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Wandering Soul by Rachel LaFond
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 7/26/2017
A quality album that will touch the heart and mind
I had been a difficult last few days for me and I was in the need for something tranquil to soothe my soul, and that wish was soon fulfilled with the arrival of the new Rachel LaFond album Wandering Soul.
As soon as they first keys were touched I started to relax and enjoy the moment and this first track of course was the title header, the overall canvas that LaFond has created this masterpiece from. Wandering Soul is a delightful composition filled full of emotion and passion and a moment in music that you simply never want to end. This is exactly what I needed to bathe in, a classy arrangement, beautifully played and with the most delicate of touches.
One thing we have a lot of here on the island of Cyprus is the sun. So this one is quite apt for a summer theme and called Spinning in the Sun. Once more LaFond’s sensitivity comes to the fore, but this time it is ably partnered by a sense of happiness and fun, and as such, the confidence of performance shines through like that yellow orb itself.
The shortest piece off the release at just over 2 minutes is the vibrant and energetic Finding Home. There is a certain essence of longing and desire built in here and also intensity too. This is well played and creates an interesting narrative which becomes even more stimulating in the second half as the tempo and urgency ceases, perhaps home at this point can at last be just a breath away.
On Ember Warmth - Twin Peaks, we have a lovely fluency, an arrangement that does indeed have a great deal of musical warmth within its structures. I can visualise vast mountain ranges, whilst sitting by the dying embers of a log fire whilst listening to this one. The performance on piano here is at times powerfully emotive, but then calming and restful, and at all times very memorable.
We now approach the half way juncture and come across a composition called Mystery of the Moor. This is so gently played and in doing so creates a really intriguing narrative. The slight elevation of tempo and purpose illustrates the subject matter perfectly, it’s like the mists have lifted and one can gaze upon this wild and vast landscape.
This whole album to me seems like a journey of souls, through one portal to the next, perhaps a sojourn of many life times and with that thought in mind, we now move from the moor and ask ourselves a question, Why We Wonder, perhaps it’s the restless nature of our sprit? Here LaFond expands on this theory in music and with a supreme confidence manifests a moment of solo piano mastery, she produces some of the most empowered and also tender passages you’re likely to hear, and carries us along with consummate ease on a composition that is over six minutes in duration, and the longest track off the album.
This has thus far been a truly delightful and thought provoking journey with Rachel LaFond and as we move into the latter half of the album we come across a track that seems to be quite popular with our listeners and called Kingfisher. If you have ever watched a Kingfisher in flight you will note that the tone and performance here is absolutely spot on, there is a real lightness about this track that just makes you smile.
Loving in the Rain, a wonderfully imaginative title and one that springs forth some very appealing imagery, the piano is LaFond’s brush stroke and with each one she brings forth another composition that is packed with memories that may have at times been both intense and happy at the same time, but all wrapped up beautifully in one very well played package for us to enjoy.
Were in the deepest parts of this quite beautiful project now and come across a journey of another kind, perhaps a walk along the banks of the Nikko
River itself. LaFond’s skills on piano manifest a lush sense of movement as we go along on our way. One must truly applaud her rather wonderful style of being able to create such wonderful visuals within the mind’s eye whilst doing so. This is a remarkable song that will remain a favourite with me for a long while yet.
We now have located the penultimate offering of the album, this is beyond delicate in its nature and called Whisper in the Mist. There is a real reflective energy about this composition that I adore, a slight sense of mournfulness, perhaps of a memory that still resonates within the mist, which wishes to still be heard. I keep coming across favourites and this is another, totally sublime in all ways.
Redemption is the last track and the seeker on our journey now wishes to round off the debt and make things right. LaFond has done it again and brought into this world something so thought provoking and deeply fascinating, but also reveals a layer of extra musical skill to give us the feeling that redemption has indeed been successful.
I must say I loved every second of this release, now many will know I get many solo piano albums across my desk, but this is a real bar raiser, Wandering Soul is a quality album that I feel will reach the heart and minds of all who listen.
In my opinion this rates in the top 5 of my favourite solo piano offerings over the last couple of years, each track is crafted in the most professional way, to bring us the eager listener a truly marvellous and empowering experience, and as such is completely recommended.
Rating: Excellent
Kingdom of Mountains by Mystic Journey
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 7/24/2017
Stunning production and performances
My wife and station manager Chrissie Sheppard had been praising this album from the roof tops, so I was more than pleased to get a chance to review it and take a listen to something that she had already given a ringing endorsement to. Chrissie does indeed have excellent taste, and Mystic Journey is well named.
I began my journey one late July afternoon in the sweltering Cyprus heat. The day was roasting; the sort of heat that melts the endurance of the traveller and asks him to take shelter and rest for a while. I was fortunate enough to have this album by my side and that journey began its first few steps with the track Subhadra. The performance on this piece was a perfect remedy to the draining relentless heat; the flute from Teng so deep and so moving, her rich and colourful narrative was only given extra weight by the most delightful and creative percussion of Gilbert Levy.
Home is our next sojourn of music; this album is so delightfully chilled it will bring peace and tranquillity to all that listen to its beautiful refrains. This is so laid back and smooth and wonderfully arranged, Levy and Teng make the perfect partnership on a track that is as warm as the heart, and home is where the heart is, right?
We now arrive at our next musical stop and this is the grand central station of the title track, that ultimate moment when we learn about the entire project, that moment when we see the passion and intent of the musicians as they bring us their signature offering. After the first two splendid pieces, now we languish in the realm of Kingdom Of Mountains. We can be completely satisfied here with this film score styled offering, the sheer beauty of this track and the simply stunning performance by Teng on flutes is off the scale, the added instrumentation within the construction of this composition is like creating a painting with a multi myriad palate of paints and with each stroke, perfection is created, a simply outstanding moment of musical mastery can be found here.
Midnight in Bamako is one of those pieces that you could easily just get lost in. The scene of night is perfectly set and we seem to both hover and float around this nocturnal location, partnered by some of the most laid back and peace driven music of our day. Listen to Teng on flute here, this has to be one of the most confident and sublime performances on flute I have heard for years.
On Delicate Rainbow Flower we arrive at a composition that is so carefully played, note the bass here in this piece, and while Jon Ossman delivers a perfect depth to the track Suzanne Teng reigns supreme with a lively performance so redolent to that of the UK’s legendary flutist Nigel Shaw.
I found something very lifting about the track Yunnan. The tempo was upbeat and a real eastern flavour was created with a lush back drop of sound and colour, the guitars of Dann Torres danced beautifully with Teng’s flutes, in a piece that really lifted the energies and raised the rhythms.
As we now move into the deeper waters of the release we come across something rather special called Viento. The lively skills of multi percussionist Gilbert Levy create such imagery and rhythm here. Teng’s mastery also created a layered sense of an almost sensual motif within the composition that made this piece completely undeniable.
On En Passant we have a track that contains a defined sense of movement within its construction, the multi instrumentation and nature of this offering is sublime and manifests for us a journey within a journey. This is one of those; I must listen to many times over tracks, a composition that has a really addictive essence about its arrangement.
Our penultimate offering is entitled I Dream of a Castle. The Teng and Levy combination once more brings into our musical realm, a piece that contains a picturesque vibration about its construction, some simply amazing percussion, perfectly timed and weighted and a flute that seems to create a musical web of an increasing emotional nature, that hovers all around our melodic and harmonious awareness.
So we have reached the final port of call for our voyage with the band Mystic Journey, it is called Lebanese Girl. Lebanon the location is not that far from my current location and within this piece we seem to be right back at the start, sheltering from the midday heat under a palm tree or preferably at the nearest taverna. A sultry offering, one that shimmers with the intensity of the day and hangs and drifts like sand in the desert. I must admit I have now listened to this piece three times in a row and I am completely captivated by its beauty, this is without doubt my favourite track off the release.
Kingdom Of Mountains by Mystic Journey is one of those albums you cannot afford to miss out on, the album has a stunning production quality, the performances from each and every artist are of utter quality and thus I have absolutely no problem totally recommending this release, it is easily one of the most magnificent and scenic albums I have heard for ages, an absolute must buy.
Rating: Excellent
The Road Home by Peter Calandra
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 7/13/2017
A stunning album
I admire the musician who doesn’t settle, one who keeps raising that musical bar and forever marching onwards and towards something new, exciting and fresh. That description suits Peter Calandra. The Road Home isn’t just special, it is an uplifting collection of magical compositions that will inspire and empower you along your way in life.
Listen to the quite breath taking opener called The New Dawn. The aspect of a new day breaking into our lives has been done by many, but here Calandra draws on a deeply spiritual narrative to make this one of the best dawn based tracks I have heard for eons. The utilisation of vocalisations by Joy Askew and the timely use of percussive crescendo, make this a simply sublime cinematic opener.
Mi Amore is up next, you will find lying underneath the satin sheets of music, one of the most chilled and sultry tracks you’re likely to hear. A delicate and delightfull mood can be found here and one that sets a scene perfectly for a moonlit night of sensual love under the stars.
I remember listening to a Morning Dove whilst in the states, now I listen to it here in Cyprus each morning. It gives me a sense of grounding within a new day that has started and wishes my participation in it. Calandra draws a very light essence of ambience here; his very delicate performance on keyboards and the dreamy nature of this piece all go to make it a total winner in my book. There is also a very clever backdrop of sound that builds with a simply lush perspective as the piece grows and the day shines, and yes, this was one of my favourite pieces off the release, a perfectly meditative slice of ambient genius.
Take a step now through this next musical doorway as we listen to the title track called of course, The Road Home. We know that Peter Calandra has created music for films and TV, and this amazing track is a prime example of his skills. A perfectly composed and arranged title header and one that I would not be surprised to hear on a television show at some stage in the near future.
The shortest piece on the album is at the midway section, and we can ease back and listen to the calming refrains of Night into Day, a composition so blessedly peace filled and calming, to ease us gently into the second half of the album, it is a track of transition and tranquil piano vibes.
The Cat’s Eye is upon us, this has a lightness of energy about its construction. Calandra is a master narrator of musical genius and with each note played it allows us to go with the flow of the music, it opens up our imagination and we always arrive at the end in a state of happiness and bliss. This piece feels like that to me, a lightness of heart and happiness, and a journey along summer roads. This one is well over 6 minutes of musical fulfilment, carefully layered with a slight Jazzy motif, it doesn’t get much better than this.
There was something very intriguing about this next piece; it is called Points in the Sky. The vast nature of this composition and the grand soundscape to which it has been manifested is without doubt supreme in its structure and stature. This emotive and masterful composition brought tears to my eyes and raised every hair on my skin; this has to be one, if not the best piece I have ever heard from the artist. This is what I call absolute genius and must surely be one that is selected for a track of the year award, and yes, you guessed it my favourite on the album.
The hovering nature of this next offering created such delightful warmth, and is called Nocturnal Moods. The smooth and confident performance here will thrill you; the added instrumentation gave the piece depth and class, and once more added a slight Jazz influence, with a little Latin feel dropped into the mix, simply the perfect early night time composition.
Our penultimate offering is called At First Sight. The bass and piano here make this a real chilled arrangement, the slight pause and change in performance made this a fascinating track to listen to, one felt a compulsion to just keep listening to find out exactly where we would be going next, a clever and wonderfully narrated song indeed.
Our last piece is called Distant Dreams, we have been on this musical sojourn with Peter Calandra throughout this release and have been charmed by the utter magnificence of performance and composition and here within this track, he leaves us with the perfect parting gift. The fluency and melodic nature are so endearing and delightful to listen to, and as such eases us out of the journey with a smile upon our faces. Calandra is at his very best on piano here.
The Road Home is a release that Calandra can be very proud of, he has brought into our musical continuum something truly captivating and entrancing. It is no wonder Calandra commands the respect he does. The master composer has not rested on his musical laurels; he has sought out perfection and pushed the boundaries once more, and in my view, has utterly succeeded with style and creativity. This has to be the best so far in his collection and one that you really should add to yours as well; as such I completely recommended this stunning album.
Rating: Excellent
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