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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND: FEBRUARY 2008 (article first published : 2008-03-16)

A new album to look out for if you’re a fan of R&B and/or soul is The Evolution of Robin Thicke, for this rather good-looking youngster seems to be making waves with his latest release. Son of legendary actor Alan Thicke (the father in the TV sitcom Growing Pains), Robin has appeared twice on Oprah in quick succession… And I’ve gotta give it to this heroine of mine: she certainly seems to keep up with the pop music scene, though I’ve noticed she’s not that up in the classics, since the first time that the quartet known as Il Divo - the group that the legendary Simon Cowell spent two years scouting the world for - appeared on her show she didn’t really appear to get it! However, by the time they made a second appearance, I think she must have spent just a little more time listening to their music, as she managed to mime along to a small percentage of the (English) words, and she did seem slightly more enthusiastic!

But back to the younger Thicke who – like father, like son - also sports a great Thatch (intentional pun!) as in a good head of thick hair.

When this very personable singer recorded his first single, I Wanna Love You Girl, it became an instant smash hit across America. This new release, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, is his second solo album and on it he demonstrates a rare soulfulness as he traces the emotions of the past two years of his life – years which have been a somewhat tumultuous series of ups and downs, it would seem, and he told Oprah that he wanted this album to be the vehicle whereby he could let his lady love know just how badly he needs to feel loved as well as to show his love for her.

This one’s been described as being filled with incandescent magic and I have to say that his lyrics, and the sensitive way he delivers them, have quite captivated my attention, particularly the hit Lost Without You in which he sings of his insecurities and his need to be loved and desired, (with a beautifully rhythmic Spanish guitar backing his vocals), telling as they do of his temptations, losses, and finding hope again when all the odds were against him. Another favourite is his gospel-inspired piano ballad in which he claims you have to be thankful for everything that comes your way in life – the successes as well as the failures, the tears as well as the joys. With this sentiment I’m in total agreement – for we are, today, the sum of all our life experiences, are we not?

It seems that from the age of 12, Robin began teaching himself to play piano as a way in which to express himself, and by the age of 14 could play anything he heard on radio! Still with no formal training behind him, he began to write professionally at age 16, for high-profile artists such as Brian McKnight , and later moved on to achieve many a gold and platinum success for the likes of Usher, Christina Aguilera, Michael Jackson and others.

This talented individual has only recently come to my attention but I love to challenge myself with predictions (as I did with the recent SA season of Idols) and in this instance I feel certain Robin’s going to achieve immense personal success for himself and not just for others for whom he’s proven his song-writing skills.

On now to a more classical album titled Amour, by newcomer Natash Marsh, and once again I’m prepared to go out on a limb and state that, in my humble opinion, with the right marketing she may well do even better than Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, who has a four-CD contract under her belt already, and seems hardly able to keep up with all the offers of public appearances that are streaming in. I already have two of her albums in my collection, Serenade and Living the Dream, and they are magnificent. And I have another awaiting my collection from Musica, namely Rejoice, which I can’t wait to hear!

But back to Natasha Marsh, also a lovely-looking blonde, but her voice just a tad more mellifluous than that of KJ, who I find just the tiniest bit strident. (Watching her in person is, however, an absolute delight: this lass was blessed not only with her magnificent voice but with the prettiest face imaginable, and a most engaging personality to boot!) Natasha I’ve not yet seen performing in person (other than in a brief Side-Track piece on SABC3) but her album, titled Amour, is an absolute winner, featuring as it does some wonderful classical pieces by well-known composers of the likes of Rachmaninoff, Canteloube, Satie, Verdi and Zeffirelli, and also a couple of covers to which she manages to bring something new and fresh, particularly her rendering of Autumn Leaves and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. My personal favourite is a Jimmy Webb-penned number, He Moves and Eyes Follow, which is about a woman’s infatuation with a man she meets at a party, and the spark of desire he arouses in her. Everywhere he goes light follows and, when he leaves the room, it becomes cold and bare. Of this song Natasha comments, An experience most women will be able to relate to at some point in our lives!

The delightful thing about the album is that in the sleeve notes she pens a few personal comments about the pieces she’s selected, also including some superb quotations, the two that speak to me most being Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life (Berthold Auerbach) and this one from Victor Hugo: Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent. My own favourite quote is from an Unknown source and goes like this …Music speaks what cannot be expressed, / Soothes the mind, and gives it rest; / Heals the heart and makes it whole, / Flows from Heaven to the soul. - Bev Pulé, February 2008




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