Vince Littleton is a drummer, and this CD features mostly
rhythms and percussion. His background
is playing with some well know names like Dr. John, John Lee Hooker and J.G.B.
to mention a few. He has also
collaborated on movie soundtracks and video games. And he teaches drumming.
The promotional material suggests he is similar in sound to
Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum or Peter Gabriel’s Passion. Well, maybe.
But to be honest, he has a sound that is all his own, suggestive of primal
rhythms, yes, very tribal, encompassing elements of various world
traditions. Then there are the movie
soundtrack bits, but we will get to that.
He is accompanied on several tracks by the drumming skills
of Paulo Baldi, Charles Neal, and Brett Paschal and more. The musical instrumentation includes
percussion, synthesizers and piano, flutes, tuba and bass. There are ten tracks
on this CD, no playing times are given, and I believe it runs about an hour.
The opening track The Drones opens with a storm, and
provides a “drone” background against which drumming and cymbals and other
effects play. Good solid beat, breaking
for a momentary rest and then picking up right where it left off. A good start, moderate yet well defined.
Track two African Voices picks up the beat, does work on
African rhythms and is a really good composition. Strong, forceful, and keeping in style of
African rhythms. Nice effects add to the
production and it makes you want to get up and move.
This track leads into track three: Nature Boy. This starts out with a beat that reminds me
of an elephant meandering over the plains.
Again, more tribal in rhythms, a slower pace than the previous piece,
but a good strong composition. Cow bells and interesting inserts of sound make
this an appealing track.
The Oracle gives us more tribal beats with some vocals and
more interesting sound devices to add to the drumming. More of a Middle Eastern flavor comes across
in this composition. Another “gentle”
beat, but still beckoning the listener to move their feet.
Track five Lujon (Henry Mancini) opens with piano and breaks
into a Conga interpretation of this piece.
This breaks the “tribal drumming” styles of music that we have been
presented with up to this point, and offers melody on piano and synthesizer to
give the effect of a band. Animal sounds
give this a definite “Island” feel, but the
break from the first four tracks is a bit out of place here. And where the next track returns to the
tribal influences and refocuses on the drumming, this piece seems even more out
of place. I liked it, the arrangement is
good, but it doesn’t seem to fit here.
Track six Balafon Brett returns to the drumming and tribal
influences. The flutes and balafon
(African Xylaphone) are fascinating additions, and while offering some
structure, the focus is not lost on the drums.
Again, a good, strong composition, making you want to move in time to
Futurians begins almost as “space music” leaving behind the
structured rhythms we have heard up to now, and hints at Indian sitars. It follows into very Indian rhythms, and we
find ourselves transformed from Africa to India. Again, nice drumming, nice rhythms, and a
nice composition softer than the previous pieces.
Korean Love Curse seemed to start off tinkling a bit, but I
miss the drumming. Instead there is
bamboo rattling, some sound effects of storms and such. But the vocalizations take over center stage
and it is more a drama piece - Korean Opera than a drumming piece. This presents us with another track that seemed
to be out of place. Drumming comes in
later in the piece. The flavor of the
drumming up to now was African and Middle Eastern; you can even include the
Indian influences as melding into the framework the artist set up in the
opening tracks of this CD. But this
piece is Korean Opera. The composition
ends with some stronger drumming, but it was lost on me after sitting through
We return to the strong tribal influences in A Night in Fez. We go back to the drumming, but now we have
included very heavy sound effects, like animal noises and vocals which become
distracting and overpowering. The
drumming becomes lost. This is a very short piece, and appears to be a lead in
to the next piece.
Xpollinate opens with some very basic hand drumming and
never picks up from there. It is
overlaid with heavy sound effects, then the drumming breaks, and we are left
with “rain” which brings us to the end of another short track.
This CD started out strong.
I loved the drumming, the tribal rhythms were good, with the beat being
slow enough to get up and move without burning you out. The disk takes a turn in the middle however,
returns to the focus for one track and then wanders off again.
I found myself losing interest once the mood of the CD
changed. I was encouraged to continue
with the return to the focus on the Balafon piece, but the mood changed again,
and again I lost interest. I stuck it
out, but was disappointed that the CD went in so many different directions
without a common thread.
It may be nice to present the listener with a good overview
of your abilities, but the variations were so far apart, from tribal
influences, to show music, to more tribal, to a montage of sound effects and
then it peters out with a rain.
I would like to hear more drumming from this artist. Mr. Littleton presents us with some wonderful
rhythms. And because Mr. Littleton does
have talent in the “sound track” area, a CD of nothing but this style of music
would be interesting as well. But this
CD felt like it was running some place, got lost and then ended up being
interesting but unfulfilling.
Reviewed by Margaret Foster for Ambient Visions