The Tribe, Abe Messiah (Sanctuary, 2001)
[originally posted 19Feb2002]
These days, it’s the rare country on the planet that hasn’t been made aware of the New Zealand young adult-themed show The Tribe. America is, unfortunately, one of those rare countries, thanks in no small part to the operating budget of the channel (WAM, a part of the Encore/Starz network) that has exclusive American rights to the show. The Tribe has been making waves all over Europe and Asia; the upcoming season 1 DVD releases are in the top 2,000 ranked Amazon purchases at amazon.co.uk on preorders alone. Why? Because aside from the obvious draw of soap opera, the show’s producers, Cloud 9 Entertainment, did their best to come up with a top-notch cast of actors. Most every main character in the show, and not a small number of minor folks, have a respectable number of film and theater credits backing them up given their ages. Some of them also have relatively extensive musical backgrounds. So the producers hatched on an idea—why not have the cast sing the John Williams-written theme song? Meryl Cassie (Ebony, on the show) took lead vocals on the opening theme, and the closer is an ensemble piece. Both hit the charts almost overnight. Next logical step: an album.
I never thought I’d say it, but John Williams, phone home. Only a scattering of the other songs on the album approach the genuinely likable show-framers, “The Dream Must Stay Alive” and “Abe Messiah” (both here, thankfully). It’s hard to fault the producers of a TV show for teens and starring teens for coming up with the idea that they should try to imitate ‘N Sync and Britney Spears as much as possible, until you realize that one of the things that makes those first two pieces so fine is their complete lack of SyncSpearsness. Oops. The album also shows signs of the same overproduction that tried (and failed) to make just another pop star out of Michelle Branch; while the main vocalists here (Cassie, Caleb Ross, and Vanessa Stacey) are all at least in the same league as Branch on vocal delivery, it’s be nice to see what happened if Cloud 9 gave them a shot at writing their own material.
Okay, now that I’ve spent two paragraphs complaining about the album I should probably explain why I’m giving it three and a half stars. It’s above-average SyncSpearsness, and there are a few other tracks that are clearly worth repeat listens (“Abadeo” and “You Belong to Me” being the first two that really caught me). Mostly, though, it’s for “The Dream Must Stay Alive” and “Abe Messiah.” Hey Cloud 9—if you happen to be reading this review, you can quintuple (at least) your American fan base
overnight by releasing these two as a single and getting the show on a basic cable network. Trust me on this. *** ½
Music video for the title track.