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The UK Corner Album review: Noah by Noah Stewart

Noah Stewart has built on the successes of his mentor Leontyne Price, Sir Willard White and Jessye Norman to become the first black musician to peak on the British classical chart. With his debut album, the 33-year-old Harlem born tenor has blazed a trail.

But he is more than a novelty. His rich voice has resonance and commands attention captivating the ear and the emotion as exemplified by the stirring Without a Song.

Inspired by Mario Lanza, the tenor who became a Hollywood movie star, and with arrangement from producers Steven Baker and Christian Seitz, the album includes operatic arias such as Recondita armonia from Puccini’s Tosca. On Pourquoi me Reveiller, from Massenet’s Werther, Stewart’s voice really shines.

But the album also includes the spiritual classic Deep River, and traditional standards such as Amazing Grace and Silent Night. Though he did not grow up singing gospel, Stewart’s voice hints at the blues/jazz scene associated with his New Orleans heritage.

His road to riches story includes study at LaGuardia High School where he developed his craft providing back up vocals for artists such as Hootie & the Blowfish, Mariah Carey and rapper Coolio. A scholarship led to further study at the prestigious Julliard School, and his debut album demonstrates the resulting seasoned vocal.

It seems ironic that while working as a receptionist at Carnegie Hall Stewart was advised against humming, but such a voice cannot remain silenced for long; indeed audiences are demanding to hear it live and recorded.

Stewart’s charming and sophisticated image help to sell a genre to new audiences. His humble beginnings make him relatable and the accessibility extends to the album and facilitates his mass appeal. The warmth of his tone means that his version of Leonard Cohen’s much-recorded Hallelujah sounds fresh.

Having performed around the world in roles such as Cavaradossi (Tosca), Don José (Carmen), Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly) and Rodolfo (La bohème), Stewart has established a reputation in the classical world. But on this album, the expressive power of his voice can convince new audiences that his talent is no act.

Noah is out now on Decca Records. Noah Stewart plays the Union Chapel on 22 May.

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The UK Corner event preview: RnB superstars 2 SWV, Ginuwine, Dru Hill and Silk in Super Gig

Sisters With Voices AKA SWV, are back with a new single Co-sign taken from their upcoming album I Missed Us set to be released on April 10 via eOne Music and Mass Appeal Entertainment. The RnB trio from New York who formed in 1990 as a gospel group are one of the most successful RnB groups of that era. They had a string of hits such as Weak, Right Here/Human Nature, I’m So Into You, and You’re the One. Though the group disbanded in 1998 to pursue solo projects, they  reunited in 2005. Their most recent UK performance was alongside Faith Evans in December 2010 at indigo2.

The RnB superstars will be joined by Ginuwine who has multi-platinum and platinum-selling albums and singles, and became one of RnB’s top artists in the same period.  He formed a supergroup with H-Town and Playa and his sexy performances have always been a hit with his female fans. His most recent album was 2011’s Elgin. His most recent UK performance was alongside J Holiday at indigo2 last June.

Dru Hill and Silk will also join the line up at HMV Apollo London on Sunday 12 February. Dru Hill recorded seven top 40 hits in the UK, and is best known for the hits In My Bed, Never Make a Promise, and How Deep Is Your Love. Their most recent album was 2010’s InDrupendence Day which they promoted in the UK that same year

Silk are best known for their hit singles Happy Days and Freak Me from their debut album Lose Control.  The album reached double platinum. They made a popular come back in the UK at the indigo last February alongside Kut Klose.

In a pre-valentines day special presented by S & C MEDIA LTD, this eclectic old school line up will be delivering musical gifts for RnB lovers. With comedy from Choice FM DJ Kojo and Slim, this is an event not to be missed.

14s and under to be accompanied by an adult. Tickets range from £28.50 to £50.00. Show starts from 7pm and ends at 11pm.

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The UK Corner CD review: My Life II The Journey Continues (Act 1) by Mary J Blige

My Life is a classic album. Released in 1994, fans remember it as an iconic chapter in R&B/hip hop soul history. This follow up some 17 years later, is much anticipated and does not disappoint. From the outset Blige and former mentor Diddy (whom she also pays homage to in a funky remix of his band Diddy Dirty Money’s track Someone to Love Me, on Someone To Love Me (Naked) feat. Diddy and Lil Wayne), allude to the legacy of the record speaking of the pain to be encountered on life’s marathon. Bilge completes this race in just over an hour, and it is no endurance test for the listener to navigate; instead it is the perfect pain killer for old fans and new who seek authenticity and integrity in their music. Blige has grown from the self-confessed hurt young lady she was when the prequel came out; the sequel witnesses the same vulnerabilities that make her music so relatable.

On her tenth studio album, multi Grammy winning Blige remains the distinct voice for voiceless women and sings about relationship angst and antics. As duets go, one of the most talked about songs of the album is the ballad Love a Woman feat. Beyonce. Blige has often created memorable duets with divas but she is equally renown for her duets with rap cons such as the late Notorious B.I.G. Feel Inside feat. Nas excites with intensity and invades your body to rid it of any inertia. There are several rap co-stars on the album including Busta Rhymes on Next Level, Drake on the sombre Mr Wrong, Rick Ross on Why, and Brook Lynn – Blige’s alter ego, on the edgy Midnight Drive. Using a refrain of Blige’s classic What You Gonna Do Without My Love, this track exposes another tone to her range.

Mary J Blige

The latest album is a departure from the experimental route her last album, which featured a cover of the rock classic Stair Way to Heaven, represented. This time the cover is a little more obvious in the shape of her childhood idol, with whom she toured in 2004, Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, which Blige delivers a worthy rendition of, with a fresh take by Rodney Jerkins on production. The prequel My life saw Blige cover Aretha Franklin’s You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.

You can always rely on Blige to fulfil her role as part of you healthy musical diet. With help from producers including Danja, Stargate, Swizz Beatz and The Underdogs, she provides the staple nutrients needed for balance. The throwbacks to the old school (25/8 – the lead single), the mid tempo numbers (Don’t Mind), tropical inspired rhythms (No Condition), heartfelt lyrics (Empty Prayers), inspiring testimony (The Living Proof – the lead song from the film The Help), up tempo floor fillers (This Love Is For You and One Life). With its retro feel yet progressive direction, use of live instrumentation and soul samples (You Want This), the album embodies Blige’s growth and her journey. Her fans can trust that this bridge to next year’s My Life: Act 2 is a sturdy foundation.

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My Life II The Journey Continues (Act 1) by Mary J Blige is out now on Matriarch/Geffen.

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RIP Heavy D May 24 1967 – November 8 2011

Heavy D

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2011 MTV EMAs

At 9pm CET * Sunday  November will see the 18th annual MTV EMAs held in Belfast, Ireland. Hosted by singer and actress Selena Gomez, in addition to the distribution of gongs, MTV will launch MTV Voices, its new international pro-social platform. This year the honour will go to Gomez’s boyfriend Justin Bieber and the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.

MTV Voices is s unique highlights socially positive and inspirational content produced by global correspondents, international and local music artists and MTV’ audience.

As the first artist to ever receive the MTV Voices Award, Bieber will be recognised for his ambitious launch of the Believe Charity Drive that aims to rally his fans to help raise millions of dollars for 20 charities around the world. In addition to his work with the Believe Charity Drive, Bieber has been extremely involved with the Make A Wish Foundation and Pencils of Promises, which helps build schools for children without access to education.

EMA nominee Bruno Mars

Justin Beiber is set to perform at the event alongside the likes of Jason Derulo, Bruno Mars (up for four awards), Jessie J, LMFAO and David Guetta. Viewers can vote for their favorite EMA artists by visiting Adele and Justin Bieber are each up for three awards. Other EMA nominees include Snoop Dogg,  LMFAO, Jessie J, Beyoncé, Eminem, Kanye West, and Wiz Khalifa. Stars present will recieve goodies including an Xbox 360 console with Kinect sensor and games, M.A.C make-up boxes, Remington hair and personal care appliances, Nando’s PERi PERi gift basket, kangol headwear and Spongebob Squarepants t-shirts!

For all MTV EMA news and announcements, check out EMA on Facebook or follow them @ EMA Twitter .

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