EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
Tevo Howard's Black Electro Orchestra: Holiday EP
For this first release on the Beautiful Granville Records Classics label, Tevo Howard's Black Electro Orchestra re-presents three cuts from the March 2015 release Cosmopolitan 1987, a twelve-song collection featuring Chicago House-style makeovers of ‘80s dance-pop classics by New Order, Madonna, Culture Club, and The Pet Shop Boys. The vinyl EP is nicely split between an A-side of Madonna's “Holiday” and two tracks by The Pet Shop Boys, “What Have I Done To Deserve This” and “My October Symphony.”
“Holiday” in particular benefits from Howard's re-imagining, and that it sounds so splendid speaks volumes considering the familiarity of Madonna's first hit single. But with the vocal stripped out and the Chicago House dimension beefed up, the ‘80s tune sounds fresh and feels reborn. Its joyous vibe and carefree spirit are preserved in Howard's treatment, and trying to resist the lure of its funk guitar lines, synthetic sheen, and irrepressible swing is well-nigh impossible. It's so endearing, one wishes Howard had stretched out its six minutes into something two or three times as long.
Interesting backstories accompany “What Have I Done To Deserve This” and “My October Symphony,” the first fondly remembered for featuring Dusty Springfield and the second for drawing inspiration from Dmitri Shostakovich and the challenges he faced composing symphonies during harrowing events such as the Russian October Revolution of 1917 and the German invasion of Russia during WWII. All such background falls away, however, when they're presented in purely instrumental form by Howard. Though graced by an appealingly understated arrangement, “My October Symphony” is the less memorable of the two tracks for emphasizing mood over melody; grounded in a funky electro-strut, “What Have I Done To Deserve This” immediately engages, especially when Howard dresses the vocal melodies in silken synthesizer fabric. Still, as satisfying as they are, it's “Holiday” you'll remember most when the EP's over.