After a self-released cassette that alluded to songwriter/producer Richard Rebarber's visionary musical talents, his Floating Opera project returned in late 1996 with this full-length album for -ismist Recordings. Not that much has changed for Rebarber in those years; he's still a craftsman focused on near orchestral pop/rock that is slightly challenging and always poetic. Yet here he enlists Lori Allison (Millions) and Heidi Ore (Mercy Rule) to handle the vocal duties, a choice that propels his songs into ethereal territory -- these are two exceptionally talented vocalists with an absolutely heavenly grasp of the material's literate lyrics. In addition to these stunning vocals, the somewhat subdued ensemble musicianship complements perfectly, serving as an inspired foundation for the two ladies to sing over. Not too accessible, even if it is genius songwriting, this album should impress anyone looking for sophisticated pop music with a near orchestral sense of instrumentation (for an example, look to the inventive cover of Hüsker Dü's "Makes No Sense at All").
If Rebarber was a New York or Los Angeles resident rather than a Nebraskan, there's a good chance you'd be much more familiar with his name than you are now. Furthermore, due to the infrequency of the Floating Opera releases, this album takes on a much greater value in retrospect.
British folk giants Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson have collaborated on numerous projects over the years, but Gift marks the first time that the mother and daughter have released a collection of songs as an official duo. Backed by the usual assortment of English folk dynasty members like Martin Carthy, Danny Thompson, Aiden Curran, Martin Simpson and various other Watersons, Gift offers up the usual amalgamation of traditional songs, all of which are driven through the snow by Carthy and Waterson’s rich, commanding voices. Opening with a rousing rendition of Appalachian spiritual “Wayfaring Stranger” and closing with the gorgeous, seafaring ballad “Shallow Brown,” Gift is an effortless compendium of ancestral music, crafted by two of its greatest champions, that more than lives up to its name.