Serena Ryder: Harmony (Serenader/EMI)
Serena Ryder has teased for nearly a decade with her supreme talents and a career that has blossomed nicely in her native Canada with a few hits and a couple of Juno Awards—Best New Artist and Adult Alternative Album titled Is It O.K.
But this new album, her fifth, not to forget her many EPs, singles and live releases, seems destined to make her more of an international star and an even bigger presence in the USA where the real money is at.
Harmony is a tight little 10-track, 36-minute CD of roots pop where every song is solid and likeable and promises to usher Ryder to a larger audience.
Oddly, most of the songs recorded here were realized in Ryder’s own home studio but with the help of ace producers Jerrod Bettis (Gavin Degraw, Better Than Ezra) and Jon Levine (K’naan, Nelly Furtado) and these three play most of the instruments here as well.
Things were spiced up with strings and nice studio accents in California where Harmony comes across as a solid contender for the mainstream pop charts.
The lead single is the DIY electro dance pop of Stompa where the short lead guitar slyly suggests Joan Jett.
However, it is a couple of other songs here that really grabbed my attention.
The song Heavy Love has killer hooks and indelible melodies and if this song isn’t a hit for Ryder, a smart A&R man could make some serious coin promoting this song for a little more bombast via a Kelly Clarkson vehicle who was tailor made for this nugget.
Also, in spite of the home recording, the song Fall comes across as a mini wall of sound Spectorish retro girl group gem that beguiles unrepentantly and also acts as a cool ear worm from Harmony.
The lead off song What I Wouldn’t Do is a pure pop love song that old Stevie Nicks fans would enjoy while Serena Ryder has come up with the best album yet of her career.
Il Divo: The Greatest Hits (Sony)
This international quartet of classically trained tenors has become a cash cow in the easy listening, classical/pop crossover scene where Il Divo have consistently sold millions of albums and sold out worldwide stadia.
This Greatest Hits package comes just in time for the you-know-what season.
Most of this G. Hits album comes from their five previous studio releases but there are four new recordings here with the first four songs highlighted by Titanic’s My Heart Will Go On sung In Italian, Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You sung in Spanish and an English take of Elvis’ Can’t Help Falling In Love.
Although Il Divo have already released a box set and a three-CD Complete Collection, this 18-track G. Hits has all the required songs.
But, if it is more you want, The Greatest Hits also comes as a two-CD set with 13 tracks on the augmented disc with tunes that are already available.
A+ for marketing
C- for the cash grab
B- for artistic merit
Kelly Clarkson: Greatest Hits, Chapter One (19/RCA)
It has been 10 years since Kelly Clarkson won the very first (or at least the putative first) reality TV show American Idol.
She has survived and thrived along side other winners like Carrie Underwood (while Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson who are second string successors, did not win Am Idol).
So this 17-track Greatest Hits compilation is sort of a confirmation of Clarkson’s real and sometimes overly imagined charisma while the music holds up unequivocally.
Clarkson has had the good fortune of being a better than average songwriter herself which has turned to gold with outside help from Christina Aguilera, Ryan Tedder, Avril Lavigne, Chantal Kreviazuk, while ace producers and writers Dr. Luke and Max Martin have also been pivotal.
Also, Clarkson is best heard one song at a time as on the radio. On a CD compilation she comes across as a pure pop singer with a harder rock edge and I was surprised at how many times I turned the car radio up only to turn it back down a few moments later as she has often used the loud/quiet school of song writing.
You may have also noted that this G. Hits package is subtitled Chapter One and I am of the opinion that Clarkson has proven she has career legs.
But I would also warn her that what passes the lips, stays on the hips and I don’t know how they do it, but most radio programmers can tell if a songstress has made some weight gain and they don’t like the sound.
Finally, my “putative” bracket above is because media talent shows have been around since at least the mid 1930s—Google Ted Macks