MUSIC REVIEW: Ozark Henry - Paramount
OZARK HENRY - 'PARAMOUNT'
SONY Pure Audio BluRay: 88875049489
contains; 2.0 LPCM, 5.1 DTS-HD MA 24/96 KHZ, 9.1 AURO-3D 24/96 KHZ.
When Belgian musician, songwriter, and producer PIET GODDAER pulls on his trousers each morning, then steps out the front door, he becomes OZARK HENRY.
With this identity, he continues to forge a multi-faceted career touching bases in the music world, film, design, installations, and has even been appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in the battle against human trafficking.
Whilst currently having a limited profile in the Southern Hemisphere, that is likely to change for a number of reasons.
The man has seven platinum albums, three soundtracks and a host of industry awards to his credit. A canny manager of his career in both commercial and artistic choices, it was only a matter of time before a singular event would take his name to a wider audience.
Ozark Henrys' first U.S. release was the 'STAY GOLD' album, which included the mega hit 'I'M YOUR SACRIFICE' (4 million YouTube hits and counting).
Yes, he is a strikingly handsome bloke, but you can only assume a sizeable portion of that net audience came for the beauty, but stayed for the music.
'STAY GOLD' is a solid album featuring those purring vocals, often shared with a female co-singer, in a background of sparse electronic washes, broken beats and studio atmospherics. With such minimal elements to hand, it may surprise that it is such an immersive listening experience.
Influences evident to my ear would be Bowie, Eno, Scott Walker and perhaps a minimalist take on the best strains of Europop. It is a definite grower which would please a very wide audience without ever selling out its' musical soul.
O.H. has long harboured a wish to recast some of his songs drawn from the past decades, in a symphonic setting. How successfully he made this dream come true is evidenced on this new album, 'PARAMOUNT'.
To achieve his goal, O.H. began a collaboration with specialist Audio Company, AURO TECHNOLOGIES, with a view to capturing the recording sessions with as much verisimilitude as possible; he wanted the home listener to hear what he heard at the sessions.
Choice of backing band was to be interesting. No cutting corners here.
How about the ninety piece NATIONAL ORCHESTRA of BELGIUM? Tick!
Choice of recording format? What about doing the first 9.1 channel album of popular music? Why not?
Options for mixing? Let's go with RONALD PRENT, using the respected facilities at Wisseloord Studios in the Netherlands.
Mastering: three time Grammy winner DARCY PROPER step forward.
Singer Laura GROESENEKEN provides backing vocals on eight of the tracks, a perfect match for O.H.s own voice.
OZARK HENRY and the NATIONAL ORCHESTRA performed a series of concerts during March this year. Of this venture he is quoted as saying:
My father was a classical composer, so I grew up around classical music. When I first heard my songs performed by the fantastic musicians of the N.O.B. , it felt as if it was the way they were always meant to be.
I could not agree more.
'STAY GOLD', beguiling as it is, can only suggest the beauty and drama that unfolds within these orchestral takes.
For the 'PARAMOUNT' sessions, O.H. assumed production duties, and has made all the right moves here.
He has written or co-written all the tracks, with the exception of a gentle but eerie cover of the BOWIE/ENO classic 'HEROES' which, to my ears, sounds more Eno than Bowie influenced.
I can only access the 5.1 codec on my current system, not the 9.1 (the stereo mix is very respectable, but once the multi-channel mix is heard, you would seldom go back to it). What I hear is immediately arresting.
The mix of low, breathy vocals, symphonic washes, and amazing production qualities deliver a new gold standard for adult music.
The 3-D experience is a step beyond what we can hear on other remixed/repurposed recordings striving for an immersive experience.
The placement of the individual sonic components is pin-point accurate to how we assume it was placed within the recording space.
The dynamics rise and fall with little sense of restraint. The timbral colour of the various instrumental sections of the orchestra is very, very real.
But most importantly, O.H. remains central to the whole sonic picture, i.e. his voice remains in correct proportion to the ebb and flow of the orchestra.
During the course of the album, the music rises from intimate to epic. There are at least 5 tracks that many artist would kill to have as an album closer. Here, they just give way to the next excellent tune.
The N.O.B. perform wonderfully - no grandstanding, every note scored and performed with great sensitivity to the songs.
This brilliant album gets my highest recommendation. I cannot imagine OZARK HENRY not becoming an even more influential and respected artist with its release.
For more information, visit www.ozarkhenry.com
A walking encyclopedia of music, David's broad music knowledge is a valued member to the team. Without music, there would be no HiFi. Look out for his words on current, past and future music, as well as album reviews.
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