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Denial's End by Alan Matthews
- posted by R J Lannan - Artisan Music Reviews on 11/24/2019
Denial's End
Alan Matthews
Denial’s End

Where words always fail, music will suffice. Luckily, pianist and composer Alan Matthews’s music speaks volumes. Denial’s End is Matthews’s second album and it is just as poignant as his first called The Ineffable, but this one started with a deeper emotional platform, and it has a more thoughtful tone. Even the title of the album is a significant label. Denial’s End. The theme of this contemporary twelve-track album is one of surrender, of acceptance, and of love in a way. Many of Alan’s songs are more than five minutes long, but invest the time. It will be well worth it. Joining Alan on the collection are Charlie Bisharat (violin), Jeff Oster (flugelhorn), Jill Haley (English horn), Tom Eaton (bass), Noah Wilding (vocals), and Will Ackerman (guitar).
How appropriate is it that Matthews begins the recording with The Ineffable. The word itself is enigmatic and one has to look it up for clarity. It means something so astonishing that it is beyond words and it suits the music very well. It is a gentle piece almost to the point of fragility. The impression is one of melancholy and full of wishful thinking. It is a great start.
Vestiges is a perilous song for its sentiment. It is what is left over after the fact. But what is the fact? Is it a love that has broken and lies in a thousand pieces on the floor or a heart empty of all emotion. Alan extracts a great deal of pathos from this track, but there are positive moments that balance out the piece well.
Perplexing as it sounds, the tune She Returns - She’s Always Leaving has a melody that is quite refined while having an emotional roller coaster ride from within. The downward spiral is sorrow, while the upward lift is hopefulness. One of the best tacks on the album for me.
The title tune Denial’s End is a pivotal tune that spares no sentiment. Alan’s polyphonic composition, featuring Bisharat’s responding violin is as doleful as it gets. Alan’s resonant piano melody covers the listener in a blanket of heartache. No matter how many times I listened to it, I could never hear a happy ending, but that is what made it wistfully beautiful.
The Long Road Home has just enough of Jill Haley’s English horn to make it mournful. It is a placid tune, almost restful. You take the long road home because either you really don’t want to go there or you have lost your way. Either is a heartbreak for one that has made the journey through life and has never been fortunate.
Alan goes solo on the tune, A Thought of You. It can be anything that sparks a memory. The taste of a piece of fruit, the trolley car jangling down the track, or even just the rain. But then you remember the smile or the touch, the talking and the not talking. It comes flooding back like a deluge. This mesmerizing song fills the heart with desiderium, a very rare thing at best.
The song Flowers Die is just sad. It could be a dozen long stemmed roses, a potful of daisies, or just a handful of violets. The joy that flowers bring fades over time, but the memories of the giver, the occasion, the timing, well, that makes thoughtfulness a virtue for the heart. Through Alan’s piano music and Noah Wilding’s ethereal vocal, you can feel the sense of loss and the treasured remembrances.
Acceptance…and After is almost the grand finale. We have so far had eleven tunes to get steely, but there can be no refuting the fact that it is over. The medley has a lot in it for a simple refrain including awareness, surrender, and last of all, defeat. The last song is another rendition of the Ineffable and Alan adds his own sense of closure to the mix. The tune is something he is familiar with, something comfortable. Almost cathartic if you will.
I truly liked all of the tracks, but I caution you that this album has a lot of emotion hidden deep within the music. There are times however, when life should take a wrong turn and it needs to be slowed down. Then you play this kind of music. This is catch your breath, reorient yourself, and spend a little bit of time on introspection music. As I did for Alan Matthews, first album, I highly recommend this music. - R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews

Rating: Excellent
Into The Blue by Michael Joseph
- posted by R J Lannan on 11/18/2019
Into the Blue
Michael Joseph
Into the Blue
It is what musicians do. They bare their feelings, layer after layer, and reveal everything down to their innermost thoughts. Down into their very souls. Michael Joseph does this on his debut introspective offering called Into the Blue. He composes his music from an introspective point of view. Music changes a person and a lot of music makes many changes. Michael has taken his experiences, his achievements, perhaps even his failures and transposed them all into notes of passion.
Awakened is music that reminds us that there is something in all of us that makes get up every morning, do the job, and fight the good fight, not necessarily for ourselves, but for others. It is our passion and our drive. It is something not given, but often found. And it can only be found inside.
Staring into another’s eyes is the first step in falling in love. Having them stare back is the ultimate response. Michael Joseph uses his eyes as a portal to his soul and that path is created using music in the title tune Into the Blue. The music is wistful, sensitive, and rather calming.
Carpathian Echoes is a folksy tune, dynamic tune. Using what sounds like a clavier, Joseph renders several tunes that put me in mind of the wonderful Switched On Bach Series of the late sixties. The music is spiced with the old world and it suggests old world memories. There are stories to be told and history to learn.
With the toll of distant bells Church of the Heart had a choir of angels feel to it, something I admired. The glass harp was like musical glitter. The gentle voices produced a peace sorely needed in my busy day and somewhat busy mind. The literally, bell shaped tones of the main theme made the music come alive, bright and blissful.
Another tune with flavor from the past was The Quiet Within, but the message is contemporary in scope as Michael guides us to a place we all know of, but hardly take the time to visit. It is not a modest thing to be at ease with your own thoughts, but practice is the key.
Escape and Into the Storm both share a Yanni-esque vibe with their ethnic perspectives and their exuberant tempos. It is a musical manifestation that has been absent for a time, but lest we forget the man the opened a thousand doors for thousand emerging pianists, let the music play on. Joseph’s tune, Escape has that sense of urgency that is translates into intensive musical motion. It declares that an exploit with a mystery is forthcoming. Into the Storm may start out with a hint of inclement weather, but it ends up in a deluge of emotions and fury. In this case, the fury is passion.
The last track Another Chance is a tune with noticeable classical nuances, but the theme is beautifully poignant. You are going to remember this one. There is a touch of melancholy with a trace of hopefulness. And who does not need a second chance? Forgiveness, after all, is what makes us human.
Michael Joseph has some notable themes on thirteen track New Age collection, Into the Blue. The music has enough variety to remain entertaining while keeping the mood low key. It makes you wonder about your own way in the world. Your own path. That is what music is supposed to do. Make you think and make you feel. Joseph has done both. – R J Lannan, Artisan Music Reviews
Rating: Good +
Within Us All by Monica Williams
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/17/2019
An album to bring you harmony, peace and tranquill
On this late October day I had started my working day early, and part of this morning’s waking up procedure was a listen to the latest album by Monica Williams, called Within Us All, hot on the heels with the success of her previous release Journey of Tears I found myself truly encapsulated by the offering, and it is this journey I now wish to take you on as well.
The album starts with You are Compassionate feat John Herrera, the light percussion was a winner for me and with Williams delightfully comforting flute, I just drifted away with the newness of the day. The melody in this piece was one of the best I have heard for some time, and hours later I still cannot get it out of my head.
Williams follows that up with You are Forgiving feat Lynn Tredeau & Sherry Finzer. This one was of particular interest to me as I have worked with both Finzer and Tredeau extensively on music promotions over the years, and was not in the least surprised to hear the outcome of this project, which would deliver one of the most beautiful pieces you would ever wish to hear; the three musicians all play from the soul, and this collaboration of genius will move you to tears of happiness and gratitude.
As we take another tentative footfall into the release, we come across a wonderfully mystical piece entitled You are Memorable. Williams on flute here really manifests something musically that has a real depth to it, and a composition that you must listen intently to at all costs; a musical narrative has been created here by the artist that is simply mesmerising.
Time now for a further collaboration, this time utilising the skill set of Michael Kent Smith. The guitar is so smooth and delicate and partners Williams so well in her endeavours; there is also a sensitive elevation of energy here in the music that is akin to watching a brand new sunrise on an early spring day; indeed You are Happiness was one of my favourite tracks off this great album.
Now it’s a moment of eastern magic with the artist as she joins forces with percussionist Will Clipman on the track You are Adventure. For those of us that like to travel, this one will certainly resonate with you. The natural sounds and the scenic backdrop of tone made this, one of the standout offerings from the album.
This release is like a journey that seems to take us too many dimensions, in many ways and styles, once you have arrived at You are Free as a Child feat Lynn Tredeau, you will find a composition that is so carefully delivered and composed, it is truly heartfelt and very emotive, and as such this voyage of plenty has now taken us inside of ourselves to release our freedom.
We now come across a piece that transfixed me called You are Resilience, a percussive beat seemed to open a new musical portal for the artist to walk us through, the performance here by Williams was very similar to the old style Terry Oldfield that I grew up with, and had that certain addictive quality about its construction that was simply undeniable.
You are Integrity had a lush reflective quality about its arrangement, this beautifully fluent presentation was almost classical at times, a piece that seemed to raise the energy to release a certain level of empowerment from the music, the steady repeating motif on piano also added an extra dimension to proceedings as well.
You are Not Alone is our penultimate offering, and I must say of all the fine pieces that are on this album, this one was my personal favourite, I can see this one is going to be on my ambient playlist to listen to for eternity. The whole composition is so powerful and moving, and at times reminded me of Deuter and his Buddha Nature days. This is one of those compositions that will literally leave you with chills down your back and with every hair standing up on your arms, utterly magical indeed.
The last doorway to the release is now upon us and called You are Enough. Monica Williams now rounds off an excellent album with one of the calmest arrangements on it; it’s certainly one of the most serene in its fluency and utterly the best way to leave what has been an outstanding album.
I was a huge fan of Williams last offering Journey of Tears, but even I must say that in my view this is easily her best work so far. Within Us All has a classy sense of consistency that runs through each and every track off the album, each composition is perfectly produced and played and features some of the finest new age musicians of the 21st century upon it. Within Us All is an album that will bring harmony to the soul and peace and tranquillity to the troubled mind, it’s a release that everyone should have in there collection.
Rating: Excellent
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