• Bryon Harris

Bongo Boy Records - 'The 61st FYC Album by Various Artists'

Bongo Boy Records has released ‘The 61st FYC Album by Various Artists‘. This album captures independent music on the 1st FYC Voting ballot for consideration of a nomination for a 61st GRAMMY Award®. Seventeen tracks give listeners the opportunity to take a seat at the table during the voting process and hear great song-writing and performances.

Opening with delicate keys and guitar strumming, the song “Leo Kama’aina” kicks off the album with an authentic Hawaiin folk-pop song that takes you away to the Islands. Utilizing traditional Hawaiian melodies rich Island harmonies, and falsetto singing it’s easy to hear why Na Hoa's "Leo Kama'aina" was Grammy® Nominated for Best Regional Roots Music Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. The group members include: Keoni Souza, Ikaika Blackburn, and Halehaku Seabury-Akaka. Together, the three natives pour out Hawaiin soul creating a sound that is as warm as the Island sun.

Next ups is Mark Lindsay (former Lead Singer of Paul Revere & the Raiders) with “Rush On You." The song lives up to its title commencing with a strong rush of classic rock. Hints of blues keep the mix engaging. Mark has a voice built for his genre with just the right amount of raspy edge. His range can go from a tantalizing whisper to a full power-house rock with ease as he sings “Oh Baby, Got a Rush on You.” Highlights include bluesy rock guitar solos and a rhythm section that knows how to groove.

Track three is Slight Return / Mark Kassa’s “69 Days Till Freedom.” The song opens with mysterious arpeggios on acoustic guitar, that have a Spanish vibe, before the slide of an electric guitar takes over with a catchy solo/riff which moves us into a full rock experience. The catchy chorus has a great hook, “69 Days ‘til freedom. Another wave hits the boat. 69 Days ‘til Freedom. I gotta leave to save my soul. “ The song is about one man’s journey from a torn country to Ellis Island, but this could easily be any man’s journey from a place of soul-chains to freedom. The music perfectly compliments the theme with vocals that tell a story, hard hitting drums, rich bass, and guitar licks that cry freedom.

Sangeeta Kaur’ “Bring It Down” is a moving ballad set to arpeggiated piano. This song is like a musical prayer. Sangeeta delivers a tender and sweet vocal performance with a clear and inviting vocal tone. She enters singing on the chorus, “I pray, I pray tonight that I can be the best of me...that this prayer will set me free.” The lyrics to "Bring It Down” center around inner peace and a letting go of hate and fear. As the song continues, the arrangement develops nicely with added ambiance, strings, and solos. The song is beauty put to music.

Track five is a piano instrumental titled "Spellbound” by Robin Spielberg. The introduction to Spellbound is mesmerizing. Two distinct voices are heard. The first phrase is played in tenor range over 16 bars of dreamlike material. The phrases repeat with variation. The material is then heard again in a very delicate, high register. As the piece moves forward, these voices gently unfold and intertwine like a dance before returning to the main melody for a moment of unison. "Spellbound” sets a deeply contemplative and meditative mood that takes you away to a place of complete tranquility.

Oblivea “The Way Things Stand “changes things up with a classic rock love song. The lead vocals are radio-ready with a clear and bright tone that’s easy to listen to. The band starts with a light and rapid percussion intro with arpeggiated guitar. The lyrics are universal, and the chorus has a strong hook, “As the way things stand, you and I can overcome this world. As we fact the coming tide, as the waves try to flood our lives, remember you’ll always be my girl. “The mix gets thick as lead guitar solos swirl and a nice heavy bass drives the music forward. The song is about overcoming hardships together.

Track seven, Zombie Garden Clu’s “ Animals (Long Version)” is an intriguing alternative pop-rock song. The longer than usual introduction entices you in with a combination of electronic ambiance, strong melodic phrasing and organic guitar strumming. Acrobatic lead guitar riffs highlight the track creating a cutting intensity. The lead vocalist starts with the catchy hook, “I'm an animal. You’re an animal. We’re all animals...and all I want is you.” The lyrics are very sparse, yet intense and highly memorable. This remarkable track has an underlying groove and message that makes it irresistible.

Studeo’s “Our Perfect Place To Be” is a romantic, mid-tempo ballad, The song has a wonderful nostalgic vibe with highly romantic and dreamy lyrics. "And we'll dance, kick off our shoes such sweet romance. Let’s take a change, oh baby, you and me, it’s a perfect place to be.” With a touch of jazz, he orchestral arrangement is done very well with strings, piano and percussion. An eloquent and tasteful guitar solo nicely picks up the melody and sings it with style. The song is about a perfect night in the moonlight.

The Country rock song by Kama Ruby, “Badlands of Bakersfield” follows. Kama sings a tale about growing up in Bakersfield, a town divided by agriculture and big oil. Kama takes you inside her story with down-to-earth lyrics influenced by Americana. “A hundred degrees was no big deal. We had no AC. There were no frills. We sweated it out trying to pay our bills." Karma paints a vibrant picture of daily life and sings each lyric with sensitivity. Backed by a sensational band, “Badlands of Bakersfield” does the town proud.

Track ten is a winner with Sheba The Mississippi Queen performing” Butter On My Rolls”. This song is a fantastic blues number that will impress anyone who loves the blues. Sheba The Mississippi Queen gives a charismatic performance that is the real-deal. This blues singer knows her stuff. Some people were born to sing the blues and Sheba The Mississippi Queen sounds like she was born with the blues running through her veins. Destined for big things, “Butter on My Rolls” hits high marks for rich and authentic vocals, great musicianship and fun lyrics. “You can take everything from me, but leave some butter on my rolls.” Badass blues guitar solos highlight the track.

Next up is Sharon Lia Band’s “Anomie.” Commencing delicately on keys with light vocal nuance, the intro draws you in. It quickly develops with rhythm guitar, bass and percussion into a full-scale alternative rock song. Presenting strong vocals, Sharon Lia digs into her material with emotional conviction and confidence as she sings above the thick mix. “Anomie” is a song about the shortcomings of society and the longing to be free. "All that I know, I learned on my own.” The music has psychedelic-rock moments with swirling instrumentation and cutting electric guitar solos.

"Chain Reaction” by The Corridors is a unique rock song that incorporates electronica and rock. The song is out of the gate with rapid, electronic drumming. Soon thick grungy guitars join in. “Chain Reaction” has a cool rock groove that comes together by blending synth and organic instrumentation. The lead vocals have a nice tenor tone which is heard well above the mix. The melodic content is strong. With refreshing originality, The Corridors have created a unique sound that can’t be boxed into one genre.

Track thirteen, is Annemarie Picerno’s “Bonfire feat. Lisa Coppola, Jimmy Parker, Donna Jo, Steve Owen, Benny Pitsinger, Gene DiPierro and Bob McGilpin. Bonfire is an Americana gem that paints the stories we tell around the bonfire. The song opens with a combination of plucked and strummed instrumentation. Cleverly written, the melody is passed around the bonfire as multiple singers sing a line of the song and then sing together in unison. In true Americana fashion, you are taken away to a moment when friends tell their stories and each voice is unique. At one moment, the singing is layered like a round like fashion. In bonfire, you can hear the “heat sparks” fly lyrically and musically.

Damian Wyldes follows with the artistically crafted song “Disengage” Damian Wyldes uses unique instrumentation to create a haunting indie-rock landscape. The song opens with guitar finger-picking, strumming and the soulful voice of a solo trumpet. A standup bass plucks out the chords. Damian has a highly expressive voice and an expansive range. His voice is powerful and impressive. The song captures a solemn longing as Damian sings about a relationship that has fallen apart. “I’ll never hear your voice reach out again.” Violins cry sweetly above. With expressive singing and fantastically unique instrumentation, “Disengage” is about as engaging as it gets.

Legendary Jim McCarty (The Yardbirds) is up next with “Special Girl." There is a mesmerizing psychedelic-rock vibe in “Special Girl” that gets stuck in your head with trancelike melodies. The percussion is light and precise, never predictable. Electric guitar solos weave an interesting, bluesy web. Jim’s voice is perfect for the arrangement as he sings in a relaxed, chill manner that compliments the rock-groove. “Special Girl” is about meeting someone and knowing you will be back. Like the song says, when something moves you “will be back for sure” and this is the sense you get after you listen to “Special Girl.”

Track sixteen is an instrumental piece by The Violanta called “La Bohemienne.” The song is played on an old-fashioned street organ. Reminiscent of an accordion, the instrument heard here is much grander and more theatrical in scope. In “La Boheminne” the street organ plays a joyful waltz that explores many timbres and themes. At times it sounds like a march or a parade then like a polka or a carnival. Playful percussive interludes are placed throughout the arrangement. Great skill is heard in the execution of all the thematic voicings. Overall the sound is exuberant.

The last song on the album is Kevin Lucas Experience - Africa feat. Wouter Kellerman, Alek Razdan, Dave Gross, Ricky Kej and Jerome Lawrence. Kevin Lucas Experience interpretation and performance of Toto’s “Africa” is invigorating. The percussion and marimba solo sections show tremendous skill and artistic refinement. Keven Lucas Experience have created a remake that honors the song Africa with an artistic performance that showcases virtousic musicianship while remaining true to the song's original vibe - done with the right hands, this cover is exhillerating.

For more information on 'The 61st FYC Album by Various Artists', please visit Bongo Boy Records.

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