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-“Out of the three demos, this band’s image really suits the sound of their music, which is very important“

-“With the likes of Paolo Nuttini strutting up the charts I think hooky, upbeat folk music has a place again”

-“Usually I like to hear a pre-chorus in a song, but in this case, leaving it out and coming straight to the point works well”

picture Decent honest songwriting beats at the heart of this month’s finely honed and tune rich edition of Professional Demo Review. Our revolving panel of industry experts lend their ears to three new tracks by three unsigned artists that believe in the power of classic songwriting.

Offering critiques of songs by Auris, Dead Like Harry and Train Company are producers David Brant and Ronald Soelkner and manager Allan Wells. The reviewers consider all manner aspects - vocals, production, composition, visual presentation; provide tips on improving the tracks; evaluate their overall potential to get a record deal and achieve chart success.

Remember, demos on review are chosen from the ones uploaded to the A&R Panel. To get your music assessed by our expert panel upload your tracks here.

Alternatively, if you are a music industry professional that would like to join the panel for future demo reviews then please contact us here.

The Artists

HitQuarters ArtistAuris – Austria – Pop/Rock

The music of Austrian band Auris is primarily founded in pop/rock, but they are also fond of adopting elements from a wide range of less familiar. This and their decision to sing in English and German reflect their ethos of making ‘multi-music’: multilingual, with multi-style influences, and in a multi-sensual ambience.

The six-piece are already making a strong impact in their homeland, having performed their ‘multi-music’ several times on national radio.

HitQuarters ArtistDead Like Harry – UK – Pop/Rock

Tipped as the next big thing from the Steel City of Sheffield by everyone from local press to Steve Lamacq, Dead Like Harry colour their sound with rock, blues, country and even folk influences. At its heart though their music an honest, from-the-heart collection of songs written and performed by a group of young friends who want nothing more than to make great music. They are currently collaborating with celebrated producer Alan Smyth (Richard Hawley, Pulp, Arctic Monkeys).

HitQuarters ArtistTrain Company – US – Rock/Pop

Train Company is fronted by 21-year-old singer-songwriter John Zozzaro, who, after years spent roaming and writing, decided to settle back in St Charles and form a band that would help realise his songwriting ambitions.

This hand-selected group spent a year putting together what would be Train Company’s debut album. From August through to November, Train Company spent time at numerous studios laying down their ambitious debut, enlisting Patrick DeWitte to produce. DeWitte is a producer/engineer for WTTW Soundstage who has worked with such artists as Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Jewel and Matchbox 20.

The Industry Professional Review Panel

Allan Wells – Canada – Management

Allan Wells is an artist manager currently based in Toronto, Canada running his own talent management company, Comino Productions Inc. Comino’s artist roster has included international recording artists Anna Sahlene and Prime STH as well as producers Darryl Swann (Macy Gray) and alt country blues act Baskery.

Allan has enjoyed over 25 years experience in the music business starting out as a former artist/songwriter/producer and later on getting into the business side of things as a concert/festival promoter, independent/A&R consultant and artist manager.

David Brant - UK – Production and Songwriting

David Brant is a producer/songwriter from London who has achieved major successes in the music business. He has been a multiple BPI Award and Universal/BASCA Newcomer Chart Award winner for his production and songwriting work for artists such as Mis-Teeq, Nate James and Liberty X. He has also enjoyed several Top 10s in both singles and album charts in the UK and international territories.

Brant owns the label MBSquared with singer Stewart Mac, who won The London Paper competition to support Bon Jovi last year at Twickenham Stadium and who's debut album will be licensed under Typhoon/EMI Records throughout Asia end of 2009.

Ronald Soelkner – Germany – Songwriting and Production

Since starting songwriting and producing at the age of 16, Ronald Soelkner has gone onto work and collaborate with all manner of international artists, producers and songwriters across the world.

To date Soelkner has written and produced the official Coca Cola Christmas song ‘A Beautiful Time’, songs for Billboard #1 R&B artist Christelle Avomo and the Japanese superstars Hey! Say! JUMP amongst many others.

* * *

Song 1:
Auris – Only Time

Allan Wells – 6

“The first thing that came caught me ear on this song was the groove. I think the rhythm section laid down a nice foundation. I also liked the strings in the intro and felt that they worked nicely with the guitar. Production overall on the track is quite good and the arrangement builds nicely as the track moves along.

The chorus could be stronger and I find the vocals a bit pitchy when the vocalists get into a higher range. This song for me is more of an album track or something that might work well as soundtrack. I like the band’s press photo and get a sense that the band really loves what they do.”

David Brant – 2

“The music of Auris is certainly pleasant to the ear – their name being a literal translation of the Latin for ‘ear’ – at least at first, opening with an acoustic folk rock groove, a gentle guitar solo and a beautifully melancholic cello line.

However, the melody sung by the female lead in a sweet falsetto has a soul-less and jarring tone on the choruses, and lacks the necessary power to cut through the mix. Melodically, it's a tad boring and repetitive with no real lift or resolve in the choruses.

Lyrically the song is dreamy and descriptive, trying to convey the physical memory of a craved loved one. However, the title and hook line of the chorus doesn't quite sit right with me, as it’s grammatically wrong. The full line which reads “if I had only time with you”, should really be phrased 'If only I had time with you' or similar. It's a shame, as I think the band are very good and have a great vibe and ambience. The music is also nicely recorded and mixed. If the song was given more love and worked on, I think this could be heard on a film soundtrack, but in terms of being chart-worthy, I'd score this song 2 out of 10. It's not very commercial, but still valid in it's own genre.”

Ronald Soelkner – 5

“Although Auris certainly sound like a bunch of great musicians, the song itself lacks a bit of energy. Using a faster rhythm for the verse would spice it up a little and add more variation, for example. I'd also add more instrumentation and background vocals to the chorus to lift it out from the rest of the song. Furthermore, the production on the whole does sounds a bit too straight.

I would try to add something unique, something that lets everyone know from the first note that it's an Auris song! Nothing wrong with going over the edge from time to time and doing something crazy that hasn't been heard before.”

Song 2:
Dead Like Harry – I Couldn’t Love You Anymore

Allan Wells - 7

“This song had a real “feel good” vibe about it. I think the male and female vocals work really well together. The piano has a Springsteen feel to it that gives the song a sparkle.

The production on the song is quite good but personally I feel the drummer is pushing the groove a little and that it would sit better if he pulled back a bit. The chorus comes in really quickly which is a good thing and gets right to the point - it’s simple but catchy. I like the breakdown in the third verse and it sets up the last chorus quite well.

The song’s length is ideal for radio play because of its length. Visually I get the sense that the band knows who they are and that they would be fun to see live. Good job!”

David Brant - 6

“The name Dead Like Harry certainly grabs your attention and so does this bands music!

The song opens with a bright, up-beat and jangly instrumental, and a wonderfully jolly piano hook. Musically, the vibe is reminiscent of the title theme of US TV show ‘Friends’ by the Rembrandts and ‘Shiny Happy People’ by R.E.M.

The music sounds great with a nice balance in the mix. However the lead vocal does sound like it's been plonked on top and has a slightly overdriven, dry and broken texture. Not sure if this was on purpose, but it's distracting and takes you out of the song too much, particularly on the verses.

I really like the song. I’m not sure if it's chart material, as it does sound a little 90s, but then with the likes of Paolo Nuttini strutting up the charts I think hooky, upbeat folk music has a place again. I could also hear this on a film soundtrack, maybe on a romantic comedy or a TV series perhaps.”

Ronald Soelkner - 8

“Dead Like Harry's song has a very nice, positive feel to it. I can even hear this song on the soundtrack of a teen movie. The lead singer's voice sounds great, especially in combination with the female vocals. However, the vocal recording sounds a bit lo-fi - I'm missing something in the upper frequencies there.

Usually I like to hear a pre-chorus in a song, but in this case, leaving it out and coming straight to the point works well.

As the song proceeds, I would add some more instruments or ad-libs, especially toward the end, instead of having all the choruses sound the same. It just needs something that develops throughout the song. “

Song 3:
Train Company – Clementine

Allan Wells - 7

“The song has a retro feel about it, partly because of the reverb soaked production but also because of the inclusion of saxophone, which is something you don’t hear much of on radio anymore.

This sounds like the band laid down the track live, which is refreshing, and I also like the singer’s voice on the track – I feel he really believes what he is singing about.

The weakest part of the song for me is the section underneath the sax solo, which leads me to ask if it’s necessary at all. Also some of the drum fills interfere with the song at certain points. The song might be a little long for radio, but with an edited arrangement could work.

Out of the three demos, the band’s image really suits the sound of their music, which is very important. I also see that they are playing a lot of gigs - very attractive to any label or management company showing that they are out there getting it done! Good work guys.”

David Brant - 5

“The name of the band really matches the bluesy rock crossover song that is 'Clementine'. Chicago blues wouldn't be Chicago blues without a horn section and the obligatory sax solo. This song does exactly what it says on the tin.

Lyrically, it's nothing special. It's a love song. An ode to a gal named Clementine. It's enjoyable enough, but somewhat repetitive, melodically uninteresting and dragging in tempo.

The mix is very good, clean, big and wide sounding. The lead singer has a great bluesy tone of voice, which reminds me of Huey Lewis. In my humble opinion it’s ultimately just let down by the song.

As to its commercial appeal, I have major reservations as to how this would sell in a contemporary market. It's a very specific sounding song, and I feel would only do well in it's own territory and not on a worldwide scale.”

Ronald Soelkner – 9

“I love the lead singer's voice. I think it totally fits the style of the song. The structure as well as the melody is really well written. Every instrument seems to have its place, and the variations in the lead melody go down smoothly.

Every part builds up a good climax that reaches its peak with the chorus.

Train Company seem to have something really good going on. The song is beautiful, and the lead singer brings it into another level.

Looking forward to seeing a website besides their MySpace site.”

For previous editions of Professional Demo Review in this season please check the specials devoted to:


Next week: Interview with The Cutfather, producer for Pussycat Dolls, Jordin Sparks, Pixie Lott and Jamelia

Read On ...