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Simple Gifts by William Ögmundson
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 11/7/2018
A solo piano treat
Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple, you know, to take the complications and drama out of life and just enjoy the moment, each breath, each smell and each touch, to really feel life without stress or suffering, well through this album that has perhaps become possible; the artist has manifested for us a compilation of songs to ease our day and smooth out our nights, and entitled it Simple Gifts.
William Ögmundson has created this album to allow us to take a little beauty into our lives, and through this musical voyage we can sample empowering, but confident performances like the opening piece called Belladonna, a piece that leaves you feeling bright and alert at the end of the performance, revitalised completely.
The consistent fluency of this album is a real treat to hear, listen to the title track Simple Gifts, this is that special moment of magic, it is the title header, and here Ögmundson performs with such a warmth and style that we all may become a Lord of the Dance as well.
As we move continually down this river of solo piano we come across a really lively composition called quite appropriately, Forever Drifting. However, I would add when you factor in the happy refrain that this is played with, perhaps drifting with a purpose, or then again, perhaps just drifting for the sheer heck of it, whatever, this is one of the most fun arrangements off the release.
The curiously entitled Pharaoh’s Horses is up now; I found this a fascinating composition. Going from light to dark on the keys at the beginning was equally encapsulating. At six minutes it is the longest offering on the album, but one played with such flair and panache this is easily my favourite composition from the release, I adored the sheer depth of the song and the wonderfully fluent performance by Ögmundson, his style, and it has to be said, is utter genius here, was beyond anything I had heard for quite some time, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sojourn within this tracks tonal energies.
As we slide ever onwards towards the fulcrum of the album we come across a gentle and very simple piece indeed called Great Expectations, there is a really charming musical narrative to be found here, there is warmth within the performance that has to be admired here as well. One could imagine this being played just as one is about to depart on a long journey of perhaps many discoveries.
Now we come across a piece that has a little eastern European motif about its energies and called Twilight in Budapest. This is one of those pieces that draws such a topographical picture for us to all enjoy, indeed we can, through the music, actually be with the artist as the sun sinks in the capital city of Hungry; the melody is delightful and allows us to retain a sense of actually having been there in a memory packed opus.
A total change in direction is now upon us as we move to the next offering called Sancta Maria. I’m not sure if I remember Andrea Bocelli singing this piece or not, there is a memory there, somewhere. However this is a presentation that has such charm and style, I am sure you will absolutely fall in love with it.
I was listening to this track just the other day and loved it; its title is Jupiter & Venus, this offering has a narrative that draws some beautiful pictures within my mind’s eye that are vast, and graphic, as the universe can only be, but the mixture of minor and major chords form part of the recital that I find particularly exciting, the tempo and over all upbeat nature of the composition draws for me, comparisons for me with my neighbour David Lanz in style.
There is a real sense of drama about this next offering called Lux Aeterna, Ögmundson’s classy approach to this short form composition is powerful with a sense of a regal posture within it musical matrix.
Heather’s Song is our next musical doorway that we must cross the threshold of; here you will find a track that has a real lightness of soul about its essence. This is a proud arrangement that flows with such a level of subtly and respect.
We now find ourselves at the opening to the penultimate offing of the album, this last but one arrangement is entitled Icarus. This is actually a really moving track that utilises a deep sense of reflection to majestically seal one of the most powerful offerings on the release. Whilst listening to this, one could easily imagine it being part of a movie soundtrack.
The final gift is called Dance of the Fairies. This is a much crafted arrangement; the gentle but purposeful implementation is sublimely placed together with some flamboyant moments of grandeur. The dance elevates to a wonderful sense of heightened energy, then at the very last moment leaves us with an almost simple, but sweet disappearance of the fairies themselves, a very clever piece indeed.
Simple Gifts by William Ögmundson is a solo piano treat; it is a journey that is so well drawn by the artist, that the musician is simply your musical guide along the way. Simple Gifts by William Ögmundson flows with supreme confidence and should with ease satisfy any needs you have been longing to fulfil on a solo piano level, masterfully performed and produced, a real winner of an album.
Rating: Excellent
Quiet Spaces: Flute Meditations for Mindfulness and Relaxation by Ann Licater
- posted by Beth Hilton on 11/5/2018
Quiet Spaces
The full title of this serene album by award-winning recording artist Ann Licater is Quiet Spaces: Flute Meditations for Mindfulness and Relaxation (Cul de Sac Mystic Productions). Discover new realms of inner-peace with relaxing music from world flutist Ann Licater performing on Native American, Native American-style, folk and alto flutes. 15 calming tracks feature soft, deeply reflective solo and duet compositions pristinely recorded in Licater’s signature style for a soothing listening experience. This artful, sonic journey is perfect for mindfulness practices, meditation and well-being. Also recommended for yoga, spa, healing arts, creativity, study, sleep, and overall stress reduction.​ Learn more at Available upon request!
Rating: Excellent
Story of Ghosts by Fiona Joy
- posted by John M. Crossett on 11/5/2018
Fiona Joy — Story Of Ghosts
How would one go about describing the sound of Fiona Joy’s solo piano album Story Of Ghosts? To me words like dreamy, introspective, thought-provoking, memory-inducing, heartfelt, self-examining, even a little touchy-feely come to mind. It’s the kind of music that takes you, consciously or unconsciously, on a journey inside yourself, forcing you to examine thoughts and feeling that maybe you’d buried deep inside - ghosts of our past, so to speak. And if you try, maybe her music tells the story of those ghostly remembrances. In a way that makes them less threatening, and more a part of your life to be savored. At least that’s the thought process Fiona Joy took for this album, as she notes in the liner notes to this hybrid stereo SACD. For this album, Fiona Joy took the better part of a year to, as the liner notes put it, “take her fans on an introspective journey reflecting the past year of her life as she deals with its twists and turns.”

I hear echoes of Enya, Windham Hill, Bill Evans, and even some classical piano pieces melded together to form her unique style. What I don’t hear is a money grab. This album was written and recorded to express something, something deep. And she succeeds admirably in translating those feelings from her minds ear to keyboard. And thanks to Blue Coast Records, whose close miked recording, we can delete deeply inside each of the ten tunes recorded here. Some may not care for the close miked piano sound, as it robs the listener of a sense of recording space, but due to the message of the music it may be the best way this album could have been recorded. Again, those words intimate and introspective come to mind. The close miking allows us to concentrate on the music itself, and not be quite so caught up with the sound. But do not, even for a second, think that the sound here was not of high importance. If the sonics of an album take priority in your listening sessions, then here you’ll hear each key on the keyboard, each hammer strike, each string vibrate, each note perfectly formed. You’ll feel the power a large grand piano has. But you’ll also be missing the point of an album like Story Of Ghosts, which is about memories. Enjoy the sound, sure, but focus on the music and let it pull you in, inside it, and inside yourself. I think, if you do that, you’ll emerge a far more peaceful and content person. This music has magic weaved into it.

Fiona Joy is not a household name, at least not yet. But she is a force to be reckoned with. Anyone who can write music that transcends its genre and move itself into the realm of self-examination is a person to follow and enjoy. Story Of Ghosts is such, one that succeeds on so many levels (if you let it) that it stands apart from the bulk of instrumental music (heck, just music) made today. Give it a listen and see if it doesn’t do for you what it did for her, and for me - allows you to unbury the past and make it a full part of you instead of something to hide away, ashamed of. Story Of Ghosts frees us to grow into better people, and you can’t ask more than that from any album you listen to.
Rating: Very Good +
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