I've been following the band IO Earth for a while and I've had the opportunity to review the previous two studio albums, Aura (see review) from 2020, as well as Solitude (see review) from 2018. It should be clear that I am a big fan of this band.
As the title, Acoustic vol 1. makes very clear, this album is an acoustic album and is the first in a future series yet to be made. The band has chosen to edit five songs from the earlier discography into acoustic songs. You will also hear five new songs.
In advance I think it is daring that a band dares to perform their own songs in a different form. Does a stripped-down or differently constructed version give the song a different hearing, is it an added value or is the conclusion that this is an intermediate phase between two studio albums with a scraped number of musical ideas? Let's quickly move on to the songs.
The album starts with the opening track from the previous album, Aura.
In this acoustic version there is much more emphasis on the violin, flute and vocals which puts even more expression in the song and it feels even more emotional to me than in the original. The symphonic is gone and the purity of the instruments is what you hear. Violin playing at its best, really wonderful to listen to. Headphones on and you imagine yourself in a new world, where your aura is most important. There is an important role for violin player Ami Oprenova.
Then follows Streets, a new song of which a video can be found on Youtube.
In response to the covid pandemic and the impact this has on society and on the individual, IO Earth has written a song especially for this, Streets. The video clearly shows the impact this has. The music is a bit desolate and dark. Rosanna Lefevre leaves a mark on the song vocally, just as Steve Trigg does with the trumpet solo and Luke Shingler with a saxophone solo. The solos are clear but don't take the lead, it remains in the service of the song. The whole thing is held together by Dave Cureton on acoustic guitar and Adam Gough on keys. The background choir is a true addition to the listening pleasure.
The band goes all the way back to their debut album, IO Earth (2009, see review) and here we get Take Me. The original is bombastic and comes in huge, it's so powerful with a solid climax towards the end of the track. When you now see that only Adam, Luke and Rosanna have worked on it, you get the thought: how? What then? Is it smart to give this song a different look, don't you miss the original? Well, after a quiet intro from Adam on piano you are sucked into the song by Luke's saxophone, which fires beautiful sounds at you. After this solo it is again the peace of Adam's piano sounds that you need to recover. And then, then, then comes the wonderful singing of Rosanna. What a range she has and what can she say with her voice, fantastic. Because of the bareness of the song, all the elements that you hear penetrate all your fibers in your body, what a power. The interaction between vocals and saxophone is wonderful. What a joy that from now on you can choose which Take Me you put on, the bombastic or this one. In this case, 1 plus 1 is more than 2!
Then it's the turn for a new song, Mountains. Put on your headphones, turn up the volume and, of course, close your eyes. How wonderful it is when Adam shows in all simplicity how wonderfully beautiful piano sounds can be. Now and then all you have to do is wipe away your tears.
After something new, something from the past, Fade To Gray from New World (2015, see review). The original song is also quite bombastic. On Acoustic vol. 1 the emphasis is again on Rosanna's fantastic vocals, she can do a lot with her voice, unbelievable. And only supported by the beautiful piano sounds of Adam. Purity in all its glory. As far as I'm concerned the song could have been a bit shorter, now it sometimes happens to me that I stray halfway through. However, I am called to class again when Rosanna lets out her velvety voice.
Something new again, Truth in this case. Again it is Adam's turn to move you to tears with his piano playing. How deep you can get into yourself with such a song, breathtakingly beautiful. Of course with the headphones on, otherwise you miss too much of the song.
Then we go back to New World, it's Move As One's turn.
Move As One is the opening song of New World, it is a calmly constructive song with an emphasis on the female singer, a good song but not the most spectacular they have made. How different is this one. It starts with a beautiful saxophone solo by Luke, you are immediately in the song. Then it is the turn of all-rounder Rosanna, who has a somewhat warmer voice than predecessor Linda Odinsen. Furthermore, the song is accompanied by Adam and Dave on the piano and acoustic guitar. My preference is definitely for the acoustic version, it lasts more and sticks to you due to the contributions of Luke and Rosanna.
Then we go a little further back in time with Home from the debut. Home is for me one of the highlights of the debut album IO Earth, and that is mainly due to the hypnotic vocals of Claire Malin as well as the beautiful programming of Adam. The volume should always be loud with this song. So I was very curious what the acoustic version would look like. The acoustic version is absolutely completely different and above all not comparable. The only similarity seems to be the name of the song and some lyrics here and there, but even these are different. It has become a gigantic cheerful song with leading roles for basically everyone. You can't help but get a smile on your face. Which Home I prefer depends entirely on my mood, chapeau!
Promise is another new song. An instrumental by Dave and Adam, wonderfully acoustic with keys to support. Compliments to Dave for the fact that he manages to give away a beautiful solo on acoustic guitar. A nice song.
Oh La La is already the closing track of this wonderful disc. Dave takes care of the vocals here. It is an acoustic uptempo song, cheerful and simple, but very catchy.
All in all I can say that IO Earth has succeeded with flying colors in producing an acoustic album that is very interesting from start to finish. Since I'm not always into acoustics, that's a big compliment.
I'm really looking forward to their next studio album, Sanctuary. The band has been working on this for a while and will be completely different from all previous albums. And to be honest, IO Earth always knows how to surprise in that regard, no album sounds the same and they have never made a less album. I bow again, as I did with my previous two reviews of IO Earth.
***** Michel Stolk (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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