Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Dreamworlds: A Retrospective By Jon Richards


Dreamworlds: A Retrospective


Jon Richards

Written by

Steve Sheppard


Instrumentalist, composer and all round sublime musician Jon Richards is back, and with that return to the scene, is the release of a vast body of work the artists refers to as Dreamworlds: A Retrospective, it is this mammoth volume of musical brilliance from throughout his years, that we will voyage with today.

There are a multitude of influences within this album, and from many genres too, the opening piece is a fine example of that delicate but forward thinking style of music in Gates of the Sun, a soft pastiche of rhythm hits the listeners ears, and instantly they can be transported to a land and a time of the Inca’s, a fluent and pertinent acoustic Latin guitar, joins in an effervescent combo of keyboards and percussion to bring us our most delightful starting point.

This voyage of plenty allows us to drift in the time waves of one of my personal favourites from the album entitled The Triple Goddess, again Richards’s style and compositional structures take us back through the ages into a time when seasons were explained spiritually, as here in the Hellenistic area of the globe we can acknowledge Robert Graves, whom once stated that Hecate was the "original" and most predominant ancient triple moon goddess. Jon’s delightful and chilled tones gift us on this track a reflective Celtic feel to a sublime composition.

A total shift now occurs through the medium of the next piece entitled Tibetan Spirit, the harmonic and mysterious vibrations here mix a far eastern vibration as we glide on the thermals of the Himalayan Mountains, the flute and percussion add to a gentle vocalisation, to allow us to thoroughly enjoy a beautiful meditative offering.

There can be no doubt that Jon Richards is a talented artist, only he paints with music instead of brushes, and his canvas is the willing and open minds and ears of his listeners, tracks like Asphodel Meadows. In a book I am currently reading, the Odyssey, Homer refers to this land as a place where the majority of mortal souls go to after death; this has such a pertinent beat redolent of the area, and a drifting like narrative that weaves within spiritual dimensions and settles for mid world.

Song of the Seasons is a graceful and high spirited next offering for us to enjoy, the uplifting energy within this fine piece is accepted thoroughly and enjoyed completely, the multi-instrumental flavour of this gave me pause for thought, and its underpinned Celtic narrative and superior quick to reach melody, made me think that this very track could well be a fine single release for the artists if he were to do so.

This has been such an enjoyable ride so far and thank fully we still have many paths through this musical woodland of dreams to travel, such as these next two arrangements entitled, Kunlun - Part 1 and Part 2. This geographical region gives us one of the longest mountain chains on the planet and forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Richards manifests perfection here on one of the most ambient creations from the album, and one piece that smoothly transfers its energies into the following with such grace and tranquillity, one must also add that they are so very redolent of the subject matter, with the latter containing a slight prog element in its early inception too.

The Sacred Tree was always one of my favourite Jon Richards tracks; listening to this immediately transports me back to the Middle Ages, the drum, the rhythm and the Celtic mood is with us once again, in a similar way that Medwyn Goodall did back in ‘98 with his Clan: A Celtic Journey album. Richards has once again captured the moment magically, and his skill set of drawing the perfect musical narrative is well made.

The seasons change, we are currently heading towards Midwinter ourselves, and as such this track at the midway stage of the album fits today perfectly for me, it is called Winterlight. The slow pace of this track is a perfect depiction of this time of year, and Richards’s keyboard pulls a mournful and brooding energy from its tone and timbre, this ambient musical moment of magic is the perfect respite of introspection at this current point of the album.

We can now take one tentative step into the latter half of the release, and as we do so we come across a glistening new age styled arrangement entitled Nature Spirits, it is so good to hear something so calming and yet uplifting from this genre, the percussive elements mixed with flute and keyboards made this a real new age treat to enjoy.

Each piece on this amazing album is rich with colour and filled with a flavour of a musical tapestry you could only dream of, Crossing The River may well be one of those tracks that fulfils your dreams. A slow rhythmic passage could well be the boatman’s oars leading you onward and across the River Styx, regardless, this is another masterfully artistic composition from the musician, one that leads us perfectly into the arms of the following moment of musical genius.

That very song is something we seem to be in need of each year here in Cyprus, and called Waiting for Rain. A soothing narrative accompanies a huge thunderclap; we’re very much on for one of those in the next few hours we hope, here Richards raises the rhythms and manifests a wonderfully fluent and flowing arrangement through the medium of his keyboards, with some careful yet inspiring minor moments of sublime magic as well.

Sunrise over Ganden is our next offering and another favourite of mine, the eastern influence here is superb, again I must reiterate the artist’s brilliance at drawing such compelling musical narratives. The flute and the whole vibration of this specific piece reminded me in part of Terry Oldfield’s Zen: The Search for Enlightenment album from ‘91, but warmer. However when we reach a piece called Evening Prayer we come across a composition that takes us back to a more spiritual time, and perhaps even around a camp fire with elders. The slow and careful keyboards almost create a respectful dance with the percussion and flute sounds that reverberate within this most stunning offering.

We can find other also deeply spiritual tracks such as the Tibetan Wheel of Becoming or the almost hypnotic Spirt Walk, both pieces transport ones senses to the otherworld, to another realm of tranquillity and calm, the softness of Richard’s musical palate is a wonderful thing to behold here, we can close our eyes, and with ease float into a state of meditative bliss with utter comfort.

Jon’s massive body of work certainly does mark his return to the genre of new age and instrumental music, and tracks like the penultimate offering entitled Roof of the World illustrates his intent perfectly, a vast offering with the sounds of the wind drifting around the mountain ranges gift us a pictorial and idyllic image within our minds eyes, this is Richards at his best and most artistic.

I find it hard to tear myself away from this album, but I now have no choice as our voyage ends with this last gift from the artist entitled White Willow, we can leave this experience with a graceful last offering, but full in the knowledge that one of the finest musicians within the aforementioned genre is back, and this incredible body of work represents all that the musician has given us so far, is but an announcement of a future intent of glorious things to come indeed.

Dreamworlds: A Retrospective by Jon Richards isn’t just a good album; it’s a superb collection of carefully crafted instrumental music that should be fit for purpose for any serious music aficionado’s library or streaming playlist, you cannot fault this oceanic sized compilation of master works by Jon Richards, there literally is something for everyone on this most creative of releases.

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