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Opus Four by Tim Neumark
- posted by Steve Sheppard, One World Music on 4/22/2014
A wonderful, varied album
So another day begins to crawl to its inevitable close, the sun has long set and the shadows of the evening sweep majestically across the now autumnal landscape. A rather lavish beginning for this review, but I wanted to settle you in for an album that will ease your soul into a far more comfortable place, an album that is incredibly relaxing, but also a real delight of excellent musicianship from artist Tim Neumark.
His album is Opus Four and spins eagerly within my computer; I glance from my studio window and listen to the strains of track one called With Wonder, during that time I am given a few moments to reflect upon life’s curious pathways and this music, is part of the process and this opening composition paints lushly a surreal landscape within my mind’s eye and prepares me for the rest of the album, which from time to time moves with ease and great dexterity from classical to new age piano.
Dads Victory I guess struck a note in my heart after having lost mine last year, while I miss him dearly; I know he would be happy to know that his son is writing about the thing he always loved so much, music. Knowing my father well, I have a feeling he would have liked this composition; it has that flow and a beautiful melody that strings you along this yellow brick road of tune. There is a real sense of pride within this track and by the end of it, one can really feel that a victory of sorts has been realised. This turned out to be one of my favourite tracks off the album, I just loved the different pace and style of the song. For a piano composition it had everything, including a bold ending.
Now if I may take your hand dear constant reader, mind the table and chair to you left and we will Waltz in F Minor for a few minutes. This is a piece that is slightly more complicated than you would be led to be believed by the title, there is an undertone of a slight melancholy deep within and also a powerful embrace which begs to be lured out. This is a very cleverly played composition and one that will leave you in awe with its originality. I thank you my dear lady for that dance, may I help you to your seat?
In Father of the Bride I felt a memory flick across the keys, like the flash of summer lighting, across in a prairie in the mid west. For me the memory was a sense of pride, I have been the father of the bride, at least that much I can say. This piece I sensed was filled with that moment and touched the hem of the classical genre from time to time, then seemed to break out and dance to its own tune. Neumark does have such a beautiful way of playing that just eases you into an album with a deft hand and a certain confidence and assuredly takes you down the aisle with a calm repose.
The shortest piece on the album is called A Moment of Joy, this gentle short form composition is indeed that moment of joy that eases us towards the half way spot in the album where we meet, my favourite track from the whole album entitled Winter Dreams.
Be ready, enjoy the opening classical plunge into a superb song, I have long admired musicians who can play meaningful music and really make you feel a tracks very essence, Neumark does that with ease on Winter Dreams, it conjures up images of December and a snow filled scene, it deals delicately with the moods associated with this season. On this piece Neumark caresses the keys with such a gentle touch that one can almost see the snow falling as he plays and then as darkness falls, we can see the winter filled starlit skies above and all is as it should be in the world, wonderful track.
Now this is a total change in direction, but a very clever one, I have recently had a few albums that have had Persian named tracks upon, this however is a cinematic sounding track called Persian Rhapsody. It is also the longest pierce on the album and unusually well over seven minutes long.
I personally think this was an inspired decision to add this almost long form composition upon this album as it gives Neumark a real opportunity to show his wares and he does so in with a great classical flourish and as such this is the track that I would recommend to others, listen carefully to this track it is a stylish and talented performance, if I have ever heard one.
Two Hearts takes us back to the New Age piano genre with a soothing composition, I had just to listen to this track to be eased into the night time and then I felt the warm embrace of my wife’s caress and I thought how appropriate and such perfect timing. This is much the way this very mellow piece will take you dear reader. A peaceful moment in time to share an embrace with the one you love and please enjoy, beautifully played and thoroughly enjoyable, both the embrace and the song!
Neumark’s ability to change tact is wonderful, on Finding Hope; I felt an almost poignant transition towards the classical once more, but this track is once more filled with an almost limitless style of composition creation, light and dark, heavy and gentle, powerful, but subtle, in short another track to listen to many times over.
Adagio Sostenuto from Beethoven to Neumark, from Neumark to Rachmaninoff, this was a track I was eager to delve deeply into. The second longest composition on Opus Four and worthy of the comment of sheer genius, I could have listened to this track all night; it was so dark and appealing to all my moods. The Tempo was delightful as it delivered a sublime and masterful performance by Neumark, within this piece the artist has sustained his role as a musician of intellect and as such a truly gifted individual.
Many have trodden the boards of nocturnal music, there are few who have created works of art that stand out like stars in the night sky, Debussy being one of course, let’s add another Tim Neumark. Listen to this piece and prepare to be entranced by its beauty and subtle mood changes, Seattle Nocturne is a charming, but also a meaningful composition that leaves me wanting to hear more.
Here Neumark takes the subject of a musical composition that is inspired by the night and creates a classic, one that I will defiantly listen to many times over.
The penultimate track off the album has the curious title of Meditation: Skipping Stones, a short form track that is a gently created example of Neumark’s classy performance upon this new album, this is a track that does what it says on the can, it is a truly meditative track, easy on the mind and ears and prepares us nicely for the last composition.
So, constant reader may I introduce you to the last track of the album and may I introduce you to the most upbeat composition from it, in fact when Neumark started playing, I was almost convinced he was going to take a leap into rock and roll! However while Chasing Glory does have a very vibrant start it composes its self with perfection and then sails into a beautiful ending of what is in truth a very well performed and passionate release by the artist. The last track in my opinion says it all about the artist, it literally has everything in it and as such Tim Neumark is the total package as a musician.
Neumark has created a wonderfully varied album in Opus Four and I would defiantly suggest taking a listen if your new to the genre of solo piano, however if you have a liking for classical piano, this will also be an ideal album for you to purchase and be amazed at just how wonderfully varied and adaptable the artist and the music upon Opus Four is.
Rating: Excellent
Out Of Nothing by Matteo Palmer
- posted by Steve Sheppard, One World Music on 4/22/2014
A stunning album
Welcome to another new face on the block as we review the work of Matteo Palmer, just as I review his work he has turned and moved past the magical age of 18, my goodness where did all those years go! Starting an album with harmonics is a superb idea, as a guitarist myself I love those moments of blissful playing; to touch a string in such away is like touching heaven. Here at a tender age Palmer takes all this and creates something beyond his years.
Starting with a six minute opus called Journey of the Wandering Minstrel; Palmer doesn’t just create a masterpiece of an opening track, but takes you on a journey within it as well.
I felt a real sense of purpose within Out Of Nothing, Palmer has a deft and stylish way of playing the guitar that at times reminds me of acoustic riffs from the Eagles, on tracks like Bitter Creek. On the piece Autumn, Palmer falls into Robert Linton mode and creates a sombre and respectful song that eases you into that most memory filled time of year, there is something very special about the approach here, it has a tentative feel that shows a great level of tenderness from the musician and a careful almost therapeutic performance, that would leave you eager to listen to this track over and over.
Escaping Reality is quite the title and the song moves along at a pace that is redolent to the subject matter, this is almost a rag that travels the highways and bye ways of the musical minstrel, the fields and lagoons by moonlight fly by, as this travelling number rattles along and then as if pulling into the station, takes a pause, as if you breath in the air of freedom, this is one delightful track.
Ex Nihilo, which is Latin for the album title “Out Of Nothing” has a lovely progression about it, a very gently performed composition that almost if not, emphasises the essence of the album project, from nothing comes this work of early intellect. There is something very appealing and very healing about the guitar work of Matteo Palmer and on this track it can really be felt.
As the sun slowly sinks and a new round of winter storms edge their way inexorably toward my home, I listen to the calming refrains of Sacred Grove, again more sumptuous harmonics and clever finger picking guitar gives us a mood filled piece, that gives us hope of a warmer clime, a time in the near future when perhaps we can walk in the sacred groves and relax in sun filled meadows and yes this composition is that well crafted, that one can literally feel the imagery take shape.
There is always something to be said when an artist, no matter what their age, plays so well, it gives you that urgent essence, that desire to pick up the guitar and just create yourself, the next piece called Ribbon Candy did just that. A little slap and mood, a few subtle chord changes and an intricate pattern of very clever musical interplay, gives us a cheerful piece that changes in pace and speed throughout.
From the upbeat melody to the mysterious walk in the woods, with the composition Woodland Trails, after hearing Masako describe her walk through the Appellations on her new album, I was eager to hear what roads we would be travelling and where to this time! Using the case of the guitar in a similar style to Tom Carleno, Palmer once more builds a narrative throughout this fluent composition, in a very well played and descriptive track.
Now by no co-incidence, it happens to be Pancake Day here in England in a few days time and if a title was going to be an interesting one to conjure up a melody for, then Happy Pancakes would be a fascinating place to begin. Palmer treats us once more to an upbeat and vibrant composition that shows off his skills on the string with such a deftness and ease, it makes you want to dance along whilst slipping the odd pancake or two into the mouth! This is a fun composition, full of energy and joy.
Some memorable emotions come to the fore here in the next track entitled Family Portrait, this piece has some wonderful changes within it and deserves to be really listened to closely to be fully appreciated. There is lightness about this composition, but it always retains an air of history about it within its structure.
So dear constant reader and listener, your travels with me this time have now taken you to the penultimate track off the album and this one is called Concetta. Palmers guitar is plucked like the harmonic strings of majesty, by Canada’s very own Bob Ardern, as once more we are gifted a very professionally played composition that radiates such potential, its screams joy around the world of 21st century contemporary music.
The final offering is called Sleepy Dog and on this, his debut album and one may I add produced by the man himself Will Ackerman, Matteo Palmer has not only created a superb end of project composition that floats with ease and rests gently like a lullaby on the soft cushion of a late summers afternoon, but has created a superb first release, one that will no doubt set the bar for his future albums and one can only hope that Palmer’s musical journey will be a steady constant rise to the very top of his genre, for if this album is anything to go by, the future for Matteo Palmer is pretty much already written.
Rating: Excellent
Perfect Imperfection by Tom Carleno
- posted by Steve Sheppard, One World Music on 4/22/2014
A rare gem
I cannot express how nice it was to get to review a guitar based album, as one who strums the strings of power myself it was good to get to grips with Perfect Imperfection from Tom Carlino. This is an album of very clever and adept finger style guitar playing by a man who clearly has a great depth and passion for his music; you can see this on track one called In Search Of. A delightful negative refrain at times then some very inspired notes give us an emotive but delightful way to start an album.
This album has come at a good time for me, I needed to relax and ease back and my life lately as could be yours, has been frantic, to put it mildly. Perfect Imperfection was the perfect vehicle for me to do so and this next piece was superb, it’s called Meet me in Maui. Laid back and chilled and already through this music I can feel the inner peace beginning to flow.
When I first started working in radio, I came across the artist Al Stewart and I actually ended up with a show called “On The Border” after hearing Year of the Cat, I would of course find Al’s other well know composition of that very name and Carlino does a literal walk through of this classic Stewart song and does it with reverence to its originality, but with a fresh Latin feel to it as well, excellent rendition, played and performed with style and grace and yes I was signing the lyrics along with it!
Now an interesting title, my dear constant readers, you all know I delight in fresh and new idea’s and especially innovative titles, so when Welcome To The Milky Way came on I was in rapture. This is played so beautifully and in an almost ancient style that could take the listener back across the eons of time across that very Milky Way, there are some very pleasant harmonics on this track as well.
It’s time to raise the rhythm and take the whole venture up tempo, using the guitar in every aspect on Working up an Appetite. There was some great use of the frets, strings and main body of the guitar. On this piece Carlino shows his mastery and shows it well, at around two minutes forty, there is a charming quiet passage that sold this piece for me as one of the best on the album and the powerful chords at the end made it an awesome composition that should take you by the ears and drag you to musical heaven.
But wait dear constant reader, there is much more, this next track is so mood filled you will not want to miss out on another enjoyable piece called Timberline Tree, as a guitarist myself I sense this is a arrangement that we call, personal music therapy, this composition just seemed to be so organic and had just about everything you want from a guitar based album, there was something about this piece I felt was so deep, it was so moving and so personal to the artist himself.
I have heard Bob Ardern and others in this genre play like this, but here Carlino seem to flow with the ease of silver, from a mirrored pool of musical delight. A traditional finger picking piece that I know will absolutely delight you and it’s called “Childs Play”
As Monty Python once said, now for something completely different and to be honest you couldn’t get more different that Rhapsody in Blood. Think Hammer Horror films; think Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and Vincent Price and you will have it in one. Let’s start my friends with wolves baying in the woods, let us start with the creaking sound of strings, like that old evil door.
You really have to listen to this composition to get the full benefit from it, but let me just say that Tom Carlino has brought you a movie styled piece of music here that would fit superbly into any horror film you have ever watched, but BEWARE, the scream, it had my wife jump from her seat whilst she was editing another show to say to me, “Did you hear a woman screaming outside?”
Yes Rhapsody in Blood is really a fun piece to play, but I must say that Tom Carlino has not only done a good job here, but also enjoyed doing it, my only regret is he didn’t ask me to add some audio after the wolves, saying that old Dracula classic line “Hark, can you hear them? The children of the night” Wonderful track, you will love this.
Always room for a classic, many have done it recently, but here and rather appropriately Carlino chooses Imagine by John Lennon, this is a song that for some reason people seem to play more at Christmas and here it sits at number nine on the album. Its respectfully played and one more song that you will want to sing along to.
A little more time dear reader, to sample some of the perfection which we can now call Carlino’s finger picking guitar on the piece Brief Encounter, before we fall into the lap of the last piece off the album called What A Difference A Day Makes. This is a gentle track to end with and in all honesty this is a delicious album and being an unbiased guitarist, I would recommend this to anyone, I would urge all guitarists to buy this, its has everything you might want to learn from, but more importantly everyone can enjoy a well performed album, produced and brought to us with such care and attention.
At times Carlino’s style reminded me of Greg Lake’s acoustic work on his days with Emerson Lake and Palmer, it has a little light and shade, it has a little night and day, and a little shadow and sunlight about it and this last piece almost confirms that.
Overall Perfect Imperfection is the type of album that should get a lot of airplay from radio, it will do from ours and it should completely take the listeners imagination to a place that will be a most pleasurable location. Don’t miss out on this album, it’s a rare gem that glows brightly in a world that seems to have lost its musical soul.
Rating: Excellent
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