Ok first things first about the new album called Paramount by Ozark Henry: It sounds great in stereo and in 5.1 surround sound and very much a testament to the notion that digital music can sound good! That the producers used all Sennheiser microphones to make this recording with a 90 piece orchestra says something.
Now that you know how good this album sounds, you are probably wondering who the heck is Ozark Henry?? I know I was wondering this when his publicist first approached me about possibly reviewing this album.
I'll be honest with you, Dear Readers, like many of you (I suspect), I had not heard of Ozark Henry before receiving a copy of this album to review (full disclosure). However, if I ultimately didn't like the music contained within the disc I never would review it (thus I have a big stack of review copy albums sitting there that I've not been able to connect with on some level to justify my reviewing them for you folks).
I think they still call that credibility... but... well.. whatever...
Anyhow, Mr. Henry has an interesting voice with a certain rustic charm yet that is distinctively European. It is a sound that we here in America, frankly, find somewhat exotic. There is something about his phrasing that (to my ear) make his singing style fall somewhere between Iceland's Jonsi (from the band Sigur Ros) and Sweden's Per Gessel (of Roxette fame), both of whom speak and sing in English as well as their native tongues.
Actually, the Jonsi comparison is not too far removed in some ways... while Ozark Henry sings in perfect English, his music (at least on this album) approaches the instrumentation and arrangements with the glee and abandon I've heard on some of Jonsi's music. But that is where the parallel's end.... this isn't a Sigur Ros or a Jonsi record by any stretch of the imagination!
This is however one of those rare orchestral pop records that works and even rocks a bit even though there is no pure rock beat going on. In stereo, this is mixed like a rock record with the music up as loud as the vocals -- which would not really be the case on an operatic recording, for example, typically putting the vocals far in front of the instrumentation.
The surround mix on this one is pretty cool and while I love it for being aggressive and immersive, I suspect some of you audiophile purists won't groove on it very much. This isn't one of those recording trying to recreate the soundstage of an orchestra or a band playing live. No, this is one of those recordings the more or less plop you dead center in the midst of the orchestra. Its really pretty neat and in some senses gives you a feeling of what it might like to be a conductor or perhaps the singer on stage. This album comes in two surround sound formats, only one of which I was able to review (5.1 channel DTS HD Master Audio) and the other which I was not as I do not own a set up to handle that at present (9.1 channel Auro 3D Native). I can only assume that since my 5.1 experience was good, the 9.1 experience should be pretty wonderful. Maybe someday I'll get to hear a demo of such a system.
Again, all this fancy surround sound stuff would be moot if the music was bad. But its not. This is good stuff that sounds cool even in good old 2.0 stereophonic sound.
Paramount by Ozark Henry is really very nice and I'll certainly be giving it more spins in the weeks and months ahead and I'll be looking forward to checking out his other albums as well. Hey, he does a groovy cover of Bowie's Heroes so that makes this interesting to begin with, especially since Bowie himself is a fan of the guy.
But don't take it from me. Listen to Ozark Henry's Paramount (and his other recordings) for yourself. He has a lot of videos up on YouTube as well as on Spotify or even via his own player on his website: http://ozarkhenry.com .
Paramount is selling for just $20 up on Amazon; this is a great deal for a super high quality audiophile release that some of you might even like for your demos.
Definitely worthy of your attention.