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Challenge - 1996 Acoustic Universe

ARTIST: Challenge
ALBUM: Accoustic Universe
LABEL: Splash International
SERIAL: 00-112
YEAR: 1996
SPONSOR: Allison Lindsay


LINEUP: Allison Lindsay - vocals * Arno Verstappen - accoustic guitar

Additional Players: Fernand Bos - bass * Toss Panos - drums * Ronna Cohen - keyboards * Wayne Cook - grand piano, hammond B3 organ

TRACK LISTING: 01 Words * 02 Angels Scared To Fly * 03 Finding My Way * 04 It's My Life * 05 When Love Finds A Fool * 06 Wake Into Daylight * 07 How Does It Feel * 08 The Voice Of Freedom * 09 I'll Fight For You * 10 Don't Look Back

Challenge are a two piece from LA playing a primarily acoustic oriented sound, mixing the talents of Dutchman Arno Verstappen and vocal chanteuse Allison Lindsay. With it being acoustic, the sound is obviously stripped back a tad but that doesn't mean it loses anything in the final wash up. It demonstrates what can be done when you don't have to rely on a ton of effects, just the quality of the raw music shines through. Just about everyone who's heard the album equate Allison's vocals to Ann Wilson (Heart), however I would like to put a closer comparison to the powerhouse singer Debbie Davis, of the one-off wonders Witness, though in a much more subdued fashion, while the acoustic nature of the sound could be an unplugged version of Heart or even the fantastically talented Jamie Kyle. High praise indeed, but listening to Allison emotion soaked vocals makes this possible. For the most part it's fairly laid back, and reminiscent of acts doing the cafe club circuit or the unplugged thing (who isn't these days?).

The Songs
There are some great moments on here, for me personally I liked the groove laden 'When Love Finds A Fool' which simultaneously allows Allison's vocals to soar and Arno's guitar to breathe melody, while 'It's My Life' showcases Ms Lindsay's powerful voice to the max. 'Finding My Way' has that 90's vibe throughout, and apart from a slow start, 'Wake Into Daylight' does literally wake up by the time we hit the chorus. The ballad 'How Does It Feel' is one of those songs which I fervently believe if it was 'electrified' and given a top notch production by someone like Keith Olsen for instance, would have easily made the charts.

In Summary
By and large, Challenge have some great potential, and they also have a head start in the talent they have to work with, and in which to shape future compositional material and albums. While we're on this subject, I could imagine if the band became 'electrified' that they could sound like quite an interesting proposition, and though 'Acoustic Universe' has been out for a wee while now, it is a good prelude to their new one due out early 2000, which I'm sure we're all waiting for. Bring it on!

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