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cdcover BEATS AND PEACES - OOM (Tequila records)

1 October 2001 My first introduction to the weird and wonderful world of Oom was the offbeat/upbeat 'Whito Kwaito' from www.mp3.com. The first thing I noticed about 'Beats and Peaces' was that this track was missing. However as they say in Australia, no worries, as there's plenty of other great tracks here, and 'Whito Kwaito' is still available for download from the MP3.com website.

Oom is not just a pretty faceless band, they are also one of South Africa's hidden treasures. Featuring the talents of Ian Osrin, Jon Ackerman (the men behind the sadly departed digitalcupboard.com) and the brilliant vocal talent of the also sadly departed Alf Mofokeng, Oom play a laid back reggae rock n dance with an underlying wry sense of humour. Osrin was involved in the studio project Pocket Lips that brought us the catchy 'It's Amazing (The Incredible Dance)' and is responsible for twiddling the knob on the album.

Ackerman used to run Street Records opposite Wits University and has a wide knowledge and love of music and is always quick to recommend obscure yet brilliant albums. His love of music generally shows through in the variety of styles and influences that appear throughout the album. There's a muted Dylan blues harmonica hiding in 'Peace Train', a Led Zep guitar and a Stevie Wonder harmonica floating around in 'Soul Brother', a Juluka Jive intro to 'Amabulu', a sweeping KLF keyboard in 'Righto Matey' and South Africa's answer to Hendrix's 'Star Spangled Banner' with a electric guitar solo of 'N'kosi Sikelele' stuck away in the corner of 'Amabulu'. And that's just to mention a few.

Alf Mokeng's vocals which can be found on 'Soul Brother' and 'Anoma' are pure reggae, displaying all the warmth and angst of Marley, while Musa ***Lo (as the sleeve notes denote him) brings that great African feel to a number of tracks including the brilliant 'Happiness (is a State of Mind)' which opens the album.

Except for the rather quirky 'System Error' which you'll either love or hate, this is an album jam packed with great tunes to lose yourself in. As laid back and cool as the dude on the cover (number 19 on the top 50 SA Album covers at http://www.sarockdigest.com/albumcovers), it is a gem that shouldn't be overlooked. Also worth trying to get is the cheeky Hansiegate song 'Captain Cash'. If you don't believe me check out 'Whito Kwaito' at MP3.com and hear for yourself.

John Samson


13 August 2001 Into the SA rock playground stride the boys of Zen Arcade. They've heard all those "Rock is Dead" whispers but know better. They also know that there's still nothing to beat a good, old fashioned guitar, bass, drums and stirring vocals four-piece rock band. So the name on their T-shirts gives a respectful nod to their favourite Hüsker Dü masterpiece, and the seven songs on their mighty but measured (and quite short) first album, jokingly titled 'Snowflake', pay similar allegiance to a broad sweep of rock influences. Yet 'Snowflake' has a now-ness and newness about it that is refreshing and cause for much optimism.

Each of these seven hard rock "ballads" have their own special charm, even though some of them wade well over the six minute mark. Opener 'Ode' hints at things to come with its restrained edgy backing before 'Sister' established the band's current rock credentials with its big and brash nu-metal swagger. Then it's back to the soaring, soulful and touchingly vulnerable vocals of the addictively melodic first single, 'Crazy Over You', which stood tall among the many other worthy contributions on the 'Showcase 3: Unearthed' new SA Class of '01 rock mixture.

Up next is the album's clear highlight, 'Not About You', which finds singer Iain McKenzie letting his vocals swoop in and out of the band's almost funky rock groove, creating a thundering Zep-like stomp. 'Step Back', 'Up' and closer 'Take Out The Trash', continue to raise the tempo instead of letting us down lightly. But it's all very controlled and well-paced, leaving the songs to expose their strengths and sustain our interest all the way through. Credit here to producer Neil Snyman for finding a way to simultaneously harness and unleash the band's energy and sound. 'Snowflake' has nothing in its sounds or styles that is startlingly new or innovative, but its solid, wired and deceptively tuneful contents indicate plenty of potential and promise. Watch these ous! (8) (SS)



30 July 2001 There have been times when I have truly been worried about the future of SA rock bands. For example in the late nineties and last year with a lot of the media focus on turntable DJs and other dance acts, it seemed as if the traditional guitar-driven band was an endangered species. But since the middle of last year I have noticed an upsurge in rock music (halleluja!) especially Rage Against The Machine-style rap-metal acts, commercial punk music, and in this country, rock ballads and mild rock songs.

'Showcase 3' is a collection of the best songs from a new generation of unsigned, or soon-to-be-signed bands. FiveFM seem to have chosen almost exclusively straight forward rock bands for this album. There are no cross-over acts or more experimental type artists. I think one can see this two ways: either they chose these bands because they reflect what are currently the popular musical styles (Watershed, GrannySmith, Mean Mr. Mustard, etc) on the SA airwaves and can therefore probably sell more CDs, or maybe there are just more of these types of bands around. Recorded, mixed and produced by Evert de Munnik and Neal Snyman the album was recorded at SABC's RP studios in JHB. The inlay has pictures of all the bands with a short write-up on each one as well as phone numbers for bookings and info. I'm sure this will go a long way to help them get gigs.

There are some great tracks on here, like the brilliant 'Crazy Over You' by Zen Arcade and 'King With A Crown' by Spoon Feedas, and I really dig 'Dissipate' by Three Weeks Anaemic. I think a year from now it will be really interesting to see which bands on this album are making it big. All-in-all a really cool collection, well-recorded and produced and very professional sounding. This is easy to heavy-ish rock music so don't expect anything revolutionary. At least I can rest easy now knowing that there are still loads of guitar bands in this country and with any luck someone has got to make it to MTV soon.

Jason Smith



9 July 2001 "Sugar Man, won't you hurry, 'cause I'm tired of these scenes"

Dipped sweetly in the psychedelia of the sixties, this the first album from a mysteriously unknown artist, mingles simple folk guitar with astonishing lyrics about drugs, depression and inner city blues. Rodriguez's distinct nasal voice ambles through a dozen simple tunes addressing the turbulent backdrop of America in the sixties and does so with such impressionable beauty that it has catapulted him into cult status in many far flung corners of the globe. Such is the demand, that both 'Cold Fact', and the second album 'Coming From Reality' (re-released in 1976, in South Africa only, as 'After The Fact'), have been remastered on CD format, some 20 years later.

cdcover For many, this album is one magnificent trip, lost in the haze of hippiness, and indeed the album is laced with narcotic references, but as far as talent goes, 'Cold Fact' is a remarkable album perfect for idealists and dreamers. The obsessive 'I Wonder', perhaps the best known of the album's tracks, is a simple tune that mirrors the type of questions you've always wanted to ask of certain people and never had the courage, but it is the album's ultra-trippy opening number, 'Sugar Man' which really lends the album an air of intrigue. Others such as 'Crucify Your Mind', 'Jane S. Piddy' and 'Forget It' are both poignant and subtly beautiful.

However, it is the album as a whole, it's poetic lyrics and the bohemian fueled mystery surrounding it that makes it so appealing to several generations, even years after the artist signed off with the words "thanks for your time, then you can thank me for mine and after that's said, forget it."

This album, in short, eventually becomes part of your lifestyle.

Andrew Bond, April 1998


25 June 2001 To his friends he's just Waddy, but on this, his eclectic and eccentric debut, solo album he begins by introducing himself (on the cover) by his full "title". It seems WTJ Jnr has this thing with names, identities, and alter egos, and 'Memoirs Of A Clone' is his attempt to fuse all these different characters and diverse musical influences and styles, into a cogent and entertaining whole. No easy task, but a notable success regardless. Waddy first appeared as a member of the (original) Original Evergreens and made a large contribution to 'Puff The Magik', the group's deservedly award-winning first album. But a few "creative differences" later, Waddy left the group and little was heard from him over the past few years.

But now he's back with a wildly inventive and hugely popular live act, and an album that reflects his multiple personas, musical tastes, and relevant and irreverent views on the world around him and us. 'Memoirs Of A Clone' continually spills over with fresh ideas, strange voices, and a wide and weird range of sound effects and bytes. His clipped and funny hip hop lyrics are delivered in a variety of droll but sussed voices ("Don't treat objects like women", "You talk too loud in the movies, won't you please be a little bit considerate"). And each song seems to arrive from another musical planet.

'Max Normal' introduces us to Waddy's best-known persona, a combination of Mr Bean and the robot from 'Futurama' ("I'm Max Normal, Dang-dang-de-dang-dang-dang, dress code, strictly formal"). The song 'Watkin Tudor Jones' is autobiographical and intensely personal and the opening track, 'Good Old Fashion Loving', is a languid electronic love song in the Massive Attack mode. Producer Adrian Levi yet again adds his name and expertise to some of the more innovative recent new SA music. Here he retains and supports the general feel and mood of the album by keeping the musical arrangements stripped down and sparse. This ensures that on songs like 'You Talk Too Loud', 'Precious Things' and 'Doing Nothing' specifically, and generally throughout this absorbing album, the emotion in the words and the alienation in the mood is clear and almost tangible.

There's also some kind of general sub-plot involving a chocky-socky Kung Fu character called Ching who pops up now and then to explain the plot. So 'Memoirs Of A Clone' really is a weird and swervy ride, but then, just when you think you've got your head around this inventive and evocative modern musical smorgasbord, the album finishes off with a groovy, jazzy version of the old Chords' classic, 'Shaboom', with Johnny Fourie on guitar, and its well-known pay-off line, "Life can be a dream, sweetheart". In this context obviously a throwaway clue. "Where's Waddy?" you may well ask after hearing this song and all that's preceded it. Judging from this modern, snappy, electronica-with-a-rock-heart, funny, trippy and imaginative collection, it's just impossible to know, we just have to keep looking and listening. Maximum Abnormal! (8) (SS)



18 June 2001 Kate Normington returned to South Africa at the beginning of 2000, after a highly successful five-year stint in Britain. While there she played the role of Grace Farrell in the 21st anniversary production of the award-winning musical 'Annie', which opened on the West End in 1998 and toured England and Scotland the following year. Kate's last theatrical show in South Africa was Andrew Lloyd-Webber's one-woman work 'Tell Me on a Sunday' at the Soundstage Theatre in Johannesburg.

Over the past year she has been performing solo with pianist Wessel van Rensburg, drummer Barry van Zyl and bass player Denny Lalouette. They have appeared at a number of venues in Johannesburg, at the Barnyard theatres in White River and Plettenberg Bay, at the Boardwalk Casino in Port Elizabeth and at the Grahamstown Festival. Kate has just toured with the Johnny Cooper Big Band, performing in Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, White River and Magoebaskloof.

Kate's first major musical role in South Africa was as Kate in 'Pirates of Penzance' in 1987, after she had studied drama at the University of the Witwatersrand. The following year she won two coveted South African theatre awards - the Vita and the Fleur du Cap - for her role as Sister Mary Amnesia in 'Nunsense', one for "best actress" and the other for "excellence in comedy". In 1990, Kate played Eliza Doolittle in the Johannesburg production of 'My Fair Lady'. In 1991, Kate was involved in Richard Loring's very successful compilation show, 'A Touch of Webber, A Taste of Rice', before playing Janet in the Johannesburg production of the 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' in 1992. In 1993, Kate played Sandy in 'Grease' at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, and then in 1994 played Sheila in the Civic Theatre's production of 'Hair'. Before moving to London, she played Irene in the State Theatre's production of 'Crazy For You'.

In addition to musical theatre, Kate has co-written and performed a number of cabaret shows, notably with Gaby Lomberg in 'Pigs with Attitude' and 'Pigs with Bottoms'. She has also sung with a number of jazz ensembles and with South Africa's National Symphony Orchestra. 2001 marks the long-awaited solo album release from Kate in her recording of 'Mother's Daughter', released by Sheer Sound. The album features 10 tracks. Four of these are covers (including 'Come Together' by The Beatles, Bonny Raitt's 'I Can't Make You Love Me', and 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow') and the other six are original songs, co-written by Kate and Wessel van Rensburg, who produced the album. 'Mother's Daughter' is a beautiful musical journey through the depths and heights of Kate's extraordinary vocal talent.




28 May 2001 Another polished collection of Lionel Bastos songs, all original compositions performed with an assortment of stirring vocals, sweeping strings, and wide-screen, emotional arrangements. His two previous albums - 'Be Like Water' and the SAMA Award-winning 'Simple' - showed a fluid songwriting touch, an ear for the hooky lyric, and a warm, emotive voice doing these compositions full justice. Songs like 'Go Back', 'I'll Forget About You (Every Day)' and 'I Can Resist (Anything Except Temptation)' anchor this set firmly in AOR-Pop territory with their light and breezy ambience and summery tone. Pianos skip, strings frolic and drums patter around Lionel's tough but yearning voice, reminiscent of early Gordon Lightfoot. 'Thank You' sounds nothing like Dido's hit but is equally addictive. But the cringe-worthy 'God Was Showing Off' should have been saved for a future B-side as its faith-pop just doesn't fit here.

The final seven tracks of the 16 on 'Rising Above The Madness' were recorded during a live webcast from the "domain" of SA Internet recluse, Dotcoza. Although the recording quality of these tracks is noticeably spacier and under-produced, songs like 'Celebrate' and 'Not Enough' fit snugly alongside the preceding studio tracks. His paradoxical, Latino-tinged diatribe against the over-commercialisation of Latin Music ('Stop The Bandwagon') deserves a review all on its own. The album was arranged and produced (and to a large degree played) by Lionel Bastos himself, with sterling assistance from Mauritz Lotz on guitar, Barry van Zyl on drums and musical and vocal contributions from Tonia Selly, Ed Jordan, Marius Brouwer, Barbara Tellinger, Bruce Millar, Wendy Oldfield and Kreesan. He has also produced albums and written songs for many contemporary SA acts, but when Lionel Bastos makes his own albums, he saves his best material for those. A chilled and intelligent collection of songs, for once, an accurate album title. (7) (SS)



14 May 2001 After laying low for the whole of the '90's, Edi Niederlander is back with her long-awaited third album. And who but Edi could start her fresh new collection with a zippy little tune called 'Bye Bye'? But that's just the first of many surprises on 'Dreamland', a welcome return (to form) for one of South Africa's most respected and enduring artists. Edi's first two albums - 'Ancient Dust' (1985) and 'Hear No Evil' (1989) - are well known, admired, and a little rare, especially on CD. 'Dreamland' finds Edi drawing deep on the styles and spirit of those albums, and effortlessly fusing them with the sounds of this new century. The result is a joyful, jazz-flecked and diverse collection of Niederlander originals and a compelling, eclectic and consistently entertaining piece of work.

Producer Koos Turenhout built 'Dreamland' around Edi's distinctive guitar expertise, strong songs and versatile vocals (and he also contributed the odd keyboard solo and tabla loop!). But 'Dreamland' is essentially a wonderful group effort from the musicians with whom Edi chose to surround herself. Kevin Gibson (drums) and Nelson Barbosa (bass) underpin every song with energy and verve, Matthew McKeon adds some lovely keyboard touches, and Karen Rutter displays some wondrous flute skills on 'Bye Bye' and 'Love Is The Dream Of The Soul', and drums on 'Axis Mundi'. On instrumentals like 'Spider Spins Again' and 'Funka Munka', and the semi-rap workouts that are 'Love Is The Dream Of The Soul' and 'Marathon Head', these musicians are given full license and plenty of room to flex their skills around Edi's guitar sparks, giving 'Dreamland' a spacious, cathartic feel.

It's not all strident and sterk stuff though. Certain of these songs - 'Strong Women In Africa', 'Axis Mundi' (new age Baez), and the Hippie-clappie closer 'Shine A Little Love' - do tend towards that twee, earnest '70's SA folksy style and are only saved by Edi Nederlander's obvious sincerity and focus of purpose. In 'Strong Woman in Africa' ('We will make Africa strong') she also asks "Where is our story?"; and in 'Didn't Mean To Break Your Heart' Edi crosses her fingers as she promises: "I'll buy you whiskey, I'll buy you rubies, I'll take you to heaven, I'll take you to movies".

But listen to the bright and shiny 'Undying Light', which features Edi solo on guitar and vocals recalling the optimism and clarity of 'Ancient Dust', and it all starts to make sense. It's a song that one could imagine an awe-struck, outer space-bound Jodie Foster singing in the "musical version" of 'Contact'. 'Shine A Little Love' is an optimistic, end-of-album knees-up, followed by a "hidden" afri-trip-hoppy coda to round things off. On 'Marathon Head' Edi sings "Take me from this mental race, save my soul from cyberspace". It's obvious she still hankers after the old musical ways and styles, but 'Dreamland' confirms that Edi Niederlander can still make music that is relevant and contemporary. (8) (SS)



7 May 2001 New (wave) delights from this recent intercontinental duo. Intercontinental in the sense that Brit Julie Bell spent two years in SA and bonded musically with South African producer Adrian Levi, who had also spent some time in the UK as part of Ellamental before returning to settle into an accomplished career as a producer of fine albums. 'Balance' is the sum of their parts and roars in on the back of this fresh pop/rock sound with a twist of grunge. Opener 'You' swaggers in and sets the scene for the 10 songs that follow (plus a remix and video of 'I Don't Care'). Julie Bell has one of those cute, vulnerable voices that, set against the rock-edged backings, sounds like Claire Grogan fronting the Banshees. It works well on songs like 'Come With Me', 'Love In The Sink' {Huh? - ed}, and 'Inspired'. But your tolerance for this will be tested by the bouncy cute-pop of 'I Don't Care', which strays a little too far into Vengaboy territory. But it's an isolated departure and 'Perfume', 'Want' and 'Square World' throw enough alternative diversions on to this album to keep it steady and sussed. [6] (SS)

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