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I Heard It Was Christmas Day by Tom Caufield
- posted by Candice Michelle on 12/5/2016
I Heard It Was Christmas Day by Tom Caufield
I Heard It Was Christmas Day is guitarist-composer Tom Caufield’s seventh release, as well as his first Christmas album. Comprised of nine guitar-led compositions, the album includes eight of Tom’s favorite Christmas standards (six sacred and two secular), plus one original composition. Although performed on a steel string guitar, one might easily mistake it for nylon in many parts, since Tom cuts the highest frequencies out when he records to create a sound that is rounded, velvety and overall haunting.

“Joy to the World” opens with acoustic guitar which is joined by gently hovering angelic voices about half-way through. Uplifting yet serene, it sets the pace for the rest of the album. “Hark on High” follows next, a combination of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and the chorus of “Angels We Have Heard on High”, where melodic and flowing guitar is accentuated by delicate bells. A gentle acoustic rhythm guides “Carol of the Drum”, which is a rendition of “Little Drummer Boy”, offering a laid-back sensibility that evokes images of the countryside. It precedes what is possibly my favorite composition on the album, “What Child Is This?”, an old Christmas carol that is set to the tune of the traditional English folk song “Greensleeves”. It’s a piece I’ve always particularly loved that has been covered by numerous recording artists, yet typically difficult to personalize. However, Tom simply nails it to perfection, adding his own signature sound in this rendition with an outstanding guitar arrangement. A Mediterranean flair characterizes the piece, transporting me to an old European city that evokes a Christmas of centuries past. “I Heard It Was Christmas Day” is the album’s only original composition, nestled perfectly in-between the others. Moving along at a moderate pace, a cozy and down-to-earth feel permeates this piece, as the soft sound of accompanying sleigh bells lend a cheery tone throughout. Another longtime favorite carol that Tom has beautifully rendered is “Silent Night”, the longest piece on the album clocking in at nearly eight and a half minutes. Ethereal tones and soft sleigh bells underpin a supple guitar melody, which is later joined by a slow rhythm, truly evoking a sense of ‘heavenly peace’. Likewise, Tom adds his own twist to “God Rest You”, a rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, imbuing it with an old-world mystique. Tom has also included a lovely rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” where he applies a variation to the chorus, conveying the warmth of a fireplace on a cold winter’s night. “Auld Lang Syne” closes out the album, where Tom’s guitar is joined by airy bells and a slow backing rhythm, perfectly capturing the bittersweet nostalgia of this long-cherished New Year’s theme song.

I Heard It Was Christmas Day is easily one of the best Christmas albums I’ve heard, boasting impeccably elegant and creative interpretations of timeless compositions. I am simply enamored with both the fluidity and enveloping quality of Tom’s guitar-playing style, which at times is exotic and gypsy-like, and at others, more Americana-flavored. Furthermore, the album is presented with a beautiful artwork design that depicts a 17th century painting by Valentin de Boulogne called “Christ and the Adulteress”, which Tom selected to convey the timeless, universal message of compassion and forgiveness. I not only enthusiastically recommend this album to those who love Christmas music, but to anyone who enjoys some of the best that guitar instrumental music has to offer! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
Freedom by Rockapelli
- posted by Kevin Donoho on 12/1/2016
Written by
Steve Sheppard (OWM Cyprus Radio) 11/16/2016

It’s time for us to go on another musical journey dear reader, this time one with a difference, as we ride out across the sonic plains with Native American band Rockapelli.
We start with a spectacular offering called Shoshone Sunrise. With drums, flute and chanting we are gifted something truly scene setting on this composition, that sets us up nicely for the remainder of the album.

The title track “Freedom” is sublime, and contains a really creative mix of indigenous music, rock and superb vocals. This is a delightfully paced track with some light and very thoughtful guitar by Kevin Donoho, and some emotive vocals by Reil. This track is one that I personally rate very highly and its smooth rock style is sure to make its way onto my Friday Rock show sooner rather than later.

The acoustic guitar on Snake Eyes was a real scene setter, and the bass created the foundations for us to all enjoy a really rhythmic offering. The percussion really reminded me of the great days of Santana. A real team effort of a piece this one and a very enjoyable driving composition that constantly but carefully picked up energy and tempo as it manifested itself.

The guitar on the beginning of Spirit Rein had a really light smooth Jazz ethic to its initial construction, which morphed into an excellent folk ballad; this is one very beautiful song that has so many elements of artistry drawn within it. The song itself is simply adorable to listen to, and with ease we can be there to watch the Spirt Rein fall gently on our faces.

At the half way point we are greeted by the spirit energy of the horse, which means Freedom. The natural sounds, flute and acoustic guitar set a wonderful panoramic vista of a summer landscape, in the delightful short form track called Meadow.

The start of Midnite Sun really reminded me of early Rush on softer tracks like Closer to the Heart, however the individuality and incredibly wonderful performances by Sierra Reeves on vocals for this song and the stylish guitar of Donoho manifested for us a totally outstanding arrangement of classy brilliance, and this composition is one of my favourites from the album.

Donoho’s acoustic begins the early refrains of the next piece called Halcyon, this is a moment in our lives that is rare, and means a segment of your life when everything is perfection in both peace and harmony, and the music suits that mood time perfectly.

As we move deeper into the album we come across a clever arrangement called One Smile. This is yet another fantastically produced arrangement, which has both good lyrical content and performance. The vocals supplied by the outstanding Bob Reil are both soulful and powerful when needed, as a vocalist myself that’s not always an easy thing to do. The flute then creates a whole new dimension as Emilano Campobello joins the dance and soon after Donoho‘s guitars and drums add weight and intention to what is one of the best and most meaningful tracks of the album.

The longest track from the release is called Oasis and thankfully lasting all of a lush and sweet six minutes plus. Listen and be in awe of the performance on flute and superb acoustic narrative on guitar. The natural sounds really create an atmosphere of a peace filled Oasis with ease. This is one of those tracks that you start listening to and enjoy so much you keep dragging the counter back to zero to start again, a totally sun kissed environment has been masterfully created here and all you have to do is relax, close your eyes and enjoy!

Our last moment of musical magic is called Walking Thunder, and as you may guess from the title, we are in for something explosive, powerful and emotive. The percussion is deep and has great movement, especially when partnered so ably with the flute. Reil’s vocals drive us along this musical Buffalo trail and we
can even give merit points for the huge storm rumbling thunder clap at the beginning and the end of the song. I do so love compositions that have a reference or relationship to the potency of storms, the amazing energy of the power of the creator and this arrangement with the amazing drum and audio provided by Susan Marie Reeves towards the last few moments of this piece says it all, this is a true classic, that you must play many times over.

This album by Rockapelli is not just good it is powerfully effective; it has charm, intensity when needed and its creative and artistic performances and compositions are simply outstanding.
Freedom as an album is a collection of songs that have been created with a really positive energy, it has vibrancy, but also a smoothness and totally professional and thoughtful methodology can be found behind the overall concept of the release. The band should be proud of themselves for producing such a quality album and that quality should also be part of your music collection as soon as possible, as albums of this ilk, do not come around that often.
Rating: Excellent
Ethereum by Joseph L Young
- posted by Candice Michelle on 11/30/2016
Ethereum by Joseph L Young
Joseph L Young is a world-flute master and keyboardist whose fourth album, Ethereum, is comprised of twelve beautiful compositions that showcase his multi-instrumentalist talents and keen ability to tap into the essence of music from various cultures. Among the instruments Joseph plays are Native American flutes, Chinese flutes, South and Central American clay drone flutes, Irish pennywhistle, and even Saxophone on one track. These exotic elements are deftly interwoven among indigenous percussion and atmospheric synthesizers, thereby lending an overall shamanic and trance-inducing quality to several of the compositions.

“Wavelength” opens the album with hazy tones and suspended chords that envelope a subtle flute melody. Serene and warmly-lit from the very first note, this piece brings images to mind of an afternoon sunset casting its beautiful glow over a rocky desert terrain. The title piece, “Ethereum”, follows next with a native-style flute that seems to echo throughout a vast canyon. This hauntingly beautiful and slightly forbidding ambient flute piece is likewise accompanied by droning synths, rainstick sounds and washes of chimes, which seem to evoke a sacred semblance of channelling an ancient wisdom or unveiling of hidden secrets. The comparatively lighter and more gossamer “Shimmers” ensues with Celtic harp and Irish pennywhistle, a delicate piece that conveys a fairytale-like medieval or renaissance flair. Changing scenery once again, “Boundless” begins with a low rumble and slithering sounds that introduce native-style flute and reverberating, slow-paced percussion, as hypnotic vocal intonations are echoed among its cavernous ambient soundscape. It is followed by the notably intriguing “Illumination”, a radiant piece that evokes images of a watery cave illuminated by sunlight pouring through. Here, piano and flute exchange dual melodies among a backdrop of chimes, Udu drums and atmospheric synths. Exuding both Celtic and Chinese overtones, “Free” is another piece particularly worth noting, which features vocals by Lenise Redding who sings a bewitching and mystical melody. Concluding the album is the beautifully nocturnal “Sapphire Moon”, which is guided along by subtle percussion and occasional shooting star effects, as a chorus of flutes seem to gently serenade the moon.

Brushed by colorful hues of various cultures throughout, it’s easy to slip into a deep zone while listening to this album. I’m especially fond of the many echoing effects and intricate textures throughout these beautifully relaxing and soulfully rejuvenating passages. With similarities that could be drawn to works by Scott August and Al Jewer & Andy Mitran, Ethereum is a wholly rewarding excursion into ethno-ambient flute music! ~Candice Michelle (
Rating: Excellent
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