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Spiral opens with a pair of playful, upbeat songs, "Dearly" and "Double-Edged Swords"; the latter never fails to put a smile on my face, with lines like "I’m running away, running faster still / Slamming into a wall / The trips that I take myself on / Always lead to a fall" being delivered at lightning speed. "Wake Up" is a heartrending appeal to a lover who has stopped trying and caring; this song was recorded live, and the pain and anger in the lyrics are conveyed unbelievably well by Allison's impassioned vocals. The title track has a dark and chaotic feel to it, aided by the relentless piano riff, some surprisingly low vocals, and a hard rocking, full band arrangement.
Speaking of arrangements, I think they are what really make Spiral stand out so much compared to the rest of Allison's material. Every song is given exactly the treatment it needs, enabling it to stand on its own as a great work of art, as well as with the rest of the songs as something that is truly greater than the sum of its parts. This is especially evident on songs like "Going Home Tonight", which features a beautiful, swirling soundscape that is absolutely mesmerizing (this song also features some extremely charming lyrics, with a few well-placed French words bringing it to another level), and "No Matter the Battle", which has some stunning interplay between the vocals, drums, and string section, with multiple crescendos being reached.
Most of Spiral can be downloaded for free from Jamendo; missing from this version are the cover songs - Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel No. 2", and two versions each of Hunters and Collectors' "Throw Your Arms Around Me" and Annie Lennox's "Why". This is because cover songs are handled by different licensing agreements, which basically makes it okay for them to be streamed but not downloaded for free. I'm not familiar with the original versions of any of these songs, but Allison's renditions of them are all incredible and well worth hearing. If you'd like to listen to the cover songs, you can check them out on Allison's own site, or on streaming sites like Grooveshark; alternatively, you can try to win a copy of the CD from Muruch, which is running a draw for two copies of the CD that ends on Friday, April 30.
I was a little surprised (but pleasantly so) to see that Trans-Siberian Orchestra have offered another song from their latest album, Night Castle, as a free download; you might recall that they previously offered "Child of the Night" as a time-limited free download. "Believe" is the latest song to be offered, and what's interesting is that it is actually being made available for a video contest; you can download both the album version and a "radio" version to use as the soundtrack for a video of "something/anything you believe in." I'm not particularly skilled in video creation, so I doubt I'll even attempt to enter a contest like this; however, for those who are so inclined, it looks like the prize is quite nice, so it might be worth your time.
"Believe" was originally released by Savatage on their 1991 album, Streets: A Rock Opera. Even though this is technically a cover version, Trans-Siberian Orchestra actually evolved from Savatage, so this song is much more representative of their sound than "Child of the Night" is. It opens quietly with piano and vocals, which are later joined by drums and distorted guitars; it is a power ballad through and through. I really like the way the vocals are delivered in this song, and there is a beautiful guitar solo near the end of the album version (the radio version basically strips out all the instrumental sections).
Both songs are available as high quality (320 kbps) MP3s. If anyone decides to make a video to go along with either version, please post a link to it here - I would love to take a look at anything that my readers create. Happy listening!