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Notes From Zion by Faith Angelina
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 1/24/2019
Solo piano at its best
In 2017 we saw the birth of a talent that is still building, with the arrival of an album called Reaching 12 by Faith Angelina. Just over a year later, and now a teen, Angelina has already gone from strength to strength, and with her latest release called Notes from Zion, she combines her love of the great national park and her faith, and comes up with an album that is truly magical.
Let’s start this new musical voyage with the young artist now, as we wander through every alleyway of her new release. Starting with Top of the Mountain, now I am sure at some point most of us have had that halcyon moment, when we stand atop of a vast hill and look down at all the beauty that falls before us. Within us we feel the wonder and gratitude of the universal genius that created this beloved nature we are viewing at this very moment. The performance here is simply perfect, the composition starts with a tentative yet picturesque style and then just constantly grows with such an open heart, that by the time the end of the composition nears, we hear such a powerful yet balanced elevation of power, which leaves one filled literally with a sense of utter bliss at its conclusion.
The arrangement of this next piece just happens to be beautifully crafted and this is perfect for one huge reason, it is the title track of the album, that blank canvas, that moment when the artist, the creator, gives us through music her interpretation of the entire concept. Notes from Zion is a truly peaceful opus, and whilst listening to this on numerous occasions, I have found it very textured and meditative to listen to, a fine example indeed of what a title track should sound like.
The next arrangement, Baby Faith has a wonderfully gentle refrain; the high notes give us a soothing musical narrative, one where a childlike energy can be felt. In life we grow and mature with the lessons we have been given in this realm, and this fluent and knowledgeable offering contains just that, a sense of growth and maturity in performance and in all things that go to make us who we really are. Listen particularly to the start and end of this amazing composition; it speaks volumes for the narrative of the overall energy of the track.
Kolob Canyon is part of Zion’s National Park; this is one extremely colourful arrangement, there is a melody here that is completely captivating, the performance style is equally addictive to listen to, and this is one of my favourites from the album. The very classy approach here is truly exciting to listen to and for me shows just how far the artist has come in just one short year.
From one Canyon to another, this time Snow Canyon is portrayed in music by the artist. The beauty of the area is as textured as the track, and just when I think I had found my favourite song another one comes along, this offering has a delightful melody and a sublime tempo to gift us not only a dramatic vista through the music, but also a true sense of movement through it as well, a very clever piece indeed.
The midway point has now been reached and at this juncture we find a glorious piece called The Living Planet. This maybe the most emotive and moving composition from the release and Faith Angelina’s growing maturity can be found in abundance here, with each note played one can see before us a tableau of nature’s grandest moments being played out. This would be one of those tracks to add to your walking or hill climbing playlists, it has such an all-encompassing energy of grandness but respectfulness about its energies’.
There is a change in overall tone on this next offering called Ensign Peak. In my view this is one of the cleverest compositions on the album, and a good deal of thought has gone into showing different perspectives within all things through music, with this composition. There is a sharper edge to the performance here, the intensity seems to be more elevated too, and perhaps instead of gazing on beautiful fertile lands we are looking at the vast width and breadth of the mountain itself. Faith has really pulled off a masterstroke on her performance on this offering.
The softer refrains of the piece entitled Flowing Waters is now upon us, the artist uses her amazing skills to once more create a feeling of movement here, but one that drifts in and out of the eddies of an arrangement that is like painting with musical tones themselves. There is a real lightness of spirit here, one that grows into a sense of excitement, as we can witness through this piece, a sense of almost musical enlightenment occur, a real light bulb moment of a composition is within this offering.
The Narrows is up next and is one of the most visual pieces off the release, each time I listened to this composition I could see the mountain waters cascading down the rocky surfaces, I could see a vast trail before me with so many changes in landscape patterns it was breath taking, and that is exactly where this quite stunning arrangement has taken me. Personally this is one of those pieces I would find easy to leave on repeat with no problem at all for ages.
We have moved to the deep pathways of this album and as we do so we arrive at the pass called Finding Your Why. The artist has had her life struggles and has risen above them all, this one for me could easily be an anthem to her successes, however her performance on piano here is so confident and fluent, perhaps its saying even more, perhaps this is a musical moment of realisation, of happiness and understanding ones true nature in the universe.
The delicate refrains of the keys on this next piece called Angels Landing gives us our penultimate offering of the album. I have a feeling that this one could be quite breath-taking to see performed live. If one listens intently, perhaps we can hear a slight apprehension in the song, one that seems to be witnessing something quite amazing, but a little daunting, for an artist to create something so powerful and intense, with a little built-in sense of concern is simply remarkable.
It could be said of this last offering, This Is The Place, that it holds a similarity in arrangement and energy to the composition Finding Your Why, not in comparison of melody or song, but more in the energy of a performance that seems to quite strongly suggest a happiness, that all is as it should be, or as Dorothy once said “There is no place like home” The warmth and confidence of performance here is sublime and both deeply moving and blissful, what a great way to end the album.
Notes from Zion is a fine example of what can happen, when a young artist like Faith Angelina finds her way in life, in just one short year she has eclipsed her last album and brought to our musical table a release that is utterly fantastic, one that contains many standout compositions and performances, and manifested with such passion, love and determination, I can see this one going all the way to the very top, this is solo piano at its very best.
Rating: Excellent
On the Other Side by Cathy Oakes
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 1/24/2019
A collection of superb piano music
Cathy Oakes is an artist I have known for a few years now, so it is a delight that I get to review her new album On The Other Side. The album is dedicated to her mother who passed in 2014 and is a beautiful testament to that.
We are sometimes blessed to have had people in our lives that motivate us and clearly Cathy’s mother must have been a big inspiration on hers, and the following seventeen tracks are an opportunity for us all to travel on a journey of peace, love and dedication with the artist.
There cannot be a more beautiful opener than the calmness created by the opening offering entitled Hymn for Peace. It’s rare that I get that emotional at the very beginning of an album, but this one really tugged at my heart strings, I guess it’s because we all wish for this despite what country we reside in, and this stunningly compassionate beginning is simply divine in getting over the message of a world bathed in a loving energy of peace and understanding.
The cheerful and happy refrains of From This Day are now upon us, this is a composition of a different colour indeed. Through her performance one can see such a happiness emanate from the piano, there is an almost sense of unbridled contentment that flows from this arrangement, in the same way as when two people take vows at a wedding, such as hope, happiness and dedication.
Cathy’s ability to change course at a whim can be noted with a supreme clarity on this next offering entitled Echoes of Time. Here we have a song that seems to pull us back to a time of sun kissed memories of the past, then carries us back to the current moment, only to once more drift back to an entirely different memory in time again, this is a really crafted performance and one from an artist who clearly is in touch with her musical muse.
Home with Annie is a fine example of the reason for the title of the album, as this is a dedication to a lady who has passed and indeed has been reunited with her partner, On the Other Side. Within Cathy’s pristine performance we can hear such love and unbridled compassion; one also at this point has to applaud the absolute perfection of orchestration within this release and by an old friend of ours in one Doug Hammer.
Now come on, there’s nothing like a good waltz is there, it seems to be coming increasingly popular with our musicians these days, and here Cathy dedicates one to her Granddaughter on the piece Kessia’s Waltz, I think there is a certain vibrancy here you will all enjoy.
Interestingly enough I have recently written another review for a single called Puddle Jumper and now on this album I find myself doing the same thing, only this time for Cathy’s offering called Puddle Dance. If you ever wanted to return to the care free days of youthful puddle dancing, this would certainly be the music for it, lively, exciting and truly blissful, and performed with a huge smile on the face I have no doubt at all.
Flight of a Princess is one of those pieces that will make you tingle with excitement; it’s like going to Disney Land and getting to play the part of a princess yourself. The orchestration of Hammer here is simply sublime and Cathy Oakes performance on piano is uplifting and breathtakingly film score in style and quality, this is officially one of my most treasured musical moments off the album, as there is nothing like a good crescendo is there.
We are now at that point of the album that we are about to drift over the half way marker, as we do so we come across a piece called Lullaby From Afar. The gentle string sections behind this performance are beautiful and took me back to my younger days of fatherhood, now whilst listening to this tranquil offering I think of my two grandsons who are over two thousand miles away from me, and I just smile, here we have an arrangement that is simply timeless and serene and of course creates the perfect musical lullaby.
Just Us is our musical composition that sees us, the ever eager listener, walk happily into the second half of the album. Oakes compassion and performance go hand in hand here, one feels truly moved when listening to this delightful moment of musical love, a love that seems to literally rain from the piano in torrents and one that is as honest and true as the sunrise of a new day.
This voyage of piano with instrumentation has been a thrill to just flow with and on this next piece that thrill is even more abundantly shared, it’s a track called Midnight Tide. This is a wonderfully clever offering as there is a musical juxtaposition being played out here, one of dark and light, one of shade and sunlight, perhaps this composition is created out of the one thing that is never the same each day, life.
Sienna’s Dream is actually a really inventive offering as it originally came from one of the artists Granddaughters who created the theme for the track whilst sitting at Cathy’s piano. Given that is the case, this 9 year old has some talent, the melody and tune is really fluent and quite beautiful and even builds a really nice narrative of happiness within the overall construction of the piece.
We now find ourselves at the longest track off the album at over six and a half minutes, called Ripples on the Water. In ever decreasing circles we live our life, we learn our lessons and we move on, tossing more pebbles into this lake of existence. The performance here is amazing, Cathy Oakes manifests a composition so moving and reflective, it has such a depth and passion about its musical narrative that one could easily get lost in the ripples that drift outwards across this vast oasis of time, without doubt the most reflective and emotive composition off the album.
It is truly hard dealing with grief, I have had to do this far too much recently, but now I think I am getting to the point of thinking not of sorrow, but of the happiness they brought into my life, and for me that is exactly what this next arrangement is all about, it’s called Remnant Tears. The coalescence of sad and happy memories abides within this performance, one that will truly move you like never before.
Now this is an interesting change in course for the artist. Heal Me is the offering in question, the gentle tempo and orchestration certainly does inspire the feeling of healing, and one can also feel through the tone, a change in vibration to affect this occurrence. The arrangement is also perfect to allow a healing session to take effect, one that leaves the listener with a real sense of serenity at its conclusion.
We are now drawing toward the end of the album and as we do so we come across a proud composition called Beloved Promise. There is a certain elegancy about this track that I adore, but the performance also gifts us a delightfully honest arrangement, one that I would feel came from a happiness that can only be found from an impressive sense of magnificence. Oakes plays with such a freedom of spirit here, that it is a sheer delight just to listen to the ever increasing energy of satisfaction.
The penultimate piece on the album is up now, our journey through the walk ways of this album has been long but extremely pleasurable, this last but one offering is entitled Be Still My Soul. This melody of hymn’s takes me back to my childhood and is brought up to date with the precision and respectfulness that only a quality pianist like Cathy Oakes can do.
So here we are, at the very last doorway of the album and if we look above we can read the title with ease, yes this is the title track, and of course called On the Other Side. One feels here that this has been a cathartic journey for the artist, the angelic backdrop is stunning and the unbridled passionate flow here is totally mesmeric and emotional to the highest value possible, of course it is simply the perfect way to leave the album.
On the Other Side is a work of healing for the artist and may well help many of us along the way as well. This seventeen track album is pa
Rating: Excellent
Waiting's End: Solo Piano Volume 1 by Keith Tim Anderson
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 1/24/2019
Music to touch your musical soul
A new artist crossed my path today in KeithTim Anderson and because of this meeting of the musical highways, a brand new and really smooth solo piano album now resides in my collection in the guise of this debut solo piano release Waiting’s End.
Anderson is a story teller, a narrator of fine tunes and within this musical voyage you will find boxes of many memories in our attic of tone and arrangements.
One of the hardest seasons of the year to deal with is autumn, the season of mists, of lengthening shadows, of darker moods, all this is beautifully narrated by the track that opens the album entitled Autumn Rain. The sombre and sensitive performance is indeed like watching the sky cry in late October.
The mood drifts away from retrospection and season and now moves gently toward a lighter feeling of gratefulness, in a track called Here With You. I must say I love Anderson’s style, he has a certain warmth of performance, one that especially can be found right here on this offering.
It is already apparent that KeithTim has a talent for creating great melodies and that doesn’t change, listen to this next piece called Hope Again. This is a fascinating composition, very gentle and almost pristine and delicate in its arrangement, one could almost see a small china doll dancing to it. The tones of the performance seem to give out an energy of future hope within its overall mood and construction; this is a delightful piece.
Last Goodbye is now upon us, the mood has now changed to a mournful repose. The hardest thing to do is to say goodbye, especially for the very last time, something I have done too much of recently. One of the hardest things to do is have the courage to put this emotion into music, and for me KeithTim has not only been successful in capturing this feeling, but has drawn the narrative of it so powerfully, it could well be the sound track for those final moments of farewell for everybody.
We are just about to step over the borderlands of the half way marker of the album, but before we do so, the artist wishes to perform a piece called Long Ago for us. There is a little David Lanz about this offering that I adore, the melody and theme is beautiful and one that is steeped in memory, and of good times.
On the track Photographs we have a really haunting offering, we could for example imagine we are in an old dusty family attic and have just found an album of our families past. The mood in this composition is deeply moving; I actually found this piece really emotional to listen to, it is wonderfully composed with the perfect elevation in power as well when needed.
We are now firmly in the latter half of the album and as we wander through this lush green woodland of music, we come across a stunning offering called Remember When. The performance here is so kindly and warm, one could easily see two elderly people talking to each other on the porch, as the late September sun fades, and he leans into her and says Remember When? This is without doubt one of those pieces you just can’t help but like.
During this musical voyage, we have travelled far and wide and now perhaps it’s time to Rest Awhile. This is solo piano at its best, the style of performance here is like an arm going around the shoulder and saying, just sit and rest for a bit, and then we will move on, everything is fine. KeithTim has the power of narration down to a tee, he plays from the heart and it shows.
We are now approaching the last few tracks of the release and in these deep musical waters we find a superbly fluent offering entitled Someday. A composition of hope and expectations perhaps, but performed with such confidence and professionalism it is a pleasure to listen to, it is almost like an anthem in its increasing intensity at times.
Our penultimate offering is called Somewhere Out There; this is a masterful offering one that plays light and dark with its composition, with the minor and major, creating a questioning mood and suggesting an answer maybe out there, somewhere! The performance here is sublime, some of the best solo piano I have heard for a long while, film score in mood as well.
The very last spot has been saved for the title header; yes we are at that blank canvas called the title track, and as such I welcome you all to the last composition from the album, Waiting’s End. Here is a piece that seems to very nicely sum up the whole album, done with such class and style I may add too, the perfect way to end what has been a wonderfully flowing journey of solo piano.
Waiting’s End maybe a debut solo piano release for KeithTim, but by judging this collection of superb solo piano pieces, I would say he has a long musical career ahead of him in the genre. Anderson really plays from the heart, to the heart, and in doing so touches each and every musical soul along the way, this is one album that will move you and enthrall you at every turn with each note played, one you should perhaps add to your musical collections as soon as you can.
Rating: Excellent
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