First Class

House Of Shakira

House Of Shakira's signing with Lion Music in late 2003 gave birth to their fourth […]
By Eleni Mouratoglou
November 25, 2004
House Of Shakira - First Class album cover

House Of Shakira's signing with Lion Music in late 2003 gave birth to their fourth studio album, "First Class, and hopefully put an end to the adventures the band always confronted with their record companies.
I had a hard time reviewing First Class. It is the second time I had to completely rewrite the review after listening to the album a little more. What preoccupied me was the reputation the band has in the Melodic Rock community worldwide. Since their debut in 1997 with Lint they have been excessively praised and in a few words they are thought to be the most diverse and original AOR band in years. I guess there are much more people who know House Of Shakira's existence than those who have actually listened to one of their releases and I belonged in the second category. First Class was meant to be my first contact with the almost legendary Swedish act and I expected to listen to something really extraordinary.
The surprise was that I was not surprised or amazed that much by what I listened to.
House Of Shakira definately troubled me in the first place because their Scandinavian origin is not at all betrayed by the music they play. First Class is an album of American AOR or even its alteration, Christian Rock, not only because it seems to have a religious subject and generally a spiritual orientation but also because some of the songs (Black And Blue Skies, Sunshine Song) it contains could have comfortably be sung by a Christian Rock artist, like the (super-star) Martin Joseph for example.
The compositions vary between mid-tempo songs with scarce heavier and often acoustic parts and ballads. There is some kind of minimalism in the instrumentation and the general feeling is that of calmness and optimism mainly due to Andreas Eklund's patterns of performance. The backing vocals are really nice too, especially in You Are and Celebration Road.
The guitars are undoubtedly one of the album's strong points. Anders Lundstrom and Mats Hallstensson are playing both the electric and the acoustic guitars with inner sensitivity and apart from great solos there are some interesting oriental particles in their sound.
The space left for experimentation and improvisation to all the instruments in songs like You Are show a progressive at some points approach to the music. This, together with the samples that are used, offers an unexpected modernity to their style which is obviously influenced by classic bands like Journey.
To sum up, I don't think House Of Shakira are such an innovative band and I'd prefer them to be less flabby. What I can say without the slightest reluctance about them and their recent release is that they have proved to me too that they are playing their music free from external guidance and music industry's orders. And I hope this compensates their loyal fans for my skepticism about their supposedly unprecedented originality.
Album Highlights: "Uncontrolled, "You Are, "Creep, "State Of Grace and "Celebration Road.

7 / 10


"First Class" Track-listing:

Ain't Your Crowd
You Are
Hey Lord
Black And Blue Skies
Black Barn
State Of Grace
Celebration Road
Sunshine Song
Chicago Blue

House Of Shakira Lineup:

Andreas Eklund-Lead Vocals
Anders Lundstrom-Guitar, Keyboards
Mats Hallstensson-Guitar, Vocals
Per Schelander-Bass, Vocals
Tony Andersson-Drums

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