‘Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Celebration’ Is Fun But Falls Short Of Expectations

Courtesy: Sesame Workshop/Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids

One week ago today, the beloved children’s television series Sesame Street marked a very important moment in its history.  The educational series celebrated 50 years on television.  That is a long time for any series to be on television.  Few series have lasted such a long time.  The only series that has lasted longer is Jeopardy.  For those wondering, The Price is Right did not premiere until Sept. 4, 1972.  In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the show’s heads created a special episode to mark the occasion.  It has already run on HBO, and will air tonight on PBS Kids stations nationwide.  Following its airings, it will be available on DVD on Dec. 3 through an ongoing partnership between Shout! Factory and Sesame Workshop.  The celebration is enjoyable in its own right and worth an occasional watch.  That is due to the collective whole of its overall content.  While the program’s overall content ensures audiences’ engagement and entertainment, the way in which said content was presented sadly detracts from that enjoyment and engagement.  Luckily, the negative impact of the program’s editing and ordering is not enough to make it unwatchable.  The program’s bonus content couples with its primary content to add to its appeal.  When that collective content is considered alongside the issues raised by the program’s editing and ordering, the presentation in whole proves to be maybe not a perfect celebration of Sesame Street, but one that is worth at least an occasional watch.

Shout! Factory and Sesame Workshop’s new 50th Anniversary celebration of Sesame Street is an interesting program that is worth at least an occasional watch.  That is due in part to its overall content.  The main presentation finds Elmo and his friends looking for Sesame Street’s street sign because it has gone missing on the very day that the neighborhood’s gang is to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary.  As the group searches for the sign, they also have to keep host Joseph Gordon-Levitt from knowing the sign has gone missing.  Along the way, some random segments featuring some of the shows’ most well-known and beloved musical numbers are performed by the likes of Meghan Trainor, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello and Nile Rogers.  Of course it is obvious that some of the performances in question are lip synched; specifically speaking those of Trainor and Rogers.  They come across more like music videos than actual performances, which sadly do detract somewhat from the program’s enjoyment, but not so much so that the program is unwatchable.  Elmo and company’s search eventually reaches a happy ending with a surprise.  The whole thing lasts roughly one hour.

Following the finale of the program’s main presentation, audiences are treated to a series of guest appearances from other celebrities as they introduce their favorite moments from Sesame Street’s history.  In all, there are four segments.  Each segment is accompanied by the full-length segments which each guest star discusses with members of the Sesame Street gang.  These segments, honestly, offer more in the way of engagement and entertainment than the main program in this presentation.  This is where the program takes a bit of a turn.

The overall primary content featured in the Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Celebration offers a certain amount of entertainment for audiences.  However, the editing and arrangement of said content detracts considerably from the presentation.  It would have made more sense (at least in this critic’s own view) for the extra guest appearances and segments to have been made part of the overall celebration than their own standalone presentation.  Instead of just having random musical numbers as part of the main presentation to break up the search for the sign segments, it would have made more sense to have Elmo and company go around Sesame Street, meeting those guests, who were hanging out with the other members of the Sesame Street “gang,” during the search for the sign, have the noted guests talk about their favorite memories and transition to those segments and then go back to the search for the sign than to have the whole assembled how it was put together.  By just incorporating the random celebrities the way in which they were used in the main presentation, the main program just feels disjointed, and the celebs just seem like little more than window dressing.  All in all, the editing drastically detracts from the general effect of the program’s presentation.  While it does not make the program unwatchable, it does detract from the presentation enough, that it makes one wonder how much thought and time was put into planning and scripting this celebration.  The effect is that while it does pay tribute to Sesame Street, its history and impact, the main presentation here is worth maybe an occasional watch, but is not the truly memorable tribute that it could have been.

While the editing and scripting of Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Celebration clearly hurts the celebration’s presentation, it does not make it completely unwatchable.  The program’s bonus content, which is brief in itself, does a little more to add to the program’s appeal.  There is a brief “Elmo’s World” segment in which Elmo talks about the different kinds of celebrations with his smart phone friend “Smartie” and an even more brief look back at Sesame Street’s half-century history.  It is essentially just a video compilation of the series’ opening segments that eventually end up making a video mosaic of the show.  Again, this is where the scripting and editing come back into play.  That video mosaic of sorts could and should have been used to open the program instead of having Cookie Monster taking a cab ride to Sesame Street as he tries to find out where Sesame Street is.  How would Cookie Monster not know how to get to Sesame Street?  That is just not believable.  Getting back on topic, the bonus content overall adds a little bit of entertainment for audiences.  When it is considered along with the program’s primary content, the end result is an overall presentation that is worth an occasional watch, but certainly is sadly not the celebration that it surely could and should have been for such an iconic series.

Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Celebration is an intriguing offering for audiences.  Considering the rich history of Sesame Street and the impact that it has had for half a century, the “celebration” is worth an occasional watch, but sadly falls short of being the tribute that it could and should have been.  The content that makes up the body of the program’s main presentation will entertain and engage audiences, but the editing and scripting of that main presentation greatly detracts from the program’s impact.  The bonus content that comes with the program’s DVD presentation works with the program’s content in its main presentation to make the whole enjoyable, but sadly not memorable.  Sesame Street: 50th Anniversary Celebration will be available on DVD Dec. 3.  More information on this and other titles from Sesame Workshop is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.sesameworkshop.org

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SesameWorkshop

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sesameworkshop

 

 

 

More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

 

 

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Shout! Factory, Sesame Workshop Set To Release Another New ‘Sesame Street’ DVD

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Sesame Workshop

Shout! Factory and Sesame Workshop will release another new Sesame Street compilation DVD this spring.

Sesame StreetAwesome Alphabet Collection is set for release on May 7.  The new DVD will help teachers and parents alike teach their pre-schoolers their ABCs with performances by The Beetles (yes, The Beetles), Norah Jones, Tori Kelly and Pharrell Williams.

Famed author and activist Maya Angelou also makes an appearance in the new DVD.  She offers her thoughts on the importance of giving hugs, while Sheryl Crow helps the letter “I” soak up some sun and actor Ricky Gervais sings a lullaby for Elmo.

The trailer for the new DVD is streaming here.  The movie’s run time is two-hours.  Pre-orders are open now.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shoutfactoryofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

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Viking Metallers Amon Amarth Are Victorious In Phil’s Picks 2018 Top 10 New Live DVDs & Blu-rays List

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

As the final few days of 2018 wind down, there is still some work to be done by critics putting in their year-ender lists.  That includes this critic.

This critic’s most recent year-ender focused on the year’s top new live CDs.  In a gradual transition to movies and television, there is still one more music list to present — the year’s top new live DVDs/BDs.  As has been noted previously, there are some live recordings that translate in  relatively acceptable fashion, but there are also others that can and should only be experienced with the full audio-visual experience.

Keeping this in mind, it is only fair to examine the year’s best new live DVDs and Blu-rays.  Topping this year’s list is Amon Amarth’s The Pursuit of Vikings25 Years in the Eye of the Storm.  There is nothing negative to say about this presentation.  The extensive documentary outlines the band’s career from the band’s own mouths, showing the group as a hard-working, blue-collar outfit that has earned its place in the metal and music communities.  The equally expansive two-night, 30-song set pulls from almost every one of the band’s albums.  The performance is great, as are the production values.

Second Place in this year’s list of the year’s best new live DVDs/BDs goes to Devin Townsend Project’s Ocean Machine Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv.  This performance features Townsend performing Ocean Machine live in its entirety along with an equally extensive by-request set.  That combination makes for a great set list.  As with Amon Amarth’s live recording, the group’s performance ensures audiences’ maintained engagement and entertainment, even at home.  The same can be said of the production values.  The whole makes the recording yet another that is best experienced with the full audio-visual presentation versus just the audio alone.

Third Place in this year’s list of the top new live DVDs and Blu-rays goes to The Rolling Stones’ San Jose, California ’99 show from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The recording is everything that audiences have come to expect from one of the elite of the elite acts in the music industry today.  The extensive 20-song set list doesn’t play it safe, instead giving audiences material that is less common in the band’s previous live recordings from Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The group’s performance (including that of the touring musicians) couples with the production values to make the performance yet another must have for any true fan of The Rolling Stones.

Also featured in this year’s list are the new live recordings from Anthrax, The Robert Glasper Experiment and Opeth, just to name a few more acts.  As always, the first 10 titles in the last are the best, while the next five are honorable mention titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks’ 2018 Top 10 New Live DVDs & Blu-rays.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW LIVE DVDS & BLU-RAYS

  1. Amon Amarth — The Pursuit of Vikings25 Years in the Eye of the Storm
  2. Devin Townsend Project — Ocean Machine Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv
  3. The Rolling Stones — No Security: San Jose ’99
  4. The Rolling Stones — Voodoo Lounge Uncut
  5. Accept — Symphonic Terror
  6. Opeth — Garden of the TitansLive at Red Rocks
  7. Anthrax — Kings Among Scotland
  8. The Sound of Music Live
  9. Steven Wilson — Home Invasion Live at the Royal Albert Theatre
  10. Norah Jones — Live at Ronnie Scott’s
  11. Tommy Shaw & The Contemporary Youth Orchestra — Sing For The Day!
  12. The Moody Blues — Days of Future Passed Live
  13. Overkill — Live in Overhausen
  14. Robet Glasper Experiment — Live
  15. Lacuna Coil — The 119 Show Live in London

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Eagle Rock Entertainment Announces Release Date, Specs For New Norah Jones Live Recording

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/ Eagle Vision

Norah Jones has a new live recording on the way.

The veteran performer is scheduled to release her new recording Live at Ronnie Scott’s June 15 via Eagle Rock Entertainment.  It will be available on separate DVD, Blu-ray and digital presentations. Pre-orders are available now.

Recorded over the course of a 4-night stint at London’s famed Ronnie Scott’s club this past September, the 16-song set lifts liberally from Jones’ most recent album, Daybreak.  The show’s full set list is noted below.

Live at Ronnie Scott’s track listing:

1. Sleeping Wild
2. Don’t Be Denied
3. After The Fall
4. Sinkin’ Soon
5. Out On The Road
6. And Then There Was You
7. It’s A Wonderful Time For Love
8. Fleurette Africaine (African Flower)
9. Flipside
10. Day Breaks
11. Nightingale
12. Tragedy
13. Little Broken Hearts
14. Carry On
15. Don’t Know Why
16. I’ve Got To See You Again

Along with the extensive set list, the concert also includes a handful of bonuses including an in-depth pre-show interview with Jones and the bonus song, ‘Burn.’

More information on Jones’ new live recording is available online now along with all of her latest news and more at:

 

Website: http://www.norahjones.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/norahjones

Twitter: http://twitter.com/NorahJones

 

More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” It.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

Audiences Of All Ages Will “Believe” In Panton’s New Album Re-Issue

Courtesy: eOne

Courtesy: eOne

Diana Panton is one of the most respected and accomplished performers in the jazz community today. One look at the singer’s bio shows that. She has released six critically acclaimed full-length albums, been nominated for two JUNO awards, won two Silver Disc Awards in Japan, 7 HMAS and has been tapped to play some of the world’s top jazz festivals among so much more. Needless to say the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada-based vocalist has done and earned quite a bit in her career so far. And last year she added yet another proverbial feather in her cap when she released her first-ever children’s album I Believe in Little Things. The album, originally released on September 25th, 2015 in Canada, will be re-issued this spring (March 18th to be exact) in the United States via eOne Records. The fourteen-song collection earned its own acclaim overseas in its initial release. And it would be no surprise for it to earn even more accolades upon its release domestically. That is especially the case considering that while it is being marketed as a children’s album it really isn’t just an album for children. That is because its featured songs are in fact songs lifted from movies, not just children’s standards. The catch is that the songs and the movies from which they were lifted are all family friendly. Yet young audiences today likely are far more unfamiliar with the songs or said movies than their parents. Considering that, it becomes just as enjoyable for adults as it is for younger viewers. It will generate a sense of nostalgia in older listeners and serves as a starting point for younger listeners to learn about the beloved songs and movies from which they were lifted. Keeping all of this in mind, it is safe to say that while most American audiences likely don’t know Diana Panton’s name or body of work, her new album could very well be the album that makes her more of a household name here in the states.

I Believe in Little Things, Diana Panton’s first-ever children’s album, is an interesting collection of songs. That is because considering its featured compositions it doesn’t necessarily come across as being solely for younger audiences. The compositions in question are songs lifted from a handful of classic family friendly movies. Those movies include but are not limited to: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), The Muppet Movie (1970), and Pinocchio (1940) just to name a few. Also featured in this album are songs from Alice in Wonderland (1951), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). There are even songs lifted from the beloved children’s series Sesame Street and Jim Henson’s other family favorite series The Muppet Show. So not only does Panton touch on timeless movies but on timeless television series, too. On the surface this doesn’t seem like much. But on a deeper level the link between the songs, movies, and TV series serves as a starting point in a history lesson that will hopefully get younger listeners into said classics versus what is begin offered to them today. What’s more the songs themselves also serve as a starting point in a lesson about the importance of jazz in young listeners’ musical upbringing. Older audiences could start with the featured songs and go back in time from there, exhibiting some of the jazz tunes that have made (and continue to make) jazz such a great and important genre. It would have been nice to have had the movies and TV series listed in the album’s companion booklet. If anything can be said negative of the album’s overall presentation that is it. Even with that having been noted it isn’t so overwhelming that it overly detracts from the album’s presentation. Keeping that in mind, each element noted here is important in its own right in terms of exhibiting what makes I Believe in Little Things an impressive new recording from Diana Panton. Collectively they show clearly why this recording is an offering that could help establish her in the American musical community. They are, together, just one way in which this is shown. Her approach to each of the album’s featured songs is just as important as the songs and the movies and TV series from which they were lifted.

The songs featured in I Believe in Little Things are in their own right hugely important to the compilation’s overall presentation. That is because they serve as a starting point in a discussion on the histories of both jazz and music in film for younger listeners. The movies from which they were lifted are by connection just as important to the album’s presentation as the songs. That is because they serve as a starting point in a discussion for audiences of all ages about film and television history. While both noted elements play their own integral role in the overall presentation of Panton’s new album they are both by themselves and collectively just a couple of important portions of the album’s presentation. Panton’s approach to the songs is just as important to the album’s presentation as the songs and their links to their associated movies. Listeners will note that her approach to the songs is very soft and gentle. The best comparison that can be made is to the vocal style of Norah Jones and Diana Krall. Panton sticks to this vocal style from beginning to end of the nearly fifty-five minute record (its total run time—or TRT—is fifty-four minutes and forty-seven minutes as noted on the back of the album’s case). The thing is that even though she sticks to that one vocal style and her band mates maintain the same sort of gentle, relaxed musical approach it never gets old at any point. There are artists and acts out there whose albums get real old real fast because they don’t deviate at any point. But for some reason that isn’t the case with Panton and her band mates here. That being the case it’s one more important element in the overall presentation of I Believe in Little Things. It still isn’t the last notable element in the album’s presentation either. While it might not seem like much to note, the album’s track listing is just as pivotal to its presentation as its other noted elements.

The songs that are featured in Diana Panton’s new children’s album and the approach taken to each song both in regards to her own approach and that of her band mates are both equally important to the album’s overall presentation. Even as important as they are to the album’s presentation they still are not the album’s only important elements. The track listing included with the album is just as important as the album’s content. Here is the reason why: The track listing is printed clearly on the rear exterior of the album’s packaging. Each song is listed clearly with its respective run time. On the bottom right after the final song is the album’s TRT. Having the specific run times with the songs and the album’s TRT can be very helpful for parents with younger children. The specific run times can help parents and educators determine which songs will best potentially hold those young listeners’ attention since every child’s attention span is different from the other. They aren’t left to guess the lengths of the different songs. Any parent and/or educator out there will agree just how stressful it can be to keep young minds engaged in any manner. In regards to the album’s TRT, parents and educators can use it to help time nap time for children regardless of setting. To that extent the display of the album’s track listing and run time on both levels proves to be just as important to the album’s presentation as its featured songs and the approach taken by all involved. And together with the noted elements they come together to make I Believe in Little Things an album in which listeners of all ages will believe.

I Believe in Little Things is an album in which listeners of all ages will believe after hearing its collection of classic movie and TV themes. That is thanks in large part to the songs and the movies and TV shows to which they are connected. The songs and their related movies and TV series are more than just entertainment for audiences. They serve just as much as a starting point for lessons and discussions on music history and that of television and movies. To that extent it serves as an album that older audiences will appreciate just as much as younger audiences. They are also a way to get younger audiences interested in the golden era of music, movies, and television. The stylistic approach taken to the album both from Panton and her band mates is just as important to note of the album’s presentation. Even with the group’s approach staying largely the same from beginning to end it keeps audiences fully engaged. That is a testament to the group’s work. That is especially the case when their work is compared to such an approach taken by other acts with their respective albums. The album’s track listing both in regards to its song listing and run times (both separate and overall) rounds out the album’s presentation. The run times help parents and educators determine which songs will best keep young minds engaged when considering their attention spans. The overall run time listing can help parents and educators alike in terms of using the album for little ones’ nap times. Any parent and/or educator will agree that this is extremely important. Keeping that in mind, it is just as important to the album as any of the album’s content. All things considered I Believe in Little Things proves in the end to be an album in which listeners of all ages will believe. It will be released domestically Friday, March 18th in stores and online.

Diana Panton is currently performing live in support of I Believe in Little Things. She will be live at University Club in Toronto, Ontario on February 26th. She also has a handful of dates currently scheduled for March, May, and August. Her current schedule of live dates is noted below.

 

Diana Panton Performance Highlights – February – August 2016

Feb. 14 – McMichael Art Gallery, Kleinburg, Ontario

Feb. 26 – University Club, Toronto, Ontario

March 3 & 5 – MMM Live Lab, Hamilton, Ontario

May 28 – Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, Ontario

Aug. 1 – 12 – Tour in Asia

Aug. 16 – 21 – Woody Point Festival, Gros Morne, Newfoundland

 

More information on her current tour is available online now along with more information on I Believe in Little Things and all of Panton’s latest news at:

 

Website: http://www.dianapanton.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DianaPantonFanPage

Twitter: http://twitter.com/pantonda5

 

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Charles Lloyd Touring In Support Of His Latest LP

Courtesy:  Blue Note Records

Courtesy: Blue Note Records

Veteran sax player Charles Lloyd hit the road once again this week.

The seventy-seven year old musician, who will turn 78 next month, embarked on his latest tour this past Friday, February 12th. He performed live at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. He is scheduled to perform next at the Portland Jazz Festival in Portland, Oregon Friday, February 19th and then at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, Canada on February 20th. After that performance, Lloyd will take some time off in March to recharge before heading out again beginning April 21st in San Francisco, California. The tour is in support of Lloyd’s latest full-length studio recording I Long To See You, which was released via Blue Note Records on January 15th. Lloyd’s current schedule of dates is noted below.

CHARLES LLOYD – TOUR DATES
Feb. 19 – Portland Jazz Festival – Portland, OR
Feb. 20 – Vogue Theatre – Vancouver, Canada
Apr. 21-24 – Lines Ballet – San Francisco, CA
Apr. 29 – Kennedy Center – New York, NY

I Long To See You includes a reading of Bob Dylan’s anti-war composition ‘Masters of War’ and a performance of ‘Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream’ by country legend Willie Nelson. While the combination of a jazz sax player and country singer may seem odd to some, Nelson released an album of jazz standards in 1978. Lloyd noted in an interview about that album in discussing inviting Nelson to perform on his latest album. “When I was living in Big Sur, a friend gave me a copy of Stardust,” Lloyd says of Nelson’s 1978 album of jazz standards,” he said. “I recognized a synchronicity between us in his choice of songs. Willie is a very soulful, independent outsider who loves the Zone. He has been paving the Freedom Trail for many years now, and we follow in his wake. I was incredibly honored that he accepted the invitation to sing on ‘Strangest Dream.’”

Along with the aforementioned songs, Lloyd’s new album also includes a new take on Billy Preston’s ‘You Are So Beautiful.’ The song was first made popular by singer Joe Cocker in 1974. Norah Jones adds her vocals to the song here. In explaining having Jones lend her talents to the song Lloyd noted that he had had her in mind for a long time for the song. “During my concerts, I sometimes play it as an encore,” he said. “For a long time in my mind’s ear I could hear Norah’s warmth caressing the lyrics. She became an extraordinary, beautiful sixth instrument in the rendition of the song.”

While Lloyd’s new album features a number of covers there are also some originals. One of those originals is the sixteen-minute opus ‘Barche Lamsel.’ If that is not enough for audiences there is also a re-working of Lloyd’s classic hits ‘Sombrero Sam,’ which was originally presented in Lloyd’s 1966 album Dream Weaver, and ‘La Llorona,’ which was originally presented in Lloyd’s 2009 album Mirror. The complete track listing for I Long To See You is noted below.

The track listing for I Long To See You is as follows:

1. Masters Of War (Bob Dylan)
2. Of Course, Of Course (Charles Lloyd)
3. La Llorona (Traditional)
4. Shenandoah (Traditional)
5. Sombrero Sam (Lloyd)
6. All My Trials (Traditional)
7. Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream feat. Willie Nelson (Ed McCurdy)
8. Abide With Me (Traditional)
9. You Are So Beautiful feat. Norah Jones (Billy Preston & Bruce Fisher)
10. Barche Lamsel (Lloyd)

More information on I Long To See You is available online now along with all of Charles Lloyd’s latest news and more at:

Website: http://www.charleslloyd.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CharlesLloydSax

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Blanchard’s Debut LP Is A Solid First Effort

Courtesy: Cumbancha Music Publishing

Courtesy: Vis-a-vis

Francesca Blanchard is not the most well-known name in the music industry today. But the French-born singer-songwriter is no stranger to the music industry. She has been writing music ever since her childhood. And in 2011, she released her very first recording, Songs on an Ovation. The record, a six-song EP, was released via Emote Records. Now a little more than four years after its release Blanchard will finally release her debut full-length studio recording for American audiences. The aptly titled Deux Visions will be released Friday, October 2nd via Vis-a-vis. Deux Visions is such an aptly titled record because Blanchard presents both her French and American roots throughout the course of the album’s twelve total songs. She sings half of those songs in English and the other half in French. In doing so she is able to reach not just her French-speaking listeners but her American listeners, too. This is just one element of the album worth noting. In direct correlation to her dual vocal approach, the lyrics to each of her songs have been printed in the album’s companion booklet side by side in both French and English, too. Not only does this mean that she will reach both audiences even more but that she will also guarantee keeping her listeners engaged. She and her label made sure to not leave out anyone. And being that this record is her debut full-length recording that is an especially good choice. Having noted her dual approach to her debut album, the next logical element to examine in this record is the combined musical and lyrical content of her album in whole. That material in question is notable because it stands out from so much music from her more well-known pop counterparts. It stands out because it switches seemingly from song to song. And even the lyrical content of each of the album’s songs boasts its own depth in comparison to that of other female artists. The combination of that standout musical and lyrical content set alongside the previously noted albums leads Deux Visions to prove itself one more of the year’s best new world music albums.

The official release date of Francesca Blanchard’s debut album Deux Visions is still roughly five weeks out at the time of this review. Even being so far out from its release it can still be said of her new album that it is one of the best of this year’s new world music field. It proves this in more ways than can be noted in one sitting. So this critic will focus on just a few ways in which it proves itself so impressive beginning with her performance of the album’s twelve total songs. Blanchard, who is French by birth but currently lives in Vermont, splits the album’s tracks right down the middle, singing half of the songs in French and half in English. She is not the only bi-lingual artist to use this approach. Colombian pop star Shakira uses a similar approach as do the men of Los Lonely Boys, kindie rock act Future Hits and others. While the approach that she takes is not exactly new, it does not make it any less important. That is because as with the albums released by the previous artists and acts, it shows an attention to detail so as to not alienate one listener base or another. What’s more, some of the aforementioned acts (and others) don’t always balance the linguistic approach on their albums as much as she has here. In many cases, the foreign language performances seem to take precedence over the English-language tracks. Though, it can be said that Future Hits come close as they go through their album Today is Forever first in Spanish and then repeat each song in English. While Blanchard’s approach isn’t quite at that level, the equal balance of French and English performances rather than a random slathering of French and English presentations ensures that audiences of both English and French backgrounds will be able to equally enjoy her new album so to speak. That is a solid foundation for her debut record. And it is just one level of that foundation, too. The presentation of the album’s songs both in English and French within the album’s booklet strengthens that foundation even more.

Francesca Blanchard’s balanced, dual-language approach on her debut album Deux Visions makes for a solid foundation for this first effort. It is not the only element that allows this album to sit so strongly, either. Each of the album’s songs are printed both in English and French in the album’s companion booklet. This means for French audiences whose abilities with English might not be so strong will still be able to enjoy it just as much as those English-speaking listeners whose abilities with French are just as weak. Some might read this and ask why this would be so important. The answer here is simple. It is important because especially today, not every group, band, or act includes lyrics with their albums. That can easily lead to misinterpretation of lyrics in many cases. In the case of a foreign language record, not having lyrics greatly diminishes the interest that those not familiar with the album’s linguistic approach might have in the album. What’s more even those albums that do include lyrics are not always guaranteed to include translated lyrics for those not fluent with the featured artist’s/group’s/band’s language. It does not necessarily have to mean English, either. It can be any language. In the case of this album it just so happens that Blanchard has seen to it along with Vis-a-vis that the songs’ lyrics were printed in both French and English. This means that those English audiences not familiar the French language will be able to understand the lyrics to each song just as much as French audiences not familiar with English. What this means is that Blanchard’s French and English audiences alike will be able to take in her debut album in whole without worrying about missing out on any of it. Simply put, everybody is at the same level in listening to this record as a result. This takes the foundation established by Blanchard in her performances that much stronger. It is not the last element of the album’s success, either. The overall musical and lyrical content of Blanchard’s album sits atop the foundation set by her approach to the album’s songs and their presentation both on record and in writing in two languages.

Both Blanchard’s dual-language approach to her new album both on record and in writing do plenty to make it an impressive first effort from the talented, young artist. For all of their importance to the overall structure of this record, the actual content of the album in regards to its musical and lyrical content is just as important to its whole. In regards to both elements, Blanchard manages quite well to stand out from so many of her more well-known counterparts. Listening to the album’s musical content, the first comparison that this critic came up with was to Mazzy Star. That is at least in songs such as ‘Mon Ange,’ and ‘Rame.’ At other points, listeners can hear hints of Vanessa Carlton (at least in her vocal delivery style), Norah Jones (both vocally and stylistically) and others. The combination of such comparisons in regards to both Blanchard’s own vocal delivery style and the overall stylistic approach to her album’s songs shows its ability to hold its own against said artists. The same can be said of the album’s lyrical content. Each of the songs present lyrical content that can be best described as being deeply personal and just as moving. ‘Rame,’ the album’s opener is just one example of how the album’s lyrical content helps the album to hold its own both in the underground realm and against more well-known mainstream acts. Blanchard presents a subject that is in a very dark place. Yet being in such a dark place, her subject still holds out hope, singing that “All is not lost/No/All is not lost. In the case of this song, Blanchard uses the metaphor of a person out at sea in a sinking boat. Despite the situation looking hopeless, her subject receives a sign of hope; a sign that everything will be okay. It is definitely an interesting approach to the topic of maintaining hope and even a partially optimistic outlook on things in those dark times. ‘Le Blues’ is another good example of how the record’s lyrical content helps it to stand out. Blanchard writes in this song of how the blues make her happy. What is interesting about this is that she is not necessarily referring directly to the blues that many might think. She refers seemingly to the different shades of blue in the world as well as the blues as a musical style. The gentle tones of the song’s piano line and the song’s overall somewhat jazzy style accent those lyrics so well. The combination of her play on words and the song’s musical content makes this song yet another prime example of why Deux Visions lives up to its title. ‘Papa…Pere’ is one more example of how the lyrical content of Deux Visions makes it such an original, standout recording for Blanchard. This deeply emotional piece presents Blanchard’s subject apparently singing to her father. It is inferred as she sings, “I looked up at the sky/And I said your name/Papa…Father/Where are you/And that’s when I saw you/Your star/Dancing across the sky/Flying over the atmosphere’s horizon/And just like that you heard me/And you came to me/Papa.” This is just one small portion of the song’s lyrical content. But it is a strong example of why this song helps to make the album in whole stand out. Those lyrics (and the rest of the song’s lyrics) alongside its gentle musical backing will move to tears every person that hears it. Any person that is not so moved is either heartless or not human. It is just one more example of how the combination of Deux Visions’ lyrical and musical content together serves to make it a standout recording both against music produced by Blanchard’s more well-known counterparts and for herself. Together with the presentation of its songs in both French and English both musically and on paper, all three elements show without argument why Deux Visions is a solid start for Blanchard and why it is also one of the best of this year’s new world music records.

Deux Visions is an impressive first full-length effort from Francesca Blanchard. The twelve-song record presents its songs both in French and English both on record and in print. The combined musical and lyrical content of the album’s songs add even more to the album’s benefit. All three elements combined, they prove that this record is just as enjoyable for audiences as those released by her more well-known counterparts in the mainstream pop and rock worlds. Being such a strong effort, the album in whole also goes to show that it is without argument one of the best of this year’s new World Music records so far. It will be available Friday, October 2nd and can be ordered direct via Blanchard’s official bandcamp website at http://francescablanchard.bandcamp.com/. It can also be pre-ordered via that website now. More information on Deux Visions is available online now along with all of Blanchard’s latest news at:

Website: http://www.francescablanchard.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/francescablanchardmusic

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cheskablanch

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