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Nigel moves the Universe
Sunday, August 5 2001

Written by Reggie Zippo.

Many Nigel Olsson fans around the world may wonder why such a talented artist chose to showcase other leading vocalists on seven of the eleven songs featured on his new album, "Move The Universe". But what will undoubtedly escape the average listener is the fact that this is NOT specifically a Nigel Olsson solo album. It is, in fact, by Nigel Olsson's Drum Orchestra and Chorus 2, which includes the outstanding performances of i Miyakawa, Kiki Dee, Ken Stacey, Windy Wagner, Kai Olsson, Gigi Worth, Christina Vierra, and of course the renowned Nigel Olsson. Released only in Japan at press time, "Move The Universe" is a fine body of work that speaks volumes on how Mr. Olsson can easily embrace the reigns of both front man and backing support with pride. The style in which he jumps from lead vocalist to drummer to backing vocalist then back to lead vocalist again demonstrates unequivocally that Nigel is quite the professional in all sense of the word.

From his historic beginnings with Elton John, Nigel has proven himself to be not only an accomplished drummer and backing vocalist, but also as a well revered solo artist in his own right. And, although his solo career primarily ranged from 1975 to 1980, Nigel's following is as strong today as it ever was. If not, then more so. Who could bemoan Nigel for wanting to reincarnate the magic that has sustained him for so many years by reestablishing his Drum Orchestra and Chorus to showcase his own drumming and vocal expertise? In comparison, this installment of the "group" certainly does not pick up where the original orchestra left off in 1971. In fact, it goes well above and beyond all expectations!

The lucky few outside of Japan who have already heard "Move The Universe" will definitely notice a subtle Elton John feel throughout the entire album....and with good reason. The musicians and backing vocalists are composed mainly of Elton's own band mates Nigel Olsson, Davey Johnstone, Bob Birch, Guy Babylon, John Mahan, and Billy Trudel. This is not the first time that the Elton John band has lent its talents to other projects. The recording sessions for Nigel Olsson, Kiki Dee, Davey Johnstone, China, and Neil Sedaka's albums of the mid to late 70s and even Warpipes' album in the 90s included Elton's influence around ever turn of the phonographic groove. But, that is where the similarities stop. All other aspects of "Move The Universe" are truly Nigel inspired.

Kiki Dee's stunning performance on "Naked Without You" comes across as a classic Kiki song. So much so that it may cause the listener to think that this track could have been lifted from her "Stay With Me" recording sessions. The vocals match perfectly. Way to go Kiki! Although Kai Olsson's vocal abilities do not professionally compare to the other artists featured on the album, his rendition of "When I'm Dead And Gone" does conjure up that old magic feeling that made Elton John a superstar in the early 70s. However, Kai needs just a bit more grooming before he can land that role. i Miyakawa, the 14 year old Japanese girl wonder, is so polished on "Take A Chance" and "How Many Times" that she will no doubt be in the same top form for many years to come. It is amazing that this powerhouse is just 14 years old! "How Many Times" definitely stands out to be a single potential, but the same can be said of Ken Stacey and Windy Wagner's "Would I lie To You". An upbeat tune, this song provides a nice change from the soulful ballads that are sprinkled throughout the album. Speaking of upbeat, one cannot dismiss the rocking bluesy "Goin' Down" by Christina Vierra. Although in sharp contrast to the rest of the album, Christina's offering has such a magnetic force that it compels the listener to want more of the same. Having the potential to become the next Janis Joplin, Ann Wilson, and/or Melissa Ethridge of rock and roll, it was a good decision to include Ms. Vierra at the end of the album (the Big Bang theory prevails). As for the other artists on "Move The Universe", you will just have to beg, borrow, or steal your own copy of the album to find out what you're missing. Preferably, though, you should purchase it through a reputable source.

Finally, and by no means least, Nigel gives a fantastic performance on every track as the drummer and even more so as the lead vocalist on 4 of the 11 songs (5 tracks if you count the "If I Was Love" reprise at the end of the album). Believe it or not, Nigel's voice sounds exactly the same as it did 20 years ago. The quality and clarity that he provided throughout the 70s and early 80s is still going strong and true. Although the title track pales in comparison with the other 3 of his offerings, "Move The Universe" is still a good one to consider. "If I Was Love" is very Beatlesque and quite catchy, but hardly a single contender. The 2 most likely to succeed are "Say you Feel The Same" and "Building A Bird". The latter was an Elton John and Bernie Taupin toss away from the Made In England sessions that builds wonder as to why Elton could let such a powerful hit song out of his grip. Had Elton kept it for himself and completed the recording process, "Building A Bird" would have surely garnered Elton a top ten placement on the charts. Let's hope that Nigel's rendition will be as equally successful. Overall, Nigel Olsson's Drum Orchestra and Chorus 2 gives something for everyone and it truly does "Move The Universe" with a bang!

Point Rewards:

"MOVE THE UNIVERSE" - 3 (Better suited to be an album filler in the middle of the track lineup)

"TAKE A CHANCE" - 10 (Has ideal radio and/or movie potential)

"NAKED WITHOUT YOU" - 8 (Pure Kiki at her best)

"IF I WAS LOVE" - 4 (The music is great but the lyrics are lackluster)

"WOULD I LIE TO YOU" - 7 (A hearty toe tapper)

"BUILDING A BIRD" - 9 (Should have been the first track and possibly the title of the album)

"WHEN I'M DEAD AN' GONE" - 5 (This one has potential but lacks seasoning)

"SAY YOU FEEL THE SAME" - 10 (A great song to slow dance to with your significant other)

"HOW MANY TIMES" - 10 (A fine example of a hit single)

"TRADER" - 4 (A Kiki sound alike with that same 70s feel, but feels out of place)

"GOIN' DOWN" - 10 (The Big Bang theory in motion!)


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