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November must have been designated Album Release Month by the musical powers that be.

Sean Bodley and Anthony Coulter and the two Jans - Jan Preston and Janne Izett – all have new releases ready. So this month is Album Review Month here at the Watusi Country Club.

I'm going to start with Anthony Coulter, who's launching his album Memories at the Jam Factory on Saturday November 14. I've spent the past couple of weeks living with it and a distinctive and individual piece of work it is indeed. It was recorded at not one but two Tauranga recording studios and sounds absolutely top notch.

Anthony is unusual by Tauranga standards. I have heard other musicians occasionally make disparaging comments about his music. Musicians do that sort of thing. They can be a bit like school kids, insecure enough that it requires making fun of anyone attempting something different.

Of course they're missing the bleedin' obvious realisation that it's generally those ostracised for doing something different that actually achieve things. Read interviews with the many musicians who were bullied at school for being “different”. A band in Tauranga would risk the constant ridicule of their peers if they started wearing stage make-up. So what about Bowie? Or Kiss?

Musical Theatre

Anthony's point of difference is that he isn't very rock 'n' roll. His music comes from other roots, mainly those of musical theatre. There's more than a touch of Andrew Lloyd Webber or that side of Elton John.

Is that a bad thing? You could certainly make a case that Anthony's music is more distinctive than a lot of the generic blues/rock going down.

And he takes risks. Some saw silliness when Anthony donned vampire make-up for videoing the opening song, Arresting A Dream. I saw dedication. Success often requires taking risks to follow an individual path, irrespective of others.

The 12 songs here were mainly recorded at Soundtree Studio with another three added at The Colour Field. All are anchored by Anthony's piano and rich strong voice. Anthony is a very good singer and sounds even better here than previously.

The songs are a slightly odd bunch. Most are mid-tempo and have an obvious lean towards musical theatre but are also in their own way miniatures, brief sketches. Second song, Love You Sunshine, is almost a meditation on that line and on the short lyric about loving your parents. It's like a repeated chant, and other songs, Winter Waves for one, are similar.

Meditations

Musically the songs are fully fleshed out with quite sophisticated structures and arrangements, allowing Anthony to repeat the same lines almost hypnotically. It's unusual and striking, though some of the lyrics are a tad odd. Kiss Of Life features a chorus with the repeated line “It's heaven I hear in your arms”. I know I can be a bit anal about such things but all I keep wondering is: who are you hearing this from?

Anyway, kudos to all sorts of people: Lewis Martin for great sax work; Shane Davis for his guitar playing; Denise Hyde, who duets on Racing With The Moon, for great vocals (also Liz Tamblyn and Brooke Stinson); Silas Tawhara, Steve Laffan and Tim Frame for the drums - the musicianship throughout is first rate.

The launch should be fun. Anthony, ever a prolific writer, has new songs to debut even as he launches this album and there will be guests and a full band. Tickets are $10 and CDs will be available on the night. Doors open 6.30pm. Meanwhile, Memories is available through all the usual digital platforms.

And before finishing I just wanted give a little plug to a gig happening at Our Place, the container village in the CBD on Friday, November 13. Sasha Perry is a reggae musician and human rights activist and I'll be mentioning him more before a show he's playing at the Jam Factory in December.

But if you want a sneak peak or just to chill out to some reggae grooves you can catch him at The Rising Tide bar in Our Place from 5pm, no charge.

Winston Watusi
Music Plus