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Quiet Piano Improvisations, Volume 2 by Greg Maroney
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/30/2017
One of the classiest solo piano albums
This album came at a perfect moment for me; I had been suffering with late winter flu for some time, and needed a place of calm. a sanctuary, somewhere easy and peaceful to heal, and I found that as usual in music, thanks to the delicate touch and sublime compositions of Greg Maroney and his latest offering called Quiet Piano Improvisations Volume 2.
From the very first track I could feel my cares and troubles ease away, and as the sunlight played tricks with the shadows of the day, I found My Everything playing its gentle refrains within my heart and mind; this has to be simply the best way to start an album.
The scene set, the musician engaged, Maroney now takes us to another place of tranquillity called Melting Heart. The flow on this album is utterly magnificent; the calming energy from this release is as beautiful as a spring flower blooming for the first time and this piece is one of those tracks that is both memorable and also deeply moving in its content. There is a certain power and poise here that cannot be denied.
It’s a common mistake made by some listeners, that making music for meditation is easy, actually it couldn’t be further from the truth, the tempo and content has to be perfect to allow the mind to traverse into a meditative state, any peaks and troughs and the moment will be lost. On Meditation, Maroney creates something restful and very easy to just drift within, and with a few subtle moves he manifests the perfect piano based meditative composition.
The quality of performance on this album is supreme, Greg Maroney has certainly produced a release that does what it says on the can, it is both quiet and improvisational. Now let’s sink into the piece Daydream and you will be in the realm of my favourite piece off the album, here is a track that has a lush minor refrain to its narrative that creates such a special and emotive moment in music. The melody and flow here is so good I would rate this track as one of my all-time favourite piano pieces, in fact I would go further to say that this should be used in a moving film segment, it’s that good.
Dear reader and listener, we are about to cross the border into the second half of the album, and to help us to do so, we must listen to the next arrangement called Quietude. This is a composition that creates its own ambience and with great ease brings us along on the journey as well. This is one of those tracks that you could easily play, whilst watching the afternoon clouds drift by, it is that blissful.
I can imagine that by now the day’s worries will have drifted away from your shoulders, that furrowed brow is smoothed and a calm sense of being now washes over you, so continue that feeling whilst listening to a charming piece called Rainbow Visions. Here is one all-encompassing opus of beauty that radiates out a constant colourful hum of tone. Rainbow Vision has harmony and gentleness all of its own and if I maybe so bold, it creates a warm and loving embrace as it plays, in the same way as a mothers love does for a child.
As we move deeper into the album we now come across something very special indeed and it’s called Moonlight on Snow. Behind me the mountains begin to lose their snowy tops, they are like ice creams that begin to melt in the spring warmth, but at night its cold embrace hardens and this composition would be the perfect soundtrack for that moment. This is a deep and sombre piece that has a slight emotive imprint, combined with the sublime musical vision of a dark coldness of the combination of a moonlit night and falling snow, a truly stunning performance by the artist can be found here.
The next piece is literally where I am right now, in an Afternoon Sojourn. The sun filters through the palm tree in my garden and the warmth of an early spring day raises my energies, and during the sun filled perambulation I am comforted and eased by the soothing refrains of Greg Maroney. Afternoon Sojourn is truly a wonderful and tranquil temporary place of rest for us right now, it’s light and flowing passion is a pleasure for us all to dip our toes into.
It is always good to allow yourself a moment of Contemplation, here Maroney provides us with the perfect musical backdrop on the track of the same name. Dear constant reader, you have also arrived at another personal favourite of mine, as the artist combines a moving arrangement with one that also has a sense of inspiration built in as well. The constant warmth of this album never ceases to amaze me and here we have yet another classy composition that one could get totally lost within.
We now arrive at the penultimate piece and the title does give us an indication of movement, it is entitled Sway, however, while the arrangement does drift back and forth, any movement is so subtle and delicate, that one feels absolutely still in the flow of the concept of the album and the performance is gifted to us with a lightness of heart and great skill on the keys.
Our very last port of call on the album is called With Every Breath, and Greg Maroney certainly leaves us with a composition of great quality and style, the careful and loving attention to detail here by the artist is so evident, and on this last offering Maroney manifests a perfect end of album track and leaves us the ever eager listener, completely chilled and in total peace.
Quiet Piano Improvisations Volume 2 is an album that I so desperately needed to listen to today, and I am sure that you too will find solace in this quite outstanding release. Maroney has allowed himself to be totally in the moment with this album and its musical reflection bathes us with its serene tones of bliss and calm, making this release one of the classiest solo piano albums I have heard for ages, completely recommended.
Rating: Excellent
The Land Of Nod: Lullabies for the Listless by Richard Dillon
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/30/2017
An album of perpective and calm
The Land of Nod is one of those timeless releases, that constantly reminds us of our childhood days, those times when we used to look at the world as a place of wonder, not fear, when clouds would be kingdoms, and valleys, seas of green peace and tranquillity.
Here on this album Richard Dillon once again connects us with those days and we can be on that journey with the very first track called The Land Above the Sky. The gentleness with which this is played is so very innocent and childlike, it’s as if we are truly going on a sojourn into a dimension of truth, fun and happiness, The Land Above the Sky is the perfect musical place for us to start.
The sensitivity of this album will be abundantly easy to feel and on No More Tears we have a piece that is that and more, this almost lullaby styled arrangement seems so familiar in its construction and melody, even now in my older years, it seems to bring great comfort to my heart.
Jouet Triste has such a mournful way about its energy, that one can literally feel a wounded essence of some description through the narrative of the music. There is a sadness here that has such depth. I found the entire experience of this composition profoundly moving.
As you may imagine Rocking Chair, the next track, has a sweet sense of movement within its build and progression and also has a certain lightness of spirit built in as well. This is a real keepsake in the attic styled piece, layered with many memories throughout times rich tapestry.
Kainehe is one track I had to research, and as close as I can find, it is Hawaiian and means whispering sea, interestingly enough I found this arrangement was one off the album that really moved me, it could be that I have lived by one ocean or another for many years now, and the flow and energy has become a deep seated part of me, but here Dillon brings forth an emotive performance, that is so redolent of the subject matter, and totally memorable, and thus will remain rooted in my heat.
Now, how can you not like a song called Marmalade Skies? You only need to listen to this gentle portion of solo piano, and hold out your hands to the sky and taste the music on a passing Cumulus. For some reason I hear a certain resonance akin to the great Debussy on this composition. Again I grew up listening to that composer, but the comparison is valid and Dillon creates an equally warm atmosphere here on this piece.
As we approach the half way marker we come across the delightful Sea of Forgetfulness. Here we have a real crossover classical styled track that is played with such style and panache, that you cannot help but fall head over heels in love with the composition and the way its performance is expressed by the artist.
I mentioned Debussy earlier and the connection I now offer you is this track called La Luna, however here we have a much more pronounced sense of ambience than you may have expected, in fact if this piece had been three times the length it is, I would not have been disappointed.
As a child and now as a man, I have always been an avid fan and admirer of the works of Lewis Carroll, so to take a trip down the Looking Glass River, is a pleasure that I take willingly. This is another absolute favourite of mine, as Dillon manifests dimension after dimension of sparkling realities within music that are absolutely mesmerizing and pleasurable, as we find ourselves ever drifting down the stream of childhood memories.
Sometimes I regard sleep as a luxury, especially when my dog wakes us up at 5.30am to tell us that the rubbish men have arrived. How I wish from time to time that My Bed is a Boat. I have spent many years being entranced by the movement of rivers and this composition would have been the perfect soundtrack for my nature based perambulations with my father; Richard Dillon brings forth a very powerful, but extremely fluent and emotive piece on this track.
From where do they come, those movements in my room that start to fall, as if moving within a woven tapestry, like Shadows on a Wall. Dear reader you have arrived at my personal favourite off the album, for many years I have studied the shadows that play nightly on my wall, as a child they were phantoms of the night, now they are old friends, and this extremely ambient, but melodic arrangement inspired the first line and a half of poetry that started this tracks narration. Richard Dillon I thank you so very much for this superb muse called, Shadows On The Wall.
Papillon is next up, and really reminds me of my dear friend Kevin Kendle’s Butterflies album, the same sense of summer ambience is here and one could easily imagine dreaming an afternoon away in August, watching the gossamer wings of those beautiful creatures, to this quite light and innocent composition. Dillon has masterfully created a memorable moment that I could have bathed in for hours.
The moment of magic is now upon us, the title track, that canvas that was the inspiration for the artist, now completed; it is now shown to us, the gallery of eager listeners, as The Land of Nod. As this album has progressed Richard Dillon’s arrangements have become far more expansive and delightfully dream filled, this perhaps is the moment when the eyes start to close, and a state of blissful sleep begins to creep up inexorably upon us, the willing participant in this nocturnal sojourn.
The day is done, the stars hover in the sky like fairly lights on a child’s Christmas tree, and our cares can cease to be, while we listen to the perfection of Moonrise. Dillon has allowed this, his penultimate offering, to simply just be there for us to drift within, this is a simply divine piece that seems almost too hard to keep one’s eyes open to. Listen to the wonderfully slow tempo of this composition and enjoy the Moonrise.
We must stay silent now and respectful of the moment we have been travelling on with our guide Richard Dillon. He gifts us one last treasure called, quite aptly, Sleepyhead. The performance here is loving in its construction and leaves us the listener, with a warm sense of safety and security to take into our dreamtime.
The Land of Nod by Richard Dillon is an album that will take you on a journey back to your childhood days, ones you always gazed up upon with a wide eyed sense of wonder. From an adults perspective this is an important and relevant opus of peace and tranquillity, that we all need from time to time and the album allows us to again, touch base with the simplicities of life, as opposed to its somewhat and sometimes confusing patterns.
Dillon has created something truly unique here, it’s an album of perspective and calm, a home we can all return to musically, and thanks to the contents of this release, we can do so whenever we wish to. The Land of Nod is the perfect night time perambulation that I would be most willing to recommend to you, now tuck down, night, night, it’s getting late.
Rating: Excellent
Of Sea & Stars by Terra Guitarra
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 3/30/2017
Another huge number 1 album from the duo
Terra Guitarra are back, and after spending 10 months on the charts with Firelight and reaching number one, I’m wondering if we’re going to see a repeat of that magnificent performance through the medium of their brand new album Of Sea and Stars.
If track one is anything to go by, it certainly looks that way, this fast paced opener is called Wave Walker and will most certainly get your feet tapping. Both Julie Patchouli and Bruce Hecksel skills are once more very evident here on this lively opener.
Of Sea and Stars has 13 magical pieces for us the always eager listener, to revel in, and on Estrella we see that is even more evident. However on this one we are gifted a really beautiful smooth and slow tempo to float within, the prowess on guitar here by the duo is both masterful and colourful and supremely listenable.
I’m lucky enough to live on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, so this style of music is really a genre that flourishes here, even I can be heard sitting on my veranda on a warm summer night, playing my acoustic guitar, and that very feeling of a warm summer night can be re-created right here on the offering Alegria. Bruce and Julie have manifested a really cultured sound on this composition that is both warm and sensual.
As we move to the piece Of Wind and Wood, we hear the unusual tones of a Native American flute drifting through the ambience, the influence of the flute creates another layer of a musical direction, but at all time retains the signature Terra Guitarra sound. This wise expansion of instrumentation is pleasure to hear and experience.
I adored the title track; I may even go as far to say it has been my favourite so far, it has a slight melancholy feel to its creation and with the added percussion creates a deeply moving composition. Of Sea and Stars draws a picture of a vast horizon of two oceans, one above in expanse of space and the water filled one below, I could imagine listening to this while on a sunset cruise. The subtle tones are rich and full, the melody is gentle, but steady, all in all this is one lush arrangement to enjoy.
The performance of both Patchouli and Hecksel has thus far been superb, and here on the track Circadia we see a continuance of that class. This has a more traditional methodology about its arrangement; it is a little slice of Latin magic. Here is a composition that I would love to listen to in my local taverna, whilst sipping another cup of coffee.
As we cross the boundary line and move into the second half of the release, we come across a really inventive piece that once more contains the flute, it’s called Night River. The guitars go further in creating a really atmospheric piece and one that seems, like the river, to wend its way around the many bends of musical mastery.
Of Sea and Stars has a real cultured feel to it, and one that as a guitarist myself, I absolutely love. Listen to the piece Viracocha and see what I mean, the style and performance is incredible. This could almost be a song given up to the god of Inca mythology. The performance on guitar here is so tight, its complexities are so well played, and a beautiful warm flow can be felt all the way through the track.
As we move deeper into this realm created by Terra Guitarra, we come across a slow but subtle and charming narrative in music called The Veil. We have a piece here that has a real deep feel to it and in some ways, we can almost see a slow, but aged dance taking place to the music, one filled with the mysteries of the past perhaps.
Now I must admit I did notice this track and It made me smile, living here in Cyprus I think I must hear this piece of music around a thousand times a year, as just about every bar, restaurant, boat trip and taverna has it playing endlessly, yes it’s the ever lively Zorba, but done in Terra Guitarra style, so the two guitars of Julie Patchouli and Bruce Hecksel build a song that has a much more subtle and smooth approach than the craziness seen on our boat trips, here and on the film of 1964, Zorba the Greek.
I have a passion for sea life, the turtles fill our lives with aquatic bliss here and occasionally dolphins, but here on Whale Earth, the duo bring into reality a composition that has a real sense of a steady movement within it and also paints us musically a picture of a wide oceanic expanse, with the spouting whales swimming peacefully to its horizon. There is a clever complexity about this one that charms me, the notes and chords do manifest a really friendly feel to the arrangement.
So let’s move to the penultimate piece from the release which is called The Messenger. The rhythm created here is sublime and allows the percussion and lead guitar to paint a wonderfully colourful and empowering musical offering. This is one of those tracks as a listener that you can’t help but fall in love with over and over again.
Well we have finally docked our musical ship, and we find ourselves at the end of the album, but before we disembark, our artistes wish to gift us one more song for us to take along on our way home, this one is called Aurora. I simply adored the performance on this piece; again, this one is so warm and all-encompassing, and ends what has been a truly memorable release, with some very nice finger picking, on a composition which is in fact the longest on the album, at well over 6 minutes.
Of Sea and Stars has once more set the bar even higher, it’s an album that is colourful, beautifully layered with some lush and warm textures, it’s a release that on a performance level is perfection, in all honesty I can see no reason why Terra Guitarra won’t have yet another huge number one album on their hands with this one. I don’t need to inspire you to buy this fantastically cultured release, I just know you will not be able to resist the temptation to do so; this is as good as it gets.
Rating: Excellent
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