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Once Upon A Time by Mark Barnes
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/2/2017
Everything you need in an album
Mark Barnes has produced many gems in his musical career, and from the creator of In the Beginning comes a brand new compilation of moving and emotive melodies called Once Upon A Time.
The very first footsteps are the moving and magical Lulu’s Lullaby, the gentleness of performance is so evident and so calming, but it also has a wonderful flowing narrative of calm running throughout the composition.
As we continue these early gentle musical footsteps into this brand new release by Mark Barnes, we come across a composition that is so very restful, it’s called Believe. Marks skill here is sublime; he produces something so delicate that one could with ease fall into a blissful and peace-filled sleep. The narrative of this piece reminds me of the golden age of New Age music, but the master narrator Mark Barnes continues this perambulation through the mists of sleep with the amazing and outer worldly, Drifting. This moment is captured with perfection by the performance on keyboards, and its angelic tones allow us to drift on the wings of peace with consummate ease.
The tempo is raised for this next one called Simple Pleasures. There’s something very sun kissed about this composition, one could easily imagine this as a road trip anthem, the full flowing and happy narrative runs with the energy of a summer’s day, the windows open, the music playing, as the shards of sunlit shadows caress our senses as we travel.
Valentine's Rhapsody is up next and a lusher cinematic composition you won’t find on your musical travels. There is something very emotional about this offering and the nature of that passion can be felt within the performance on an arrangement that seems to quicken like the beating of the heart. This is one very clever composition by Barnes and credit must be given for its compelling narrative.
A complete change now as we lay in the arms of a reflective piece called If I Could Go Back in Time. Barnes allows the tempo to drop and as he does, he creates something we haven’t heard the likes of since Mike Rowland’s “And So to Dream” released back in 1993. This is an arrangement with a charming sense of wonder and again has that cinematic energy about its construction.
We now arrive at the half way juncture and come across one of my favourites from the release, it’s called Anthem. This one really moved me, each hair stood to attention upon my arms as I wrote and, I am so very glad that this opus of a proud emotional nature is just shy of a blissful 5 minutes long. Barnes has built in a wonderfully layered symphonic energy to this piece that is so deeply moving. I rate this composition to be one of the best arrangements that Barnes has ever written.
Dreamcatcher felt very familiar to me, that melody seemed timeless, but very memorable, this song is so very gentle, so I began to visualise the Dreamcatcher in my bedroom, just gently blowing in the late summer afternoon breeze, for me there is something so very simple and easy about this one, a track I just love to pieces and reminds me a little of Holland Phillips last album Circles of Eight. I can see this one will be played relentlessly on my shows, it’s truly addictive.
This whole experience known as Once Upon a Time just keeps on getting better and better, we now arrive at a little laid back, easy like Sunday morning piece called Morningside. As I swing my legs out of bed I can see the palm trees and at the end of my ocean drive the sea, the blue of the clouds and the dust filtering, dancing on the sunbeams, this music inspires me to create this description for you, it’s simply divine.
A more thought provoking piece is upon us now and called The Gift of You, for me this has all the hall marks of a ballad bathed in unconditional love. Barnes performance here is emotive, but it’s more than that, he manifests a melody that screams through the darkness of the night, ‘How can I ever be alone, when I have the Gift of You?’ Simply sublime, simply beautiful, at every corner and turn of the composition.
The resonance of Walking on Air takes us to a whole new dimension of performance, once more that cinematic element is there, and also the energy of freedom either through dreams or running in the early dawn dew. Barnes has once again used his ever growing knowledge of composition here and manifested something that is truly remarkable and energizing.
We are now very deep within the weave world of this album, and as such we have travelled to a musical land known as, The Whisper of Leaves. It’s good to hear the slight use of pause on this piece, and then the elevation of power as the wind perhaps shakes the cadence from the day. This track also has a wonderful sense of movement built into its arrangement, it is as if the leaves themselves are performing a dance for us, and perhaps they are.
The penultimate offering is that glorious moment of the title track and of course called Once Upon A Time. Mark Barnes as a composer has the fluency of a mountain stream, the music runs free within him and through this piece we can feel that honesty and that love for his art. At just short of 6 and half minutes, this is the longest composition off the album and one that we can literally ease back to and enjoy each and every nuance.
Now be prepared for this last track, as we leave the peaceful world of Once Upon a Time with a little rocky up beat number called Get With It. If you’re a regular listener to One World Music Radio, you may recognise the voice introducing the piece as the one and only Bruce Gall, presenter here at my station. A totally unique way to leave the album, but one clever enough to feature both of Bruce’s loves Rock and Electronic music. Always a good thing to do, leave the listener with a smile and a good feeling and this track certainly achieves that.
Once Upon A Time by Mark Barnes is an album of 14 tracks that takes you, on a journey through sight and sound, that at all times is both blissful and memorable. You have everything on this album that you would ever need reflection, peace and tranquillity, a heartfelt moment of deep emotion and a little fun. Barnes should be proud of his creation and I can see this being very popular with both listeners new and old.
Rating: Excellent
Reaching 12 by Faith Angelina
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/2/2017
A deeply emotive album
Faith Angelina may be the youngest person we have ever interviewed so far, but she has a story to tell, that many three times her age will not have encountered. This however has given her a unique perspective on life and from that over-view; it has matured into a sense of music that has become a sanctuary of tranquillity and a place of creation.
The story itself is well documented in the interview that we did with her, but here and right now, Faith Angelina takes us on a personal journey through her debut album and we start at the very first open window entitled, Run with the Wind. As a 16 year old child this is exactly what I wanted to do myself, my life was out of control and all I wanted to do was run as fast as I could into the only thing that had never let me down, nature. I feel the same energy in this piece, there is a certain tempo set here by the repeating motif and a colourful melody of freedom attached, and one compliments the other with ease.
I found Sunday Morning Rain a real memory jerker, Sundays as a child for me were always bitter sweet and through the tones and incredible fluency of performance one could with ease see the artist sitting by the window, watching the trickling water fall like tears from the grey skies above.
On Easter Lilies we have a piece that contains a gentle narrative, its short form structure supports a really light essence and the really crafted performance here is a treat to listen to.
The next track has a really tentative nature about its composition; Finding Hope has more than one dimension to it, it’s myriad of musical doorways to open, and a pathway of tone of an imploring nature can be found here. The smooth yet empowering performance here is quite breath taking, so much so that I have now listened to this piece four times and still I find more to enjoy.
Our journey with Faith nears the middle part of this exploration of musical awareness, and as we do so we come across a really dramatic composition called Lost. There is a darkness that sometimes we don’t notice and when it wraps its cloak around us, we simply get lost in its web, but there is hope. This powerful and moving arrangement has something truly special, its narrative is evident, but the fluid melodic structure reminds me of early David Lanz.
Seasons is our half way marker and as we take a break we can listen to the artist create a memorable offering that seems to span all four nature changes on our world. Listen for the change in style and tempo around the one minute twenty second mark that shifts up a gear and manifests a subtle movement in time and then slows back down in a shifting and repeating pattern which is completely addictive to listen to.
I had heard this track the other day on the radio and was extremely impressed; it’s called Eye of the Storm. Faith Angelina has created something here that is not only redolent of a storm, but of standing right in the middle of one, that eerie sense of quietness, and that very obvious reality that at some stage all hell is going to break lose. This is without doubt one of my favourite pieces from the release. Its extreme graphic nature is a pleasure to enjoy, and be a willing part of.
We now move to a track called Abuelita. Now I believe translated this means Grandmother, or little Grandmother. Regardless, this is a piece that has a real warmth to it, one that welcomes you in and offers you a glowing drink, that will bring comfort and happiness to you when you’re not at your best. For me this is what I would term as a real feel good track.
Once more the fluidity of performance shines for Faith Angelina on this next opus called Chasing Rainbows. The tempo and repeating motif gives us a sense of movement, but there is also a wonderful sense of colour and light here as well that can be enjoyed. This has to be one, if not, the most picturesque arrangements on the album.
This musical journey has been a real cathartic voyage for the musician and on Sunny Days she continues to explore that theme further. Just as I started writing about this piece, a sunbeam burst in through my studio window, perfect timing on a composition that contains an ounce of sunshine with every lovely note played.
Our penultimate piece is called Saying Good-Bye, this has to be a fine example of what we’re about to hear over the months and years ahead from Faith Angelina. I adored this track; it has become a real favourite of mine, the melody and over all composition reminded me in performance of Elton John, with its driving narrative and use of minor and major chords. The slight break towards the end was clever and well crafted, allowing a change to occur; this was stunning and reminded me of the work of Doug Hammer on his album Heart. This has to be the finest work from her to date, and one track I wished would never end, but like everything, we have to say goodbye to it all at some stage.
Our last offering is called Twelve, now while I struggle to remember back that far, what I do remember, is that this was one of the most difficult times of my life back then, leaving the child behind, as the teenager emerges and young adult hood comes knocking on the door of life. This offering pretty much sums up that feeling and shows the change occurring, the interplay of child hood and adult hood in music is perfectly illustrated here.
Reaching 12 is a remarkable collection of empowering and moving works from a musician so young, yet so talented, one can only dare to imagine what wondrous opuses will flow from her hands, with a few more years on the clock. Reaching 12 is an album that fans of solo piano will lap up; it contains all the right ingredients to reach dizzying heights in the charts, and will carry the listener on a deeply emotive and honest musical journey, perhaps even one that may as cathartic, as well as entertaining for them as too.
Rating: Excellent
Year's End by Matt Marshak
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/2/2017
An album that creates peace and serenity
Is there a better time to chill? Im sitting by my studio window, gazing out on an almost perfect autumn day, the sun is creating the most beautiful shadows you could possibly imagine, and November is a plethora of light and colour, the accompaniment to this reverie is Matt Marshak’s release Year’s End.
From the very opening I felt refreshed and relaxed, as the refrains of Peace and Joy washed over me. The quite blissful performance on guitar here made this the perfect opening foray, into a new voyage of acoustic guitar based music.
Thanksgiving Day is another fine example of the warmth that Marshak creates with his guitar, from each note played, the artist draws us a homely picture of gratitude and hope, the slight change of tempo now and then, only adds to the lush quality of the composition.
I used to adore taking a walk in the forest, now with the track Walk in the Forest I have the best soundtrack ever for these perambulations of the mind. The depth of performance here is really creative and very enticing; one can truly feel like they are walking through a sun dappled forest, on the edge of time itself.
We now go short form on the piece Great People, although only around two and a half minutes in length, Marshak has created a complex, yet light hearted narrative in the arrangement, one that is both appealing and rhythmic.
Winter is a whole new ball game living in Cyprus; we have abundant sun and a good deal of warmth, unlike the days in the west, the cold of the Winter’s Day always made a harsh landscape harder to deal with. Marshak on this composition creates a slow, but not a sombre piece, one that warms the hands, fingers and toes, a veritable piece to sit by the window and watch the snowflakes fall.
I applaud the artist for this piece, as musically we have attained balance. The Light of Spring is something to revel in, the artistic skill on creating the narrative here is sublime and the spring we seem to be exploring is an early one, the careful and sensitive guitar really draws a tentative vista of early March brilliantly.
Once more the professionalism of Matt Marshak comes to the fore with the middle segment called Leave Your Worries. We arrive at this juncture with a fairly upbeat arrangement, one that helps across the borderlands of the album with a stylish ease.
Deep Within was one of my favourites pieces off the album, as a guitarist myself I love to use minor chord’s and draw a slow and mood filled atmosphere into reality with my performance. Marshak does that to perfection right here on this track Deep Within, a composition that wends its way around each musical bend with a caring and tentative step, in what is a truly clever arrangement.
The soothing Rest My Child is up next, a perfect night time song, or one to calm the furrowed brow after a bad dream, the childlike resonance here is gentle and so relevant, so settle down your sleep head, it’s getting late the sandman said, your dreams are waiting.
The intriguing This Old Barn is up next, the finger picking style here reminded me for a moment of Bob Ardern. The guitar seems to be almost telling us a tale of this location with each strum and pick. I found this composition the most fascinating off the album.
We now move ever onwards and come across a remarkable piece called Echo. I had to play this particular offering a few times and noted that each time I did, I found something in it I had missed. The narrative here is wonderfully crafted, giving us a feeling of an inner reflection occurring within tone and mind, a superbly performed and skilful opus of sound and soul can be found here.
This very piece featured on my Reconnections show, a broadcast bringing the very best of acoustic guitar based music to the planet. That track is the aptly titled Harvest Song. The artist once more becomes the painter of tone and harmony; he uses his musical palette to show a golden autumn sunset and a job in the fields well done for another year. This piece oozes absolute class from every pore of its existence.
Our penultimate offering is based on a subject matter that is so very close to my heart and called Along This River. The subject matter is so dear to me and now this piece is as well, it depicts with ease a wonderfully sunny autumn afternoon and a gentle walk by a beautiful slow moving river of dreams.
So we arrive at the last window to the album, but before we sneak in and close the latch behind us, let’s just listen to this very last offering from Matt Marshak called Baby’s First Snowfall. The final parting of the ways, but music for a new beginning and a memorable occasion, a very clever way indeed to end this blissful musical sojourn.
If you ever wanted an album to turn off the stress and ease the mind and body back into a far more chilled resonance, then Year’s End is the perfect panacea to cure all ills. Marshak’s sublime skill on guitar will bring you a heavenly landscape of harmonious pitch and ambience. Year’s End is an album that everyone should have if they wish to create an atmosphere of peace and serenity, as the year draws to a close.
Rating: Excellent
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