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Soothe by Shambhu
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/30/2017
A truly skillful performance
I have fond memories of Shambhu’s last release, Dreaming of Now, it came at a time when I need a slice of calmness in my life, and after passing through that storm I now sit on my veranda in the sunshine, under the shade of a palm tree in Eden, and prepare to listen to his latest album Soothe.
I can honestly say that this album suits my moment perfectly, and the opening piece is a fine example of pure magical musical construction as you would ever wish to find. The realm of Soothe starts with the blissful Knowingness, a track of total awareness, that is peace filled and so very warming to listen to, apart from the artist genius on guitar, pay special attention to the incredible Premik Russell Tubbs whose soprano sax is sumptuous and the floating ethereal vocals of Kristin Hoffman that are equally delicious.
There was a really charming sense of movement on the piece Time Travel, Shambhu really showed his class on guitar on this composition. The more I listened, the more I felt I was truly being pulled from one musical moment in time to another. This is what I would term as a clever track and the narrative created here by the musician was most appealing, and also very light in its overall feeling. This is one of those pieces you just can’t help but like.
The next offering has a title that would be perfect for an album header, Days Like Falling Stars, and this sparklingly delicate, but intricate composition is as soft as it is soothing. You will find something extra special in this arrangement, as it features the work of Paul McCandless, whose brilliance is featured twice on the album, with performances on both English horn and soprano sax. His partnership on this piece with Shambhu is simply outstanding.
On Devotion Tears we have something very moving, and when you add the slide guitar of Todd Boston into the mix you are of course going to have a total winner of a track. The tempo of this piece is perfection and the partnership creates a sense of expansion to the track, one that feels like your heart is literally opening up to the arrangement.
Through the offering Prelude 2, we have one of the finest pieces off the album that offers the listener a real mixture of styles, ranging from smooth jazz, to blues and back to new age ambience. The guitars of the master here (acoustic and electric) were amazingly graphic and sensually fluent, add to that the soprano sax of George Brooks and you have a perfect eclectic musical gift.
Through New Eyes has such a delicate texture about its initial construction; it was simply a blessing to listen to. The build and progression of this piece really deserves to be listened to multiple times, as you really don’t want to miss any of the intricate nuances in it. A tip of the hat must go to the wonderful Bansuri flute performance of Ravichandra Kulur in this composition.
We now move onwards into the deeper regions of the album and come across a real global fusion of a piece called Gaia’s Sweet Divine. I must admit the name of Kristin Hoffman was new to me, but no more and I must applaud her work on vocals on this track, add to that the almost Ian Anderson styled performance from Ravichandra Kulur and the vibrant percussive work of Jeff Haynes, yes, you have found my personal favourite on the album, a totally outstanding performance by all, and what a wonderfully powerful composition to revel in.
I must admit a secret, my favourite moment on any album is usually the title track, so here it is, its Soothe and for me, I look to this piece for the artist to express himself and the entire concept of the album on a musical canvas. Shambhu has not only taken that opportunity, but has completely blown me away with the performance, a real mixture of moods can be found from him right here, a little emotional lilt is also partnered by an undeniably consistent and classy performance by Michael Manring on bass.
So our last port of call, our last sojourn, our last gift from Shambhu is a lush and sweet piece called Walking Through a Dream. This smooth jazz ending gives us the ever happy and eager listener a perfect ending to an album that is so chilled and laid back, even the passing clouds would drift off into a peaceful reverie to it.
Shambhu has brought together a super group of musicians here to aid his cause and he has been ultra-successful in the outcome. I have listened to many albums this year, but this is one that will stand out as my go to release if I just want to be chilled, sit by (or in) my pool, or just enjoy a glass of wine and be forever grateful that artists like Shambhu and albums like Soothe have been manifested into my reality for me to literally give myself to and be calm within.
Soothe by Shambhu is a slice of musical class, it’s an amalgamation of quality artists who clearly have one thing in common, the drive, the purpose to create music that is top of its class. Shambhu’s undeniably skilful performance on the album is truthfully the best I have heard this year, as a guitarist he is supremely smooth and sublimely confident. This is one album you really have to have in your collection.
Rating: Excellent
Rainbow Road by Nancy Shoop-Wu
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/30/2017
A classy release
Sometimes I wonder, I ponder an almighty question that perhaps can never be answered, just how much good music is in our world that really should get far more exposure than it does? From my experience in the industry, it’s almost incalculable and the very album I am listening to right now is another example a true hidden gem that I am going to reveal to you right now and allow it to bask in the sunshine of our global musical community.
The album in question, this veritable gem is Rainbow Road by Nancy Shoop-Wu. It’s a release that is beautifully produced, it’s an album that glows with a vast array of musical colour and the performances within this collection of melodic tunes are simply sublime.
The title track, Rainbow Road, is the very first pathway we must tread and is a glorious way to begin the journey, the delicate texture and weave of Shoop-Wu’s violin matched with an ever loving piano, is akin to floating on summer breeze and arriving at a musical blue lagoon of crystal clarity, simply a perfect way to start any album.
Listen to Pulelehua (Mountain Butterfly), Shoop-Wu’s violin softly embraces the moment and brings to us, the ever eager listener, the perfect opening piece, listening to this composition is like arriving at a beautiful holiday destination and contains that wonderful essence called the wow factor.
Our next offering is called Lei Hoku (Star of Love) and what ushers forth is like touching the night velvet of the cosmos itself, the added instrumentation only adds depth and charm to the track. The piano and guitar dance with Shoop-Wu’s violin, with a pristine majesty of the brightest star, in the dark realms of the never ending universe. This has to be one of the most heartfelt and loving pieces off the album.
Sunrise Over Haleiwa is up next, and one can really feel the classical over tones of the artists past coming to her aid here. The creation of such a pictorial piece is masterful, and through its construction you can actually watch the sunrise peak and bustle with the start of a brand new day.
Like the musician, I too live on an Island, however many thousands of miles away in Cyprus, but as I listen to the next piece entitled Always in My Heart, one cannot fail to be impressed with the artists wonderful skill on violin, and with each stroke of the bow, we are drawn in further and further. There is a delightful interplay on this composition between piano, guitar and violin that is very appealing, and thoroughly enjoyable, and from that, a very sweet and emotive rhythm is also created for us to enjoy.
Dear reader, we now arrive at the half way juncture of the album, and come across a self-explanatory track called Lullaby, perfectly performed and played. It would be very easy to go to sleep under the stars on the beach to this one.
The piano serves as the gateway to the next song called Waimanalo and with a very stylish performance on percussion by Garin Poliahu, the artists gifts us a delightful upbeat melody that manifests real warmth through its performance, this is also a composition that builds with a delightful sense of power and descriptive poise too.
One can feel the end of a very long day on this song; it’s called Carry Me Home. This time the musician puts her voice side by side with her violin, as she brings us a track that has some heart felt lyrics and, a soft and sensitive performance on the strings. The very gentle and loving vocal textures will ease us into the darkness of another night, beautifully sung and with a lush Celtic motif in the mix as well.
We now move deeper into the release and come across an offering called Beautiful Mana’o. The soft and calming rhythm here is really stunning, the gentle but very pertinent percussion is sublime, it creates great flow to the piece and partners Shoop-Wu’s violin to perfection. This is one of the most exciting tracks off the album without doubt.
Shoop-Wu excels on this next piece called In Your Eyes, her performance here is so deeply moving, one can almost feel the heart beating within her violin. The artist reaches a wonderful crescendo that pours its loving musical caress’s all over our senses; it would be easy to visualize Nancy Shoop-Wu performing this under the summer stars, on her beautiful island of Hawaii.
Our penultimate composition is entitled Ma’nao Rain, this sensitive but picturesque offering will take us to the last doorway of the album. The flow of this piece is almost waltz-like at times, and as such, it has a delightful sense of warmth about its construction. I guess that sometimes even rain can be a cleansing moment to embrace.
We are indeed about to leave the realm of Nancy Shoop-Wu called Rainbow Road, but before we do, lets receive this last musical gift from the musician, it is called Lele Noa (Flying Free). Now as a guitarist myself, I loved the efforts of Jeff Peterson, who performs on guitar within the last three pieces off the album, the bonus tracks so to speak. Lele Noa is a really fun track and I personally enjoyed it immensely, its lightness and vibrancy was the perfect ending to a fantastic album.
Rainbow Road by Nancy Shoop-Wu is an album that is as fresh as a mountain stream; from time to time the industry needs albums like this to give it a kick in its complacency. She has manifested something very special and very unique and it works wonderfully.
Shoop-Wu’s originality is mixed with a little Celtic and new age ethic, balanced with a hint of classical charm, it is an absolute winner in my eyes, so with that being said, I have no qualms of recommending this very classy new release to you, this is one album you really won’t want to miss out on.
Rating: Excellent
Beyond Cloud Nine by Philip Wesley
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/30/2017
A emotional stirring release
Love in its many aspects is an emotive subject on its own to compose an album about and here Philip Wesley doesn’t only do the subject justice, he creates some stunningly beautiful compositions that will make your heart tremble with sheer joy.
From the very opening refrains of “Falling for You” and into the dreamy and gentle “Sweetest Dream”, Wesley’s performance is perfection personified. The artist also creates great movement and colour for us to literally bathe in, listen to “Firefly Light” and be amazed.
There are few who can lay layer upon layer of music so beautifully as Philip Wesley, but on this his eighth album he has raised that veritable musical bar yet again, take some time in the realm of the title track and enjoy the sensation of music from the heavens, Beyond Cloud Nine is not just a beautiful concept, it is a totally charming opus of musical clarity.
As a listener you will have a few delightful sun kissed moments, with memorable short form compositions like “Summer Fields”, “It’s Always Been You” and the sad, but thoughtful, “Reasons for Leaving”. Your exit piece will be the charming “Ripple Across Time”, a track that contains moments of both light and shade.
Beyond Cloud Nine is a collection of 16 extremely passionate and heart felt compositions, it’s an album that has been put together by an artist that plays with sincerity and love. Philip Wesley has manifested an honest and emotionally stirring release that will transfix you with its beauty and quality performances and is utterly recommended.
Rating: Excellent
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