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A Glimmer Of Hope by Annie Locke
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/1/2017
An album that touches the heart
It’s a rare but wonderful thing, when you find a solo pianist from the UK in a genre that is usually dominated by the US, the compositions and arrangements are a total pleasure to listen to. She also has something in common with me, we have both worked for the BBC, so let’s begin another musical journey right now with Annie Locke, and this new realm of music that is opening up before us called, A Glimmer of Hope.
The first offering that starts our new sojourn is called The Story Begins. I must have listened to this piece at least ten times now, there is something quite emotional about this track that I just cannot put my finger on, but it is the perfect vehicle with which to open up our first musical portal.
The next title has such a deep meaning and no matter where we cast our eyes in the world, even now, it is still relevant, it’s called An End to Hunger, An End to War. For most of us on this sweet blue and tiny planet, this would be the ultimate dream, and in my opinion Annie has produced an anthem here that expresses that desire. The performance is passionate and imploring, and one can only hope that in the not too distant future, this dream will come to fruition.
There was something a little Debussy about this next piece called River Story, without wishing to make a pun here, but I will, this arrangement has such a wonderfully warming flow to it. I have read that this is improvised, in that case Annie must have been tuned into or channelling her musical spirit guide, as this composition is quite breath-taking and very sun kissed, it’s one of my favourites from the release too.
Now although I have been to the US many times, Montana is one place I have never visited. However I can do that thanks to Annie’s piece Riding Through Montana. I remember once riding on the interstate to Oklahoma City, and whilst doing so writing poetry along the way, there is an essence about that with this track, there is a constant driving narrative of movement here, with a very appealing melody that depicts travelling and watching images pass by the window as we go.
One of my favourite past times, when I lived in England, was to walk in nature, especially through the woodlands. Here Locke goes further and expresses a narrative of a dark night, Deep in the Forest. The performance here is sublime; it creates images of two realms coming together in a wonderland of mystery and magic, deep within the realms of the moon caressed forests.
Annie Locke now performs a dedication to her friend Alan Clarke, the TV and film director, who sadly died at the young age of 55 on the track A Man Called Alan, there is a real longing here that Locke expresses perfectly, one also feels that this composition is a cathartic journey for the artist as well.
Honour (Piano Version) is another dedication piece to the memory of the late Sir George Trevelyan. This is a proud arrangement that cocoons many memories within it’s over all construction, the performance here was originally on the orchestral based album, Memories.
There was something so familiar about this next piece entitled Natasha for me, the melody seemed so steeped in memory and flowed with a lush colourful narrative. The performance is once again heart felt, and almost like a tribute to a dear friend.
On Holiday in Shanghai we have a horse of a different colour, as we move to the Far East in style, composition and arrangement. Locke creates a wonderful energy of a trip through lands bathed in mystery and vast vistas of lush green valleys and cities that sparkle in an Asian sky.
Now after our long, but most pleasant trip through the realm of this new album, we come across a really attractive moment of musical majesty. This one is called Towards the Summit. Once more Locke delivers a piece that depicts perfectly the slow and careful movement onwards up upwards. There is also something addictive about this piece that makes you listen to the very end to see if this musical journey will be completed.
The vista of a water world and a city with no roads is explored perfectly in this next opus called Encounter in Venice. There is a really sweet melody here that engages a European flavour, one that is so enticing; we could easily imagine travelling on a gondola through the many canals and water ways of the city.
The penultimate offering is entitled Whatever It Takes. The artist digs in deep here and gifts us a track that has an undeniable essence of determination within its performance. To balance the composition, Locke features a calming mixture into the weave, with that overall sense of dogged will power of resolve being the driving narrative.
Our last doorway is now upon us and entitled With No Regrets, this is in my opinion one of the cleverest pieces of the album. Locke rounds off her project here with the perfect ending opus, and a real sense of rounding the circle and mending the hoop can be felt here, as a musical resolution is found, allowing us to leave the album fully satisfied and happy.
A Glimmer of Hope is a release that could be described as a panacea to cure all ills, the music contained within this album touches the heart, gives us hope and leaves us at peace and in contentment. Annie Locke has taken to the solo Piano genre like a fish to water and the wait of twenty years has been well worth it. If you’re a lover of the solo piano genre, you’re really going to want to check this one out; it’s an album that has something for everyone.
Rating: Excellent
Equus Rising by Lisa Swerdlow
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 9/27/2017
Such a riveting musical narrative
I adore listening to the work of a debut artist, all the energy and intensity of a new project is in there, it’s an exciting moment and Lisa Swerdlow will be glad to note that her intensity and passion has come through beautifully.
The first piece is entitled Requiem (Song for Evelyn), a commanding and emotive composition that flows so powerfully, and I must mention at the juncture of 3 minutes 20 seconds, and I have to be specific here, you will find a perfect tempo change and some of the most delightful solo piano to feast on for all time.
Together is a real feel good arrangement, the energy is light and sun kissed, while the tempo has such a delicate, but purposeful flow to its construction. The performance here is also something to admire, it contains a real elevation of power at around the 2:20 minute mark that is so smoothly played, and mixed with real confidence and passion as well.
The title track is next and is of course called Equus Rising; there is a slow deep opening that seems to entice us in further. It is almost like something is about to wake, and it sure does, in an almost Cristofori’s Dream styled segment at 1:20 mark that David Lanz would be proud of, the piece really picks up movement and pace. At 6:41, this is the longest and indeed the most fascinating track off the release and is indeed one of my favourite compositions from the album. Swerdlow puts everything into her main musical canvas, and it works gloriously. As a solo piano performer, Swerdlow satisfies the needs of her listeners in all ways with this opus, the alternation of speed and pace, the power and grace, all make up a superb performance, and one you could easily ride through valleys and across fields on a pure white horse to this fantastic arrangement.
On the piece Sanctuary, we have a delightfully all-encompassing opus of sound. There is warmth here that is created by a cleverly crafted performance and a melody that manifests a safe harbour of a composition for us all to enter and enjoy in safety.
Mujer Divina is up next, and there is a little change in style for this piece that celebrates the divine nature of the woman. The ever so slight Jazz motifs were a delight, and the performance on keys within this arrangement are quite breath taking, this is one that you will wish to revisit over and again, even if is to take pleasure in the many and varied nuances contained within.
Our footfalls across the walk ways of this album have been picturesque and colourful and that remains so with the piece, Waking the Light. The use of minor chords here is perfection and the narrative drawn by Swerdlow’s skill on the piano makes this a truly memorable moment of musical magic.
I have said this many times, but the interpretation of storms within a musical narrative, is one that I so deeply love and respect. Lisa Swerdlow has thus created a masterpiece on the track Sudden Storm. Listen to the dramatic fluency here, this is a slice of genius, the constant rhythm and the changing patterns of chords, the sheer amazing power and movement here is utterly stunning, it is as if we are dancing with the storm itself, and yes, this is my number one offering from the album.
So we come to the final goodbye from Lisa Swerdlow and her debut album Equus Rising. Before we leave this realm created by her, she has one more musical gift to see us along on our way, this present is entitled Unfolding. This is a real mixture of light and shade, sensual, yet intense and it must be also said, what an incredibly emotive way to leave us.
Equus Rising is a rare album of texture and strength, the eight compositions on this release are all extremely enjoyable in their own right, but as a debut offering it is a remarkable place to start. Lisa Swerdlow’s performances have slight essences of David Lanz and Michele McLaughlin at times, and I think both of those artists who I know fairly well, would be pretty impressed with this brand new album from the artist. Equus Rising is a solo piano album that contains such a riveting musical narrative, that one listen will simply not be enough.
Rating: Excellent
Dare To Dream by Unleashed Dreams
- posted by Gena on 9/20/2017

One of the best debut new age vocal albums of the year (and one of the best-produced) is DARE TO DREAM by the duo Unleashed Dreams. The team is Lindsey Gaye Walker (a British/Canadian singer-songwriter, and transformational life coach) and Sean Michael Paddison (a Canadian pianist/keyboardist, composer and music arranger/producer/ engineer). Walker trained in musical theatre in London while Paddison became an in-demand remix specialist working on songs by Michael Jackson, Vanilla Ice, Black Box, Digital Underground and Suzanne Vega.

Walker’s vocals are pure and passion-filled. The Paddison production on DARE TO DREAM is incredibly rich and varied, simply superb as he often compiles up to 300 tracks on some songs giving the textures and depth similar to Enya and Secret Garden. The album contains nine vocal songs and three instrumentals. The music ranges from the powerful soul-searching “Deep” to the joyful, upbeat “Dare To Dream Again” and “A New Day.” “Resonance” has great rhythms, guitars and a male-female duet.

Unleashed Dreams specifically creates music not only to entertain and please the listener, but also to raise their consciousness, awaken needs and desires, plant guideposts for their transformative journey, and encourage making their dreams their reality. Dive deep into this album and you will not be disappointed.
Rating: Excellent
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