Reviewed by Jacqui Stanford for www.gaynz.com
One of the nation's most celebrated gay authors has joined the hallowed names of two writing greats with collections of music inspired by their words. Ihimaera follows previous incarnations based on the words of James K Baxter and Hone Tuwhare, the latter which featured a hauntingly beautiful track from the late Mahinarangi Tocker: A Northland Heart-scape, which she once performed live in a room with the great Tuwhare himself before they both passed on.
This shows the importance of such collaborations, where distinctly New Zealand artists fling the words of our masters out of their pages and, celebrating and preserving them in our earlobes.
Rather than using pure poetry like the two Tuwhare and Baxter collections, the songs in Ihimaera feature lyrics which the novelist penned based on the themes of some of his novels.
APRA Maioha Award-winner Ruia Aperahama opens the proceedings with a gentle reggae take on The Song of Te Kooti, which will bring immediate pleasure for anyone who likes to chill out in the backyard with their head bobbing. LA Mitchell then swoops in with her honey-soaked voice on floating chill-out track Our Mother Is The Earth, before it's back to reggae with an infusion with hip hop from King Kapisi in Whale Rider.
Suddenly the album melts into My Heart Beats Strongly from Ariana Tikao, then features something of a mini-comeback from the seemingly long-lost Teremoana Rapley in the form of Dream Swimmer.
SJD then jumps in with his majestic ability to create ethereal magic with Our Watch Now and Lucid3 singer Victoria Girling-Butcher aka "Lupin" presents pure pretty pop in Standing Upright Here, before a touch of the alternative again from Pluto spin-off The Twinks who take a kind of wide-eyed, dreamy cowboy approach in Bar of Darting Glances.
It is Warren Maxwell's blues-infused Don't Call Me Sir which is a treat of this album. It's a brazen, balls-out, sexy guitar track. What more could you want?
Director of the series Charlotte Yates next adds the many flavours of her almost-edible voice and the heart of this project is clearly beating in Kingfisher Come Home, leaving the listener perfectly in the zone for the frighteningly fun Us Together from Unitone HiFi and tradition-infused closing track Star Waka from Horomona Horo and Nga Tae.
Not only is it a Kiwi through-and-through sometimes poppy and often dreamy recognition of Ihimaera's work, the collaboration also showcases some of New Zealand's more interesting musicians whose work deserves the chance to be heard. A nice addition to the CD stack next to your bookshelf.
You can win a copy of Ihimaera on GayNZ.com's competition page.
Peter Mechen, Middle C, Nov 9 , 2009
Charlotte Yates returned after the interval with two more songs from the "Beggar's Choice" CD, performing these with the engaging informality that one would perhaps encounter in a club or a bar. Described as a "gentle pop" number, the first song delineates a fruitless search somewhere in Spain for a flamenco club, while the following "Blood Red Moon" in classic ballad style, described the effect of the previous year's lunar eclipse - a stirring number , delivered with great panache and whimsy, of all of her performances, the one I responded to the most readily and pleasurably.
Yates has been releasing solo albums since 1991, collecting critical acclaim
and awards along the way, as well as having her lyrics collated into a
book, 1999's One Lady Driver. The new self-produced album is a collection
of acoustic-based songs recorded at both Trident Sounds Studios and Semaphore
Sound with assistance from Darren Mathiassen (Rhombus, Hollie Smith) and
bassist Rob Winch. Beggar's Choice finds Yates in fine form. Her voice
is mellow and melodic, bringing to mind singers like Natalie Merchant
and Aimee Man, while the songwriting is sophisticated and elegant, with
sincere lyrics that are not overwrought confessionals. Yates' songs roll
along with catchy melodies and rhythms - the shuffling beats of the wry
Black Water have a somewhat country feel to them, while Gifthorse has
a more rock oriented beat. The spare nature of Given Up, however, proves
that less is more, and the welcome addition of Mad recorded for the 2005
Tuwhare album only adds to the wealth of material. Yates' writing has
fine solid musicianship with an honest production that enhances, not overwhelms
the music, and Beggar's Choice is a wonderful example of how good songs
should be treated.
NZ Musician, Aug-Sep 2008
From solo projects to band work, from crossover theatre
work with Baxter and Tuwhare (shows celebrating two of our finest poets)
to rocking out as part of a blues-pop trio in a downtown bar, the Wellington-based
singer-songwriter is tireless. Beggar's Choice is a baker's dozen reminiscent
of Dead Fish Beach and should appeal to fans of her sound and to those
who have enjoyed the post-80s work of Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt.
Yates' fine voice and astute pop songwriting are more than ably backed
up by her intuitive guitar work.
North and South, August 2008
Photographer Sunniva Zoete-West
Tue, 20 March 2007, 10:19 AM
Tuwhare journeys to Auckland
Tuwhare - reviewed by Jacqui Stanford.
The performers had reason to be particularly nervous ahead
of the AK07 Festival show of Tuwhare, a musical tribute to the life of
the much-loved New Zealand poet.
The poet himself made rare trip from his remote home in South Otago's
rugged Kaka Point to see the tribute to his life and writing, news of
which only reached them hours before the show. He was unable to attend
the show's premiere in Wellington last year due to ill health. You could
sense the tension at the knowledge he was in the room as each of the 12
artists performed, with his presence giving the show a renewed sense of
The now 84-year-old's presence was also appreciated by the crowd. He was
given a standing ovation from across the Civic Theatre as he wobbled his
way to his seat, while many in the balcony craned forward hoping to catch
a now rare glimpse of the aging New Zealand treasure.
As narrator Rawiri Paratene outlined in his commentary, glimpses of Hone
Tuwhare were once far from rare. From readings and signings, to his stint
as a local councillor to representing his fellow workers as a union leader
and walking with Dame Whina Cooper in the 1975 land march, Hone Tuwhare
has been a visible part of New Zealand history. And his writing is one
of the nation's brightest treasures.
In Tuwhare his words are lent to some of the country's musical gems. His
great loves, his great losses and heartaches, his humour and passion for
justice were snatched and flung passionately across the theatre.
From Whirimako Black's hauntingly beautiful tones, to the honey-dripping
voice of Dallas Tamaira and the rasps of Graham Brazier, each piece was
beautiful. Even the offering from Te Kupu of Upper Hutt Posse fame, although
his rap was a little offbeat and a somewhat off beat, he got a laugh and
cheer from the crowd with his anti-America rhyme at the close.
Don McGlashan's take on perhaps Hone Tuwhares most famous poem Rain was
dripping with beauty, with the piano keys almost transforming into raindrops,
while Goldenhorse gave a punchy take to politically charged-poem O Africa.
Mahinarangi Tocker gave the most passionate performances. The emotion
in her piece A Northland Heart-Scape reached every wall of the grand theatre.
She also sang Strawpeople's take on the poem Covetous and led an impromptu
waiata as the performers gathered on stage at the end, which brought tears
to the eyes of the shows writer-director Charlotte Yates and many in the
Yates deserves plaudits for honouring the work of a living treasure. With
many of New Zealand's greatest already passed on, at least Tuwhare was
able to see the appreciation and love many hold for him and his work.
Her show premiered at the Wellington International Festival of the Arts
in 2006 before coming to AK07 this year and hopefully its journey will
continue. Paratene for one would like to see Tuwhare's life hit the big
screen, yes it is the stuff of movies", he concluded. "And who
do you think would be cast as the lead?" And to Tuwhare, in the audience
"What do you reckon uncle!?"
Quite simply, Tuwhare the show is much like Tuwhare's poetry - inspired.
And something which should be sampled by all New Zealanders.
Tuwhare CD Review
In 2000 Charlotte Yates directed the successful
"Baxter" project, which saw contemporary New Zealand musicians
putting song to the words of James K. Baxter. Now, commissioned by Toi
Maori Aotearoa, she does the same thing with acclaimed poet and author
Hone Tuwhare. With a new cast of artists (save Mahinarangi Tocker and
Yates herself) including Don McGlashen (The Front Lawn, Muttonbirds),
Te Kupu (Dean Hapata of Upper Hutt Posse), Strawpeople, WAI, Goldenhorse,
Graham Brazier and more, Tuwhare's words are transformed into at times
astounding lyrics for songs that cover different styles, from rock to
electronica, Traditional Maori to Hip-hop and everything in between. It's
probably not in the spirit of such a compilation to pick out highlights,
but needless to say Dallas Tamaira (aka Fat Freddys Drop's Joe Dukie)
never disappoints, and Goldenhorse make "O' Africa" sound like
it would be right at home on their recent album. There are also some surprises
from artists I wasn't so familiar with; Whirimako Black's voice can almost
bring tears to your eyes, while Yates turns Tuwhare's words into an effortless
pop vocal hook in the almost Fur Patrol sounding "Mad". Te Kupu's
"Speak to me, brother" shows how Tuwhare gets an often-poignant
message across by using humour (something Te Kupu is familiar with himself);
"Dominate? That's a big word, brother." I think if Hone Tuwhare
had come along thirty years later, he could've been a talented MC. Like
"Baxter" this album is a fantastic document of not only New
Zealand music but also New Zealand art and culture. NZ music month should
be more about albums like this.
CD Review: by Julie Jacobson
plainsong by Charlotte Yates (Jayrem)
"Great Music - clear, sharp and perfectly formed"
Yates does this to me every time. A decade ago, it was her
signature Red Letter. A week ago, it was Looked Like You.
There I am happily going about my business when I flick on the radio and
wham - there's this brilliant song and I'm singing along. Real loud.
plainsong was written during the Wellingtonian's time as 2002 Artist-in
Residence at Christchurch Arts Centre.
Sounds all very Bill Manhire. But we're not talking esoteric or difficult
This is just great music - clear, sharp and perfectly formed - with Yates
and her guitar going for broke.
Typically, the subject matter is personal be it bitter, bliss or snarl,
but there's some sneaky political stuff going on as well which shoots
Yates even higher in my star takes.
All credit too to the backing line-up which includes local restaurateur
and sometime Warratah Alan Norman on accordion and the fabulous neo-classic
Janet Holborow on cello.
Talk about creative Capital ...
Contact July 10, 2003
Review: Nick Bollinger The
Sampler, National Radio, 24 May 2003
plainsong by Charlotte Yates
Charlotte Yates has a fistful of different musical identities,
ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. She was the conceptual brain
behind the acclaimed Baxter album and stage show, and a third of the absurd
When the Cat's Been Spayed. But alongside these high profile projects,
she's been quietly building up a catalogue that makes one of this country's
most committed and consistent singer-songwriters, and she's just released
her fourth solo album.
The title of this disc is plainsong, but the songs are
anything but plain. In fact, Yates has gone to some lengths to keep things
musically interesting and varied, and she slips easily from a riff-based
rocker like that opening track (Joan of Arc), to a country waltz complete
with accordion from the Warratahs' Alan Norman. (The Ruins of Love)
Or perhaps your tastes lean more towards reggae, in which case you'll
appreciate where this track is coming from. (The Things I Said)
But whatever the groove, Yates's subject matter seldom swerves from that
staple of the singer-songwriter's menu, the love song. And though Yates
is capable of writing the odd ode to romantic bliss, she's inevitably
at her most poignant when love goes wrong. (Throwaway).
plainsong is predominantly personal but Yates ventures
into the world of politics for the album's final track. Titled They Never
Listen, it's not quite a protest song but it does offer a wry view of
the world's leaders, and perhaps puts its finger on why you never see
and Charlotte Yates
@The Boathouse, Nelson
Take two women, two incredible voices, a stage and a few guitars,
and you have yourself a piece of magic.
Charlotte Yates and Mahinarangi Tocker had the crowd at the Boathouse
baying for more after a magnificent performance last night. The two veteran
New Zealand solo songstresses have teamed up for a national tour and the
result is a gorgeous, touching show.
Tocker is a respected singer and composer who has toured overseas and
written songs for other New Zealand composers. Her incredibly mellifluous
voice and trademark syncopated rhythms create the musical equivalent of
a bubbling brook.
Yates leans more towards pop and blues tunes, combined with intriguingly
inventive lyrics, and a tendency to rockout. Recently, she was acclaimed
for devising and directing the Baxter album, a compilation of New Zealand
musician's takes on James K Baxter's poetry.
Although both Tocker and Yates are established in their own right, the
combination is a fantastic match, providing a polished, professional and
assured performance, that left the audience in no doubt of their talent.
Most impressive was the way the pair's voices blended, creating a gorgeous,
fullness that resonated around the room....
...Despite all society's advances and women's liberation, it's still unusual
to see two talented women who know their way around a guitar on stage,
singing songs they've written themselves. Perhaps that accounts for the
very appreciative audience at the Boathouse last night. If you want to
talk about girl power, this is the real thing.
Jane O'Loughlin Nelson Mail November 9 2002
One of New Zealand's unheralded singer songwriters (although
with this album this state of affairs must surely change), this is the
fourth solo album from Charlotte Yates, and it is a beaut. Recorded, mixed
and mastered at Wellington's Inca Studios by Mike Gibson (TrinityRoots,
Fur Patrol, Barry Saunders, the upcoming Phoenix Foundation album) 'Plainsong'
has a dynamic cohesive quality, with Yates showing real development both
as a musician/arranger and particularly as a songwriter. The resulting
album is easily addictive and will appeal to fans of great NZ songwriters
such as Neil Finn, Bic Runga, Anika Moa and the like. Surely stardom cannot
be far away. Recommended.