DONNA DE LORY FUSES SOULFUL SONGCRAFT
WITH DEVOTIONAL SPIRIT…HERE IN HEAVEN
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Beloved as one of the reigning divas of the devotional music world, singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Donna De Lory has drawn from her rich experience in the creative singer-songwriter medium for her new solo release HERE IN HEAVEN.
With this self-produced album, Donna skillfully blends her mastery of devotional expression with a seasoned mainstream music savvy. Her keen pop sensibility was honed by two decades of touring the world as Madonna’s back-up singer and dancer, appearing in the documentary film Truth or Dare and on the Who’s That Girl, Blonde Ambition, Drowned World, Girlie Show and Confession tours. De Lory grew up in a highly musical household; her late, Grammy-winning father, the gifted pianist and producer Al De Lory, was part of the legendary Wrecking Crew and was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. Her grandfather played in the studio orchestra at Warner Bros. for films including Casablanca and Gone With The Wind. Donna’s own international dancefloor and chart success with her 1993 MCA/Universal solo debut, not to mention her extensive recording work with such artists as Bette Midler, Santana, Belinda Carlisle, Carly Simon and Selena, to name a few, finely developed her songcraft and her ear. She has woven eclectic world music influences into her music throughout her prolific career, and HERE IN HEAVEN is no exception, with its vibrant Indian and Latin flavors.
Seven of the album’s nine songs are originals that showcase De Lory’s considerable skill with classic song structures and arrangements, with evocative melodies and her extraordinary voice framed by pristine instrumentation and percussive grooves. But what her thoughtful lyrics express in these accessible tunes are messages just as uplifting and profound as those of the cherished sacred mantras for which she is so respected. Stylistically, the new album represents a bridge between De Lory’s two musical worlds.
It is a deeply personal work, with songs paying poignant tribute to both her late parents, a passionate Spanish ballad co-written with her father (and featuring him on piano), and moving, open-hearted paeans to the beauty of nature and love. She also covers two songs she’s always wanted to record, the moving “Never Be Mine” by Kate Bush and the lilting “Listen” -- co-written with singers Avasa and Matty Love and featuring a charming chorus starring Donna’s daughter Luci and her third grade classmates.
Musicians on HERE IN HEAVEN include guitarists James Harrah (Jewel, Madonna, Ray Charles) and Gerry Leonard (David Bowie); percussionists Dave Allen (Michelle Branch) and Luis Conte (Phil Collins, Madonna, James Taylor), and strings player Stevie Blacke (Beck, Rob Thomas, Nelly Furtado), among others. The album was mixed by mixmaster Kevin Killen (U2, Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Elvis Costello), and De Lory herself contributes keyboards and harmonium, with her late father recorded on piano for the passionate, Spanish-language “Amor Amor” which they co-wrote together.
De Lory’s gravity-defying voice is delicate and soaring, a fine instrument that she uses with great subtlety and sensitivity throughout this song cycle, which covers broad ground and touches the soul again and again with its beauty and emotional honesty.
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HERE IN HEAVEN: The Songs
1. “Heaven” is a song De Lory wrote for her second solo album for MCA Universal. It illustrates her early interest in global sounds as she weaves her voice with irresistible rhythmic grooves, trance-y backing vocals, and the expressive esraj, a stringed instrument from North India’s Punjab that’s been widely used in Sikh and Hindustani classical music for over three centuries. Inspired by mythologist Joseph Campbell’s teachings, the lyrics affirm the bliss of living and our interconnectedness on this green planet, extrapolating Campbell’s “It’s right here right now” in the chorus “Heaven can be anywhere, so why not here?”
2. De Lory first heard “Listen” on an album by singers Avasa and Matty Love, and was entranced by its Brazilian groove and the pop flavor of its repetitive chorus. Her children agreed, wanting to hear it over and over. Donna added a new original verse to enhance the song’s universal message about listening to Mother Earth and to our collective hearts, and took the song to her daughter Luci’s third grade class, recording in the school auditorium. Little Luci and her singing classmates are the very same age that Donna herself was when she made her professional singing debut.
3. The Kundalini mantra “Sat Siri” is the only mantra on the album, with this fresh rendition featuring Donna’s English lyrics artfully alternating with the original Sanskrit words. Discovered while recording her first mantra album, The Lover and The Beloved, it is something she has always wanted to record. “I changed the chords around and added English words based on my own interpretation of the mantra,” says Donna. “Identifying with the eternal divine that we come from and return back to, being one with this great undying truth…this seems to be a theme woven through all of my music.”
Kate Bush’s stirring “Never Be Mine” is another song that Donna has hoped to cover for many years. “Bush is one of my favorite artists…her lyric writing and imagery are brilliant. I relate to the lyric in a very deep way. The thrill and the hurting reminds me of the Buddhist teaching: All life is sorrowful; find the joy in the sorrow. This song explores for me the dream and the reality, all happening at once, all experiences filling the heart in every moment.”’
“Piano Man,” Donna’s heartelt tribute to her late father, is an emotional tour de force. Stately, lush strings support Donna’s poignant, tender vocals and piano; along with the loving lyrics, the strings too are a tribute to her father, Al De Lory, who was an accomplished strings arranger as well as a renowned session pianist and producer.
“This was written about the antique piano that was given to my Nana by my grandfather as a wedding present. My father learned to play on it and it was always there in our home when I was growing up. My father, who was a great piano player and producer, passed away in my arms, and these words are what I wanted to say to him. When I recorded the song alone in my studio late one night, I could feel him sitting there beside me. I first had the lyric to the end of the chorus, ‘Piano man, you’ll keep playing’…and then it came to me, ‘Piano man, with my hands you’ll keep playing.’”’
“Our loved ones who are not with us in physical form are still living in us always. I feel my Dad here every time I play music. I am very lucky that this is a soul passion that we shared.”
The sweet, spirited “Amor, Amor” was co-written by Donna and her father in 2002, while he was living in Nashville and recording with his Latin jazz band. The track first appeared on his Hot Gandinga album. Donna’s interpretation is tender and lovely. “This song can easily go in a modern salsa/dance direction, but I wanted to keep the album version more acoustic and intimate. Legendary Cuban percussionist Luis Conte is on the song, and my Dad’s piano that I took from his recording and put into the track.”
“Miracle of Love” features soaring vocals both tender and rapturous in this joyous paean to the beauty of nature and the fulfillment of love, with longtime Madonna tour colleague Niki Haris contributig background vocals. “This was written when I first moved to a mountaintop in Topanga Canyon, where I was suddenly surrounded by so much nature and inspired by such beauty. The song is about realizing a dream I’ve always had to live in the mountains.” (EXPAND ON THIS?)
With the simplicity of a string quartet accompaniment, “Go Talk to Mary” is a deeply personal song. “Written about my mother, who died of breast cancer when I was 16 years old…a very hard time in my life. The song is about going back, realizing the pure love that I came from, and how proud she always was of me. It is about growing up motherless, becoming a woman, and forgiving myself for mistakes I had made in getting there and forgetting where I came from and leaving that piece of her, of myself, behind. In remembering her, I find myself. In forgiving myself, I find her. I first wrote this a few years before I became a mother, so it is healing and complete for me to sing this now.”
“Heaven Meditation” elegantly frames Donna’s voice with only the drone of her harmonium and subtle strings by The Section Quartet. “This is my shavasana piece, to breathe deep and go within, where we can just be and let go. I have always wanted to make an album for deep healing using sound and vibration. This is a taste of what I’ll be working on next – inspired by Ram Das’ ‘Be Here Now in Heaven.’”
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