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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 KeithTim 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
Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind by Pam Asberry
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 1/24/2019
One of the best holiday albums
The art in creating a really good holiday or Christmas album is to manifest a performance so warm, that the listener is there in front of his or her tree, watching the snow fall outside the ice covered windows, and listening to the logs crackling on the fire, that ambience and narrative is perfectly manifested on this latest release by Pam Asberry called Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind.
What I was so impressed with here is the content, some compositions, even I did not recognise, and those I was more familiar with were arranged sublimely by a musician who is clearly on a role with her musical muse. Take track one for instance, a composition that dates back to Italy in 1917 and entitled Gesu Bambino. This is such a gentle offering, so well played by Asberry that one can almost feel the childlike warmth emanate from the music.
Pam Asberry as a pianist has that creative edge that simply delights the listener, and on the following piece called Sing We Now of Christmas, we have another European offering originally from France; this has a mood all of its own and can be dated back to the 15th century. Asberry brings this up-to-date with a performance that is both empowering and imploring and is one of my favourite piece from the release.
The well know Wexford Carol is now upon us, this 18th Century Irish composition is as beautiful now as it was then, the performance here by Asberry creates exactly what I said in my opening statement, manifesting warmth and memory filled moments of this time of year, with an arrangement that is both stylish and fluent.
If you have never heard this next piece, then where have you been? This has been performed by many, sung by some, and played by Asberry here with such energy of the holiday season. I was in a reverie with this one, for some reason I imagined Bing singing with Pam on piano, now that would have been something to have watched! Yes, White Christmas must be the ultimate track to play at this time of year.
I have felt thus far very emotional whilst playing this album, fond memories of my late parents and wonderful Christmas times with them and of course my children, all these compositions bring back those heart felt memories and a few happy tears. Speaking of children, this one probably more than any other hits home, and of course I am referring to Away in a Manager. This may appear to be a simple tune originally created back in 1887 by John Ramsey Murray, but Asberry’s performance here is not only clever, it is incredibly moving as well, and a nice use of the minor chords can be found here which takes it into a whole new level of musical class.
We have arrived at the half way juncture of the album and come across one that I personally have not heard until now and entitled Over the River and Through the Wood. The aged mood and composition thus created has a wonderful sense of a time worn arrangement that stands still proudly to this day, dating back originally to the 19th century. Asberry’s performance here retains the charm and manifests a sense of a lightness of spirit to add into the mix as well.
We move back now into the well-trodden paths of Christmas classics as we come across Bell Carol Melody. This is a perfect opportunity to add another log on the fire. Pam Asberry doesn’t only do this Ukrainian composition justice, she takes it to a whole new level, with some of the most colourful musicianship you’re likely to hear, pulling back and then raising the rhythm’s seemingly at will, making this an utterly charming offering indeed.
I have always adored In the Bleak Midwinter; this has to be one of the most descriptive, from its birth in England in 1906 and fathered by Holst, this would be the one I would always remember my father singing on Christmas day while he cooked the seasonal meal, now that’s a nice memory to have isn’t it? I am sure when you have listened to this version by Asberry, you will have had a few memories brought forward into your mind’s eye, and perhaps also enjoy the creative arrangement that much, that you may well buy the album and play it this holiday season as well.
Now it’s time for something quite powerful and regal and called March of the Kings, which draws its originality from the 13th century, okay, so you’re going to listen to this and know you have heard it elsewhere before, but lay that to one side for a moment and enjoy one of the most prolific performances that Asbery has perhaps ever given, power, grace and almost a little pomp and circumstance too, all mixed with a style that contains such an amazing helping of flair.
From the power and the glory of the previous offering, this song comes as a pleasant moment of a peaceful interlude for us, as we take in the refrains of Still, Still, Still. This Austrian composition from 1865 has all the gentleness required to make your listening even more pleasant. Asberry utilises her creative mastery perfectly on this piece, to give it a grand feel, yet not in a fashion that could be described as ostentatious. This dances perfectly as we listen, and the melody I am sure will live in your mind for a long while to come.
The penultimate piece is the well-known 19th Century French composition called He is Born. A proud and quite energetically fluent performance can be found here, but the gentleness of the previous offering is still here on what is indeed a classy arrangement indeed.
It’s now very late on Christmas Eve and one could almost hear a mouse stir in the pantry, so let’s move onto our very last offering from the artist and this one is called Come, Let Us Anew. This is from my homeland of England and created by James Lucas back in the 19th Century and is our finale with our Christmas sojourn with Pam Asberry and a better way to leave the project you would never wish to find.
Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind enthralled me for most of the morning, it created an atmosphere of Christmas, it recovered lost memories and reintroduced me to others, it narrated a certain warmth of this time of the year for me, and I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. What is so good here is that Asbery has not done the obvious, but really researched her subject matter brilliantly and brought to us some unusual offerings, mixed with a smattering of classics and laid a few favourite songs at the bottom of our musical Christmas tree. Thankful Heart, Joyful Mind has to be one of the best holiday based albums I have heard for absolutely ages.
Rating: Excellent
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