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album review: elixir featuring katie noonan, first seed ripening

I was really excited to hear First Seed Ripening, the LP from Elixir featuring Katie Noonan when Dunja first asked me to review the album because it was made clear to me that Katie Noonan is a big deal in Australia. I had never heard of her or of the band and I quickly found her Wikipedia page; after I finished reading it, I was even more excited to hear her voice. I have come to the realization that there is nothing a New Yorker likes more than access to privileged information.

I truly am curious to see the reactions First Seed Ripening from you faithful readers in Australia in the comments section below. When I had finished listening the album the whole way through for the first time, I felt I must’ve been missing something because Katie Noonan is so loved there. But the more times I pressed repeat, the more I realized my initial feelings were right. Altogether, First Seed Ripening wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever heard, either.

The first song on the album, title track “First Seed Ripening”, gives a pretty accurate snapshot of what the rest of First Seed Ripening sounds like. It’s a slowly cascading, ethereal, poetic song that relies on the vocal agility of Noonan’s beautiful, soft soprano vocals. Although she is clearly accompanied by a solid string section, saxophone, drums and guitar, it’s really all about what she can do with her voice. It all sounds very pretty, but there is not much else to say besides that.

I’ve listened to the album at least six times through now, and I can’t remember the words to a single song. Well, let’s be honest – that’s the case with most of the albums I listen to, but what I mean to say here is that when I think of the album,  all I can recall are somewhat strangely epic, jazzy arrangements in conjunction with her escalating high-pitched vocals on songs like “My Skin Is A Glove” and “Pierrot”.

I like the songs on the album that add a little something more than just Noonan’s hummingbird vocals. Whether it’s a more perceptible drum beat on “Stuff of Myths” or bluesy guitar on “Last Night’s Comfort”, harmonization and supporting vocals that compliment with the instrumental arrangement on “Traditional Song”, added production techniques on “Last Flowers To The Hospital”, these additional elements in the songs make them the most memorable on the album.

First Seed Ripening does not have the quality I look for most in a great album; it doesn’t stick with you long after the last song ends. The length of the album only exacerbates this. I can’t totally pan First Seed Ripening, though, because it is very clear that each member of Elixir is talented in their own right. What’s lacking here is a unity as a group. Katie is competing with the other members or something, trying to awkwardly make sense with the arrangement and lyrics of majority of the album.

3 thoughts on “album review: elixir featuring katie noonan, first seed ripening

  1. I was disappointed to read this review. I accept that this review only covered this latest Elixir cd, however to fully appreciate the work, you must fully experience the sensation that is Katie Noonan and her full body of work.

    Elixir and everything Katie Noonan whispers or soars through her angelic vocal chords is divine. The talents of those who support her vocal lyrics, are always exceptional artists in their own right and united, shine within shared, respected space to allow each of their talents to be showcased and influencial upon the holistic sound.

    It is hoped that one day, the reviewer Christine Campbell will in fact, have the extreme pleasure of hearing Katie live….and Elixer. Only then, might she fully grasp the liquid gold harmonic tones that linger long after her performance, or cd ends.

    To fully appreciate, adore and advocate Katie, you need to swim in her volumes of diversity, her seasons of influence and interest. She is forever blooming cd and live performance roses, for which many tracks not only stay in your mind, but become part of your jouney… These are the tracks couples marry to, folk dance to, souls weep to, the unwell heal to, and hearts inflate with joy.

    Katie Noonan is a national treasure, and an international vocal star. She has matured from her musical youth before Australian audiences, swirling and swerving from sounds of rock, jazz, folk and her brilliant duo with her dear Mother. What a joy it is to mature and grow with this musical journey.

    Listen again, to her volumes of vocal trips from George to this latest Elixir album…then save up your American Dollars, visit down under and delight in seeing her live. You will never be disappointed, only applaud her growth, diversity as an artist and be deeply touched by her soul of compassion and humanitarian heart.

    • Thank you so much for your words. Katie truly is a Australian treasure, and while I may have struggled personally with understanding her, I was too intrigued to allow that to be my first opinion. I have spent many hours glued listening to the way Katie plays with her vocal range. Many hours of goosebumps and tears. Songs that are my heart – “Breathe in Now” makes me cry, makes me sing, makes me want to live my life better. “Bluebird”, “Time to Begin” are anthems in spirit and life. There is purity and love and joy and sadness, so much that is experienced through her music, and I too truly hope that Christine does go through the rest of Katies Discology and truly experiences the reason as to why Katie Noonan is a Australian

  2. Thanks Donna…I am a Rufus Wainwright fan, and I would put her in the same artistic calibre. This CD brought tears to my eyes. The lyrics are so poetic and some of the arrangements made my hair stand on end. Simply devine.

    I saw her live recently and her cover of Heart’s a mess with the addition of a children’t choir is equisite, as is her version of Man of colours. Where she gets her inspiration I will never know..but thank god for her.

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