Friday, March 27, 2020

Floating By Pam Asberry

Pam Asberry
Written by
Steve Sheppard

Pam Asberry’s emotional musical constructs have been steadily growing over the past few years, and I truly believe that on this latest offering entitled Floating she has created a masterpiece of a single that will remain in the hearts and minds of the listeners for an age to come.

Floating is as close to film score material as possible, the careful build and progression in this composition is delightful to listen to, and the latter half of the track fulfils a musical narrative that is utterly empowering and deeply moving. A wonderfully fluent and majestic composition indeed and one the artist should be immensely proud of.

Sacred Spaces By Michael Whalen

I’m on a musical voyage again, and I am now wondering if this is the most exciting sojourn through tone and sound I have taken this year, as Michael Whalen is back with Scared Spaces a breath taking new offering from the artist, and a completely new direction from all that I have heard before.

Michael known recently for his lush and moving piano work on Cupid Blindfolded, has delivered a truly refreshing new offering of electronic ambient and new age styles for us to enjoy.

This is powerfully illustrated by the opening piece entitled A Metaphysical Morning, a wonderfully upbeat and literally sparkling new composition that sets the scene musically for us, with one of the most empowering performances on keyboards that I think I have ever heard; this is true music to raise the rhythms.

The title track Sacred Spaces is up next, the combination of synths and keyboards here transports us to a whole new musical realm entirely; this is an extremely smooth performance by Whalen, one that has to be both admired and deeply enjoyed; the mix here is sublime, it’s a track that if listened to carefully, moves you from one space to another with such a crafted sense of movement employed in the presentation.

Ordinary Miracles continues the theme of a brightness of performance and an uplifting narrative, something we all really need right now more than ever. This is one of those pieces that literally seems to create and manifest its own musical dimension as it plays, and in doing so brings us such peace and calm along the way.

A mystical, yet almost airborne energy can be found in the next offering entitled 1000 Paper Cranes. There is a lush floating element within this piece that I adored and one that manifested for me, a great deal of ambience. The slight eastern ethic to the music was much appreciated as well and created a wonderful sense of imagery within the mind’s eye.

At the half way juncture of the album we come across a truly artistic endeavour called The Pure and the Calm, the electronic wizardry here is sublime, the Gregorian chants doubly so, to this day it makes me tingle when I hear that, the ever onward ticking of a musical clock continues in one of the most complex, yet fascinating compositions off the release.

If you have been waiting for a moment of radiant beauty, then you need to look no further than this next piece entitled, An Ocean of Candlelight. The floating synths and delicate keyboards take us by the hand and lead us away to this vision of absolute beauty. I can see the ocean from my balcony upstairs, and I think it would be nice to play this track whilst setting the scene with scented candles under a crystal moonlit sky. If ever a track was redolent of the subject matter it offers, it is this one.

There is somewhere, neither here or there, some call it inner space, others a new reality, here right now on this album it is referred to as The Inbetween. Whalen’s performance on this offering is beautifully slow and mysterious, thus manifesting one of the most emotive tracks on the album, one bathed with such a level of anticipation and mood, it is breath taking.

As we drift into the deeper waters of the album we come across the lively offering we will come to know as Devotion. An upbeat and up-tempo offering indeed, but also one that offers some interesting percussion and a fascinating electronic vibe to its proceedings.

We now arrive at the doorway of the penultimate track off the album; it is called In the Footsteps of the Blessed. Once more the artistic endeavours of Whalen’s performance do not go unnoticed here; there is a dramatic, yet comforting build and progression on this offering that is quite warming to listen to and feel.

Amazingly we are about to cross the threshold and enter the last portal of the album, this final dimension is called The After Life. One may have expected a somewhat subdued offering, but you would be wrong to assume this, there is a repetitive nature to this composition that perhaps offers up the question musically, is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning! Whatever you decide, it is a truly clever way to leave the album.

As Whalen says, it may have taken him nearly 10 years in the making of this album, but he can now add to that, that it was time well spent, and time worth waiting. Sacred Spaces does what sadly some albums in this genre fail to do these days, and that’s uplift the musical soul, raise the rhythm’s and give us something we all crave, hope.
Sacred Spaces by Michael Whalen is one of those albums that you will find incredibly addictive to listen to, it may even become a timeless addition to the electronic and new age halls of musical honour, either way, I am certainly recommending it.

Monday, March 23, 2020

On My Mind By Melany Thompson

It is a rare thing that when listening to a single track I hear in my head the word, “OH my goodness”! This mental exclamation of a happy surprise musically, came whilst listening to the opening refrains from the latest Melany Thompson single On My Mind.

The reflective, yet empowering beginning to this offering really struck me hard emotionally, the mixture of major and minor was so very enticing and meaningful, so much so that I have now listened to this single several times, a real testament to a composition that has such character, class and style built into its weave.

This one has to be a sure fire hit for the artist, a single that I am more than happy to recommend and one that happens to be the best near on three minutes I have spent musically for quite sometime.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Black Canyon By Cadence Spalding

Black Canyon
Cadence Spalding
Written by
Steve Sheppard

There are few artists on this planet that can achieve the same power and intensity of spirit within their music than Cadence Spalding, the very essence of all she creates is stepped in a deep senses of oneness, awareness and beauty.

Her latest single Black Canyon is a sublime release, it utilises such a memorable integration of styles of music, with a mystical and mournful Native American styled flute segment, new age music motifs, and an almost cinematic piano that depicts such a depth of colour and passion, all in this, her latest work.

Black Canyon is one of those singles that you could listen to on repeat for days and still be deeply moved by what you have just heard, how can I not recommend something as so utterly glorious as this.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Appletree By Claus Jahn

The Appletree
Claus Jahn
Written by
Steve Sheppard

It was good to see this album land on my desk for review this morning, as I thoroughly enjoyed Jahn’s last work with Pat Pik on Some Oxygen Needed. The Appletree is the title of this 15 track album of electronic greats, a reworked album that was many years in the making and mastered by Frank Tischer.

With the brightest start possible Jahn lights the way with the opening offering and title track The Appletree, it takes us on a swirling moment of electronic genius that will set the scene for the entire album. I would drift in the Autumn Winds, a piece so mournful and reflective, and then glide on the ice cold synths of Snow Shower.

The production quality and performances on this album are absolutely divine, at times one feels right there within nature with the music; a fine example of this would be my favourite composition entitled Flowers in the Sunshine. An almost mystical energy can be found here, but one that turns into a mental view of the subject matter quickly as the mists of a morning sunrise fade, utter genius unfolds here.

This album is literally packed with classy electronic and smoothly played synth tracks that will thoroughly delight you, why not listen to Night Winds another favourite of mine, Jahn’s style here almost reminiscent of the late but great Isao Tomita, or enjoy the lush tapestry of Aurea Borealis, a night time, multi-coloured and textured offering that is simply beautiful.

The Appletree by Claus Jahn is an album that contains a lush vibrancy about its construction, one so well performed and produced, that even if you have never experienced this style of music before, you will be very glad that you did. The Appletree by Claus Jahn is a veritable art gallery of classic electronic music, each composition carefully constructed and presented and an album that just has to be whole heartedly recommended by myself.

Wood, Wind and Skin By Chasm

Wood, Wind and Skin
Written by
Steve Sheppard

There is always time for something fresh and new in my music collection and this latest release by Chasm - Mark Esakoff and Michael Whipple, certainly fits the bill, and for me in these troubled times, it is a real breath of fresh air that delivers something unique at our musical doors.

This voyage of plenty starts with the opening piece entitled Praying for Rain, a fine example of native styled flute combined with acoustic guitar, and may I add some very delicious minor chords can be found in there as well, this slice of perfection leads us gently towards the next offering entitled Sideways Sunshine. This is a simply deliriously happy composition that powers its way around our minds and ears with a true driving force, one that contains a smart little Jazz ethic as well, it is truly music to make you smile indeed.

As we turn the corner, we find nestled into the weave a fine arrangement called Look at her Glow. The tempo is once again sun kissed and vibrant and the performance builds with such style and panache. Whipple excels here on percussion, on a track that is incredibly addictive to listen to, and one that could easily be released as a single.

One of my personal favourites is Strange Currents; this is contemporary instrumental music at its very best; almost light rock at times, here is a composition that creates such a wonderful depth to its performance, its multi-instrumental nature is beautifully arranged giving a wonderfully rich feel to the overall piece.

I have listened to this next piece several times now, there is something so familiar to its tone, it reminded me in parts of music you may have heard in the 60’s, that light organ/keyboard sound, the flute, the specific percussive beat, meaning that On A Lark is not just a fine track on its own, it may cause moments of reflection to happier times as well through its compositional structure.

We’re climbing now to the tor of the album, but in order to do that we must reach the top of the mountain. Mountains the track has a light ambient feel to its construction that is really beautiful, Whipple's flute here is utterly transcending and the keyboard segment is uplifting and very pleasant to bathe within.

The second half of the album has been reached, here we are gifted a composition of a different colour entirely, entitled Inner Jungle. The Latin styled guitar here was utterly magical from Esakoff. This is one offering that would fit into the global fusion genre with ease, and at times reminded me of the US based band Incendio, especially with the elevation in tempo and intensity.

There are so many personal favourites of mine on this album, it’s quite unfair to choose one, however the vibrancy of this offering is breath taking and quite brilliant and called Agua Blanca. The mixture of Rock, Jazz and a world vibe really made this a track to visit many times over; fine performances on a multitude of instruments by Esakoff and Whipple can be found here.

A lush combination of guitar and keyboards ushered in the next composition called The Memory Box. Now I must remember this one for my next jazz show, it is so fluently performed that it is deeply pleasurable to immerse within. The smooth approach here by the artists is certainly appreciated in what is the longest track off the album and just shy of five minutes.

Time to chill and we can do that with this offering entitled Laguna Sunrise. The guitar here he simply transcendent and offers the listener a moment to possibly enjoy a sunrise or a sunset, the music here would honestly work with both.

There is something quite light hearted and fun about this next arrangement called Element People, this toe tapping composition drives us through leafy country lanes with the top down, in a similar way the earlier offering Sideways Sunshine did, and leads us perfectly into the penultimate offering off the album entitled Arctic Crossing. This is however a mirror image of the preceding track and the keyboards plunge like the temperatures would do in this region of the planet. Artic Crossing is a truly clever arrangement and a performance that I would personally find fascinating to watch played live, the gentle but chilling musical narrative is quite artistic to witness.

So the final musical portal has been reached, but before we step out of this realm of sight and sound we are gifted one more composition to take with us along on our way, it is called The Silence Between the Words. This is the only offering on the album with vocals, but happens also to be a total favourite of mine, the rock feel and guitar here is utterly amazing, the major minor chord change makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, it is simply the best way possible to leave the album.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first hit play, but oh boy am I glad I did, Chasm - Mark Esakoff and Michael Whipple have produced here with Wood, Wind & Skin, one of the most enjoyable, varied and unique releases I must have listened to for ages, certainly this year. Their performance skill, production quality and crafted arrangements must make this a perfect example of how to produce truly interesting instrumental music, and I am more than happy to endorse this one without a shadow of a doubt.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ezequiel By Claudio Casanueva

Claudio Casanueva
Written by
Steve Sheppard

Claudio Casanueva is well known for his utterly transcendent floating ambient works of art and here, on Ezequiel his latest single, he once again creates a stunning composition that is as transcendent as it is beautiful. The synths and keyboards on this composition are so redolent of the subject matter and as I listen to this piece I am minded of the words “Wheels within Wheels” probably the first mention of an extra-terrestrial space vehicle on the Earth.

This is an ambient arrangement that is so very soothing and peaceful to listen to, but one also that will with ease transport you to another place entirely. Casanueva has done it again and has created something utterly majestic.

Winds of Home By Tri Nguyen

Winds of Home
Tri Nguyen
Written by
Steve Sheppard

Tri Nguyen must be one of the fastest growing world music acts around these days, he is literally everywhere and that cannot be a bad thing, as his music is simply delightful to listen to. On this memorable album he gives us a little slice of tradition and childhood, with some very inventive and exciting rhythmic changes and some explorative arrangements.

We can start with a fine example of that through the opening piece entitled “Paddy, Paddy”. This is a perfect place to start, a wonderfully rhythmic version of an old North Vietnamese folk song, the performances here are equally inventive and extremely addictive to listen to, I have spun it six times now and still I find more fascinating nuances contained within each time I do so.

Nguyen is a master of the instrument known as Dan-Tranh (A plucked Zither) and on this next slow paced but quite beautiful opus he has brought his skills to the front of the stage, the performance here is quite moving, mixed with the added instrumentation of violin (Son Mach) he creates a truly colourful landscape of music on “Golden Steps”, a Southern Vietnamese children’s lullaby.

“Piece of Cake” is an exciting musical interpretation of a tale about a young boy and a stolen cake, the violin and percussion manifests a disco style, and thus the musical narrative gained has created a wonderful juxtaposition between the past and present, and all done with such charm and vibrancy.

The clever performances within this album are a pleasure to listen to; the crafted presentation of this next offering is sublime in its musical textures, and entitled “From Afar I See Thee”. We can feel a level of emotion pour from this piece, and the almost symbiotic performance from Nguyen (Dan-Tranh) and Mach (Violin) are utterly heart felt, and steeped in the energies of a love yet to become.

Now for something completely different, we arrive at a piece called “Tweet & Love”. Note the slow but ever increasing tempo to the inevitable crescendo, there is so much in this piece to take note of, the rhythm at times is distinctly Tango, and other fusions may also be apparent to the listener that go into making this track the most fascinating off the album.

One of my personal favourites would be this next offering from the artist and it is entitled “Ten Reasons to Love”, it also happens to be the shortest track off the release, however there is something truly addictive about this offering, it seems to spin and swirl around you, and like life always in a circle, a fine performance indeed.

This is the one; I arrived at the track “Sweet Lies” and found heaven in a musical narrative bathed in the longest offering off the album at well over six minutes long. This is a true band performance and almost blues-like in its energies, so let’s mention the team. On Double Bass we have Huan Do, Violin Son Mach, and Percussion Dru Nam; on guitar we have Tri Nguyen. Tri Nguyen excels on this fabulous piece, while Huan Do on double bass pulls off what I can only describe as a true soul touching performance. I can see this is one track I am going to be playing for years to come, simply brilliant!

Our penultimate offering is the sparkling composition entitled “Flowers”, once more we see a delightful global fusion of a musical tapestry, a multi-genre crossing endeavour as Salsa meets world music, bows to jazz, and jumps into a blissfully happy colourful Latin/Vietnamese lake of truly masterful music, and yes, you have guessed it, another absolute favourite of mine.

So we end this wondrous musical experience by hopping on the back of the “Ebony Horse”. Tri Nguyen finishes with a flourish here on this offering, a fluent and fast paced song that illustrates new beginnings and exciting opportunities that can be found together. There are a few memorable performances here; notable is the extremely powerful but crafted percussive presentation by Dru Nam that ends this quite breath taking journey for us.

Winds of Home by Tri Nguyen is an exciting musical sojourn that will bring thrills, emotion, passion and great colour to its listeners, it is without doubt one of the finest example of global fusion styled music I have heard for many years, and it’s infectious vibe and pristine performances will doubtlessly make this an absolute winner with the fans and listeners alike, this is certainly one I am more than happy to recommend.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

A Classical Meditation By Gary Schmidt

A Classical Meditation
Gary Schmidt
Written by
Steve Sheppard

My passion for classical music has been a slow burning desire ever since I was introduced to Holts Planet Suite by my father in my mid-teens, quite an accomplishment you may say, garnishing interest from a teenage boy with regard to classical music, but over the years that passion has grown and now my appreciation of the genre has expanded experientially. Now that love of good music has drawn me closer to an artist who ‘s work I have been more than impressed with for a few years now in one Gary Schmidt, and it is a journey through the classical piano realms, with a meditative view point we must now travel.

A Classical Meditation by Gary Schmidt is the artists follow up album after the huge successes of his previous release in 2018, Even For a Moment, here Schmidt takes his more contemplative side and mixes it with his classical roots to bring us a truly masterful release to enjoy, perhaps on those moments when we wish to just relax in the candle light, or to simply watch the clouds pass on a summers day.

Schmidt has produced something truly charming here with this album that will certainly fit a mood-setting scene with ease, like his version of Adagio From Concerto in Dm, a soothing narrative and performance can be found here. With the mood set and the lights low, enjoy Schmidt’s performance on Etude No2, the touch and tranquil energy that reverberates from the piano on this piece is blissfully special.

Schmidt is a truly accomplished classical pianist, but this album allows him latitude to express his new age skills in the mix of a classical setting, listen to pieces like Claire De Lune, originally penned by the maestro Debussy, Schmidt not only does the composition proud, he literally excels and draws a wonderfully artistic narrative, one that further enhances the inspirational poem of Paul Verlaine to different musical galaxy entirely.

The very nature of this album is the tenderness and subtly of tone it is performed in, Gary Schmidt expresses this further with the piece Pieces Froides - Danses de Travers No1, we will visit the work of Satie again later on within this charming album.

Tracks flow with such an abundance within this release and I am sure that the evening will pass by with such joy by listening to arrangements like Nocturne in Ab, it was so nice to once more bathe within the waters of Chopin once again. They seem to cascade around us with offerings like the quite beautiful Fur Alina, a new composition, but one that would grace an ambient show with ease, and then on and into the regal energies of Piano Concerto No2, a work of genius can be found here, and that was something that I believe that was levied at Rachmaninoff once he had created the original work back in the early part of the 20th century as well.

Gary Schmidt is such an accomplished performer and pianist, he has a style that is technically gifted, but also plays with such warmth as well, a listen to pieces like the unforgettable Moonlight Sonata (First Movement), will certainly emphasize that point entirely, and a piece I have loved ever since I can remember, or this next composition Canon in D, another absolute favourite of mine, I now have a few versions to choose from, but this piece originally by Johann Pachelbel is a fine example of Schmidt’s warmth of performance, much like the next offering Nocturne in C#m, I am so happy to see this included on the album, and especially so as it gifts us the ever eager listener an example of Schmidt’s technical skill set, a vast and precise one at that.

I did say a return to the world of Eric Satie would occur and we are now at that juncture, Pieces Froides - Danses de Travers No2 is a crafted performance that is so incredibly listenable, and followed up with something that may be familiar to many classical followers, a glowing version of Ravels Concerto in G (2nd Movement), a concerto of utter fluency indeed, and Schmidt’s performance is simply transfixing.

This album is packed with such meditative moments of musical magic, with that in mind and in the deeper waters of the release we can find Orfeu et Eurydice - Melodie. Christoph Willibald Glucks work may not be known to many, indeed it was my first introduction to his artistic endeavours, but Schmidt’s performance here is not only picturesque, but classically brilliant with every note played.

The penultimate offering of the album is a splendid moment within the realm of grandmaster Beethoven’s court, Schmidt tackles Symphony No7 with almost laser precision, and delivers us a perfect rendition, one finely balanced and with a sublime build and progression within the musical narrative of the arrangement.

I mentioned Holst to begin with and the second piece of music my father would give to me would be this quite emotional work, New World Symphony (Largo). This has to be one of the most romantic and expressive pieces created by Dvorak, and a master stroke of utter genius by Schmidt to end the album with it, a superb performance it has to be said can be found here too.

A Classical Meditation by Gary Schmidt is a truly wonderful hour plus of quality crafted performances by the artist, ones that all have a meditative quality to them, but all also have that magical sparkle, gifted to them by an utterly professional performance by Schmidt himself. Gary Schmidt has with this brand new offering created an album of classical greats, and made the music completely accessible to all, regardless of whether you were already a fan of this style of music or not, Schmidt has taken it to a new level with this release, and the blissful performances you will find on this recording, will be a sumptuous meal for the musical soul.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Song Of The Wind By Oscar Pascasio

The Song Of The Wind
Oscar Pascasio
Written by
Steve Sheppard

The whispering nature of the wind has and always will be a mystically exciting subject matter to explore musically, and when you have a pianist like Oscar Pascasio performing, that makes it doubly exciting and enticing. Pascasio is a painter of tone and sound, and on this brand new single The Song Of The Wind he not only manifests something so memorable and charming, his skill set brings to the performance something deeply moving as well.

This is a class arrangement, sometimes so imploring in its narrative and at other times so touching. The textures created by Pascasio makes this single one of those pieces that you will find your self whistling all day long, but you won’t even remember doing so, a beautifully reflective opus and a totally classy single indeed, full marks Oscar Pascasio.

Something Between You and Me By Oscar Pascasio

Something Between You and Me
Oscar Pascasio
Written By
Steve Sheppard

Oscar Pascasio has a talent for creating lush and colourful musical narratives on the piano, ones that are full of passion and packed with such a charming story telling ability, here on this latest single entitled Something Between You And Me we have just that and more, written with his beloved wife in mind, Pascasio bears his soul and thus allows his muse to create something truly meaningful, deep and passionate, and above all else completely heartfelt.

The delicacy with which the artist performs here is something to admire, and his classy ability to create crescendo from such a temperate melody is simply outstanding and makes this composition absolutely undeniable as a single release.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Born Out Of Chaos By Vicki Logan

Born Out Of Chaos
Vicki Logan
Written by
Steve Sheppard

It’s been some four years since her last album, (Sound Paintings) but flautist and composer Vicki Logan is back with a breath taking new offering entitled Born Out Of Chaos, interestingly enough that feels like the title header for my existence on this planet this time around, but what has been born from chaos, can be enjoyed in balance and peace, and this brand new release is a veritable voyage of plenty.

The album is best listened to as a whole suite, but for you today, we will take one foot at a time through the landscapes of musical brilliance created by Logan. We start with the Native chants that ushers us into the realm of track one entitled “Gathering Of The Mystics”, a piece hovering with anticipation, power and a magical energy that almost crackles as the piece progresses into the next arrangement called, “Summoning The Storyteller”, percussive genius can be found here that lays the foundations for the moment, listen carefully to the flute in the background as it approaches us.

The story and sojourn through time begins as the first tale is told, that which is, “In The Beginning There Was Darkness”. The synths here create a wonderful Native American vibe and partnered with the percussion deliver something quite empowering and confident; there is a blissful energy about this composition that creates a tingle up the spine and up and down the arms, in one of the best tracks off the album.

By no strange coincidence it happens that I am working currently with the wolf in my shamanic meditations, the great teacher and protector, so it is with glee that I listen to this next offering entitled “Spirit Wolf”. Logan’s mix here is amazing and in parts reminds me of UK flautist Niall. The glory of this offering is wonderfully empowering, and with ease one could imagine a white spirit wolf with glowing yellow eyes, making his way through a snow lined forest.

As the wind disappears and the mood settles down around our camp fire, an elder reaches for the talking stick, he closes his eyes for a moment, and then begins his tale about “The Creation of Man (Miwok Legend)”. We can now listen to this tale be told with a mystical flute playing in the background, as the night falls we can hear the crackling of the fire as we take in the words with care and respect.

It is time after our story of the Miwok legend to ponder a little, we can do that in nature, the backdrop for this mental perambulation about life can be done by listening to this next short form composition entitled, “Thinking”.

The creaking of the wind through the trees sounds like the spirits of nature are talking among themselves, and of course they are, so we now return to the fire to listen once more to our story teller, his words of wisdom this time are from an ancient tale indeed, “The Creator Visits (Micmac Legend)”.

This splendid narration of the legend has left us with plenty to think about and to raise the energy and lift the power, so it is now time to enjoy the most rhythmic arrangement off the album entitled “Rising to the Challenge”. Beautifully played by the artist, this moment of flute and percussive beat is performed with such colour and fluency by Logan.

The roll of the drums instruct us that another teacher is about to give us his words of wisdom through “Legend of the Flute, Part 1 (Brule Sioux Legend)”.  Elk medicine is indeed powerful, indeed one of the most powerful, and is a symbol for stamina, endurance and patience. The flute of Logan performs a mournful repose on this one, a track packed full of dream like refrains, which leads us perfectly into one of the most important legends of the music world, the creation of the flute, and the backdrop for this is the wonderfully played “Woodpecker Creates Then Plays The Flute”.

This fascinating tale allows us to then listen further on “Legend Of The Flute, Part 2 (Brule Sioux Legend)”. Thus the story of the flute has begun and this spirit like performance by Logan is utterly transfixing in its content and performance, and ever since the visitation of the Woodpecker in the dreams of a young man’s passion.

This voyage of story, tone, tale and beloved instrumentation has been a blissful journey to have taken, and amazingly so we are now at the penultimate offering off the album, this gift is called “The Secret Place In My Dreams”. Logan has created a wonderfully ambient sanctuary within this composition that simply delights the soul, the lightness of both flute and guitar create a wonderfully colourful and peaceful dimension to visit.

So we have come to the end of our musical meet, and it is time to close the circle, we can do so by enjoying this last offering from the artist called “Celebration Of The Warriors (United We Stand)”. Logan’s deep resonating flute is indeed a call to all warriors, those of strength, abundance, power, healing, harmony, clarity and light, all that we do is in a circle and it is within this circle that we must stand united. Logan ends this utterly hypnotic album in the best way possible, with a stunning performance that you simply never want to end and one that will be running around in your head for ages to come.

Born Out Of Chaos is a marvellous collection of musical tales that are brilliantly performed by an artist that is truly aligned with her musical muse, the research done and respect paid the to the Indigenous peoples of the many nations is glowing and heartfelt. Vicki Logan has taken her time and produced one of the most in-depth and fascinating albums of the decade with this release, and one that I truly believe will be a sure fire winner with her fans and the public in general, this is musical story telling at its very best.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Bad Seed by Scott Lawlor

Bad Seed
Scott Lawlor
Written by
Steve Sheppard

This new release by Scott Lawlor maybe the darkest he has ever manifested, and deals with a subject that as far as I can remember, may have never been done before, to create an album to deal with the emotions, occurrences and feelings from a unique perspective about child abuse.

This seven piece suite starts with the opener The Pain of Memory; the perspective here is deceptive to say the least, we hear a child’s laughter while Lawlor performs a gentle, almost childlike energy on the keyboards, but there is a deeper sense within the weave of this offering that needs to be looked into, as hiding in the shadows of this track is something so dark, so terrifying you may just miss it, listen carefully to this piece and feel the intensity and apprehension of what is to come.

This is one of the most impressionist albums I have ever heard from the artist, but he is in a fine creative flow currently. The second labyrinth on the album has been reached, and upon the frame of the doorway is the title marked The Regression Room. Without doubt an eerie sense of foreboding can be found here, one that wouldn’t go amiss in a Tim Burton movie. The sterile environment of a mind yet to be bent to a will unknown is laid here brick by brick, and one can feel the child like innocence and a creeping movement of unreality forming all around.

Boiling Rage, a track that is self-explanatory perhaps, here Lawlor brings us a menacing backdrop of ambient tone, it is a kin to a Crow landing upon a carcass seconds before commencing its feeding frenzy, but on the cruel winds of this quite powerful piece, is one of the best performances on keyboards and synths I have heard from the artist, as he draws us a compelling, a riveting and an utterly alarming musical narrative; the cleverness of a hovering anticipation of utter fear is felt here like never before.

The title track is behind our next dusty door, Bad Seed is before you, imagine being told you were the sum of all evil, a worthless cocoon of skin wrapped around a pointless skeleton, from abuse comes guilt, from guilt comes, the constant reality of bargaining with a higher power, the result of self-blame and laying in the basement of utter self-loathing is a true Bad Seed. Lawlor’s talents excel here in manifesting a world free from the one thing we all crave, hope.

We now move to my personal favourite room within this dark dimension, it is entitled The Bleeding Soul; from the energetic refrains of this track, it peeks in through the tattered remnants of my palace of pain, my cathedral of ugly memories. Lawlor’s skill at creating a hidden dimension of mournful abandonment is breath-taking, his manifestation of these hallways of despair is literally mind blowing, the organ sound here is one that I love, but one I fear the most, as it is the creator of musical shadows of nothingness.

There is within this realm of mists a way out, a way past the deceptions of pains rich tapestry of lies, a doorway to another reality free from it clutches, and now if we cross this next threshold we will find this very emergence of a possible sanctuary, one that is entitled Haunted Memories. Time is the saviour, and from what was once a razor cut so excruciatingly tender, after a while it becomes part of a tale of past hurts and sufferings, but growing within is a slow, but ever onward intention, a curative essence of recuperation. Lawlor draws us a misty image of the vagueness of hope with his synths, and does it in a way that even the most hardened of us can feel the possibilities of an opportunity to rebuild, slowly begin to grow once more.

The last room to visit before we vacate this land of dark musical mists is entitled Healing Scars; this is a magnificent composition, one that contains a wonderful sense of arrangement, the string like sounds and the choral effects are transcendent and draw a final line in the sand for our protagonist, after all he has survived and finally won the day. The sense of craft here by Lawlor to leave the album like this is well noted, and much respect has to be given.

Bad Seed by Scott Lawlor is without doubt one of the most dark and heart rendering albums I have had to review, it took me back to a few hallowed halls of hell myself, but through music we all heal, through the splendid ability to be creative, this gives us a sense of precious hope, and Scott Lawlor has done just that by producing one of the most poignant albums this year with ease, an album narrated with tone, a dark sense of ambience and an inspired sense of genius that go into illustrating perfectly, the suffering of an innocent, and the  eventual long road out of nowhere, an exceptional release indeed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Return Of The Cherokee By Wayne Bethanis

Return Of The Cherokee

Wayne Bethanis
Written by
Steve Sheppard

I first came into contact with the proud Cherokee Nation between the years of 2005 to 2010; I spent 5 years in Oklahoma and learned much from their ways and teachings, so it is with absolute glee that I get to review the latest single by Wayne Bethanis, featuring the simply awesome Marcus Skowall on flute and entitled Return Of The Cherokee.

Bethanis is on an absolute roll musically at the moment, and is now being touted of as one of the most productive, prolific and successful pianists of his time. This new offering is simply a wild ride of fluent vibrant piano, with a deeply spiritual and masterful performance on flute, one that seems to wend its way through the forests of tone with such confidence and with such a powerful sense of passion as well.

This has therefore once again, created another amazingly addictive release for the artist, one that is going to be another sure fire winner without a shadow of a doubt.

From the Beginning by Joey Curtin

From the Beginning
Joey Curtin
Written by
Steve Sheppard

Life holds few surprises for me, who could have imagined back in 1972, that 48 years later, I would be writing a single review for From the Beginning originally from the Trilogy album, by one of my favourite all time bands, Emerson Lake and Palmer, now revisited and released as a single by pianist Joey Curtin.
Curtin, it has to be said, has done the track proud and in my personal view has added an extra layer of ambience into the composition. This is even more bizarre for me as I also sing this piece, and in the style of the late but great Greg Lake, I can hear the words in my head now. So far I am up to my third play and I can see it won’t stop there.
Joey Curtin, congratulations this is indeed a magnificent version of a truly beautiful song, or as Greg would sing “You see, it’s all clear, You were meant to be here, From the beginning”.

Impressions by Shoshana Michel

Shoshana Michel
Written by
Steve Sheppard

I have been in a very reflective mood recently, this mirror existence I now have to call home just doesn’t feel like the dimension I used to reside within, so what better place to go than to seek sanctuary, and to do so in music. For me this has become a little easier today thanks to this brand new release by pianist Shoshana Michel and her latest offering Impressions.

The first foot falls take us on the perfect ambience of reflection, in the piece Imagination. The performance here is moving, but also deeply reflective, for me, this is one of those tracks that you might watch the rain trickling down the window pane on a cruel winter’s day, and your thoughts are of times when things were much brighter.

As we move into the next room of music opened by the artist, we come across a piece called Dancing in the Shadows. Firstly I adore the title; it is graphic and allows the mind to create images and day dreams, with this being so, perhaps the piano tells the tale of a lonely ballerina, she glides around the room as if in remembrance of a time long gone. Yes, a piece with a real sense of loneliness and almost mournful in its overall manifestation, which in its self makes it utterly brilliant.

On Quietly, Gently, Peacefully we have a handsome composition that is so beautifully played it is an honour to listen to it, at times almost classical, but on all occasions wonderfully transcendent, and performed with such a classy sense of warmth.

We mentioned the feeling of Loneliness a moment ago, now we can hear the actual sound track for this deeply reflective emotion. From the despair comes a strange beauty, this is called artistic genius, and once more we can hear that within this most mournful of arrangements.

So let’s flip that coin and gaze into Alice’s musical looking glass, where if we look in all the right corners and deep pockets of time, we can see happiness and cheer flowing in abundance. On Joyful Moments Michel has created something quite clever, she has manifested an up-tempo and positive piece, but one that retains the overall energy of the album, and all done with such a cleverly crafted performance on the piano.

There is a place on the album called the fulcrum; we have now reached that point as we touch the half way marker of the release, and as we do so we come across this mysterious yet incredibly colourful opus called Pierrot. Here is a delightful composition, one played with such charm and sensitivity; it’s the perfect segue into the latter half of the album.

Slowly we descend into the deeper realms of this moving release, and as we do so there is a reflective arrangement called Prelude in E Minor that literally demands to be listened to. The fluency here on this piece is so wonderful to listen to, one that flows with such grace into our next offering entitled In My Dreams, one of many favourites of mine from the album, this is a real memory palace of a track, a performance so sublime that is seemed to create a myriad of musical pathways as it progressed.

A peace filled refrain can be found on this next offering entitled Nocturne in E Flat. A 2am in the morning composition, a time when you gaze out at the inky black night sky and wonder at the sheer beauty of the sky above in all its transcendent glory, this is the soundtrack for this moment of magic with ease.

From one moment of time into another, from the mood of the warm days into the realm of mists, as we now listen to the track Summer into Fall. Once more perfectly played to give us the ever eager listener a track of memory, but also of hope, and followed by another magnificent opus called Yearning, a song of a different colour maybe, but the performance on piano is so good, it is like you are being told a tale of an unrequited need by the artist, musical story telling at its best here.

Elegy is our penultimate offering, one played with such respect and professionalism, a piece that borders the dimensions of the classical; it is a requiem to the past, a poem of a heart felt truth, one performed with such delicacy.

So we now have arrived at the final point of departure from the album, this last gift from the artist is entitled Long Ago and Far Away. Any artist will always look for the perfect departing composition for an album, and this is it with ease. There is an anthem like energy about the piece, one that reminds me in compositional style as well to the master David Lanz, and that can’t be a bad way to finish.

Impressions by Shoshana Michel is a collection of memory packed piano arrangements, each one personal to whoever listens to it. Her performances over the years have increased in texture and presentational style, this album is another step up the ladder for her and is an album that will allow each and every listener several moments of reflection and remembrance along the way, a colourful, moving and delightfully enjoyable release to listen to indeed.