MOONRAKER's self-titled debut album on Immergent Records proves to be a strong listen throughout and a very danceable album. Mixing many different genres, such as hip-hop, dance pop, jazz, and ambient music, MOONRAKER has created quite a distinct sound. Kelli Scars's vocals fuse very well with the rest of the instruments. Using her voice as a launch pad, the rest of the band provides the perfect backdrop and compliment to her smooth, sultry vocals.

One thing that sets MOONRAKER apart from other bands that seem to fall in the "trance fusion" category, such as the Disco Biscuits or even Sound Tribe Sector 9, is the fact that they do have a vocalist, and a very good one at that. Ms. Scars's voice is extremely powerful and emotion filled. You can literally feel the music pouring out straight from her heart and her ferocity is equally matched by the music.

Starting off the album is "Shalom," a song one might remember from an earlier, independent release. A strong track, it effortlessly blends a hip-hop beat with Kelli's beautiful vocals. Standouts include track number 5, "The Rescue," which has a real Philly soul feel to it, including a guest horn player, and has Kelli sounding a lot like Erykah Badu or Jill Scott. But Kelli has a style all her own which continually holds the album together throughout and allows the band to move from trip-hop to scat jazz and back to pop with no trouble at all. "The Rescue" has a great hook and also utilizes a DJ, which fits in very well with MOONRAKER's overall sound.

Another standout is "These Walls," which I immediately recognized as a crowd favorite often played at MOONRAKER's live show. "These Walls" has a classic MOONRAKER feel to it, blending hip-hop and jazz to provide an excellent instrumental track to go with Kelli's soaring vocals. Also being the primary lyricist for the band, you get the feeling that these words mean more to Ms. Scars than simply just helping to form a song.

MOONRAKER definitely has the potential to crossover to a more mainstream audience and even get some FM radio play. Almost every track on this album makes you want to get up and dance and leaves you wanting more. The playing on this album is fantastic, especially keyboardists Shaolun's musings. The rhythm section is also very strong, bass and drums work extremely well together, and guitarist David Moltz adds his own unique layer of sonic filled noise that flows perfectly with the rest of the music. If you are into great music, then definitely pick this album up as quickly as possible.

Sam Katz
JamBase | Beantown
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[Published on: 8/19/03]

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