On 14th July 2022, during a very hot Bastille Day in Surrey, we were forwarded this mail received by the manager of our PR Agency (Lisa Davis Promotions), Michael Armstrong. It read as follows…
“Hello Mike, good morning,
I’m merely a listener who stumbled, for the first time, on the music of The Clarisse Sisters only yesterday. But, since then, I have played all of their “Fire and Ice” album on Spotify – and some songs several times. In terms of a melodic pathway, the moment of initial connection was watching the Heritage Chart television programme presented by the DJ Mike Reid, and hearing the “Butterflies in June” track, filmed in Brighton… I had to explore more…
Never doing things by half, I’ve also now been through all the music videos on the Youtube channel as well as read the sisters’ biography from their website. The Kings Cross location for the second “Butterflies in June” video was even better… Now I’ll get to the main point:
Personally speaking, I’ve found the two most outstanding tracks (now played about ten times each) are earlier ones. “Port Louis” is wonderful. It deserves to be a big hit all over France, as well as here and the rest of Europe, and now I really want to go to Mauritius! Again, to my own ears, the most captivating and exceptional music of all was “Colors”. I love the ladies’ harmonies, the chord progressions and the orchestration. In tandem with the high production values and joyous content of the videos, it actually sent a shiver down my spine and brought a tear to my eye – and I very rarely get emotional, especially when it’s triggered in complete surprise, totally without warning.
I must have played that song 15 times, even waking up in the middle of the night, to hear it again! I believe The Clarisse Sisters will be discovered by many tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of new listeners through widespread music platform exposure, especially Spotify. I guess, the others also, iTunes, Amazon Music, too…
I wish Annick, Véronique and Dominique every success – such talented ladies! And am only sorry I am unable to see one of the three live performances in London and Guildford.
This initial email contact developed into a month-long dialogue, and eventually John acquired all our music on CD and sent us his detailed review on our complete back catalogue. Many of his insights are very accurate and enrich the understanding of our songs. We thus had to share it here…. ENJOY!
“Kaleidoscope!”, (1st album), which was released in November 2015
Not being a French speaker, I’m far from being any sort of fitting reviewer for the majority of this album, but for me, there are two tracks which stand out a mile high within Kaleidoscope! They are the amazing “Port Louis” and delightful “Colors”. However, I offer a few top line impressions on all of them, a few with a degree of scene setting spontaneity.
- Une feuille blanche – I can well imagine this being taken from a modern Parisian stage musical, incorporating contemporary Salsa dancing and strong expressive choreography
- Blues qui Bouge – Again my imagination is taking over: heard best in the ambiance of an exclusive nightclub, as a live performance, a venue in which all guests are invited and considered VIPs
- Papitou – Many influences cleverly blended together, including improvised jazz at different tempos. Shows great musical versatility. However, perhaps I’m not knowledgeable enough to fully appreciate the collective subtleties. I can imagine Cleo Laine might have sung very similar compositions in her heydays!
- Tombé Levé – As mentioned above, I have very limited knowledge of African jazz, but could hear – from long ago, when a university student – being introduced to the music of Bob James and David Sanborn. Perhaps some hints of their style within, especially from 1’10” onwards…
- Port Louis – Absolutely addictive. I must have played this over 25 times by now. I love the tempo, the recurring staccato backing guitar matching both lead French vocal and supporting harmonies. The trumpet and saxophone blend are terrific (the guys in the video, standing on the mountain top look very cool too!). Then the transition to hearing the ladies’ as distant “40s” radio voices is innovative – but it works! Adding yet another dimension, to the circle of regular key changes, each one timed perfectly. And is there a bit of modern-day Edith Piaf in Dominique’s delivery?
- Petrusmok – Again, thinking visually, I can imagine this composition working as a successful Eurovision song contest entry. It has a live stage choreographed performance potential as well. The ending lead guitar may well depict a silhouette of Carlos Santana!
- Australis – In this track, I hear a sad refrain from the midst of a love story film score, of a lamented departure, but then heralding a new beginning with renewed hope of a brighter future. But I could be completely wrong!
- Sunday Vibe – This I imagine being performed live at a very exclusive, expensive, open air beach side night club…with the audience dancing, mostly in couples, on a very hot night!
- Guardians of Eden – The electric organ opening bars I possibly hear – ‘Level 42’ style…from then on, it screams Shakatak! And in the days of tape cassettes, I bought at least four of their albums. Still got them!
- Colors – I just adore this ethereal song! Every time I hear it, I become totally immersed. It literally sends shivers down my spine when the strings come in. And when watching on You tube, I love the video as well, adding a spectrum of depth and serenity. The resolution, from 3’20” onwards, can send me into a trance, as if floating in a warm infinity pool looking up at the stars.
- Gypsy River – So many geographical influences rolled into one. Beginning in Spain (Flamenco) to Middle eastern, then African beats, to Indian Ocean undertones again introduced…The journey continues!
- Ayo! – South Asian, to Indian Ocean and African French (obviously!), but with perhaps a blend of Latin American flavours (Cuban ?), mixed in the latter stages.
“Fire and Ice” (2nd album): I also found two stand-out tracks on this new album: “I carry you” and “Breathe” are superb and they represent perfectly the two atmospheres on this album.
- Quietude – terrific blend of harmonies and backing instruments. Mellow throughout!
- I wish you well – instantly recognizing it to be a heartfelt ballad, clearly very personal and private to Véronique.
- Fire and Ice feat. Basia – I describe this separately (below), following repeated listening to the 5 different versions found on the Single EP-CD of the same title.
- Hum & Haw – offers more facets of sound with each play and, every time I hear this song, I discover something else new within. In recent days, I’ve particularly liked playing this track while driving in the car. It brightens up the mood on a routine familiar journey, where you can detach yourself from the surrounding traffic and be somewhere else in your mind. Perhaps it’s a Mauritius coastal drive ?
- Impossible Love – I could sense a very deep and emotional story to Dominique. And with eyes closed could picture it being a pivotal part of an epic musical, sung by her on a Broadway stage.
- I carry you– as soon I read it represented a collective memory of a dear departed sister, Geneviève, I can honestly say a tear fell from my eye. The stringed instruments really enhance a reflective warmth. And, oh my goodness, it still stirs hidden emotions in me, too!
- Native Strangers – a very powerful soulful sound, and some of the more oblique progressions gave me a hint from the style of Donald Fagen (perhaps more in his solo phase, than Steely Dan)
- Breathe– the melody is instantly cheerful, and the tempo becomes infectious, so that you can’t help but speed up your pace and stride along in time to the beat. Then, when the chorus comes at 1’30’’ in, you suddenly find yourself spinning round with your arms outstretched, staring skywards and taking in the fresh air…Sublime.
- I hear a melody – again a very strong soulful lead vocal. Reminds me of the richness of Anita Baker, tempered with a smooth silken backing harmony, and the introduction of a male baritone adds extra depth to the track.
- Cloud 9– the personal expressions of a deeply emotional relationship for Annick. I had to smile hearing the lyric: ‘Why do you turn up when I’m about to wake up? Though, for me it was more often; ‘Why do you have to leave, when I wake up?’
- Butterflies in June – The very first TCS track I heard as background music while working. I confess I don’t know much at all about the African American music genre, but I thought initially, I was listening to Diana Ross. It’s a joyful song and has a catchy main theme. Therefore, ideal as a single, and the video shot around London is really an excellent complement.
- Gravity – reminds me of a song I’ve heard before, especially in the way the title word is repeatedly sung. It’s well known, but I just can’t put my finger on it. Though, again, the harmonies are terrific. Another great single.
- Je ne sais quoi– this has many influences within. Here are two that come to my mind, for example: “Look into her eyes” and immediately following bars, could be a classic Abba song. The bridge instrumental and ending might, once again, be a Donald Fagen composition.
Fire and Ice EP CD – Five Variations on an excellent samba or bossa nova main theme. Showing my ignorance, I have no idea which one might be correct but, in any case, a cornucopia of sound.
Always good fun, as well as thought provoking to hear differing arrangements to a common song or instrumental. One might immediately imagine there may be some ‘nods to the “origination of A.C. Jobim, V. de Moraes & N. Gimbel”. Dare I even mention the much loved, but clichéd, beach, Ipanema? After listening to each several times, in order to make a comment of comparison – and of course, purely to my completely untrained ear – I would suggest I might even prefer track 4 to track 1 (Single version). This perhaps as I feel the instrumentation remains smooth throughout and complements the ‘backing vocals’ silky style. Perhaps a greater contrast, and more of a competing juxtaposition, are the short syllables of the words in the opening verses.
In track 3, I think the flute’s introduction adds to the overall richness of the song, being in a higher octave, and as a foil to the guitar, with the female voices underpinning the melody. And in track 5, the instrumental is so laid back it might even be undetectable as a constant loop, retaining a calm ambience for anyone in earshot, whether working or relaxing. But, having said that, the rather ‘playful innocent’ delivery of track 1’s opening lines does grow on you, each time you hear it. As for track 2, I can’t detect much of a difference to track 1, but might I be correct in thinking the bass guitar is quieter and drumming simplified, still as benign bedrock throughout, but a little less pronounced ?
…next morning, final reviews!
I also note that most of the other tracks on the titled three ‘single’ CDs of Kaleidsocope !, appear within the album, but in new versions for Port Louis, and most notably Petrusmok, as a 6 minute long “Lemuria Mix”, reminiscent of the old days of 12’’.
A moment in love (from the Guardians of Eden, Single CD) – I think I must have overlooked this track as perhaps, on the initial hearing, I knew I could never do it justice, given the poetic introduction and poignant conclusion is very important yet, in my ignorance, could only understand a few individual words spoken in French. Listening again a few times, I clearly sense a deep melancholy and personal sadness, a time of reflection and memory. “In tenderness we bow” followed by, “beyond a sacred place, we’re only left with a vow” both written with heartfelt emotion behind them. Visually I see darkening stage towards the conclusion of an important scene, with soft lighting only highlighting the vocalists and narrator, lamenting the loss of someone very special. I can imagine this song would be placed in the middle of a set list in a live performance, and doubtless the mood gradually resolves to joy and happiness once again, towards the finale of a unique musical journey.
I do hope I’m not totally wrong on all fronts, and sincerely apologize if that is the case!
With Best Regards,