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We Follow the Star by Richard Dillon
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/26/2019
Not just another Christmas album
I must admit sitting here in temperatures of 30c gives me a somewhat strange backdrop to me writing the first review of a Christmas album this year. Never the less it gives me the flavour of the essence of this time of year, and one must applaud Dillion for his fresh take on some classics from throughout the years.
We Follow the Star starts with a fluent vocal version of Wexford Carol with the stunning voice of Corinne Seganos leading the way; there is also a delightful Celtic feel to this crafted piece too.
There are many wonderfully artistic endeavours upon this album that all bring such a beautifully new ethic to the Christmas album concept, like one of my favourites A Winters Night, a track packed with a certain energy and mood.
In Coventry Carol we could easily find ourselves going back to the middle ages with its wonderful arrangement. For me this was a real stand out offering off the album, and one that reminded me of the Amazing Blondel back in the early 70’s.
With other such classics from this time of year like Silent Night, I Saw Three Ships and of course the famous What Child Is This, all these are given a truly liberating make-over by the artist. Richard Dillion is his usual creative self on Keyboards and Synths, even treats us to a little percussion too.
I urge everyone who maybe thinking this is just another Christmas seasonal album, think again, you couldn’t be more wrong, it is indeed a collection of well-known pieces, but uniquely performed by a veritable playlist of other artists, like Sherry Finzer, (Alto Flute) Yair Avidor, (Lute) and violinist Stephanie Nagler, and many others, it is wonderfully listenable and very accessible to all, but it is an album that brings a lush and colourful perspective to the subject matter, probably one that you will simply have never heard the like of before, this is definitely an album that you should be buying for your Christmas celebrations and most certainly one that I am more than happy to recommend as well.
Rating: Excellent
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 +
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