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Red Sky Prairie by Sharon Fendrich
- posted by John Iverson - CKUW on 7/28/2019
A Musical Masterpiece
This is an exceptional musical masterpiece from Sharon Fendrich, particularly when you consider the fact that this is her debut album. The eleven selections on this album are very beautiful, expressive and passionate, and are genuinely memorable musical masterpieces. Sharon Fendrich is an extraordinary composer, with an opus of very well crafted and beautifully arranged musical creations.

The performances from pianist Sharon Fendrich, four world-class Dutch musicians, and the stunning Russian soprano Anna Emelyanova are outstanding, heartfelt and nothing short of breathtaking! The well-balanced and varied combinations of piano, cello, violin, flute and voice paint a vivid picture on "Red Sky Prairie". I find it really hard to pick a favourite among the pieces on this album, as every song stands out brilliantly on its own. But as a collective they form a musical treasure trove of sound, colour, character and beauty.

Red Sky Prairie is certainly one of the best albums in the new age/neo-classical genre to be released this year. And I would definitely place Sharon Fendrich in the same extraordinary class of musical artists as Secret Garden, David Lanz, and Loreena McKennitt. This album is an absolute must have for all lovers of heartfelt new age or neo-classical music!
Rating: Excellent
Still the River Flows by David M. Edwards
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 7/25/2019
A collection of beautiful solo piano pieces
I have gazed at the picture that is the art work for this album and I must have travelled through a thousand memories myself, most of them delightfully happy. I’m still looking at it now, whilst listening to this quite emotive, yet uplifting release and my senses tell me it’s yet again time to walk through Alice’s musical mirror and take part in another journey of sound and tone.
David M. Edwards is a pianist of great style and fluency, from the very first track one can really feel that, it is entitled Morning Song and is a bright and airy composition, akin to opening the windows to the first sunny day of spring. Edwards has done himself proud with this opening composition, a great start to the album indeed.
This is the artists’ first solo piano album; he has covered many genres with his talents preceding this. On this album the arrangements and compositions are so rich and filled with colour and his performances so gifted, an example of this can be found on Summer Dance, picking up off the energy of the last track, Edwards creates a lively yet smooth song that literally does what it says on the can, and dances right across the mind’s eye.
When I first saw the title of this album I knew it was my destiny to write a review for it, rivers for me represent the ever flowing nature of life in all its impermanence and beauty and I was right, the composition is a thing of great artistic endeavour all on its own. The title track Still the River Flows is an outstanding arrangement, one that has a level of reflection and emotion within its walls, but at no time over studious, this in my view is simply adorable and should be used as the theme music for a TV show.
Our journey through the day continues with this next piece called Just a Simple Song, the melody here is very moving and very memory filled, Edwards’s fluent performances are indeed as attractive to gaze at, as is the art work of the album. Here once more the artist title says it all, a simple song, while that may be true, it is played with such a level of honesty which is deeply refreshing.
There’s a certain sweetness about the track For a Long, Long Time, a truly colourful, yet emotive piece, one that would fit quite well with the album cover too. You could imagine sitting on the banks of the river in silent reflection listening to this piece, perhaps for a long, long time.
I gave a wry smile when I got to this track, it’s called Nineteen in 69. The one thing that springs to mind when 1969 is mentioned is of course the Apollo Moon landings. On that day I was a mere 12 years old, but am still as wide eyed and open mouthed to this day when space travel is mentioned. I guess each has their own memory of a time, a year, for me Edward’s performance on this piece was quite breath-taking and was packed with energy of excitement and wonder.
I have arrived on that peak, the tor of music we know as the midway point of the album, and this is where you will find my favourite track off the release called On a Cloudy Day. This one is filled with a delightful slice of memory and reflection; one could imagine lying on a hillside, as pleasant thoughts of happy days drift past like the small white clouds above, a truly sublime solo piano performance by Edwards here.
The tempo picks up now as we reach this next composition called Take Me with You. This flourishing arrangement has all the hallmarks of a plea of a loved one to join their partner on a journey of excitement and wonder. The performance here is upbeat and literally brims with the energy of excitement, almost like we’re running down the hill together hand in hand; this could easily be the sound track of that very moment.
We are now entering the latter half of the album and we find a truly beautiful composition waiting for us, it is called Evening Song and this luscious offering has one of the sweetest melodies on the album. The construction of this piece is wonderfully crafted and the narrative of this time of day is perfectly executed by the artist, one can almost hear the Blackbirds call to each other as the sun begins to sink in a crimson sky, an utterly idyllic composition indeed.
This next piece I thought fitted in nicely with the preceding one, and is entitled Wistfully. The thoughtful performance here is like watching the smoke drift from a chimney in early autumn, it has a slow but deliberate sense of movement, it’s almost angelic-like in presence, perhaps tinged with a little regret, but done in a deeply contemplative mood and played by a master of emotional tone.
I Remember That is our next port of musical call, this is a really interesting musical sojourn to partake, the performance is creative and well-constructed, this is a really clever piece, one that I really adored, the major minor interplay was sublime and beautifully created, the flourishing yet tender presentation was simply amazing, for me this would be one of the stand out tracks from the album, and at times almost reminiscent of Elton John.
The shortest piece off the release is this one and called Wherever You Are, but what is time when such beauty is to be found. We all carry memories of our lives around with us, and in those vulnerable moments they turn into pure emotion, here Edwards has created a snap shot of an emotive moment of time and thus created a short form opus of great sensitivity.
One of my favourite things to do with my beautiful wife is the actual title of this next piece and called Walking By The Shore, which for us is quite easy to do as we live on a small island. For each step taken on this shoreline, waves gently lap up to the rocks, the sun sinks with a charming red smile and all is as it should be in our world. This is a wonderful penultimate offering, for me this solo piano performance encapsulates my musings above, and makes me very grateful indeed, this must now be the sound track for my evening’s perambulations.
The end of the album is upon us now as the sun slowly sinks on our musical horizon, but before the light fades from this stage of expressive genius, we have one last gift of class that will now be performed for us by the artist, it is our parting piece called Won’t You Stay. A stylish way indeed to leave the album, one packed with passion and an imploring narrative of hope and love.
David M. Edwards and his creation Still the River Flows, is a manifestation of a timeless collection of beautiful solo piano compositions, ones that will linger for a long while within the musical memory. This is an album of the heart, performed by a musician who is clearly playing from it. Still the River Flows maybe the debut solo piano album from the artist, but it is eternal and played with the honesty and a sublime brilliance you would imagine from a seasoned master.
Rating: Excellent
Hushabye by Rick Sparks
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 7/25/2019
A beautiful calming album for all ages
Rick Sparks has sealed an everlasting legacy as a musician who can soothe and calm his listeners with the first few bars of any song he has recorded, his crafted approach is a gift that many just hope to find, and it is this genius we discover on this his latest release called Hushabye.
At many times in our lives, we will require places of peace, moments of solitude and sanctuaries of the soul, this album can create all three, simply put meditative relaxing music has never been in such safe hands.
This is a beautiful moving album, filled full of tones that touch with ease the hem of the neo classical genre, and moments of magic like the tracks Love Can Make You Happy and Dreams of Peace, are but two fine examples of this soothing narrative of calm.
The softness and tender performance that Sparks gives is a delight to listen to on its own, especially on one of my favourite tracks entitled When The Stars Came Out, the angelic harmonies and flute just add a further layer of tranquillity to the proceedings. Then we can then simply float on offerings like the soft and serene tones of And She Dreams, and be completely lulled to a faraway land with the composition We Are Loved, the track that ends this stunning album.
Hushabye is an album that children will adore falling asleep to, it is a release that anyone of any age at all, would love to just have playing around them, for it is from these very peaceful arrangements that each of us will find those moments of calming grace and perhaps even a sojourn into a world of restful slumber.
Hushabye is another loving creation manifested by Rick Sparks, it is the musical equivalent of having a loved one put an arm around you and tell you everything is going to be alright, an absolute meditative must for all serious music lovers.
Rating: Excellent
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