CD Shootout:

Garland - Black Tree Harbour
Jo´N - Rise & Fall
Christina Linhardt - Circus Sanctuary
REVIEW by Willard Manus

Attention must be paid to two new CDs from Europe: GARLAND, BLACK TREE HARBOR and JO'N, RISE AND FALL, both of which contain some memorable song-writing, vocal work and musicianship.

GARLAND comes out of Belgium and features the voice and words of Celeste Maiorano, a performer with an amazing command of English. Not only does she sing in that language, with precision and power, but she writes in it as well (with help on two cuts from guitarist, Peer Hartnack), always with a sharp, sardonic edge. A case in point is her song, "Goodbye":

good morning my love
I hope you slept well last night
while you were holding me so damn tight
I made you some breakfast
for me a glass of champagne
'cause I'm gonna tell you something
I'm gonna leave you today
I'm gonna say bye-bye

I'm leaving you today
I'm waving you goodbye
bye-bye my love
goodbye my love
close the door from the outside

The eleven cuts on the CD are backed up by five hard-rockin' musicians, one of whom, pianist Markus Apitius (who was also responsible for some of the arrangements and backup vocals) must be singled out for special praise. Apitius plays with a fiery drive and virtuosity that can only be called inspired.

(For more information visit

Apitius is also one of the key performers on Jo'N (short for Johanna Fassbender), a Cologne-based singer-songwriter whose CD was recently released by Toca Records ( Apitius not only backs her up on keyboards but has co-written many of the songs with Jo'n--in English, of course.

Jo'n has a captivating voice--edgy, powerful, haunting. She sings about love mostly, but never in a sickly, sentimental way. Even when in the throes of passion or infatuation, she feels the sting in the tail of love, the possibility of failure, disappointment, betrayal. To go with such European sophistication and worldliness, she adds bluesy notes and harmonies, avant-garde and even surrealistic touches (as in her moody 30-second chant, "Aragona"). All in all, the CD is a remarkable achievement.

To contact Johanna Fassbender personally, go to

Europe may have pop singers who excel in English, but our own Christina Linhardt goes them one better. The LA-based coloratura has released CIRCUS SANCTUARY, on which she sings in three languages, English, French and Latin, sprinkled with a few words of German. Possessor of a wondrous voice that can handle just about any kind of song there is, everything from jazz ("Pantomine") to gospel ("Motherless Child") to liturgical ("Ave Maria;" hence the Latin), Linhardt is an absolute wonder, a vocalist with an amazing range and expressiveness. She's no mere technician, either-- this is a voice that radiates beauty and emotion as it soars high and far with each note.

Linhardt's background is as rich and varied as her singing talent. Born to a German-American family, she began as a flute player with the Junior Philharmonic of California before switching to theatrical singing. She studied acting and movement at Oxford University, French at the Eurocentre in Paris, German at the Goethe Institute in Berlin. A theatre/vocal arts student at USC, she went on to act professionally, become a clown and mime, study dance in Africa and puppetry at the Open Gate Theater Ensemble.

Linhardt has sung for Cirque du Soleil, at LACMA, the Cinegrill, and for royalty in Europe (where she had a torrid love affair with the crown prince of Saxony). She has also produced several plays at the Odyssey Theatre.

On CIRCUS SANCTUARY Linhardt is backed up by four excellent studio players: Dino Meneghin (guitar); Marco Meneghin (drums); Bob Feldman (bass); and John Rangel (keyboards). Guest musicians include salsa violinist, Dan Weinstein; pianist Shelton Berg; sax player Bruce Eskovitz; and piccolo trumpet player Bill Churchville.

The CD is available at or Linhardt.