LILI HAYDN

LIGHT BLUE SUN

  1/  Light Blue Sun (Prelude)                   (Haydn,James)                 2.44
  2/  Come Here                                  (Haydn,Boston)                5.34
  3/  Anything                                   (Haydn,Rafelson)              6.08
  4/  Wounded Dove                               (Haydn)                       6.55
  5/  The Longing                                (Haydn)                       5.08
  6/  Denied                                     (Weinstock)                   5.42
  7/  The Chinese Song                           (Traditional,Haydn)           6.26
  8/  Sweetness                                  (Haydn,Colin)                 4.26
  9/  Seek                                       (Haydn,Kalsa)                 8.13
  10/ Home                                       (Haydn,McAnany)               6.47
  11/ The Promised Land                          (Weinstock,Haydn,Nalepa)      10.23
  12/ Anything (Radio Edit)                      (Haydn,Rafelson)              3.39

          Recorded at Orange Music Studios, West Orange, New Jersey and Monkey Fur
            Hat Studios, West Hollywood, California
          Engineer at Orange Music: Robert Musso
          Assistant at Orange Music: James Dellatacoma
          Engineers at Monkey Fur Hat: Lili Haydn and Dan Pinder
          Mixed at Kampo Studios, New York City by Robert Musso
          Assistants: James Dellatacoma and Alan Ford
          Third Stage Protools Navigator: DXT
          Invasion Group: Steven Saporta
          Produced by Lili Haydn and Bill Laswell
          Track 1 produced by Bill Laswell, Lili Haydn and Corky James
          Track 2 produced by Marius DeVries, Carmen Rizzo, Bill Laswell and
            Lili Haydn
          Tracks 4, 8 and 10 produced by Jez Colin, Lili Haydn and Bill Laswell
          Tracks 9 and 11 produced by Steve Nalepa (DJ Sherlock), Lili Haydn and
            Bill Laswell
          Additional production on tracks 1,5 and 7 by Karsh Kale
          Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at Turtle Tone Studios, NYC, January 23, 2003
Lili Haydn: violin, vocals, keyboard (4,7,9,10), programming (4,7,9,10); Bill Laswell (1,3,4,5,7,9,12): bass; Corky James (1,3,4,5,7,10,12): guitar; Steve Nalepa (DJ Sherlock): keyboards (1,4,9,10,11), ambience (1,4,9,10,11), keyboard bass (10), programming (3,9,12); Karsh Kale: beat construction (1,5,7), drums (2,4,5), tablas (5,7); Jez Colin (4,8,10): programming, keyboards, ambience; Satnam Singh Ramgotra (2,4,7): tablas; Goffrey Moore (8,10): guitar; Pharoah Sanders (11): tenor saxophone; George Clinton (11): spoken word; Alice Coltrane (6): piano; Ted Castro (3,12): programming; Bahar (1): Qawali vocal; Gerri Sutyak (3,4,12): cello; Vanessa Freebairn-Smith (3,4,12): cello; Alma Fernandez (3,4,12): viola; Julianna Klopotic (6): violin; Ron Lawrence (6): viola; Tara Chambers (6): cello; Marius DeVries (2): bass, programming; Carmen Rizzo (2): keyboards, programming, sound design; Chris Bruce (2): guitar.

Strings on tracks 3 and 12 arranged and conducted by Geoffrey Gallegos of the Dakah Hip Hop
Orchestra
Strings on track 4 arranged by Lili Haydn; End Quartet melody by Johannes Brahms
Track 5 inspired in part by 'The Adagio' of Albinoni
Track 5 arranged by Lili Haydn and Corky James
Track 6 arranged by Lili Haydn with excerpts from 'The New World Symphony' by Dvorak
Material strings on track 6 arranged and conducted by Karl Berger
String arrangement on track 8 by Lili Haydn

          2003 - Private Music/Arista/BMG (USA), 82876-50931-2 (CD)


REVIEWS :

Lili Haydn's new Private Music release "Light Blue Sun," produced by Bill Laswell, is a refreshing blend of pop, electronica, world, jazz and classical elements. That looks a bit like the kitchen sink in print, but the disparate styles meld together nicely. The music appeals sometimes to your heart and other times to your feet, managing not to insult your brain in the process. Guests such as Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders and George Clinton all make brief but crucial appearances.

Lili Haydn is an accomplished and extraordinarily well traveled violinist. Not yet 30, she's worked with such seemingly incongruous artists as the Rolling Stones and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Christina Aguilera. Bill Laswell--no stranger to incongruity himself, having brokered such seemingly unlikely combinations as Archie Shepp and Whitney Houston and Bootsy Collins and William S. Burroughs--is the perfect producer for violinist/singer Haydn, the pair sharing a similarly holistic vision of music, grounded in the present but steeped in the past and looking to the future. The songs range from the relatively upbeat, melodic--well, you can pretty much assume the word melodic in the description of any song here--breathy pop of "Come Here," to the melancholy longing of "Denied" (featuring Mrs. Coltrane's lovely piano introduction) to the otherworldly, new-age funkadelia of "The Promised Land" with Clinton's spoken introduction and the trademark sound of Mr. Sanders' tenor saxophone.

This is thinking person's pop, a musical stew blending drum and bass with Dvorak and the traditional music of India and China. This CD deserves to be heard and should certainly become a favorite on public radio. More intense than the likes of Enya, more real than Madonna, and miles ahead of most everything else, Lili Haydn's "Light Blue Sun" provides reassurance that popular music can still be meaningful.

Ted Kane (courtesy of the jazzreview.com website)

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As those who have read these pages would know, Lili Haydnís skill as a violinist has been exceptional even as the material to which it has been applied has been questioned. With the release of "light blue sun" on Private Label/Arista, she adds another aspect to her mix, that of a smooth, sophisticated, commercial product. Through elemental titles and moody mantras for the urban jungle, she has released a recording that haunts, like her eyes, beneath its popular veneer. She is motored by the distinctive vision of her co-producer, Bill Laswell, whose work on bass keeps her previous inclination to easy listening music from getting out of control. The 'Beat Construction' of Karsh Kale is masterfully varied and keeps the compositions driving.

More than her violin, it is the voice of Lili Haydn that predominates on this disc. Beckoning submissively, celebrating emotional vulnerability in the text she sings; beginning with "Come Here," she sounds like a breathless Kate Bush. The best tracks on this CD include "Wounded Dove", with Haydnís dark reading of predatory lyrics over an undercurrent of belly dance rhythms. There is a superb re-working of "Kung Den Cheng Ge" that is attractively arranged by Haydn and striking in its combination of musical genres. Likewise, "Sweetness" features coming-out lyrics by the violinist. Interesting shifts of key insert musical drama into it. In general, it is romantic with a liquid sensuality that is quintessentially feminine.

In contrast, "Seek" (co-penned with Siri Ved K. Khalsa) is pulsating, underlying aggression, accented by impassioned, soulful violining. While slight in substance, it is deep on development of theme. The most personal tracks feature lyrics by Lotus Weinstock. "The Promised Land" is introverted and adrift, a personal statement that is closer to jazz than music. Haydnís violin and Pharoah Sandersí saxophone intermingle in searching the soul, seeking to be 'free of the need to be free'. This in contrast to "Denied" whose tortured spirituality turns weepy.

The commercial emphasis is on the track, "Anything". While it sounds a little like Madonna, its 'radio mix' version, though conventionally sexy, showcases its bouncy, catchy hook. This composition is an irresistible, driving supplication.

Of the other tracks, "light blue sun" is New-Agey easy listening, a fate "The Longing" also does not escape. "Home" throbs, which is appropriate for its torch song essence, but its chordal musical structure sounds like late Paula Abdul, albeit with more substance.

The violin is here an accent. The voice is wispy. The musicianship is the very top of the line. Alternately impassioned and lyrical, "light blue sun" is a fascinating study of talent redefining itself and is well worth the attention and care bestowed upon it.

Charles Lonberger (courtesy of the Beverly Hills Outlook website)

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Using her violin as an extension of her sensual voice and her voice as an extension of her spirit, Lili Haydn creates an enticing blend of electronica, pop and rock elements on her debut release Light Blue Sun. Her enchanting vocal delivery has alluring qualities that capture the listenerís attention, drawing it deep into her mystical web of layered violin voices. With the tenderness of an angel and the strength of a goddess, Lili takes us into soundscapes of unspeakable beauty and wonder, showing us a world filled with all the joys of life laid out in musical forms. Assisted by legendary producer and bassist Bill Laswell, Karsh Kale (percussion and beat effects) and other guest musicians, Liliís voice and violin are transformed into a mythic Sirenís call; but these enticing sounds take us into the waters of spirit rather than the rocks. Her futuristic sound is unique and unidentifiable: drifting into the genres of pop, electronica, new age, rock, and ambient with barely a distinction between them. Even though her sound may not be easily categorized, it can be easily and highly recommended to all lovers of 21st century music.

Robert Walmsley (courtesy of the AZNewage website)

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Promising

So here's a violin player posing on the front album cover in a white outfit with a bare midriff, and on the back cover in a red outfit with a bare midriff. It seems she's trying to tell potential listeners, "I may play the violin, but I'm not stuffy--I'm a babe."

Well, I like the music Vanessa Mae and Bond produce, so the album cover trick worked--I went for this CD. Unfortunately, Lily Haydn is not of the caliber that the aforementioned artists are, but still, I think she shows promise.

First of all, her style of violin playing differs because it is more of a slow, sweet, warm sound as opposed to the faster style and technical prowess showing-off of Vanessa Mae or Bond, so she's not[...] comparable. The album is overall rather slow, the kind of music that would be fitting to play in candlelight. Also, she sings on nearly every track, although you still get to hear plenty of violin playing. She has a lovely singing voice, one similar in timbre to Vanessa Mae but more upfront, with a bit more power and emotion. I think fans of Sarah Brightman would appreciate her voice.

The major drawback of the album is the lyrical content. Here is an album of adult music, accompanied by lyrics so trite you would expect to hear them from a teen star. Most of the vocal tracks suffer from this, but the second and third tracks ("Come Here" and "Anything") are so [...], I nearly didn't continue listening to the rest of the album. However, the [...] songs on the album are the first three; things get better after that.

Here are some examples of what I mean by trite lyrical content. From the chorus of "Come Here": "If you ever loved me, if you ever cared, if you think I'm worthy, come here." The main line in "Anything" is, predictably, "I would do anything for you." From the chorus of "Wounded Dove": "But I want you to stay, my baby." When the lyrics aren't trite, they can be awkward, as in this line from "Home": "My cup is overflowing, my breast is swollen with your song." The bottom line: Lily Haydn, who wrote the lyrics to these songs, either needs to make vast improvements in her lyric writing ability or else use lyrics someone else wrote, because they take away from an otherwise lovely album.

There is one song in which she did not write the lyrics, and the theme of this one is different from the hopeless romanticism that dominates the other tracks. Here's a sample:

And I've been arrogant / And I have been atheist / And I have sung Your praise with my seductive twist / It was just my pride, Lord / That made me want to hide, Lord / It's You that I've denied

On the one hand, the change of lyricist and theme is welcome; on the other hand, the change is such a contrast that its abrupt difference makes the song seem not to fit on the album.

Musically, the album starts unimaginatively, but beginning with track 4, "Wounded Dove," it gets better and improves as the album continues, so that by the end you can forget how weak the beginning was. If you sample tracks on this site, I suggest listening to 4 and 5 first.

"The Longing," "Seek," and "The Promised Land" are the instrumental tracks on the album, and also the best ones. "Seek" has a good underlying beat that makes the track beg for a hot dance remix. (Another one that begs for a dance remix is "The Chinese Song.") "The Promised Land" is the opposite--with surf sounds in the background, and the violin sharing the spotlight with saxophone, this almost ambient track is one to float away your troubles.

My favorite vocal tracks are "The Chinese Song" (not sung in English, as it is taken from a Chinese folk song), "Sweetness," the most sensual track, and "Home." I like the music in "Wounded Dove" although the lyrics ruin some enjoyment of it. Three songs--"The Chinese Song," "Wounded Dove," and "Home"--have a Chinese flavor in the sound.

All in all, Lily Haydn shows enough promise on this album that I look forward to her next release. If she addresses the weaknesses in the lyrics, she could make a really great album. As it is, she has a good album, and I will continue to enjoy listening to it.

DECEMBER 2004 UPDATE -- When I wrote the above review in August 2003, I'd never heard of Lili Haydn and didn't know she had another album. Since then, I've acquired her first album. What a difference! It is FAR SUPERIOR to this album both musically and lyrically. "Light Blue Sun" is good in itself, but it's extremely disappointing as a follow-up to an amazing debut album. Her first album was on Atlantic Records and produced by Lili herself. This 2nd album is on Arista Records and co-produced by Bill Laswell. Atlantic Records ought to snatch her back, ditch the producer and let Lili do her thing. I want another album like her first one!

3 stars out of 5

J Lee Harshbarger (courtesy of the Amazon.com website)