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Hope for Harmony by Kathryn Toyama
- posted by Michael Diamond on 3/23/2013
Hope For Harmony
Although Kathryn Toyama is a classically trained pianist, in her words: “the ‘feeling’ is foremost and when it comes to me, I find that I must first open my heart, and then the music begins to flow.” In fact, most of the songs on her Hope For Harmony CD were created as improvisations and purely for her own emotional catharsis. The connection between music and spirituality is the cornerstone of Kathryn’s creativity and she firmly believes in the power of consciously created positive music to effect change, both personally and globally.

One of the things I enjoyed about listening to Hope For Harmony is that among the eighteen songs, were a number of shorter vignette-like pieces. Each one reflecting its own emotional color, bringing to mind a necklace with a variety of sparkling gems all strung together by Kathryn’s creativity and focused intention. While there is musical diversity in her songs, the omnipresent ambience is one of serenity, gentleness, and comfort. Although Kathryn’s music could be described in terms of technique, structure, melody, etc. for me it was more about the feelings it evoked. A good example is on one of the shorter pieces entitled “The Light.” Although it is less than two minutes in length, in that short span of time it managed to convey a sense of quiet majesty that had a cinematic atmosphere, a quality also shared with another track entitled “Floating On Dreams.” While this is primarily a solo piano album, the final track brings a surprise in the form of guitar accompaniment by Richard Alan. The pair played beautifully together, with the guitar perfectly complimenting the graceful piano melodies. Kathryn’s CD Baby page recommends Hope For Harmony to fans of George Winston, and I would agree that her music could appeal to listeners of that genre with its graceful blend of new age and neo-classical elements.
Rating: Excellent
Scorpion Moon by Sora
- posted by John Iverson - CKUW 95.9 FM on 3/16/2013
Sora Creates Another Gem!
Creating a new album following the success of her critically acclaimed recording Heartwood was no easy task for Calgary singer and songwriter Sora, but she has managed to conjure up another gem with the release of her latest album Scorpion Moon.

Under the guidance of producer Douglas Romanow, who Sora also worked with on Heartwood, she has continued where Heartwood left off, putting together another collection of songs about myths and legends, children's stories, archetypes and other fascinating subjects. To accomplish this, Sora utilized a diverse assortment of instruments, including some unique ones like the erhu and the charango. I particularly liked the influence of the cello and the harp on the sound, as it makes the music more mystical and magical. But the instruments never overpower Sora's radiant voice, which varies from strong and powerful to light and airy depending on the mood of the song. I am sensing too that Sora's sound is becoming more and more all her own, and less like her core musical influences. Her goal is for her songs to be stories of what it means to be human, and this certainly comes across as you listen to Scorpion Moon.

Of particular note on this recording is the ethereal opening track "Scheherazade", which is subtitled Scorpion Moon. Other notable tracks on the album include "Mermaid Song", "Hold", and "Moving On". However all of the songs on this disc are enjoyable and tie nicely together, showcasing not only the talent of the singer, but of the guest musicians as well. It's difficult to categorize this style of music, as the lines between new age, Celtic, folk, and even classical are blurred, but this blending of styles only serves to make the album appealing to a more diverse group of listeners. You will be left wanting more. Bravo Sora!
Crown in the Sky by Lis Addison
- posted by Michael Diamond on 3/6/2013
Crown In The Sky
As impressed as I was with the two previous albums by Lis Addison, Crown In The Sky is a fantastic release that reveals a new level of creative achievement. The music truly expresses the energies of earth and sky with its rootsy rhythms and ethereal ambiences, as well as its messages of appreciation (and concern) for our home planet. A percentage of CD sales go to global tree planting projects and organizations that empower women and girls. The album begins, appropriately with a song called “Voice Of The Tree,” which sets the tone for the album with its elements of ambient, new age, jazz, and world music. Her voice on this track has an airy, whispery quality that reminded me a bit of particular songs by Sade, or perhaps Norah Jones, and has a lovely, alluring vocal tone that perfectly fits the vibe of the music and draws you into the song’s misty magic. In addition to her beautiful vocals, on every track, Lis’ extensive experience in music and recording is evident in the fact that she wrote all the songs and lyrics, did all the arrangements, produced the album, and played just about all the instruments. Additional instrumentation included her husband Dean Foster on bass and beats. Also included on select tracks is keyboardist Kit Walker and Christopher Krotky who added additional beats and collaborated with Lis on mixing and mastering.

The title track opens with a lush orchestral intro that evolves into diverse movements throughout the piece. According to Lis: The phrase “Crown In The Sky” describes our human experience in which we are open and receptive to the spiritual realm yet anchored on the earth in the physical realm.” An intriguing artistic alchemy is created on a tune called “Carry Me,” that blends Middle Eastern influences with a funky groove morphing into more of a pop jazz feel on the choruses. On a track called “How Deep,” the sound of Indonesian Gamelan sets the tone as a contemporary urban chill rhythm and fretless bass create the pulse. The album draws to a fitting conclusion with a final tribute to the Earth, entitled “Mother Gaia.” The unique blend of elements that Lis has brought together on this album should appeal to a wide cross section of listeners. This music marks a return to her roots as a songwriter, with contemporary influences of jazz, chill, and world music. I was moved both physically and spiritually by its propulsive energy, evocative melodies, and inspired lyrics. Crown In The Sky is an uplifting and thoroughly delightful listening experience.

(To read a full-length feature article on this album, please visit
Rating: Excellent
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