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Non-Prog CD Reviews


Once Upon A Time....In The Heart

Review by Larry Toering

This is not an easy artist to describe by any stretch of the imagination, on a release that is even more difficult to nail who's playing what. But a challenge is always usually in order somewhere when reviewing a wide variety of artists like I do. Chelsea is an elusive sort of traveling minstrel with a spirit of steel but a sensitive soul which is scrawled all over his music like a wall of abstract graffiti. Between Paris and Montreal recording sessions, there are about twenty different musicians featured on this set. That makes it very hard to describe who's playing and singing what. This is one interesting man on a mission with his own self protecting compass to guide him down his illustrious musical path. Feel the heat one minute and the cold the next on this excellent set of multi-cultured, acoustic laden pop tunes, each with a wisdom and beauty all its own.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 2 at

Track by Track Review
Mexican Nights
A nice light piano kick starts the vibe that won't quit as this sweet little opener does the business with mentions of mariachi serenading and cleverly delivered lyrics that do nothing but charm throughout. The horns add just the right touch, as the whole tune just glides along with Chelsea providing an understated but well placed acoustic guitar to go along with the spot on vocals.
Ali Baba's Apartment
This has a humorous approach with a brief but enjoyable Arabic story concerning the likes of Aladdin, Ali Baba and forty heart thieves. It concerns the location they chose to take the treasure, namely Ali’s apartment. This is a very short but sweet track which features the man of the hour on twelve string guitar and keyboards, but it's the vocals and lyrics that pulsate the quick but to the point track.
This finds everyone delivering a melancholy tune complete with falsetto and a sublime backing track. The passion is all there and helped along by a hypnotic saxophone which is blown by David Bellmare. There are also some female vocal textures to round out the arrangement.
Now That You Found Your Way
There is a percussive charm here and another lovely saxophone laced through a very well conveyed lyric. This has a message to which anyone can relate one way or another. The romantic vibe comes on strong yet is delivered so lightly that it's contagious.
Fools and Rain
Exploring relationships is the theme on this killer track with a nice sweeping twelve string guitar. That guitar plays with the effect of a beautiful harp sound. What a great motif it is, as such an inoffensive vocal is applied that you can't deny its presence as it soars around the ears with grace. This is getting better by the minute with the somber mood keeping it grounded and contained.
The Loving Touch
Once again some pretty piano chords set up a tune that proceeds to kick up without dominating the arrangement. The horn provides a classic touch after the chorus, along with keyboards provided this time by Chelsea. The up-tempo parts are perfectly balanced on this romantic ballad, and it's all done so well that it's hard not to enjoy every second of this. There is just no stopping the soothing vocals on this amazing piece. This is more great stuff, indeed.
50 Ways to Leave Las Vegas
More acoustic guitar is held down by the artist on this interesting take on Vegas women. Of course this provides a slight parallel to the old familiar Paul Simon tune. I love this track with its playful vibe and beefed up percussion. Chelsea once again provides acoustic guitar.
This features an accordion to back things, as the vocalist sings about visiting with a good friend in Paris. The whole French vibe here is playful and groovy. It all ends too quickly, leaving a longing for twice the length. In this Chelsea describes leaving the accordion player, “playing for tips.”
Prince on Paper/9 Lives Cat
More twelve-string is provided here with words being the main effort being pushed. A Prince of words he has been called, but not forgetting he has also been called a “Cat,” as well. This is probably the most hypnotic of all on offer here. The saxophone is awesome, and things kick up midway through and a surprisingly killer, if perhaps brief guitar solo finds its way into the arrangement. There is an overall familiarity to this track but I wouldn't try nailing it.
Girl Interrupted
This features a soft whisper to start it off, as it goes into a sort of narrative vocal delivery. This once again takes the ears by storm with some excellent lyrics. Some light rim tapping and snappy snare fills from the drummer top it off.
Chelsea provides the keyboards once again here, which backs another melancholy vocal performance. This one is about the narrator finding himself down on his luck with nowhere to stay but a park bench. It is simply gut wrenching with beautiful female backing vocals. There is almost a third world vibe to this track which comes and goes too quickly to possibly nail down a description. It's just more of the same on this collection of gems.
Righteous Man
This has a traditional feel all over it, as thoughts of religion creep in with the overall idea that doing your best is really all that matters. Both a great keyboard and guitar performance are pulled off by Chelsea here, with probably the most up-tempo arrangement on the disc. If I were to pick one favorite this would probably have to be it. It’s simply a fantastic little number that really stays in the head.
Coming Up For Air
More sweeping guitar sets up another extremely melancholy vocal, which has a mighty depressing lyric that gets more compelling as it goes on in this great piece. The emotive effect is haunting on one of the more interesting tracks of all here. This is a very touching tune to say the least, and one of the central points of the disc. This is very moving once you focus on the beauty within it. Although it starts off as if a jazz arrangement is going to carry it, this quickly turns into another ballad.
What If I Say
Never increasing or decreasing the overall tempo, things fade away with yet another subtle horn to enhance the mood of yet another sweet cut from this fascinating talent. This is backed by more of the same in all of these musicians.
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