Twelve Girls Band

Freedom: Greatest Hits

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With only one album out in America, it might seem odd that the second CD in the Twelve Girls Band bin is a "greatest hits." Be glad it is, since Freedom is riskier, more fun, and more full of life than their official U.S. debut, Eastern Energy. It's still more Western music played with Eastern instruments than it is an honest blending of the genres, and it's still nothing music academics will spend hours studying, but the band's heart is more in it, and the extra touches are filled with flair. Beats are harder and the playing more vigorous with whirlwinds of plucked stings that become dizzying. Production is inspired and varied, pulling out the smooth jazz keyboard, drum machine, vocoder, or whatever else is needed to keep things interesting. Of course, grabbing the best bits of the girl's Far East releases and putting them in this two-disc packaging is bit like cheating if you're trying to outdo Eastern Energy. Even if it's just the "greatest hits" that are being included, Freedom is a bit overstuffed and a lot to take in, a problem stemming from the haphazard flow and one for which the scant liner notes are no help at all. Why "Horse Race" has an electro drum'n'bass beat and no clippity-clop percussion is a mystery, and after a while the album's mood-jumping (dramatically wistful to grand exuberance and back again) should be explained. It's not, and while Freedom's hodgepodge of tracks is exhausting by the end, it thrills in small doses. Be it the playing or just the mix, the title track sounds more punchy and driven than it did on Eastern Energy, and you have to be burdened with a cold, cold heart if you don't smile when they take on Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." While Eastern Energy seemed like it was just waiting for the band's stage show visuals, Freedom doesn't and is entirely more alive and satisfying.

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