis performed next. No one in the room had even heard of him before this night. I think he felt a little strange about that since he is so well known in Canada but he treated us all like we were good friends. It’s hard to describe his style since it changes from song to song.

Sometimes he sounds like Bob Dylan (only with a much nicer and sexier voice), other times he rocked out and reminded us of the band Morphine (the voice not so much the music). He also sang a couple of “swingin” type songs where he sounded like Harry Connick, Jr or Ol’ Blue Eyes.

He was truly amazing. It doesn’t hurt that he is a very sweet guy (and not bad lookin’ either!)

My three dogs were a bit of a challenge. One of them, Murphy, is one of those dogs that has to be the center of attention. He didn’t like it so much that there were 20 people in the house that were paying attention to something other than him. So he remedied that by wandering through the set and barking at the audience. I think it was hard for Sarah & Tory not to laugh! But they were very cool about it and played along.

[Sarah Slean Official Site]

Concert: Tara MacLean in Minneapolis (2000)

Artist: Tara MacLean

Date: January 27th, 2000

Venue: Coffee Gallery

City: Minneapolis, MN

Review by [Amy Lotsberg] Producer of Collected Sounds

Well we wanted to make sure we go there in plenty of time. When I called earlier the guy on the phone had given her start time as “8 or 8:30”. So we got there around 7:30 (in case it was 8pm) and the place was packed! There was no place to sit and people were already standing. So we crunched to the back and stood sweating for an hour and a half until she came in the front door.

I said to my husband, Greg, “I bet she was across the street!” (in a bar called Oliver’s). I am still kicking myself for not going there before the show, because at one point when she messed up on something she remarked, “Oh, man, we should have left the bar earlier!”

She came in, took her coat of and got on stage. She was very loopy (I’ll just say it…tipsy) and silly. She started with “That’s Me” ad I thought we were going to see the same show as before, but she added some other songs unknown to me. (see set list at the end of the article)

The coffee shop is pretty small and built like a long hallway. The stage was at the front of this “hallway” set up in the front window of the shop. She said, “I feel like everyone is looking at my ass!” But they were making it steam up enough so that no one would have been able to see anything anyway.

Someone asked if she had any CDs for folks to buy and she said they were supposed to be FedExed here that night but got stuck in Tennessee because of the snowstorm.

The evening was very relaxed. She mentioned a few times that they hadn’t had a day off in months and they were “wingin’ it!” She asked for requests and the owner of the shop yelled out, “Inna Godda Da Vida”. When the laughter stopped Bill very quietly began playing the intro.

She mentioned that she sometimes plays covers when she’s on tour. She introduced one as a song written by a friend of hers who was very talented and funny and the song had done really well on the Canadian Charts.
The artist was Kim Stockwood and she called the song, “The Jerk Song”. (Amazon lists it as just being called “Jerk”)

She mentioned that it was on Kim’s CD called “Bona Vista”. She recommended everyone go out and get it.
Click here for information on ordering Kim Stockwood’s CD

Tara was, at once point speaking about Shania Twain and remarked, “She needs to do some sit ups, but otherwise…” which drew a huge “Oooooohhhhh!” from the crowd. I hope she was kidding!

Tara also mentioned that she was doing an interview for Playboy the next day “I’m not posing, don’t worry!”, she said.

Set list

That’s Me
Evidence
Passenger
Jerk
If I Fall
Red
Unloved (a Jann Arden song)
Higher
Settling
Child
Unknown–the lyrics start out, This old house is falling down…

[Tara MacLean Official Site]

Concert: Mute Cute Girl in Toronto

Artist: Mute Cute Girl (Sarah Slean and Friends)

Date: January 27, 2001

Venue: Rivoli

City: Toronto, ON Canada

Review by by James McGarry

Sarah Slean was scheduled to perform at the Rivoli in Toronto, ON on Thursday January 27th. She unfortunately got laryngitis and was instructed not to sing at risk of doing permanent damage to her voice. But like a true performer, she didn’t want to disappoint her fans. She show must go on! So Sarah and her Manager, Heather, put together a wonderful show!

Here is a recap from one of her fans who attended the show.

I think we’re all still in awe, Heather, “I just made some phone calls, man”, managed a, there’s no other word, miracle. I just don’t know what to say, gushing words don’t even do it…

The band:

Sarah Slean: piano and dry erase board
Sjanie McInnes: backing vocals and Sarah’s “Voice”
Kurt Swinghammer: guitar magic
Drew Bersten: bass
Mark Mariash: percussion
Tory Cassis: trumpet

There’s no real describing it though. I must say when Ms. Pollack tells
you there is a “surprise” you will be _surprised_. This was a dream, it
had to be, kids, this did happen, right?

All I’m thinking is, “Anyone else woulda just canceled. No one, on
_this_ planet would’ve rounded up a pile of musical pals and made
magic.” I’m so giddy thinking about this 🙂 It, it… it was an amazing

Get well soon, Sarah!

James.

Set list

(Thanks Tab!)

Me & Jerome by Jay Englishman
Before Your Time by Kurt Swinghammer
My Invitation by Sarah Harmer
Habit by Dave Matheson (Moxy Fruvous)
Bonnie’s Song by Coco Love Alcorn
High by Tory Cassis
Eliot by Oh Susanna & Leslie Fiest (Fiest/By Divine Right)
Weight by Moe Berg
Blue Parade by Sjanie McInnes

[Sarah Slean Official Site]

Concert: Tara MacLean in Minneapolis (2000)

Artist: Tara MacLean

Date: January 25th, 2000

Venue: The Loring Bar

City: Minneapolis, MN

Review by [Amy Lotsberg] Producer of Collected Sounds

We got there in what we thought was plenty of time, but there are only a few tables and a few couches…all taken. So we hung out next to the bar.

I looked for Tara in the crowd but didn’t see her until she was getting up on stage. She was very stylish in her black bell-bottom slacks and a black shirt with a sun on the chest and red mesh sleeves. Her hair was in pig tails and she had on big chunky boots.

She chatted like she knew all of us personally and told some funny stories: Her husband, Bill gave her the boots she was wearing. She said, “I was sick and that’s what he does when I’m sick, he buys me shoes! A perfect man, perfect man.” Then she lifted up her pant leg and showed that the boots came up past her knees. He crowd “who–hoo”ed.

She said she put them on in the hotel and was, like, “whoa! So if I go bailing off the front of the stage…that’s why!”

When she introduced the song “Red” she said it was written for a former boyfriend. She dated Dennis for awhile (like 3 years) and he turned out to be a drug dealer “Don’t they all?”. And after they had broken up she ran into him in a bar. He was with a sleazy “bar fly” and Tara got angrier than she ever had been. She said, “You know how that is when your scalp tightens and your face flushes?” And she stared heading over to the girl to “take her out” (she described her as having “big hair (gestured big hair) and big __(gestured hips)”).
A bouncer who was a mutual friend of theirs stepped in a scooped her up and carried her out of the bar. She never got to beat the crap out of the girl but she said, “They’re married now.”

She spoke of growing up on Price Edward Island and of her father who was a sailor. When he would go out on the boat he would first teach her a guitar chord and she would practice it until he came back. When he would return she would be very excited that she had learned it. She said, “But I only know 5 chords…(fake weeping) he never came back”. Then giggled and said “No, I’m kidding!”

The encore. Child, was about when she was going through the bad breakup that resulted in her writing most of the CD Silence. “Most of that CD was written when I was getting over this fella.”
The song is the advice that her mother gave her. She said that she made it into a song so that one day her little girl would think that she was really smart.

After the show, she jumped off the stage and stood there while people came up to meet her. She signed autographs and sold some CDs.

I went up to her with my “Silence” CD in hand (the one I bought years ago) and asked her if she would sign it. She said, “Sure” and took the booklet out of the case. She said, “What’s your name?” I told her and she signed the booklet. I noticed that others were buying CDs but they looked different. I said, “Are those the same CD as this one?” and she said, “Yeah, they wanted me to be more direct I guess.” I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I gathered it was the cover art where she was looking straight into the camera instead of glancing downward.
She gave me back my CD and said, “It was nice to meet you Amy.”

Tara was adorable, funny, and personable and has a wonderful voice. I was actually surprised at how strong her voice is. She doesn’t cut loose as much on the recordings but her voice is positively beautiful!

Set list

That’s Me
Evidence
Passenger
Red (dedicated to Dennis the Drug Dealer
If I Fall (One I wrote for ‘Felicity’)
For You
Jordan – Dedicated to her dad A man of great faith.
Divided

Encore
Child

[Tara MacLean Official Site]

Album Review: Blue Parade by Sarah Slean

Album Name: Blue Parade
Artist: Sarah Slean
Year/Label: 2001 / Independent

[Buy at Amazon]

Review by Sophie

Here was my initial impression of ‘Blue Parade’: aa, it’s nice, typical Sarah Slean, all the songs sort of sound the same, nothing on this recording to rival “I Know” or “John 23rd”.

OK, before the hate mail starts a-coming my way, let me repeat that this was my INITIAL impression. I didn’t toss it into the reject pile. I brought it with me in the car and just kept listening to it and listening to it and listening… until it was all-consuming and I couldn’t imagine even having the desire to listen to anything else. I thought all the songs sounded the same? How could I have thought that!! Yes, they sort of fit into a certain genre, but they do not all sound the same. I sort of hate to list favorites, but I can’t help it — I’ll do it anyway: “Narcolepsy Weed”, “Bonnie’s Song”, “Twin Moon” and “Blue Parade”. Those are probably my main ones. Of course I also love “High” and “Playing Cards With Judas”. Well, I guess that’s almost the whole album!! There is not one song that I dislike. Oh, I forgot to mention “Awake Soon”. How could I have forgotten that one?

My avocation is writing and yet, as that saying goes which way too many people have taken credit for over the years, talking about music is like dancing about architecture. And so my words fail me here. I find here a young woman – still in the process of developing her talent – who is not afraid to be fragile and, paradoxically, becomes strong for having that quality. Her music is beautiful, ethereal, etc… All these adjective have been used to death to describe her music, I’m sure.

I love “Blue Parade”. And it’s taking a little trip around the world: I bought a copy for my 18-year-old niece in Russia, who loves everything I send her (I turned her on to Tori), and I know she will love this CD, too.

Posted on January 1, 2000

Track Listing
1. Playing Cards with Judas
2. Bonnies Song
3. My Invitation
4. Before Your Time
5. Habit
6. Twin Moon
7. Awake Soon
8. HIgh
9. Eliot
10. Blue Parade
11. Narcolepsy Weed
Hidden Track: Madeliene

[Sarah Slean Official Site]