Wednesday, February 6, 2013

CD Reviews: Holiday House/The Safes/Terry Bartolotta Group

Note: These reviews originally appeared in the “Around Hears” section of the Illinois Entertainer.

Holiday House created a concept album based on Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, but don’t expect giddy tributes to the first Ferris Wheel. Night Falls On The Fair consistently sounds ominous; as if serial killer H.H. Holmes was only one of many evils awaiting visitors to the event. Still, Andi Donahue’s gorgeous vocals, particularly on “Scrape The Sky” and “Big Mary,” along with guitarist-drummer Paul Wendell Obis’s elaborate folk and rock arrangements make this a fascinating effort. 

The Safes released two songs from their future album, Century Of Saturdays as a CD single to coincide with their use on the PBS show Roadtrip Nation. “It’s True” offers fun in a skiffle music mode, thanks to Frankie O’Malley’s playful vocals and accordian playing. He adds vibraphone to the melodic, “Simplicity,” which also benefits from Ryan Matthew on violin. It’s a safe bet the band (including bassist Michael O’Malley and guitarist Patrick O’Malley) will keep things cooking on the full-length CD.

The long-form instrumentals on Above The Clouds by the Terry Bartolotta Group tend toward traditional jazz, and feature tenor sax player Alex Beltran and Nick Sednew on trumpet. Bartolotta also gives himself some time to stretch out on these original compositions, particularly on the nocturnal “Mood Piece” and Latin flavored “Little Bolero.” Bassist Nathan Kawaller and drummer Lucas Gillan turn in some inspired solos on “On A Whim” “Times Change,” respectively.

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