The Industry Source for New Age, World, Ambient, Electronic, Solo Piano, Relaxation, Instrumental and many other genres of Music
review board:  View all reviews Submit your own reviews
member reviews
Serenity by Michael Kollwitz
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 10/4/2017
Lovingly crafted
A new artist to me, but one that has brought a great deal of Serenity into my life, no pun intended, well only a little, is Michael Kollwitz! Now like some, I had heard of the chapman stick on a few albums that I have reviewed, but never seen one until I gazed upon the covers of this album, I feel intrigued, so why not join me on another musical journey this time with Michael Kollwitz, as he opens the door to his new realm called Serenity.
Mountain Sanctuary starts our voyage of musical plenitude and a more serene beginning you would never find. The gentleness of performance here is sublime and deeply peaceful. It would be ideal to take this music up into the mountains behind my home and enjoy the lush colourful tones along the way.
Mystic Vista, ah what a serene title, and one that we can relate to here, we have many mystical and amazing vistas in Cyprus. Again this track is utter perfection. Im sitting on my veranda, listening to this and watching the early autumn wind caress the palm trees, as sun beams dance on the wings of an errant butterfly, but I am sure you will find your own halcyon moment within this quite stunning arrangement.
The mellowness of this release is enough to bring tranquillity into anyone’s life; Greatest Possible Gift is another fine example of that tranquil nature and Michael Kollwitz is the master narrator of this most bliss-filled journey. One can see why such luminaries as Alice Cooper, Carlos Santana and Mick Fleetwood have purchased his music.
As we move to The Four Pillars, we can feel so happy that the enchantment spell that Kollwitz has placed upon us is still working. Here we have another warm opus of peace to wash over us; this one has a real sun kissed feel to it, and the tones that flow from this place of musical contentment are perhaps bathed in an historical motif of sorts.
We can move seamlessly from one composition to another without any interruption to our state of bliss, and the track A New Life, continues that reverie of harmony. For me there is a careful and tender ethic of reflection about this piece that I simply adored, but one with a positive nature to its construction.
I am certain I could leave this album on repeat for hours, it is so layered and textured in a state of utter calmness, and that doesn’t change as we approach the half way juncture of the album, where we come across the piece Best of Everything. Ian Cameron Smith from Australia once provided us with music of this ilk, but he did that on an electric guitar, here Kollwitz emphasises his skills on the Chapman Stick like I have never heard before.
The midway marker has been reached and we are further blessed by a smooth and resonating offering called Joyful Reunion. This composition has a really light energy about it, and the essence of happiness flows strong in this one.
The whole album seems to break down life’s tiring rhetoric and creates a soothing oasis of sound to rest in. On Simple Pleasure you have just that, a beautiful creation yes, but one that will simply allow you to drift on a sea of reassuring pleasure. Kollwitz manifests layer upon layer of comforting tones, and this track is yet another fine example of that most pleasurable reality.
Many will love the consistency of this album, I do. The artist continues that theme with Warm Lasting Embrace, the mantra through this album is restful yes, but there is a warm feeling of creation here as well that needs to be highlighted. This tracks narrative also seems to have a sense of love built into the composition that is so appealing too.
The reassurance of the next piece will leave you feeling deeply moved and consoled; it’s called Never Alone Again. The comfort that this opus creates is delightful, one could easily imagine sitting at the shore line of a beach in the warming sun, the arm of a loved one encircles you and states, that you will never be alone again; the performance here is sublime and really worth multiple listens.
One of my favourites from the album was Quiet Full Moon, this is music to quieten the restless soul and install the feeling of positivity. Kollwitz has such a sensitive performance style that with each and every note played, you just ease back further into a dream world of pleasure. It’s hard to judge, but for me this was one of the smoothest pieces from the release, for me it creates a vast vista of musical awareness for me to roam within.
As we move deep into the matrix of this dimension created by Michael Kollwitz, we come across an elevating offering called Higher Power. There is an increasing sense of movement within this piece that I found most interesting; it also seems to flow back and forth like the tide, with a sweet energy of harmonic bliss.
Our penultimate offering is entitled The Seven Canyons. The performance here by the artist is simply picturesque and wonderfully blessed. I found a similar sense of movement again within this track, but this time, one that you could visualise that headway being made by flight, or perhaps on the wings of an Eagle.
The last port of call for us is entitled No Hurry, No Worry. Kollwitz has given us plenty of opportunities to reap the rewards of tranquillity that this album brings, and this last piece was another favourite of mine that I could play for hours, you can literally feel the stress falling from your shoulders as you listen to it.
Serenity by Michael Kollwitz is an album that could never have been named better, the peace and calmness of this release brings us a haven of wonderment that we can all delightfully be a part of, and all thanks to the most heavenly and harmonious performances by the artist. Each piece is crafted lovingly to manifest a sanctuary of soft sound for us to bathe in. I thoroughly recommend this album in a heartbeat, may all your nights be long, pleasant and idyllic, and they will be with ease, by embracing Serenity by Michael Kollwitz.
Rating: Excellent
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
<<-later reviews | earlier reviews->>   <<- all reviews ->>
Site Map     *     Privacy Policy     *     Terms of Use     *     Contact Us
Core Solutions, LLC