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CD REVIEW: Lisa Star and Ray Cooper - Akeru Beginnings

by: Cyrus Rhodes


"inspirational, masterful and spiritual"






Artist: Lisa Star and Ray Cooper

EP: Akeru Beginnings

Label: Passion Star Records

Website: http://www.passionstarmusic.com/

Genre: Contemporary Pop, Epic Pop, Smooth Jazz, Americana Folk
Sounds Like: Nora Jones, Joni Mitchell, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Katie Melua

Technical Grade: 9/10
Production/ Musicianship Grade: 8/10

Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 8/10

Best Songs: Sweet Surrender, Shining Bright

Weakness: Short Side EP, EP release.  


San Francisco based singer/songwriter Lisa Star recently teamed up with guitarist Ray Cooper for the Akeru Beginnings EP released in 2013 (Passion Star). Ray Cooper is a Canadian Guitarist, Pianist and multi-instrumentalist) Musical comparables are Nora Jones, Joni Mitchell and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Other key contributors include Edo Castro (Bass), and Jonathan Moe (Drums and Percussion).

The EP gently takes flight with “Shining Bright” a delicate earthy groove that serves inviting vocals against impressive String movements, eloquent Piano, impressive harmonies against a mesmerizing vocal front from Star. Track 2 “From the Beginning” presents a heartfelt ELP remake that serves up smooth as silk musical flow, rich melody against impressive jazz-guitar ambience against a grand slam chorus. I am impressed how Starr/Cooper have made this classic their own. This piece flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition making for an impressive follow-up statement.  Track 3 “Sweet Surrender” my personal favorite serves up an impressive Americana ballad painted against impressive harmonies, hypnotic vocal groove and well placed fretwork culminating into an impressive finale. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear the musicianship from everyone involved is clearly above the bar with impressive bass lines, sizzling solos, horns, sporadic percussion, well placed strings, impressive organ accents, piano, rich  harmonies, acoustic 6 and 12 string guitars, all built upon a thick as a brick rhythm section. The guitar, piano and keyboard work from Ray Cooper prove he is a marquee talent. I especially liked the guitar solo on Track 1 "Shining Bright" by Glenn Schoonmaker. Song for song the effective combination of Star’s voice, world class songwriting from all involved via top flight musicianship is never once called into question. Now turning our attention over to Star as for her vocal abilities - she is quite impressive indeed. Her musical/vocal style is cut from the cloth of Nora Jones, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot and Katie Melua. Star showcases a widely spaced, crystal clear vibrato, with an appealing mezzo-soprano persona. Star has amazing feel and instincts within the sonic space. All of this makes for a strong and confident vocal ability across the board.  I especially like how her voice just sort of flutters melodically with the music perfectly. The mix and all engineering aspects check out with thick low end frequencies and crystal clear high end clarity. This latest EP from Lisa Star and Ray Cooper delivers 4 compelling tracks all providing an interesting snapshot music that is both clairvoyant and spiritual. All songs deliver thought provoking lyrical wisdom with messages that are positive, passionate and extremely captivating. The CD ends with track 4 “Shining Bright (French remix)  New Chapter” the perfect wrap for a catalogue like this.    

I typically write my criticisms in this paragraph – as you can see I don’t have much to report. The EP is a bit short with just 3 tracks, one of which is a remake and the other  remix in French. Perhaps 2 more original tracks are needed to make this a fully loaded EP. I typically deduct 1 star for EP releases. The full length release is a more complete snapshot to judge an artists by at any given time.  

From start to finish this latest EP release from Lisa Star and Ray Cooper is an impressive catalogue of music. It's inspirational, masterful and spiritual. The music is very consistent, well-crafted and extremely entertaining. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire catalogue. The production strokes: writing and playing abilities are world class.  The earthy melodies and harmonies are well crafted and the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with conventional wisdom with strong spiritual magnetism that will  gravitate many Lisa Star and Ray Cooper have truly captured something special here via the Akeru Beginnings.

Cyrus Rhodes