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The Alternative Record

The Alternative Record


Track listing:

  1. Classical Gas ( Reggae Version )
  2. I will always love you ( live mix )
  3. Toccata & Fugue ( D's Journey Radio Edit )
  4. Aurora (Vanessa Mae/Wherry)
  5. Red Hot ( live mix )
  6. Cotton Eye Joe ( live mix )

Total 78:00 Released for Asian ( Cat no. 7 2435 66054 2 8 ) & Poland only ( Cat no. 7 2435 66056 2 6 )

A Review by Vpa
Feb. 6, 1999

This record is not classical. However, I have added a few comments about it because it is not easily available, and people might want to know more about it.
What is this CD?
The title says it all. Everything about this "record" (perhaps not really an "album") is an Alternative to the normal: the music, the unusual six-song 25-minute format, the packaging, Vanessa-Mae's odd hairstyle and clothes on the cover, and the distribution.
Most music CDs are either albums with 40 minutes or more of music; or they are singles of one song and perhaps a B-side or two. THE ALTERNATIVE is neither; it has six songs of around four minutes each. Perhaps this is a reason why you can't buy it at record stores in North America and Western Europe; the mass-market distributors might not know what to do with it. THE ALTERNATIVE is available (although not common) in Southeast Asia and has also been released in places like South Africa and Poland, but never in Western Europe or the USA.
Vanessa-Mae's look on the cover photo ties in with the first track, "Classical Gas Reggae Version". Probably she is trying to look a little like Bob Marley to make her reggae more authentic.
Classical Gas Reggae Version
As the inlay notes say, this song is the first time that the violin has been used in reggae music. As somebody on another VM fan site said, probably it will be the last. This song is probably the worst that Vanessa-Mae has ever recorded, because the various elements mix like oil and water, and it completely lacks any understanding of what reggae is all about. To me, reggae is a music of protest and rage, that needs a message and a strong emotional feeling. But Vanessa-Mae's background is far removed from reggae's roots. The violin doesn't fit and sounds unnatural in reggae music. The biggest problem, though, is that "Classical Gas" is an instrumental that doesn't even have lyrics, let alone a message. Reggae needs to have some lyrics and singing, so the singer (male with a Jamaican accent) just makes up nonsense: "Here we are! I'm Soloman. Imagine yourself with Vanessa! Vanessa, yes, Vanessa is fun! Yeah! Yo, Gosh! Wunderbar Violin! Tell them now! OK! Do you feel alright?" I might not have all the words exactly right but you get the idea. Also, when a song has a singer and a violinist, almost by definition it is the violinist who is accompanying the singer not vice versa as was the intent here. This song is an embarrassment, a brave experiment that failed. This might be another reason why THE ALTERNATIVE was never widely distributed.
I Will Always Love You
This song was originally a country-western song by Dolly Parton, but the pop version by Whitney Houston is more famous. It was in the movie "Bodyguard" with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. Vanessa-Mae's version, which is also on the "LIVE AT ALBERT HALL" video, is one of several of her songs in which her violin takes the part that normally is voice. (Other examples are "Fantasy on Turandot" on CHINA GIRL and "Because" on George Martin's IN MY LIFE.) The violin is the orchestra instrument with a range most like the human voice, and Vanessa-Mae uses this to good effect in several songs.
Toccata and Fugue D's Journey Radio Edit
This is a much shorter and more electronic version of the music from THE VIOLIN PLAYER, which was her first and greatest hit single. This version seems to be intended for dancing more than listening. Vanessa-Mae's original version was violin music backed by a synthesized drum beat; this version is drum machine music with occasional snatches of violin to break the monotony. The original version was a clever blend of classical and pop elements, but in this version Bach's music is warped beyond recognition. This version is 3:30; the original was 7:47. Maybe it is OK for dancing to at a nightclub but it's not very interesting to listen to and has no emotion to it.
Several other dance-music versions of Vanessa-Mae's Toccata and Fugue exist, as well as for "Storm", and are always being released as B sides of Vanessa-Mae singles when the producers don't have anything better: for example, the singles of "Storm", "I Feel Love", and one of the versions of the "Devil's Trill".
Like "Red Hot", "Aurora" is a completely original music composed by Vanessa-Mae and Ian Wherry. It is a favorite of many Vanessa-Mae fans, and there is one fan website called "Aurora". Most people consider it the highlight of this CD. It is quite different from "Red Hot" despite its similar origins, with something of a cosmic sound, and makes heavy use of a synthesizer. The version of "Aurora" which is on THE ALTERNATIVE is the same as on LIVE AT ROYAL ALBERT HALL but quite different from the later version which is on STORM.
Red Hot Live Mix
See THE VIOLIN PLAYER for more about this song, in its original version. This live version one is 4:55, quite a bit longer than the original 3:16. The additions are some passages where the violin stops playing, which is for theatrical purposes. As you can see on LIVE AT ROYAL ALBERT HALL, the pauses in the violin give Vanessa-Mae time to do things in the live performance, such as dance or jump into the audience. Also, this live version has some sirens sound effects which the original version lacked.
Cotton Eye Joe Live Mix
Some Europeans think that "Cotton Eye Joe" was originally from a European rock group a couple of years ago. Wrong. It is a traditional American folk song, which is instantly recognizable to most people born on the left side of the Atlantic. The music belongs to another venerable tradition of violin music, called bluegrass, where the violin is called a fiddle and is accompanied by a banjo and hand-clapping. That's why she wears a cowboy hat when playing this music on LIVE AT ALBERT HALL. But Vanessa-Mae's performance is anything but traditional. The fact that she is a classically-trained European violinist, not an American bluegrass player, is obvious. Also, this version has a lot of techno-pop influences. It is weird but interesting music, blending together such vastly different traditions.
If you can't find THE ALTERNATIVE, don't worry about it, you aren't missing much. You should instead get her videotape LIVE AT ALBERT HALL which has four of the six songs plus a lot of other great music; and you can see her as well as hear her. The two songs that you don't have, "Classical Gas Reggae Version" and "Toccata and Fugue Dance Mix" are not very good.


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