CD reviews: Johnoy Danao, Spider-Man, Robbie Williams

Posted at 05/18/14 5:45 PM

Johnoy Danao
"Samu’t Sari"

Just like its title, the debut for a mainstream record label of indie singer-songwriter Johnoy Danao tackles love in its varied shades and in acoustic mode at that. The difference with fellow travelers on a well-trodden path is that Johnoy takes up matters of the heart as a matter of fact. He’s one contented guitar man breezily paying tribute to the objects of his passion.

In an interview, Johnoy describes his music to be “magaan, maaliwalas at napapanahon sa init ngayon.”

It’s an easy listening album that’s perfect for sentimental moments or road trips. A balm from the dreariness of everyday living.

He also chooses to explore other musical idioms in relation to his sole theme and basic playing chops. “Bilog ang Bola” takes flight on a soulful, brassy note. “Salamat Sinta” operates within APO Society’s brilliant pop space, while “Malayang Bilanggo” is one dazzling acoustic maneuver.

It’s, however, his naked interpretation of Imago’s “Sundo” that shines brightest in its unadorned beauty.

"Samu’t Sari" should provide one cool alternative break from the long hot summer ahead.


"The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
Original Soundtrack

Cinema has nearly a century of existence such that the art of soundtracks is expected to have its own cabinet of clichés which gets recycled every so often. Especially so with action-drama films where the musical passages usually reflect the goings-on onscreen: fast music for active movement and slow build-up to a crescendo when the love interests play their parts.

With the latest Spider-Man movie, veteran sound designer Hans Zimmer tries a new tack. He enlists the support of his so-called Magnificent Six, who include former Smiths string-bender Johhny Marr, Incubus guitarist Mike Einzinger, R&B star Pharell and trip-hop/rap DJ Junkie XL.

The incidental contributions of the Magnificent Six won’t get noticed by typical movie-goers who’d be all-eyes on the mad mayhem onscreen. It’s on the audio CD where Zimmer and his collaborators retouch the usual notion of action-centered OST.

“My Enemy” which marks the transition of Electro from friend to super-villain should be right at home in Marilyn Manson’s industrial-rock odes to schizophrenia.

The de luxe edition of the soundtrack album is more forthcoming. The last five tracks feature a brief but rocking intro by Kendrick Lamarr in a nice Alica Keys ballad, Phosphorescent doing a world-weary impersonation of Bruce Springsteen for indie kids and Liz strutting to a happy-go-lucky Chic disco beat. Well, there’s also Pharell’s “Here” which actually goes nowhere melody- and lyrics-wise.

"Spider-Man 2" OST is not totally engrossing but if you have an hour to spare, it’s a fascinating sound collage from start to finish.


Robbie Williams
"Swings Both Ways"

Flashback to 2001 when UK pop prince Robbie Williams unleashed "Swing When You're Winning," which turned out to be the best-selling album of his career. Fast-forward to his new album whose title alone bandies Robbie wants a second swing at the top of the pops.

The more relevant question is: Is the time ripe to revisit the pretty recent waltz of Michael Buble and the avalanche of crooners that came in his wake? The quick response is on the album itself where Robbie’s swinging companions are Buble himself, as well as chart-busters Lily Allen and Kelly Clarkson.

On most numbers, Robbie cuts the dashing figure of a Las Vegas star at the height of ‘50s jazz age. Opener “Shine My Shoes” has him clicking his fingers and swaying to the beat as he sings ”Get outta my lane boy, you're not in my league/Some are born to thrive and some to underachieve." The same arrogant pose seeps through a likeable swipe at the Jungle Book classic “I Wanna Be Like You.” He essays the title track with Rufus Wainwright sending many happy returns, especially to butchies, bandits, fairies and faggots.

He gets people-friendly in a duet with Kelly Clarkson in the poignant though a bit rotten version of “Little Green Apples.” His “Dream A Little Dream” featuring Lily Allen feigns personal aches and in “Soda Pop,” Buble knocks down Robbie’s swing into a smooth jazz plateau.

"Swings Both Ways" does not have the creative burst of Bryan Ferry’s 2013 paean to the jazz age. It caters more to a common consumer denominator that may yet see Robbie Williams inch his way back up UK’s pop royalty.


"The Crossover Cafe: Smooth Jazz & Sweet Soul"
Various Artists

Four generations of smooth jazz and slick soul providers are crammed in this two-CD set. For every George Benson and George Michael classic, you get brand new beats from Jessie Ware and Melody Gardot. For a Randy Crawford and Dusty Springfield soul spin, there’s Norah Jones and Feist flipping the blues beyond the crossroads. To paraphrase our esteemed Senators, it’s a slam dunk testimony to the power of jazz and soul crossover.