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CD Review: Chris Berry and Panjea – Dancemakers

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“Chris Berry’s story sounds like a Hollywood script … because it is hard to believe that a white boy from California moved to Africa, became a ‘spirit caller’ and went on to sell over a million records in Southern Africa”- Steve Leggett, All Music Guide.

I can believe that because Berry has a native African sound to it. From “Love on the Mountain” to “Dancemakers,” the title track, his spirit calling comes in pretty handy. He has a lot to say, and it’s pretty politically charged. His message is of justice and peace, but then whose isn’t? His music is sincere, and New York Press is correct about him having a “reedy” voice like Sting, but something just seems to be missing.

I listened to this album three times, yet I really couldn’t find a song that grabbed me. I like what he has to say on some songs such as “a captive on her ship… on a one-way trip, bound for the sea of ecstasy” from “Every Day.” Others I can understand, like “Why Do We,” a song questioning the death penalty and the whole “eye for an eye” story. I don’t agree with him, but I see where he is coming from. “Axe Forgets” is actually the one song I did like more than the rest, but it had to do with the lyrics not so much the melody. “Axe forgets what fallen tree cannot.”

So true. Those words right there tell a lot. “Dancemakers” has to do with those who run our world: the governments and those who are in power. The last track, “911”, comes off on the face as a call for help, “bring my country back to me,” but its undertones are of that fateful day back in 2001.

For some reason I just could not get into this CD. Berry’s lyrics are cool, but other artists have spoken them before. There are no new thoughts here. It seems like he wrote what he felt, but these feelings have already been expressed better by other artists. Nothing on this CD, with the exception of “Axe Forgets” (but only cause I like that saying) comes across as something that touches your spirit. If he’s calling my spirit, he better start using a different connection.

The beats are a little limp too. Nothing to hard-hitting, I guess you don’t want to anger the spirits, but maybe the spirits should get angry with the way the world is today. Anger is a gift and we should use it wisely, but if you are softly asking the powers around the world to change there ways, the word “please” isn’t gonna fucking help.

I think we will hear more of this guy in the future; I just hope he puts a little power behind what he has to say. Lay down some raw African beats. I’m talking tribal Zulu-like beats; ones that make British soldiers shake in their boots. This CD is a start, at least out here in the States, but with the country split down the middle and with both of the “far-ends” at each others’ throats, Berry is going to need to open himself up a little more if he wants to be heard, because if he can’t, well “axe forgets what fallen tree can’t.”

Written by Fumo Verde.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
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