BWW CD Reviews: Asia's Nightingale Returns
After a four-year hiatus from the recording studio--busying herself in commercially successful and critically acclaimed performances and tours in the United States--Asia's Nightingale Lani Misalucha ventures boldly into her latest project as both artist and first-time executive producer in her first album under Star Records, "The Nightingale Returns," co-executive produced by Malou Santos and Roxy Liquigan, and over-all produced by Jonathan Manalo.
Lani single-mindedly takes on an inspiringly ambitious quest covering songs from the greatest Filipino songbook--boasting luminary composers such as Rey Valera, Freddie Aguilar, Willy Cruz, and George Canseco to name a few--much to the clamor and support of adoring fans, which have helped catapult the homecoming album to the top of the local charts and the Philippines's iTunes music store for the past five weeks.
A Victorious Pursuit of Perfection
Undertaking this daunting exploration of the avenue of legendary Filipino classics is a bold artistic expedition, which requires courage, creative insight, and massive talent.
Lani emerges galvanized from this forge with 10 revivals, one original track, and one English song--a pained and solemn interpretation of Natalie Cole's pop classic "Starting Over Again."
In "The Nightingale Returns," Lani solidifies her clout as one of the very few, gifted Filipino performers who possesses a rare dual ability to breathe searing life into interpretations of both Filipino and English songs, all the while harboring an intense veracity to her renditions, matched only by her distinct full-blooded, pulsating vocal temperament.
Purposefully Confident, Masterfully Modern Musical Tribute to the Classics
Spanning an illustrious 18-year career yielding eight studio albums, across three major recording labels, and four live albums, Lani's immaculate vocals in "The Nightingale Returns" reverberates with a new-found temerity, which makes her distinct sound even bolder and more self-assured than it has ever registered before.
A vocalist who can easily convey unbridled depth and lustrous contour with just a singular word or a placating, even plaintive, conversational humming of a simple chord progression, Lani finds surefooted vocal placing throughout this creative endeavor.
The infusion of her own backing vocals into most of the tracks brings a lusher and more subdued sensual viscosity to the overall texture of all the songs' tonalities.
Her almost succulent rendition and effortless vocal acrobatics in the Zsa Zsa Padilla original "Ikaw Lamang" features a panoramic and heady intro showcasing her signature coloratura in a vocal interplay of ultra-high head notes. There are even moments in the song that are reminiscent of the tracks in Minnie Riperton's 1975 album "Adventures in Paradise" and Shanice Wilson's 1991 remake of the Riperton classic "Loving You."
Lani's almost creamy, relaxed intonation and subtlety in delivery in "Ikaw Lamang" coquettishly finds the delicate "G-spot" above the perfectly placed fulcrum of the song, balancing a breathy, almost guttural semi-whisper against a melodious, sensually caressing head tone. Her strategically-placed high-note intervals--akin to whistle notes--accentuated by plush back vocals throughout this song are a direct testimony to the genius behind the brilliant team of vocal and musical arrangers gathered for this offing.
In Freddie Aguilar's "Anak," there is not even a shade of subdued pontification. Lani courageously mounts the landmark song, triumphantly taking on the arduous social and cultural responsibilities that come with the remaking of a song of this magnitude. She treats the piece with a reverential characterization eerily similar to a brilliant theatrical performance. The infinitesimally ephemeral staccato of her weeping vocals during the most tender highs and lows of "Anak" makes for a truly haunting and exquisite production seen even from the farthest seat at the back inside the dark theater of the mind, transforming the song into a religious experience.
The carrier single "Muli," an otherwise laidback vehicle for Lani's full-bodied, powerful range (categorized somewhere between a gorgeous alto and an altitude-defying mezzo soprano) is masterfully turned into a vivaciously texturized, velvety-lush listening experience. The song sensitively soars with a breezy, relaxed lift provided by the tender cadence and rich juxtaposition of the singer's delicate pre-chorus hummings, ushering in the heartfelt main verse of the song. The poignant honesty in her voice fully complements the naked, innocent crescendos of the piano accompaniment throughout the recording, driven to even bolder heights as the reins are taken over by the determined, escalating roars of electric guitar instrumentations during the song's bridge.
Collaborations and Complications
The tracks that showcase Lani's collaborations with other contemporary artists--"May Bukas Pa" (with Yeng Constantino and Angeline Quinto) and "Maging Sino Ka Man" (with Journey frontman Arnel Pineda)--may be considered laudable efforts in bridging the gap between Lani's unique music marque and those of notable singers from other genres and generations.