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Half Moon Bay by Rick Sparks
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/28/2018
A sublime creation of beauty
I remember being totally entranced with the album Nightfall London by Rick Sparks and now the artist is back with an incredibly beautifully release entitled Half Moon Bay. Like Rick I share in his passion of a love of nature and the sea, I only have to look from my balcony to gaze upon its lapis depths.
On this Ricks fifth album we explore that very narrative of the ocean, nature and the tranquil peace and the serenity that can be found by embracing it. The release is a simply delicious 10 tracks of utter summer bliss and reflection, all mixed into a glorious sun kissed compilation of tranquillity.
My first and favourite selection would be the opening piece Sand and Stars, I adored the major and minor combinations here, the ethereal wordless vocals are so moving that one could literally be there, in the moment, in Half Moon Bay. The natural floating keyboards here are divine. I fell in love with this piece, I could imagine walking in a summer sunset along this mystical beach with my beautiful wife Chrissie, yes this is a composition filled with love and created with the same wondrous energy and to be shared in love too.
Rick has a passion for the incredible talent of The Beach Boys, and surely they must be the musical epitome of the word summer when you think about it. The guitar here is beyond serene and Half Moon Bay, the title track, is as beautiful as the title suggests, I would imagine that Beach Boys Brian Wilson would completely approve of this moment of musical mastery, it is simply stunning.
The entire album is faultlessly magnificent, this for me is how real New Age music should be performed, with sensitivity, from the heart and bathed in love and a sense of tranquillity and peace.
My last suggested moment of genius from this incredibly gorgeous album is the final piece, Summer's Gone, this really moved me; I guess I am feeling that right now as autumn starts to poke its head around the corner of our world on my island. The gentle and reflective energy of this composition and the soft strings sections allows us to wave goodbye to the summer for now, and leave the album in a state of complete relaxation and happiness.
Half Moon Bay by Rick Sparks is one of those albums that only comes around every so often, but when it does one must snap it up quickly, and bathe in its tones daily. Half Moon Bay has been produced and created by the tender soul of an artist who really feels his music and Rick Sparks will be proud of this timeless creation of sublime beauty for many years, they don’t get much better than this, and I would recommend Half Moon Bay in a heartbeat.
Rating: Excellent
Even For A Moment by Gary Schmidt
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/21/2018
A sublime soothing release
I’m now on my third listen to this album, I was just doing some lengthy promotional work and decided to play this release just before I started to write the review for it, I have to say that was the best decision I have made so far today; the whole release is bathed in such a level of calmness and tranquillity, my mundane job just floated past in a reverie of this superb collection of blissful compositions, so let’s all go on that musical voyage with the artist right now.
The first calming oasis is called, If This Is the Time. The melody here is so tranquil, but also deeply memorable and utterly reflective, one could easily listen to this whilst musing on future opportunities, as we watched the sunlight filter in through our open windows and draw patterns of light and shade into our world.
From the perfection of the first piece we now move to another favourite of mine called Inside This River, the piano of Schmidt speaks beautifully, with such a romantic lilt it is delightful to drift with, however when you add in the sumptuous Cello of Hannah Alkirie you have a meditative slice of sheer genius in a five minute plus track you simply never want to end.
The kindly Light That Lights My Face is up next, this is really charming, there is a certain warmth that brings this whole piece into the light, the smoothness and chilled vibe is undeniable and when the careful acoustic guitar joins the dance, the mood is lifted even further in this most pleasing of pieces.
This is Gary Schmidt’s second release in this genre; I enjoyed immensely Landscapes of the Heart his previous album, and here Gary has grown further and expanded his knowledge and on this track has created a superb solo piano composition that could be regarded as truly ambient in nature and called A Train Leaves the City.
On The Breath At Dawn we are in for a real treat as Schmidt is joined by new age flute performer Sherry Finzer and together they create a sense of meditative ambiance that seems to float on the musical horizon with ease. The artist has manifested a musical narration here, one that truly creates some amazing images of a forest walk as dawn is breaking, and adds all the layers of that very peaceful moment into the weave whilst doing so, this as you may imagine, is yet another favourite piece of mine.
I am fortunate enough to have a copy of La vie en piano, Gary’s Classical album in my database. That is stunning, as is this piece called Menuet in G Minor. It is a pleasure to listen to Schmidt in classical mode, I sit here with eyes closed and soak in the moment, and I could be forgiven to think that I have drifted back in time and am listening live to a performance by Beethoven, this is simply magical.
I had been waiting for this to arrive, it is that mid-way juncture of the release and when we climb to that musical pinnacle of the album we come across the delightful title track called Even For A Moment. The strings are an addition that is perfectly welcome and the slight elevation in tempo recharges our energies and fills us with such a sun kissed moment of tone and talent.
The blissful nature of this album can be further exemplified by this next amazing composition called Sub Tide, Schmidt’s constant narrative on piano is added to by the creative acoustic guitar of Roger Schmidt, together they create something of a minimalistic nature, but one that contains such warmth in its arrangement.
We can find a colourful attraction on the next offering entitled Simply By Looking, a piece that has a beautiful elevation and a decreasing of tone built into its musical matrix. The Cello creates an extra dimension of style to one of the most fluent and captivating compositions off the album and one that has an almost film score style to its nature as well.
Crescent Light is one of those crisp and pristine tracks that will always bring a smile to the face and happiness to the heart, the energy in this piece alone is exquisite and while at just under two and a half minutes long it is the shortest track off the release, it brings such cheer and light to this musical agenda.
As we move ever deeper into the album, we come across one of the most beautiful pieces off it called The Light Seems To Move. The Cello is so mournful here, but its Schmidt’s piano that takes centre stage as the master narrator; the artist manifests such a fine array of imagery, one could picture for instance an old country lake and the sun dappled leaves drop down upon its mirror like surface creating fractal patterns of light as they do so, this composition is simply the perfect soundtrack for that event.
On No Better Gift we find a present of musical peace and plenitude, this has all the hallmarks of a composition that is bathed in confidence and warmth. The added flute is a gentle addition truly appreciated, but the charm with which the artist performs here is truly satisfying and welcoming.
Once we step through this doorway we enter a realm of utter class and talent and this threshold is called Adagio for Strings. Gary Schmidt’s sensitivity here is well matched by the tenderness with which his performance exudes. This is a dimension of sound that one could escape into, with a blissful sense of ambience and tranquillity. At nearly six and a half minutes long, it gives us plenty of time to relax in its peace filled realms.
It’s incredible to think that we must now leave this world of music manifested by the artist, but before we do so he has a parting musical gift to perform for us before we go, it is called Postlude to a Moment. This is a fine musical musing, a reverie of our journey with the artist, one that is also played with such style and attention to detail.
Even for a Moment is a musical reminder that we only have, and only will ever have, the moment we currently reside in. With such style and skill Gary Schmidt has manifested one of the most soothing releases this year and brought to the genre an album that will be regarded as a timeless collection of beautifully performed and produced opuses dedicated to the ambience of the now.
Rating: Excellent
Journey of Tears by Monica Williams
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/21/2018
An incredibly passionate album
I have been a fan of flute based music, ever since I found my first Nigel Shaw album back in the 90’s and ever since then the ride has been a magical one, now with this new release by Monica Williams, called Journey of Tears, that journey has become even more picturesque and exciting.
I have an absolute delight, whenever an artist uses the natural sounds of a thunderstorm within their music and Monica does just that on the opening piece entitled Raining Tears. The deep energy of this composition is only highlighted by the power of the storm in the background, and the never ceasing rain which falls like tears from the sky above. This is a passion packed offering to start with, and as such the performance is equally empowering and moving.
The magical ride continues with the bright and energetic song that we have arrived at now called, Conversations Within. The addition of Darin Mahoney on guitar was inspired and adds so much to what is already a truly fluent and exciting offering. Williams on flute excels and shines in her performance on this her debut solo album.
Guitar and flute once more combine on this next and somewhat deeper track called New Horizons. While there is a certain mournful quality about the overall construction of the piece, there is also a clever level of hope built into the composition, thus leaving the listener with perhaps a sense of hope, that on the far off reaches of a struggle, a new horizon will beckon.
The shortest offering on the album at just less than two and a half minutes long is called Unconditional Love. This is a quality of love that is so rare and so barely touched by many, but once done so, life is never the same again. In an amazingly imploring narrative Monica Williams sums up this condition with a breath taking performance on flute.
At the half way marker a rhythmic percussive beat draws us into the musical narration and the flute of the artist manifests a song that is so moving, yet also deeply fascinating and called On the Edge. I rate this to be the cleverest track off the release as Williams sets us up at the mid-way point of the album, with a composition that has an undeniable level of tension; it is as if we are literally walking on the edge of what maybe or may not!
Soothingly we can now caress a new offering called Finding Peace, it may feel that after the preceding track that we did in fact find the right portal to pass into, and peace has indeed be found. The sonic backdrop of swirling, but delicate and peace filled keyboards creates a perfect stage for the narration of that successful find, and the flute of Williams celebrates with a confidence in a performance that is simply stunning.
To be able to ride the winds of life, you have to be prepared to deal with the realities of one thing, Constant Change. We can hear a sumptuous and very rhythm based percussive beat here, enabling William’s flute to relate the mood of the piece perfectly, the keyboards are perfect in their role of allowing the artist to allow her flute to sing loud and proud and with such fluency, on a track that is empowering in enabling us to all ride with the winds of constant change, rather than against them.
I nearly got lost in this next offering called Wandering; there is a certain meditative quality here that captured my senses and drew me far east and into foothills of Shambala. This would indeed be a perfect composition to meditate to and drew so many wondrous images of mountain side villages and snow tipped tors. The flute floats across the mists of some inner dimension in what is the most mystical, but attractive offering off the release.
We have arrived at the doorway of the penultimate track off the album, now I mentioned the great Nigel Shaw in my first paragraph, and the first sounds of the flute here really remind me of his work on Dartmoor Roundhouse back in the early part of this century. Williams on Love From A Distance has produced the same reflective and mournful haunting energies; I could listen to this one for hours, this is flute straight from the heart.
I could stay in this dimension for days, but sadly we have come to the end of our voyage with the artist, but she has one more performance for us before we must leave and it is simply gorgeous, it is called The Great Beyond. This is one of those arrangements that I would call a grandstand piece, it is the longest offering on the album at over eight minutes and if it had lasted an hour I wouldn’t have minded. The wordless vocals of Alexia Nodromia are utterly breath taking and some of the best I have heard for ages while the guitar and Williams flute, depict the sheer vastness of an uncharted realm called, The Great Beyond.
I would have to say that Monica Williams in producing Journey of Tears has probably created the best flute based album of the year and some. The mood set, the narrative and reflection of life and love and its emotional backdrops are simply exquisite. Williams may have just produced her first solo album, but if this one is anything to go by, she is well on her journey and I see a long and happy career at the top of this genre for the artist. Journey of Tears is an incredibly passionate album, packed with emotive and beautifully played compositions, and without a shred of a doubt, thoroughly recommended.
Rating: Excellent
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