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Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow by Ann Sweeten
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/29/2019
Beautiful and emotive
There can be nothing more harrowing that a journey through Cancer and Ann Sweeten is doing this for the third time, but sometimes from that darkness can come great clarity, great wisdom and a true appreciation of the very fabric of life itself, perhaps even a oneness of spirit. On Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow, Ann performs with her heart on her sleeve and bares her musical soul, in an effort to allow us to perhaps see the things that we take granted in a different light, perhaps with a little more humility and gratitude along the way.
The opening offering is called Across The Midnight Sky, I personally found something quite hopeful and reflective in this one, in the way that one does whilst looking at a fading sunset in the hope of a better day tomorrow. The delicate nature of the performance by Sweeten on the piano is something to enjoy, she is partnered by a soft and calming English horn, courtesy of Nancy Rumbel.
The title track is up next and entitled of course Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow. Sweeten is at her most creative on this arrangement, one that is quite ambient in parts, but also melodic too. Sweeten is joined by Nancy Rumbel on English horn and Eugene Friesen on Cello. This is tapestry of musical thought and projection, created out of memories of the past, the reality of the present and hopes of a future yet to unfurl itself. The string section on this offering are truly beautiful, and the charm with which Sweeten plays is a real treat to listen to.
Beyond The Clouds is a sublime moment of ambience that I could easily sit and listen to for hours; I gaze up right now into the blueness of a summer’s day and watch the fragments of a few errant clouds drift past my window. Sweetens performance here is divine in creating a mood of blissful acceptance, perhaps a realisation that we are part of something much greater than we can perceive. The composition is beautifully played and with such a high level of sensitivity it has to be applauded.
The Empty Swing had a depth of sadness about its structure that was so profound and moving, Sweetens performance here was deeply moving and with the assistance of the master violinist Charlie Bisharat and the English Horn of Nancy Rumbel, we have an arrangement that manifested a moving opus of emptiness, in some way the swing could be telling the story of a past, some redolent memories of times gone and then, emptiness.
I have felt strong emotions during this review and those were enhanced further through this next composition called Saying Goodbye. The emotive nature of this took me back to 2012, the time when I had to say farewell to my first wife after her 5 year Cancer journey and after 34 years of marriage, which was the hardest thing to do. Here Sweetens song of goodbyes has a sense of healing within it that I find somewhat appealing and the multi-instrumental nature of the track is utterly embracing in all ways.
The coldness of this next piece is explained in the scientific nature of the composition being that it is the chromosome that is responsible for Ann’s latest Cancer journey, this is a hard piece to listen to, it is deeply mournful and will move you to tears. Sweetens piano is steely, as if depicting the unfeeling nature of the beast, then a juxtaposition of performance can be found with the string, horn and cello sections, they create from the darkness of the pit, the very emotional state of the performance, in the piece we now know as Philadelphia 22.
The most intriguing composition for me was this one, called Vanish. This could of course apply to anything we are losing or have lost, for me it comes at a time when I have pledged my alliance to all things green on the planet and saw a documentary the other day about the destruction of our polar caps. I can hear within this piece the opportunity of creating a composition of great power and sadness for this frightening occurrence, the multi instrumental nature of this arrangement is wonderfully cinematic, and Sweetens performance is among the best she has in my opinion, ever done.
I found this another difficult one to write about, Lullaby for Blackie Boo. I have two dogs, one of them I chose, and when the time comes to lose them it will hurt very badly indeed, but one must find solace in the great times had whilst alive. This is what this song does for me, written about the passing of one of Ann’s dogs, it gives me a reflective pleasure from all the laughs and fun we had, and I’m getting emotional now, so that must show you just what an excellent piece of emotive music this composition actually is.
Through Winter Panes is another ecological masterpiece and one that is of course close to my heart, being the nature boy that I am. The colourful energy of Sweetens wonderfully fluent performance is sublime; we’re also treated to a little more Soprano Saxophone from Premik Russell Tubbs, which adds just another wonderful dimension of classy music to this already charming arrangement.
Quite breathlessly we have found our way to the very edge of the album and we come to our last piece, this parting gift from the artist is called Like Smoke Through A Keyhole. A more gentle way to leave the album you will not find, we’re even gifted a sensitive performance on flute by Trisha Craig as well. Sweeten closes down this album with a picture perfect parting gift and then the music disappears into the ether, perhaps like smoke through a keyhole, gone, but never forgotten.
With a team of consummate professionals behind her, Ann Sweeten has pulled off a masterstroke of an album, one that will stir your emotions, that will leave you deeply moved, that will inspire you as well perhaps, but hopefully one that will leave you, in total gratitude of this most precious of things that we are blessed with, life.
Before Today, Beyond Tomorrow in my view is Sweetens best work so far, it challenged me to give myself to the moment and the music and at the end I had found an element of healing within its tones. This is an album created by an artist who clearly is in touch with her musical muse, the performances within are pristine, beautiful and emotive, and is an album that if you wish to add something of total quality to your collections, you simply must have at all costs.
Rating: Excellent
Timeless by Mikuskovics Baum
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/23/2019
A fully enjoyable musical experience
Mikuskovics Baum have created a real treat for us with the release of this album right on the winter solstice, and called Timeless. There is another first here as well; this is the first album I have ever heard a Jewish Harp played on and remarkably well too I may add.
So let’s start of on this new journey of peaceful vibes with the longest piece off the release called Timeless Zenith, at just over the 11 minute mark this track gives us the perfect opportunity to get into the mood of the entire album. The Harp is sublime here and a true emotional vibe literally pours from its strings, kudos to Georg Baum, while the flute of Bernhard Mikuskovics has such an imploring tone, one that literally demands to be listened to and enjoyed.
We now move to Intuition Element. The sound bowl here is beautiful, I am lucky enough to have a couple here as well and they always create a nice resonance. There is a delightful progression in this offering that is so pleasing to listen to, the addition of a Celtic harp adds a luscious texture to the overall nature of the piece. This offering would be best listened to frequently, if for no other reason than to pick up all the little nuances inside, like the over tone singing for example, a very fine and incredibly created composition indeed.
The aforementioned Jews Harp is included on this next piece called Mirror Ideal, while Baum performs his usual magic on harp, Mikuskovics brings to the musical table a sublime performance on flutes, namely the Quenacho and Fujara, this is an arrangement that is so very listenable, the melody is one of those that will literally stick in your head all day long.
The pleasure here is that most of the tracks on this album are of a medium form length, over 6 minutes but under 10, this gives us the listener plenty of time to walk among the tones of excellence provided by the duo, one of these moments is this offering which I adored, Emotion Trance. A moody and reflective offering indeed, Baum manifests his classy brilliance on a harp that really tugs at the heart strings, while Mikuskovics pushes that emotive quality to the next level with sublime performances on Native American Flute, Khomus, Horn Pipe and Ocarina, now this is what you call multi instrumental genius at its very best.
The strange thing is I keep thinking I have found my favourite track and when I do so, the very next piece jumps into its place. Life Land is amazing, the tone and mood is set superbly from the off, a sound bowl creates all the energy we need. Baum’s performance on harp here is light and colourful and his fluent and impressive showing here is so very smooth. The enjoyment I obtained from listening to the flute of Mikuskovics reminded me of the early work of UK flute performer Nigel Shaw, in what in my opinion was the lightest offering off the album.
I can gaze out of my window now and look upon the lapis blue of the sea, a winter storm rolls across its horizons, this next offering is absolutely perfect for my midday musings and called Endless Ozean. Here the duo keep it simple and form a symbiotic partnership between the harp and native flute that is so very calming to listen to. I wish I could include the roaring of the thunder that is above me into this piece, it works so well from my reality, but this for me has to be the most attractive sense of musical ambience I have heard for quite some time, simply and delightfully beautiful.
Amazingly we have arrived at the very last portal of this dimension marked as Timeless by Mikuskovics Baum and called Same Source See. After listening to this I couldn’t think of a better way to leave this album than with a track of this quality, one that includes the multi instrumentational armoury of Khomus, Quenacho, Mojave Flute, Sruti Box, and Parmupill. Add to that a timeless performance on harp from Baum and you find a piece that is so very pleasing to the ears, heart and soul.
Timeless by Mikuskovics Baum filled me with a sense of happiness, I realised that with albums of this supreme quality, means the new age music industry is indeed in safe hands. The multi instrumental performances, the smoothness of style and production created for me an extremely enjoyable musical experience, one I know you will have as well, this is new age music at its very best.
Rating: Excellent
The Light Within by Juliet Lyons
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/23/2019
A rare panacea of musical delight and bliss
There are occasions when you are working away at something and from the far reaches of the room you hear something quite amazing, so much so that you stop what you’re doing and ask just “what it is that I am listening to?” This is exactly what happened to me the other day, when I heard my wife listening to The Light Within by Juliet Lyons and now here I am reviewing the album, how lucky I am?
This beautiful sojourn within music starts with the first track entitled Lokah Samastah; this piece features the talents of Rupesh Menon and is a beautifully fluent and uplifting offering that is simply the perfect way to start an album of this style and content.
I have heard it said that listening to Lyons is like listening to the angels calling across the great galactic divide, this would appear to be so, especially when you literally bathe in this next piece called Om Shanti. Of course a very well-known song in new age circles, but this is one that stands out, not only for its multi-instrumental nature, but the sublime class of Juliet Lyons amazing vocal range and harmonic sensitivities.
At nearly seven and a half minutes Flow is the longest offering off the album and gives us, an opportunity to just be, to relax totally in a pool of harmonic bliss. Those gentle but rhythmic Tabla’s drive the journey and the Sitar creates such a sublime sense of oneness all around us. The floating nature of the track and the choral brilliance of Lyons, created for me my personal favourite track off the album, so just, flow!
From flow, to Calm, now here we have something fresh, new and exciting, the lyrics are quite emotive and reminds me of my past, when my wife would say to me, just breath, its ok, be calm. I think personally this should be released as a single, I am pretty certain it would be a massive hit. The vocals are so touching and beautifully delivered that it truly moves the soul; the percussive beat is modern and incredibly crisp, again another favourite of mine.
The piano leads us into a really gentle instrumental offering now called Dawning Equilibrium. The delicacy of this piece is pure tranquillity on a bed of freshly grown serenity. The soothing tones of this multi-instrumental composition is indeed perfectly balanced in all ways, and leaves the listener with a sense of emotional bliss, one that raises the energies as it goes but always retaining that much needed equilibrium.
I had been looking forward to this track, it reminds me of that time of day in the very early hours of the morning, just as the sunrises and humanity is still largely sleep, and it’s called Stillness. Juliet Lyons has a voice that seems to caress your senses with the ease of a white dove taking flight. The serene dimension that this piece manifests is well worth spending a lot of time in; I also have to mention the strings within this offering, as they are so very endearing to the musical palette.
As we move forever onward into this new realm of angelic music, we come across a composition called Eternal Now. Note first the foundations created by the dreamy keyboards, and then a subtle acoustic guitar joins the amazing Ron Korb on flute for a simply breath-taking opus of sound. The mantra is the now, something each and every day I align myself with, after all what else is there other than this eternal now? The balance and positivity of this song is an anthem for us all.
One of the most fascinating songs off the album for me personally is called Heal You; it reminds me of a band I use to adore in the early part of this century called Kin Za Za. The production on this track is so addictive and beautifully layered, and another that could possibly be labelled as potential single material. Allow the music to heal you, this is a musical opportunity to simply bliss out and enjoy a moment of tranquil vocals by the artist.
It’s quite incredible to think, but it’s true, we are at the penultimate piece off the release and this final but one offering is a gift called The Light Within. The tone of this song is perfection; I could drift away with ease to it. I also found something quite healing about this piece as well; however that was more than likely due to the incredibly well-crafted build, construction and progression of the composition, one that is a real stand out piece among many, another anthem perhaps?
We reach that final shoreline of musical mastery and as we do so Juliet Lyons presents us with one more song to take along on our way, it is quite simply called Shine. The messages in all you do, with each breath you take are just shine. The performance by Lyons is both meaningful and sung with an honest intent and an open heart. This has to be simply the best way to leave an album of this nature, one that will leave the listener filled with both love and joy.
The Light Within by Juliet Lyons is a revelation and a real shot in the arm for the vocal wing of the new age genre, something that had been needed for quite some time. Lyons floating, but pristine vocals are a treasure to listen to, especially as the artist creates an all-encompassing collection of great compositions that we can all relate to and get something from. The Light Within by Juliet Lyons is one of those rare panaceas of musical delight and bliss.
Rating: Excellent
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