Well, this is a little gem and the most intriguing release that I've dealt with for some time. I guess it will appeal to those with eclectic musical tastes that range anywhere from jazz and jazz fusion to funk, and all the way through to pop with liberal doses of progressive influence. No metal here though. What you will also find here is something that will appeal to many readers of this website, making this CD more than just a musical joy - an eye-catching, absorbing CD package on a travelling circus theme that is both fun to look at and read, as well as being very informative about the music. So, if having read this review you are tempted to buy, can I urge you in this instance to buy the actual CD, rather than downloading the music from one of the sites from which it is available.
Another fascinating aspect of Not Different, Not the Same is the means by which it was recorded. On this fanzine site, we often hold it up as a virtue when bands record "live" in the studio and use so-called "organic" instruments dating back to the 1970s. Not Different But Not the Same is the complete opposite to that, constructed by computer from seperate world-wide friends' contributions sent across the internet. It just goes to prove, once again, that it isn't the instrument that you have but how you use it that gives the enjoyment!
The three friends who are the common denominator across Not Different But Not the Same's music and who have thus given their name as the album's creative artists are Linda Cushma ("The Princess Enchanted"), Guillermo Cides ("Quintessential Stick") and Tim Alexander ("The Drumboy Madness"). Hence, Cushma Cides Alexander, or C.C.A. for short. The three are advocates of the "Chapman stick" instrument (in particular Cides who hosts the www.stickcenter.com website). The wonderful artwork is created by Argentina's Nuno Mante. Amongst the other luminaries that appear as performers and co-writers on the album are Trey Gunn ("Woman on Horseback"), Steve Parrish ("Crazy Beautiful Life", "Close Your Eyes", "Helen's Mountain" and "Amor de Bandoneon") and Tony Levin ("Close Your Eyes").
And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, and without parallel in attraction, may I present to you C.C.A.'s Amazing Freak Music Show.
"Feel ready to dance and enjoy the music". To start the show we have three danceful tunes: "Crazy Beautiful Life" benefitting from a super "stick guitar" groove, and a gorgeous vocal from "the princess enchanted"; "Close Your Eyes"'s pretty melody and catchy rhythm makes this a good pop/jazz/prog fusion and "Half the World" takes us into the land of funk.
"I'll Be There" acts as an interlude so that you can get your breath back, introducing a different mood with lush symphonic keyboards and vocal harmonies: an ethereal sound "dedicated to people that know they will die".
Back on to the dance floor for "Danza", the "stick" again beating out a wicked rhythm, guest Fatimah Halim providing "heavenly choral voices". Then, my friends, suitably relaxed, C.C.A. introduce you to the "psychedelic soul" and "complicated crying" of "Helen's Mountain" with its jazz/psychedelic rock fusion flavors. The palate thus prepared, "Sonambula" comes as a rap/psychedelic fusion with Spanish trumpet sounds and castanet rhythms intruding. No surprise then, to find that "The Number Song" turns into a Zappa-esque "monster of sound and mathematics", Mariano Enriquez providing the guitar (and "noises"). You are now as far from the light, almost poppy, start of the first two numbers as you could hope to get on one album! A real circus of entertainment indeed!
Soothing time again, bring on Trey Gun and his Warr guitar for a symphonic and choral keyboard treatment of a Quodia tale, "Woman on Horseback", Trey also reciting the story. "Amor de Bandoneon" also has soothing elements virtue of some soft Spanish singing from Linda and some romantic accordion playing "from the other life", but the rhythms provided by the stick prevent you from relaxing totally. For the finale,, the artists' intention was to "search for something intimate and special - we finally found it - it was not different to the music of the world, but it was not the same". For me, it has hints of the new wave sound sported by the likes of Joy Division but with a whiff of a jazzy touch and without the depressive impact.
Hope you enjoyed the show! If it sounds like an eclectic mix, it is! The unifying factors that succeed in making this an enjoyable, cohesive album are the influence of the stick instruments and of Linda's silky voice within the soundscape.
I would say that the album musically is four-stars but the overall combination with the package and the added interest that it brings, making it one of the most FUN CDs that's passed my way in a while, makes it deserving of the upgrade.
Finally, C.C.A. don't have their own website, so the following www.com sites will be helpful if you want to look for more info about the individual artists: stickcenter, timalexander, lindacushma, tonylevin, treygunn, stick, nunomante, wavearts.
1) Crazy Beautiful Life (3:39)
2) Close Your Eyes (3:51)
3) Half the World (3:42)
4) I'll Be There (4:35)
5) Danza (4:31)
6) Helens Mountain (3;24)
7) Sonambula (4:12)
8) The Number Song (2:40)
9) Woman on Horseback (4:24)
10) Amor de Bandoneon (3:26)
11) Not Different But Not the Same (3:50)