Andy - “City of Angels”

Avang Music Co.
2006 (1384)

Andy releases his albums with a usual 2 year-interval. Today, two years after the release of his “Platinum”, his brand new album entitled “City of Angels” is released in accordance with the same chronological tradition! Featuring works by the man himself along with old and new collaborations with Paksima, M. Cheshmazar, Mohamad Moghadam, Hamid Nadiri, Homa Mirafshar, Farshid Saboori, Shahyar Ghanbari, Esfandyar Monfaredzadeh, Homayoun Houshyarnejad, Allen G. Nazarian, Hedieh, Elton Ahi, Ragheb Alameh, Steve Stevens, F. Sanifar, Ali Sanifar, Armen Hovsepyan, Levon Abrahamyan, Harout Balyan and Armen Kosoyan. “City of Angels” and its 16 tracks come in a double-CD package and are released on Avang Music Co. with a cover logo vaguely reminiscent of the “Ararat” film-poster!

Disc I:

“Khoshgelaa Baayad Beraghsand” kicks off the album in a more than expected manner! This was once Andy & Kouros’ and now Andy’s TRADEMARK sound, no doubt about it. However the quality of this particular flavour has dropped through the years and today sounds merely as alternate versions of the same song (ever since “Che Khoshgel Shodi”), very pale and single-layered compared to the HITS from the 80’s/90’s! Long gone are the elaborate and lush productions, left is a washed out formula stripped down to nothing but a repetitive core! No surprising twists that put differences to the once BOMBASTIC openers of the album. MINIMALISTIC for the worse! On another note, the title is misspelled in its transliteration as “Khoshkelaa …” (and of course its “khoshgel” and not “khoshkel“ as we often remind in our forum)! As a professional “Iranist” I might sound neat picking but since based on my own experience I’m fully aware of the kind of impact such details have on the bilingual kids who more or less gain their modest knowledge in mother tongue from the products of our POP-culture, I sincerely wish that the artists could take some more responsibility by at least proofreading the booklet of their own albums!

Next comes a POWER POP track called “Nagoo Na Nemishe”. Even this one is a typical Andy song with NO surprises imbedded, but still more potent and well-produced than the previous track!

“Mohem Nabood” starts off very similar to the previous album’s “Sabad Sabad”, sharing the same composer as it shows! I’m a huge fan of Andy’s HI-NRG sound but this song has nothing that the previous song didn’t! An unengaging recycling! This song is according to the credits “featuring” Mahsa, which by definition means that she is to be heard “explicitly” and clearly, but no matter how I try I just cant hear her or any other female vocalist “featured” on this track!? Or perhaps she’s in the choir section and not really featured?!! I have no clue why all songs featuring Mahsa tend to suppress her voice beyond reach!!!

“Gole Bandar” is a generic BANDARI fare! The song is a homage to the late KING of BANDARI POP, namely Nematollah Aghasi! Although nothing in neither theme nor lyrics suggest that except the declaration on the cover, unfortunately! Speaking of Andy and Aghasi, many of the older fans might recall that once Andy covered “Amaneh”, due to the high pitch in his voice and also to the slight physical resemblance, it was rumoured that he was in fact the son of the popular ICON! But when Aghasi made a comeback and visited US for a tour in the mid 90’s, in a press-release he expressed his disappointment with Andy for covering the song without acknowledging its original performer! This however turned from one extreme to the other once these two met in person! The late Aghasi was so taken by Andy’s humble attitude and gentle approach that he not only “blessed” this cover but also officially declared him as his “artistic son”!

To recycle more old songs and sounds comes “Peechak”, another DREAM HOUSE fare with TRANCE elements. As heard in better specimens on Andy’s two previous albums! With a hook reminiscent of Sirvan Khosravi’s “Baroon”! This song represents a total lack of innovation on this album, sadly!

“Dokhtare Balaa” is yet another POWER POP/BANDARI fare a la Andy! Nothing new but compared to the previous fares is this a relatively potent song.

Late Farhad Mehrad can perhaps be considered as our modern music history’s most politically influenced/influential singer! And though his music and lyrics were predominantly socio-politically (leftist) coloured, few songs with explicit material could get permission to a release unless the pieces were disguised with a symbolic/double-meaning overtone. “Marde Tanhaa” however, the song that Andy has choosed to cover, whether as a tribute to the ICON himself (as stated on the album cover) or as an implicit nod to the current political pseudo-movement of the LA-entertainment industry (pay attention to the marching beat and anthem-like performance), is a song with less symbolism and more explicit referential points! But unfortunately everything is this new constellation has turned up wrong and incompatible! The vocal-setting and the arrangement in particular. Whether you are a leftist or not you’ll notice that the original magic of the classic has been lost during the process! That soul of despair and mournfulness that was meant to provoke to passion and solidarity in the masses is no longer there! Left is the hollow body of a song that simply wont do well as an upbeat chart-friendly aspirant no matter how you turn and twist it! Featuring the American ROCK-BAND “Heaven and Earth“!

“Eshghe Avval” was one of the many timeless gems on Andy’s indisputably BEST album till date, “Bigharar”! The crossover from 6/8 POP to 4/4 NRG and HI-NRG. The REMAKE on this album is not even closely as engaging when it comes to framing the lyrics, but still a great Electro-NRG tune with the EURO-flavour! Reminiscent of New Order’s “True Faith”. IF ONLY this song had been performed instrumentally and perhaps as one of many instrumental remakes of Andy classics by Allen G. on an own tribute album?!! I personally would LOVE to hear something like that!

More than one and a half decade ago, Farokh Ahi who was THE producer of that time, gathered a bunch of old and new artists to perform a song for peace in the motherland. In a time when political artists and songs were more or less stigmatised by both people and the industry, and not as popularly accepted and trendy as it is nowadays! These artists were none other than Moein, Fattaneh, Morteza and last but not least Andy & Kouros who in fact had to share the performance time that was set for one single artist! Today, strong and famous enough to carry a song in the own name alone, Andy has remade the less known classic in a solo version. Unfortunately much of the original “Tanine Solh’s” simplistic charm has been lost in this rather “messy” version which is further remade from last year’s video-version! All versions arranged by Farokh Ahi.

“Daaram Miram Be Tehran” was Andy’s contribution to the last year’s “Babak and Friends”, an animated feature as a clever and lovely attempt to introduce the 3rd generation Iranians to their cultural heritage and Norooz-celebration! The song has a distinct Azeri/Armenian core and groove, with many references to the FOLK- tunes from that particular geographic area.

Disc II:

Kicking off the second disc is Dj Aligator with his CLUB-oriented REMIX of Andy and Ragheb Alameh‘s “Yalla”! Flawless and smooth!

“Cheshmaaye Naaz” is perhaps my favourite Andy-song and Dj Kam has managed to preserve Sanifar’s beautiful Electro-SYNTH spirit in his REMIX. But I still prefer the original!

Nami has redressed Andy’s FREESTYLE/HI-NRG HIT “Entezaar” in a GREAT CLUB REMIX. I loved the Goosebumps-giving wailing in the original and its equally moving in this version! However, though great as an alternative version I’d still go with the multi-layered original!

“Marde Tanhaa” sounds much better in Nami’s almost “Industrial” REMIX! HARDCORE yet soft where it should be! Skilfully performed.

One could think that the second disc is set for REMIXES but it seems not to be the case! Rather out of place pops two Armenian originals up and confuse the listener! “Genank Hayastan” is the first in the row, a rather typical Armenian POP song by Andy. Unfortunately due to my lack of knowledge in the Armenian language and POP culture, I can not go deeper than this regarding these two tracks!

The album closes with “Eem Sears”, a song featuring an artist by the name of Armenchik! This song has a more catchy and transcendental quality to it. By the way, my dear readers of Armenian origin are more than welcome to provide me with further info on these two tracks! Thank you in advance!

In closing I must say that I am truly disappointed with this album, in case you haven’t noticed by now! “City of Angels” is what “Faraari” was for Mansour, a turning point in his career to “extreme commercialism“! Although the quality is as usual higher than the industry standard, Andy seems to be lowering the bar for an own personal standard with each new album! It’s the same genre and the same formulas as it always has been with the only difference that the “twist” or element of reinvention and surprise…the fresh ingredients that are exclusive to each album are long expired and re-recycled in this album. Slowly but surely things are retrogressing and dropping in ambition and quality. There is almost no trace left of the once so incredibly ambitious musician and visionary here, but rather a showbusinessman whose attention and time is consumed by the marketing of his brand! No trace of innovation or individual creativity in “City of Angels” while it has mainly “recycled” its stronger predecessors, filled the holes with filler REMAKES and REMIXES and -not to forget- an unnecessary and expensive division into two discs while the same numbers of songs could easily have been delivered on one single CD for a more reasonable price (as they were on “Silk Road“ and “ …and My Heart (Special Edition)”)! Maybe doing like Farshid Amin and putting all REMIXES on one single REMIX album and allow people to choose whether they want to pay extra for such material or not! At the same time the presence of the old HITS in this album provides one with a unique perspective to see the quality-drop in creation and production more clearly! While songs like “Eshghe Avval”, “Entezaar” and “Cheshmaaye Naaz” are so soulful and elaborately created that they still are strong and enduring enough to stand alone as singles and bare to be REMADE by the original artist even 12-13 years after their release, the new songs can barely establish an identity independent from their counterparts in “Platinum” and hardly shake off the expiration dates! That’s the difference between TIMELESS and CURRENT, …the old Andy and the recent!!

Don‘t get me wrong though, “City of Angels” is still a VERY GOOD Iranian POP album but at the same time a below-average “Andy” album! Specially to the ears of someone who has been a die-hard fan since 1990 and followed the man’s career with a magnifying-glass step by step. To a recently recruited fan “City of Angels” might sound as the state-of-the-art but to this veteran its more of an “underachievement”! Andy does no longer deliver like “Andy“, but rather like someone who tries to “imitate” Andy! The man who I once so highly admired as my IDOL and STILL today regard as an ICON appears here as merely a shadow of his former artistic persona! The same factor that has frozen the music of Siavash Ghomayshi is now plaguing Andy’s music as well, and that is the syndrome of infinite-recycling combined with a creative “rabbit-nap“! Due to the long time absence of worthy rivals on such a high level of success, things tend to get driven and repeated to a certain point where the artist becomes “self-destructively comfortable” and nothing but a predictable parody on her-/himself! Even the album’s aesthetic production/presentation has dropped in quality. The art-work and music-videos lack creativity, let alone innovation! The man who was once behind some of our music history’s most revolutionary album-covers and music-videos is today back in an 80’s, a time of which he was decades ahead back then! With poor close-up images as covers and low-cost pseudo-LIVE performances as music videos.

Times have changed, so have the conditions of the race! today the Iranian music scene is not as competition-free as it once was back when Andy & Kouros started off! There are some really talented and persistent “turtles” with a long term ambition on their way up to the one-man-top of the SUPERSTARDOM! But there is still time to wake up and catch up. The potential and possibility are still there, no doubt about it, but how about the “will“ and “hunger“ for it?! …I guess we’ll get to see about that in two years time!

Artistic Performance: ++
Artistic Ambition: -
Commercial Potential: +++
Technical Quality: ++
Aesthetic Presentation: -
Ethical Adherence: +++
[ +++ > --- ]

Review by: Pourya E.

Reviews described herein are mere opinions, and must be construed in that manner only! In other words they are not absolute!