CD reviews: Pentatonix, Voice Kids, Smokey Robinson

By Jackie Dosmanos

Posted at Oct 26 2014 05:44 PM | Updated as of Oct 27 2014 01:44 AM

The Voice Kids
"The Album"

"The Voice of the Philippines" has produced solid coups only on its first year in both the grown-ups and kids category. The under-15 division turned out to be an equally exciting competition eventually won by 9-year old Lyca Gairanod whose slim frame stood 10-feet tall in birit after birit scaling octaves usually beyond her range at such a young age.

On the compilation album "The Voice Kids," Lyca, minus the sound byte of growing up poor, proves her worth as a singing champion in the same league as Jovit Baldivino and Mitoy Yonting. The birit will take her places but her tempered treatment of Maricris Bermont’s “Narito Ako” may yet be the key to longevity beyond the Aegis’ axis.

Poise and grace can be found in Juan Karlos Labajo whose “Runaway Baby” shows a glimpse of Bamboo’s mainstream appeal mixed with say, Wolfgang Basti Artadi’s indie rock cred. More impressive in the cool under pressure department is Darren Espanto who handles “One Moment In Time” as a hymn for solace rather than a longing for physical connection. Then there’s Tonton Cabiles whose “Dance With My Father” can bring chills to anyone missing a loved one.

On hindsight, "The Voice Kids" final round was really a battle between polish and power. That power won was especially inspiring because it came from a small package.

*****

Pentatonix
"PTX" (Vols. 1 & 2) Phil. Edition

Trends come and go but the four-man, one-woman acapella group Pentatonix keeps chugging away at what they do best – tweaking covers and original compositions to the ranges and tonalities of five different voices. In every song the group tackles, the interplay among bass, tenor and harmony parts cranks up the melodies to make an instant impression on any listener. Beatboxing occasionally perks up the rhythm so Pentatonix does more than a typical choral ensemble can.

"PTX" Philippine edition collects the cream of the group’s first two releases. Aside from doing justice to undulating pop ballads (such as Gotye’s “Someone That I Used To Know” and their self-penned “Natural Disaster”), Pentatonix can keep pace with fast steppers like Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us.” Club music is also fair game for the fivesome who handily coos, woos and swoops in Daft Punk’s “Around the World,” as well as their own EDM-tinted “Love Again.” They even insert doo-wop and ‘50s vocal jazz in Percy Mayfield’s soulful hybrid “Hey Momma/Hit The Road Jack.”

Catchy and crisp, the group’s shared voices leap over conventions that may be on the brink of technology-driven overkill. Viva for the freshly human.

*****

Smokey Robinson
"Smokey & Friends"


Suave falsetto hitter Smokey Robinson, with his ‘60s group ‘The Miracles and on his solo stint, scored some of the most memorable soul hits of the ‘60s and ‘70s. He’s behind such evergreen songs like “My Girl” and “Tracks of My Tears,” both of which re-staged chart comebacks in the ‘80s as alt-pop numbers.

 

Smokey is making his own slight return to pop music, this time in duets with present-day pop, rock and country stars. The curious pairings certainly stand out, particularly in what the partner brings to Smokey’s sweet delivery. Newcomer Jessie J supplies a bluesy undertow to “Cruisin.’” Mary J. Blige adds a sensuous glide to “Being With You.” Sheryl Crowe sends “Tears of A Clown” into the early days of Motown before Beatlemania reshaped the ‘60s youth universe.

On the other hand, duets with Elton John, John Legend and Steven Tyler tended to put their peculiar voices up front, partly sinking the thrill in Smokey’s falsetto in the process. There’s also the throwback (then called middle-of-the-road) instrumental backing which could have pushed the alpha male to make his (vocal) presence felt.

Give this album a spin and treat yourself to one of the great voices that gave soul music its own identity.

*****

Incheon 2014
17th Asian Games Official Album

It’s a double CD compilation: CD 1 featuring popular songs from international artists such as Queen, Lady Gaga, Zedd, Avicii and Vangelis, rife with messages to keep on trying till you succeed. The victory anthems are, of course, the lead track, Queen’s “We Are The Champions,” and a distant second, Abba’s “Winner Takes It All.”

CD 2 plays the Games’ official slogan, “Diversity Shines Here”, with music contributions from host South Korea, China, Japan Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. The Philippines is represented by Sabrina, a much-loved acoustic act in Southeast Asia, who rendered her first original composition “Paradise” for the global event.

Not to be missed are Japanese girl group Perfume, Taiwan indie band Sodagreen and South Korea’s JYJ who sang “Only One (The Incheon Asiad Song).

The album is the first of its kind and may yet set the trend for future Games, including the Olympics. Imagine the breadth of talents that will be crammed in a commemorative CD under the theme “One World.” On with the games.