Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jem's New Gem- Down To Earth

Jem's new album Down To Earth just dropped and it's a gem. Here's the title track followed by my review of the album.

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I don't review too many CDs because it's just hard to describe music. But, every once in a while a new artists or a CD will come along that I feel compelled to share with anyone who will listen. A couple of years ago someone on Last.FM recommended Jem to me. I had never heard of her. I'm not sure how many of you have. I bought the CD and was immediately hooked. I couldn't wait for another one to come out. You have to understand that as an old geezer now, I've turned into one of those people who complain that all the music "the kids" listen now-a-days is garbage. It all sounds alike and none of it's worth listening to. Not back like in our day. It takes a special artist to wake me out of my musical funk and stop playing all the oldies from the 70s and 80s. Jem is one of those artists. Her first album "Finally Woken" was phenomenal. I like artists who write their own songs and I pay a lot of attention to lyrics. Jem's songs are not only musically appealing. But, her lyrics are uplifting and thought-provoking. I like her view of the world. I could go on about her first album. But, as good as that one was, her sophomore effort "Down to Earth" is even better.

Jem has a slightly smoky voice that is just as enjoyable on an up-beat dance tune as it is on a moving ballad. This album is very varied in style but does not come off as disjointed. There are so many CDs now where even after several listens, I can barely tell one song from another. The picture Jem paints with with this CD uses the full palette of colors, not just many shades of the same color.

  • Down To Earth- is a song sung by an extraterrestrial Jem who is looking at humanity and who is saddened that we are so disconnected from each other, missing our potential and not getting the joy out of life that we should be getting. The guitar work sounds slightly Middle Eastern and there's just enough strings to make the song musically interesting.

  • Crazy- really turns the beat around. The song rocks with a funky banjo and a dance beat. Jem is telling a boyfriend who is making her crazy that he's simply not welcome anymore and to hit the road. Nothing deep about this song. Just a "Hit the Road Jack" for the year 2008.

  • I Want You To.. - Gets all Spanish on you with the guitar work, the beat and the spoken Spanish intro. This is a simple feel good song about just getting to know Jem (and her body). Very sexy. Very appealing.

  • It's Amazing- It's definite got a "Jem sound". A little bit of classical piano mixed in with some drum machines. A great song about just how great it feels to be alive.

  • Keep On Walking- opens with a blues/gospel riff from a female vocalist. Not much in the way of lyrics. Just about the need to keep moving forward through life and asking God for strength.

  • You Will Make It- This one is a real tearjerker. Just Jem and a piano at the beginning. Later a cello joins her and there is an African chant. A song to someone who has lost someone dear to death and picking up the pieces and the grieving process. Ends with a spoken word promise that none of us really dies. Really beautiful song.

  • I Always Knew- Jem thumbing her nose at those in the music industry who would have kept her down and how she always knew she would one day be where she is. Great juxtaposition between a nursery rhyme kind of rhythm and almost hip-hop bravado lyrics. Music almost has the feel of "They" from her first album.

  • Got It Good- Another song about just how good life is. Are you start to pick up on the theme of this album?

  • Aciid- Jem decides on this song to just jam. Great dance beat. Heavy synth drums. Jem chants. Very reminiscent of Tom Tom Club (if you're old enough to remember them).

  • How Would You Like It?- OK. Back to the heavy stuff here (as in the subject of the song, not the music). Great song about racial prejudice. Basically telling telling racists to stop talking to her assuming she'll agree with just because she's white.

  • And So I Pray- Facing the troubles of the world, Jem prays for a better day. Wishes she could escape but this is where she is for now. The melody is a little reminiscent of Warren Zevon's Tenderness on the Block

  • On Top Of the World- opens with a choir humming and the sound of the ocean pounding the shore. Then joined by a piano with another kind of lilting melody. The song has an almost meditative feel and matches the lyrics which are about really being "present" and not letting the little things get you down.

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