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Basix

Star People (2007)

5.0

Reviews By Randi Stanley, Elie Landau, and TeKay

September 11, 2007

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 5.0
Innovation / Creativity 4.7
Soloists 4.7
Sound / Production 5.0
Repeat Listenability 4.7
Tracks
1 Can't Get You Out Of My Head 4.7
2 Star People 4.7
3 Treat Her Like A Lady 4.7
4 Knowing Me Knowing You 4.7
5 This House Is Empty Now 4.7
6 Simarik 4.3
7 Sorry / Hung Up 4.7
8 Angels 4.7
9 All Shook Up 5.0
10 Still Crazy 4.3
11 I Wonder Why 4.3
12 Roof Garden 5.0
13 Nothing Else Matters (live) 4.3
14 Englishman In New York (live) 3.7
15 Hung Up - Reprise (live) 3.3
16 The End 4.3

Recorded 2006 – 2007
Total time: 52:30, 16 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Can't Get You Out Of My Head 5
2 Star People 5
3 Treat Her Like A Lady 5
4 Knowing Me Knowing You 5
5 This House Is Empty Now 5
6 Simarik 4
7 Sorry / Hung Up 5
8 Angels 5
9 All Shook Up 5
10 Still Crazy 5
11 I Wonder Why 4
12 Roof Garden 5
13 Nothing Else Matters (live) 3
14 Englishman In New York (live) 3
15 Hung Up - Reprise (live) 3
16 The End 4

Be still my beating heart, I am in love with Star People, the latest release from Denmark's baSix. With a cheerful yet silky-smooth sound, these sweet sixteen tracks are a great insight into what this group is about. They have brilliant, creative arrangers within the group and even better mixing and post-production (Bill Hare, Stig Kreutzfeldt, and Oli Poulsen).

Highlights in the track listing include the title track Star People and Treat Her Like A Lady. They are HOT tracks. With rich bass, tightly tuned chords, and soloists that sound like veterans to the business, these tracks deserved 6s. Then, they take the ultra-saccharin sweet stylings of ABBA with Knowing Me, Knowing You and turn it on its head with as a lyrical, lovely ballad. This song is one example of what works wonderfully for baSix: chords span several octaves creating an ethereal environment.

Many of the production effects are taken right out of a European nightclub, especially Madonna's Hung Up. If this track were played in a nightclub you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who recognized it as pure a cappella. It's also a great example of baSix's careful balance between heavy post-production on some tracks and simpler production and mixing when more apropos (such as on All Shook Up and Still Crazy).

As explained in the liner notes, the track listing was chosen as an homage to the musicians and stars the members of baSix looked up to as children, the ones who influenced baSix in their respective careers as musicians. However, the tracks that feel out of place are Simarik and the live tracks at the end of the album. Simarik was originally a song released by Turkish artist Simarik Tarkan in 1997 and is the only song in another language on the album. I reminded myself why they chose their repertoire, but this one seemed out of left field. The three live tracks, for obvious reasons, do not have the same lush, rich quality as the studio tracks. I was left a big puzzled as to their inclusion as live tracks, then concluding the album with The End as the final studio track. The End is a poignant ending — written by, arranged by and featuring soloist Jakob Hejlesen, who, according to the notes, decided to leave the group after ten years to spend more time with his family.

Sadly, baSix's tour schedule includes mostly shows in Denmark, but I will be first in line if they make it to New York any time soon. In the mean time, at least I have the album.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Can't Get You Out Of My Head 4
2 Star People 5
3 Treat Her Like A Lady 4
4 Knowing Me Knowing You 5
5 This House Is Empty Now 4
6 Simarik 4
7 Sorry / Hung Up 4
8 Angels 4
9 All Shook Up 5
10 Still Crazy 4
11 I Wonder Why 4
12 Roof Garden 5
13 Nothing Else Matters (live) 5
14 Englishman In New York (live) 4
15 Hung Up - Reprise (live) 4
16 The End 4

Checking out the track list on baSix's latest CD Star People was enough to get me stoked. This Danish sextet has always been wildly talented and a treat to hear, but their originals — especially the English ones, with unusually vapid lyrics — have rarely, if ever, equaled their covers, and for the first time, this was an all-cover CD! Hearkening back to Embodiment, their 2003 CARA-winning release, I eagerly anticipated innovative and fresh approaches to well-worn material and a slightly less produced-sound than the kind that annoyed me on their Christmastime CD in 2005. In the end, I was both pleased and disappointed.

It would be unrealistic of me to expect the group to shun fancy post-production altogether, and, indeed, there are instances where it is used tastefully and in limited fashion to lovely effect. But the simple fact remains that the more this brilliantly-talented ensemble relies on the technology, the less-compelling their music-making tends to be. It's not that they ever risk sounding inhuman, as many a collegiate group does in their quests to mimic the originals ever-so-closely. For baSix, the thumping bass and hyper-developed VP just seem to overwhelm the voices and the arrangement to the point where they, and not the song, become the focus. Of the opening three tracks, Star People fares the best as it builds nicely and establishes a groove that really cooks by the last chorus. But Can't Get You Out of My Head takes an annoying song with an annoying hook and substitutes its own annoying a cappella background/VP hook that practically swallows the voices behind it. Treat Her Like A Lady has a groaning, bottom-heavy background with a similarly dominating bass/VP that made me wonder why one of the several other marvelous tracks from this CD weren't selected for Sing 3 instead.

Interestingly, once we're past the opening three, the arranging sensibilities shift dramatically in the diametrically opposite direction. Suddenly, an almost minimalist style of arranging starts to emerge, favoring either harmonic group singing over anchoring bass/VP (less interesting), or a background of very distinct, percussive, punctuating sounds and syllables that occasionally are layered to form a more cohesive textured background (far more interesting). The approach has its pros and cons — Knowing Me, Knowing You is probably my favorite pro while the underdeveloped ballads like Angels, The House is Empty Now and I Wonder Why are my notable cons — but I nevertheless would urge every collegiate group to pick up a copy of this CD as a primer to help them understand how creating "space" within an arrangement, allowing it to "breathe" as it were, can pay enormous dividends.

Furthermore, this baSix CD drives home yet another essential artistic point and one which is sorely overlooked on college campuses these days: do something unique with your covers. Were it not for the simplicity of the aforementioned tracks and a few others, my innovation/creativity score would have been an enthusiastic "5" for the imagination and free-thinking that created the funk/jazz groove of All Shook Up, or the blues-influenced Still Crazy or the sheer balls of covering Metallica with pretty much nothing except three guys singing in harmony. Continuing the flair they demonstrated on tracks like Purple Rain and Come Together on Embodiment, baSix specializes in unpredictable takes on classics, and so, whether or not you care for all of their choices, their CDs always seem to make for thoroughly engaging and enjoyable listening experiences.


5
Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Can't Get You Out Of My Head 5
2 Star People 4
3 Treat Her Like A Lady 5
4 Knowing Me Knowing You 4
5 This House Is Empty Now 5
6 Simarik 5
7 Sorry / Hung Up 5
8 Angels 5
9 All Shook Up 5
10 Still Crazy 4
11 I Wonder Why 5
12 Roof Garden 5
13 Nothing Else Matters (live) 5
14 Englishman In New York (live) 4
15 Hung Up - Reprise (live) 3
16 The End 5

Reviewer's capsule (I'll save you some time): Get this album even if you already have the CARA award-winning EP released last year. The additional songs on here are even better. Now read the love note that follows.

Who knew that you could improve upon near perfection? The members of baSix did, apparently. Their new recording, Star People, builds from the utter joy that was Embodiment into a magnificent work of art. They've taken their light pop-infused vocal style and added a maturity of sound that comes across as both sexy and sophisticated. As members come and go, the baSix sound remains consistent — like liquid gold. There is a warmth to each track that makes it seem like you're in a private concert. Each note, phrase and melodic line seems uttered in that perfect instance for you and you alone. Power, passion and promise all rolled into one breathtakingly beautiful package.

I Wonder Why is the perfect embodiment (cheeky me) of their ability to touch this crabby old guy's heart and soul. Anders ├śrsager's arrangement is sparse without being empty: some simple ahs and ohs with occasional background vocal lines and an amazing group vibrato at the end. His solo lifts and builds, soars and thrills, revealing a lover's purest anguish. If you aren't moved and possibly tearing up by this track, you have a cold, cold heart. Yeah, I said it.

And love is in the air. The album recreates a concept concert the guys performed for a year — a loving tribute of covers by some of the group's favorite artists and musical influences. There is jazz, rhythm and blues, cabaret, dance, pop and soul. Artists run the gamut as well, with Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, George Michael, Sting, Elvis, Robbie Williams and Tarkan all making appearances. I'm sure you're wondering who Tarkan is. YouTube the name and be prepared to dance to some hot Turkish beats. The baSix version, Simarik, of the infamous "Kiss Kiss" is just as entrancing.

The first dozen tracks are studio recordings taken from the concert program while tracks 13-15 are live recordings from various concerts. Track 16 is bittersweet in its poignancy and is the only original song. The End resonates for many reasons. I'm assuming that it ended every concert as it does on the recording. But more importantly, it signifies the end of the 10-year career of soloist, arranger and composer Jakob Hejlensen. Yes, it has its sentimental moments, but out of context it's a pretty excellent pop song. I've come to expect nothing less from my current favorite group.

My favorite tracks include Can't Get You Out of My Head, This House Is Empty Now, Sorry/Hung Up, Nothing Else Matters and the aforementioned I Wonder Why. I'm not a huge Elvis fan, but man the re-tooling of All Shook Up into an m-pact-like jazz song gave me pause. I loved it. The loungey-choral take on Madonna's Sorry as the entrance to the more dance and studio effected Hung Up is sheer genius. This is music that makes you laugh and smile, with sporadic "Oh my god! No, they didn't!" moments. Well worth any import costs. These are stars, people, stars I tell ya. Please keep it coming. I'll even listen to another holiday album.


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