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Lilac Skies by Shambhu
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 5/6/2019
One of the most sun kissed releases of the year
I am totally in my element here, this is the sort of music that I could listen to all day long, Shambhu has such a delightfully fluent way of playing the guitar that it seems to just drip off the fingers like warm Honey on a July afternoon, it simple doesn’t get any better than this.
Lilac Skies is a journey I take willingly, and if you also voyage with me through this stunning new release you too will find a place of musical bliss and a sanctuary of heavenly tunes as well. The very first offering is the title track Lilac Skies, smooth jazz at its very best can be found right here, the charming techniques that Shambhu employs are masterful and majestic moments of crafted genius, the percussion here is also some vibrant, but respectfully chilled.
As a guitarist myself when I listen to albums like this I feel a sense of inspiration. On the piece called Unspoken Words we have a composition that actually speaks a thousand words with no need for speech at all, the guitar is the voice, one that creates such an imploring tone that you simply can’t help but be moved by it, utterly delightful and deeply moving indeed.
Dochas, now the only thing I can recall is that this maybe the meaning for hope in Gaelic, if that’s so the energy that this piece gives off, and the distinct Celtic vibe with the flute and ethereal background vocalisations, has captured the mood perfectly; this is one of those compositions that is instantly likeable and one that you want to hit the repeat button with multiple times over.
Apart from the title track this arrangement was one of my favourites, it’s called Blue Whispers, the sensitive vibe here is beautifully partnered with an almost rocky blues style ethic which is truly exciting; there is deepness to this piece and the performance by the artist is utterly sublime and classy at every turn, the skill set used by Shambhu is breath taking here, and at times I could have sworn I was listening to the smooth slow hand of non-other than Eric Clapton.
Time to pause and take a breather as we listen to the piece that ushers in the half way marker of the album, this is a simply idyllic acoustic offering called Pondering When. This is one of those tracks that reminded me of Black Sabbaths acoustic composition on their 70’s release Sabbath Bloody Sabbath called Fluff; of course the two songs are nothing alike at all, other than to give us a few moments of ambient guitar to enable us to breathe and enjoy the reverie of the moment.
When we hit the first few bars of Open Your Heart Sky we realise that this is a track of sublime quality, the multi-instrumental nature of this offering is of the highest quality you could expect, and one must also applaud the use of the organ within the construction of the song, followed by some simply radiant keyboards and a real driving percussive beat, this is what you call real music.
There is a certain lightness of spirit on this next offering entitled Dream Walk, the essence of musical awareness here is divine, one that created for me a true feel good moment, the guitar employed a wonderful fluency that literally seemed to float all around me as I listened, the keyboards and added instrumentation seem to gather energy as the piece moved onwards and created on its conclusion one of the finest pieces off the release.
One of the most unusual pieces for me was Basis of it All, this offering gave us a greater understanding of the talents of the artist Shambhu, I have no doubt in my mind he could pretty much play any style offered to him, however on this piece we have a track that seems to build like a rock song and then morph into a stunningly vibrant pop composition and with a smoothness of transition, then back into a charming contemporary instrumental arrangement of sheer quality, what a very clever piece indeed.
The longest piece of the release is a track called Inspired by the Night and at well over seven and a half minutes long it is a delectable opportunity to literally bathe in some utterly sublime tones of guitar based magic. The pertinent percussion here is also a treat to enjoy, as is the brass work as well. One could feel the energy of a warm night in September, the glow of the street lights in the city down below. Shambhu on this offering delivers a performance that the likes of Robert Cray would have been proud of; the piano here is also part of this classy vibe, one that manifests something so listenable, something so graphic and attractive.
I almost feel sad now, I have just realised that this is the last track off the album; it is called Seeing You Again. The energy of this piece and the performance on it is indeed like a musical farewell of sorts, but we will see you again. Smooth and tranquil, light and almost ambient at times, this simply has to be the best leaving piece you could ever wish to end an album with.
Lilac Skies is going to be one of those albums that will be played relentlessly by me all summer long, it is so very listenable and all inclusive. The performances on it are ones of the highest qualities, and Shambhu’s guitar constantly rains down notes of triumphant bliss with a professional consistency right through the album. Lilac Skies will give to the listener one of the most sun kissed releases of the year, if any album could be described as cool then this one would be king.
Rating: Excellent
Voice of the Ancestors by Grayhawk
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 4/23/2019
An album of pristine beauty and quality
There can be nothing more heart rendering that the loss of a loved one, especially a child, one so young, innocent and pure. This tragedy has touched the life of Grayhawk and is the very substance to which the opening piece of the album is all about, it’s called Transcendent Soul. I have listened to this piece now on multiple occasions, the arrangement, whilst moving and deeply emotive, has such an elevation of energy about its construction, one that fills you with hope and with a tear in the eye, one can feel a sense of purpose about life.
Grayhawk and Voice of the Ancestors is an album of masterful quality, to start a release off with a composition of such emotional content is simply breath-taking, and you will find that is a theme that runs concurrently and consistently throughout the offering.
Take a moment in the realm of a track like Guardians of Goddess Thien Hau, which contains a lush eastern narrative enhanced further by the talents of Grammy winner and flute performer Wouter Kellerman, then move soft of foot into the very title track itself Voice of the Ancestors, to hear the sublime nature of mystical magic from the artist on keyboards, mixed with a little ambient guitar from an old radio friend of mine in Vito Gregoli, this is simply and utterly majestic with every note played.
Voice of the Ancestors is an album that will probably eclipse mostly everything you have heard this year thus far, and includes a rhythmic long form opus like Peace Prayer, with the evergreen talents of vocalist Darlene Koldenhoven and the extremely classy Karen Olson on viola.
Grayhawk has proven himself via this release, to be one of the finest composers and multi instrumentalists of the modern age, and Voice of the Ancestors is that release that will entice you to listen further, to listen more deeply and be totally touched in the final outcome; albums of this pristine beauty and quality are impossible to not recommend and I urge you to delve deeper into this wonderful offering.
Rating: Excellent
North Maple Road by Kurt Reiman
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 4/18/2019
A debut album that is really going places
North Maple Road the debut album from Kurt Reiman is one of those rare albums that I knew I was going to fall head over heels in love with the moment I heard the first note played, there is so much within this release that is attractive and exciting to enjoy.
From the very first opener entitled Sunrise over Narragansett Bay, a light hearted reverie perhaps, but one composed so brilliantly that we can literally be right there with the artist and feel his thoughts.
We can enjoy a moment of musical bliss with the longest track off the album at just short of seven minutes as we listen to the opus of Together and Alone, a composition that seems and feels so tender and heart felt.
Kurt Reiman is one of those pianists that have that magic touch, and that crafted genius can be felt on one of the most addictive solo piano pieces I have heard thus far this year, of course I am referring to the title track North Maple Road, personally speaking I cannot stop playing this composition, it is sun kissed and cheer filled and that can’t be a bad thing can it?
This twelve piece album has so many beautiful arrangements, some of them touch the heart like the emotive I Need to Say This, others give us food for thought like the quite breath taking Stars and Constellations, a piece that creates so much texture, colour and space as it plays, and to finish with a song like You’ll Always Be Here with Me, a composition of comfort and reassurance; a beautiful way to leave a quite delightful album.
North Maple Road the debut album from Kurt Reiman does truly have that energy about it of a release that is really going to go places; Reiman is a composer of truth and a musical expressionist of sublime quality, and if you’re a fan of solo piano and are thinking about purchasing this collection of fine tunes, I say don’t even hesitate, you can be rest assured that your musical soul will thank you for it.
Rating: Excellent
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