Tag Archives: DEAR READER

Dear Reader Streams New Album, We Followed Every Sound, In Full

To celebrate the release of her new live album, We Followed Every Sound, which came out earlier this week via City Slang, Dear Reader aka Cheri MacNeil has unveiled a full stream of the new record.

Following from previous album Rivonia, We Followed Every Sound draws on Cheri’s experience growing up in apartheid South Africa. Recorded with the German Film Orchestra of Babelsberg, the new album sees the already emotional music of Dear Reader taken to a whole new level to create a record that is at times unnerving yet simultaneously beautiful. You can listen to the album in full here.

Earlier this year, Dear Reader made a bold move by releasing Rivonia. Unlike your average LP, it was an album of stories, histories and anecdotes that were all inspired by and dealing with the country she was born and raised in – South Africa. The album received a reception of great critical acclaim and showcased Cheri’s ability to tell a great story within the framework of intelligent and witty pop songs. The imagery and pictures her exuberant storytelling evoked were rich and vivid, despite the often-bleak realities depicted.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader

When Potsdam-based radio Station Radio Eins offered up the opportunity to perform the songs of Rivonia with the added dramatic texture of an entire symphonic orchestra, it felt only logical. The songs are musical miniature movies and the Film Orchestra of Babelsberg specialises in recording film scores. Music for the big screen. A marriage made in heaven.

The result is We Followed Every Sound, an album which sees the songs of Rivonia taken to new levels of dramatic and dynamic thrill. Under the careful guidance of conductor Bernd Wefelmayer and his orchestra, and by way of the creative orchestra arrangements of dramaturge Max Knoth, the songs in question, already magical in their own right, climb to new heights of scintillating warmth and intensity. The vocal performances of the band members on this magical evening, Cherilyn MacNeil, Emma Greenfield, Caoimhe McAlister and Sam Vance-Law are impeccable and the entire Dear Reader band plays with the verve and confidence of a well-oiled road machine. Excited by the accompanying orchestra, thrilled by the possibilities of their own music, it is simply a joy to listen to. And it is only the icing on the cake that it is not only the songs of Rivonia they are revisiting with this expanded configuration but that they also tackle classic Dear Reader stand-out tracks from previous albums, such as Great White Bear, Dearheart and Idealistic Animals.

At times troubling and at times deeply moving, the music of Dear Reader is known for raising more questions than answers and it achieves this within the context of a collection of magical, dramatic, heartfelt songs. The power of the German Film Orchestra only extenuates this to create an album that is quite frankly immense in it’s force.

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Dear Reader – We Followed Every Sound (Live) Album Review

Dear Reader is Cheri MacNeil – an alternative/pop artist originating from Johannesburg, South Africa but now based in Berlin. The band was founded in 2006 by singer-songwriter Cheri MacNeil and producer/bass player, Darryl Torr.

Their previous album Idealistic Animals was released in Germany and South Africa in September 2011 with a later release in Europe and the UK in November 2011. The album was nominated for Best Alternative Album at the 2012 South African Music Awards.

In 2012 MacNeil began work on the follow up, Rivonia. This time, MacNeil produced the album herself and recorded and edited most of it in her one-room apartment in Berlin, going for a more pared down instrument base. The sound quality and production values on Rivonia are stunning.

Each song on Rivonia is a story inspired by South Africa’s history which is in turn a celebration and recognition of its deeply problematic history. The record is layered with enhancing choral sections, the vocals are clear and impassioned with reminders of Kate Bush. But Rivonia can be especially praised for the brave creativity and slightly obscure story telling it showcases while it manages to maintain its thrilling and unique musicality.

Now Dear Reader is set to release another album, We Followed Every Sound. We Followed Every Sound is a record that was recorded live with The Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg. When Potsdam-based radio Station Radio Eins offered up the opportunity to perform the songs of Rivonia with the added dramatic texture of an entire symphonic orchestra, it was a logical move for MacNeil. The songs are musical miniature movies and the Film Orchestra of Babelsberg specialises in recording film scores. Music for the big screen. A marriage made in heaven.

The result is We Followed Every Sound, an album which sees the songs of Rivonia taken to new levels of dramatic and dynamic thrill. Under the careful guidance of conductor Bernd Wefelmayer and his orchestra, and by way of the creative orchestra arrangements of dramaturge Max Knoth, the songs in question, already magical in their own right, climb to new heights of scintillating warmth and intensity. And it is only the icing on the cake that it is not only the songs of Rivonia they are revisiting with this expanded configuration but that they also tackle classic Dear Reader stand-out tracks from previous albums, such as Great White Bear, Dearheart and Idealistic Animals.

Starting track, Back From The Dead is an anthemic track which is a match for Elbow’s One Day Like This. The triumphantly vocally blasted the chorus, “I’m coming back from the dead/You can’t hold me down here’’ is fantastic, especially when MacNeil sings this accompanied only by the piano after the build up and sudden drop back from the orchestra.

Down Under, Mining is instantly appealing showcasing a driving tribal drum beat. MacNeil’s vocals are played on a loop allowing the layers to still be present in this live version.

From Now On is an irresistibly simple and honest declaration of love which is expressed through MacNeil’s angelic, heart-breaking vocals.

Man Of The Book tells the tale of a religious man torn between his faith and his morality. It’s a fascinating evocation of a character. Performed with a live orchestra makes this song even more tempting to fall in love with all over again. The deep harmonies during the crescendo are perfect – this is a song made to be performed live.

Took Them Away has a stronger folk theme but again has a powerful story-line leading it to be an emotional and haunting ballad which is fully enhanced by the orchestral sounds.

We Followed Every Sound is a refreshing, accomplished and interesting listen. If MacNeil can reproduce this richness on record, Dear Reader must be incredibly impressive when actually seen performing live.

We Followed Every Sound is out on City Slang on December 9.

By Kate Dexter

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Dear Reader To Release New Live Album, We Followed Every Sound – First Track Cruelty On Beauty Revealed

Cheri MacNeil, aka Dear Reader, released her Africa-based album Rivonia earlier this year. She is now putting out a new live album which was recorded with the German Film Orchestra of Babelsberg. The first track, Cruelty On Beauty, has been unveiled.

The album We Followed Every Sound will be released on December 9 through City Slang. It contains music that’s made to question the listener, it’s music to get them thinking.

Rivonia was an album of stories, histories and anecdotes that were all inspired by and dealing with MacNeil’s home country – South Africa.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader

Potsdam-based radio, Station Radio Eins, offered the opportunity for Dear Reader to perform the songs of Rivonia live in Berlin with an entire symphonic orchestra. The German Film Orchestra of Babelsberg specialises in recording film scores and as Dear Reader’s music is so narrative, this seemed a marriage made in heaven. The result is We Followed Every Sound.

At times troubling and at times deeply moving, the music of Dear Reader is known for raising more questions than answers and it achieves this within the context of a collection of magical, dramatic, heartfelt songs. The power of the German Film Orchestra only extenuates this to create an album that is quite frankly immense in its force.

Judging from this track there is huge depth and multiple layers of clever sounds working around the intriguing vocals. MacNeil has a strong and confident voice with a country or folk twang. The orchestra adds such breadth and excitement which ignites the imagination. This is very clever stuff and the album is eagerly anticipated.

We Followed Every Sound will be released through City Slang on December 9.

By Kate Dexter

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Dear Reader Releases Video for Latest Track, Took Them Away

Dear Reader returns with another powerful new video from her latest album Rivonia, out now through City Slang.

Directed by multi-award winning Rob Savage, the new clip illustrates Took Them Away, one of the most heartbreaking tracks from this startling journey through a childhood spent in apartheid South Africa.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader

Speaking about the footage, Savage states: “The video tells the story of a young girl who misinterprets something she sees and inadvertently causes tragedy to ensue. We wanted the visuals to have a theatrical quality, taking place in a black void representing her view of the events, almost as though the action was taking place on an empty stage.”

Took Them Away starts with a solemn piano piece and beautiful lyrics that build a narrative. It tells the story of a girl who is confused by everything that is happening around her, she can’t make sense of it all. She visits her friends house to find white woman and black man kissing in a barn, “Nicholas invited me to visit at the farm/We were playing in the yard I saw them in the barn/White and black together sat/I just stood and stared”. She then has tea served to her at this family’s home by the man she saw in the barn, “David in his overalls came in to serve the tea/I had seem him in the barn something wasn’t right/As I told my father late that night.”  The song tells the story of the apartheid through a little girl’s eyes which makes it an emotional and touching song.

Took Them Away is taken from Dear Reader’s latest album, Rivonia, which is available to buy now.

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Dear Reader – Rivonia Review

It’s a brave artist who seeks to take as their inspiration one of the most complex and controversial aspects of recent international history, but this is what Cheri MacNeil (aka DEAR READER) has chosen to do with her third album, Rivonia.

As a child, South African born Cheri MacNeil spent 11 years studying at a small primary school in the north of Johannesburg, not far from what was once an isolated farm called Lilliesleaf. Growing up, she knew nothing of the nearby settlement but it was within these grounds that, on July 11 1963, a dry-cleaning and flower van parked beside a thatched cottage and disgorged a squad of armed policemen. They’d received a tip off from a neighbour‘s son about unusual comings and goings, their suspicions further aroused by the fact that these involved both black and white individuals. It had taken them a while to locate the place: initial reports spoke of a place called Ivon and it was only after searching the area that they found an old, weather-beaten sign from which three letters were missing. It had once said ‘Rivonia’, the name of the suburb in which they stood.

DEAR READER

DEAR READER

That day, police arrested 19 members of the African National Congress, the underground organisation run by Nelson Mandela – who had already been imprisoned – which sought to overthrow the ruling apartheid government. It was a pivotal moment in South Africa’s history. Cheri MacNeil later learned that these events had taken place around the corner from the building where she had for so long been educated.

This is the story that gives the latest DEAR READER album its name. Rivonia is a moving and complex album that discusses issues surrounding the apartheid. The songs illustrate the personal implications it had on those that were unwillingly surrounded by the events. Rivonia highlights through the lyrics how people were directly affected by the segregation and slavery that happened.

Track two Took Them Away starts with a solemn piano piece and beautiful lyrics that build a narrative. It tells the story of a girl who is confused by everything that is happening around her, she can’t make sense of it all. She visits her friends house to find white and black men sitting together in a barn, “Nicholas invited me to visit at the farm/We were playing in the yard I saw them in the barn/White and black together sat/I just stood and stared”. She then has tea served to her at this family’s home by one of the men she saw in the barn, “David in his overalls came in to serve the tea/I had seem him in the barn something wasn’t right/As I told my father late that night.”  You can assume that this family is anti-apartheid and people are using their barn to be able to fight against the segregation and be as one. The song tells the story of the apartheid through a little girl’s eyes which makes it an emotional and touching song.

27.04.1994 is a fantastic track that indicates how significant this day was in South African history. This was the day the first democratic election was held in South Africa where all races were allowed to vote. The simple music accompanied by the story telling lyrics make this song a must hear. There is nothing over complicated about the music in this song, it is the lyrics that make it what it is.

Man of the Book is quite different musically from the other songs, it has a much more folk feel to it. This song tells the story of the Great-grandfather of a baker who was a man of the book. The lyrics tell the listener that the Great-grandfather follows the  apartheid rules believing God wants it all to happen but then he begins to feel guilt for his actions and decides he needs to save his soul. The narrator analyse’s his behaviour and believes he should have used his own morals and not those written in a religious text. Being good doesn’t come from following what a religion says, it comes from the heart, from gut instinct. The Great-grandfather tries to right his wrongs so when Mahatma shows up at his house needing somewhere to rest his head, he lets him in, “There was no room at the Inn for men with darker skin/Great-grandfather of a baker shared his bed with a stranger/As the Lord has instructed/He was a man of the…” He believes this is actually what God would have wanted, not the segregation.

Victory is the last track on the album and it ends Rivonia spectacularly. This is an acapella song which uses a choir to create a haunting yet strong sound. The song speaks of two armies (presumably black and white) going into battle against each other where they believe they will either win or die trying to change things, “You pray to your God and I’ll pray to mine/And we’ll see whose God is listening this time…Saddle up the horses/Give us the victory/Give us the victory/Give us the victory/Saddle up the horses/Give us the victory/And if he does not we will join him…”

Rivonia is the first album this year that has made me stop and think. The lyrics are beautiful, passionate and thought-provoking. There is real meaning behind every song which pulls at the heart strings. The album covers a devastating time in history. This is a huge task to undertake and get right. MacNeil has managed to produce an album that highlights just how unfair and disgusting the apartheid was. She doesn’t simplify it or dramatise it in anyway, she has taken what’s there in history and has turned it into a wonderful form of art. This is the best album of the year so far.

Rivonia is released on April 8 2013 through City Slang.

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DEAR READER Releases Video for Single Down Under, Mining

To accompany the moving tale and first track to be released from her new apartheid South Africa-inspired album Rivonia, DEAR READER has released a video for Down Under, Mining.

Illustrating a stirring song of slavery, the track is delicately brought to life using painstakingly hand-made paper puppets by Berlin artist Barbara Steinitz.

It’s a brave artist who seeks to take as their inspiration one of the most complex and controversial aspects of recent international history, but this is what Cheri MacNeil (aka DEAR READER) has chosen to do with her third album.

As a child, South African born Cheri MacNeil spent 11 years studying at a small primary school in the north of Johannesburg, not far from what was once an isolated farm called Lilliesleaf. Growing up, she knew nothing of the nearby settlement but it was within these grounds that, on July 11 1963, a dry-cleaning and flower van parked beside a thatched cottage and disgorged a squad of armed policemen. They’d received a tip off from a neighbour‘s son about unusual comings and goings, their suspicions further aroused by the fact that these involved both black and white individuals. It had taken them a while to locate the place: initial reports spoke of a place called Ivon and it was only after searching the area that they found an old, weather-beaten sign from which three letters were missing. It had once said ‘Rivonia’, the name of the suburb in which they stood.

That day, police arrested 19 members of the African National Congress, the underground organisation run by Nelson Mandela – who had already been imprisoned – which sought to overthrow the ruling apartheid government. It was a pivotal moment in South Africa’s history. Cheri MacNeil later learned that these events had taken place around the corner from the building where she had for so long been educated.

This is the story that gives the latest DEAR READER album its name. Rivonia is released on April 8 2013 through City Slang.

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DEAR READER Announces Third Album Release, Rivonia

It’s a brave artist who seeks to take as their inspiration one of the most complex and controversial aspects of recent international history, but this is what Cheri MacNeil (aka DEAR READER) has chosen to do with her third album.

DEAR READER

DEAR READER

As a child, South African born Cheri MacNeil spent 11 years studying at a small primary school in the north of Johannesburg, not far from what was once an isolated farm called Lilliesleaf. Growing up, she knew nothing of the nearby settlement but it was within these grounds that, on July 11 1963, a dry-cleaning and flower van parked beside a thatched cottage and disgorged a squad of armed policemen. They’d received a tip off from a neighbour‘s son about unusual comings and goings, their suspicions further aroused by the fact that these involved both black and white individuals. It had taken them a while to locate the place: initial reports spoke of a place called Ivon and it was only after searching the area that they found an old, weather-beaten sign from which three letters were missing. It had once said ‘Rivonia’, the name of the suburb in which they stood.

That day, police arrested 19 members of the African National Congress, the underground organisation run by Nelson Mandela – who had already been imprisoned – which sought to overthrow the ruling apartheid government. It was a pivotal moment in South Africa’s history. Cheri MacNeil later learned that these events had taken place around the corner from the building where she had for so long been educated.

This is the story that gives the latest DEAR READER album its name. ‘Rivonia’ is released on April 8 2013 through City Slang.

Unlike other records written by white musicians and inspired by South Africa, DEAR READER’s ‘Rivonia’ banishes broad, crowd-pleasing political strokes in favour of a specifically human outlook. At times troubling, at times deeply moving, ‘Rivonia’ is unafraid of raising more questions than it answers and achieves this within the context of a collection of magical, dramatic and heartfelt songs.

MacNeil explains: “That sign with its faded lettering, makes me think about history as a whole and how the versions we have must all have bits that have weathered away and gone missing, and how we’ll never know the whole truth about anything. There are so many different realities overlaid on top of one another but each of us only has the version we know.”

You can listen to the new track taken from the album, Down Under, Mining here.

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