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West of Eden
By Vance Sheaks
Label: Imagineer Records
West of Eden tracks
1. Morning Mist
2. Looking to the West  
3. Mirage  
4. Running with the Wind
5. A Gentle Summer Rain  
6. Memories Never Forgotten
7. Sandlot
8. Heart of a Child
9. Under the Stars
10. Moonlit Night  
11. One Night, Two Souls  
12. It Will Never Be the Same  
13. West of Eden
What beauty hath God wrought?
Out of nowhere it comes in the mail and profoundly affects my life. Music with beauty so sharp, so deep and clear that it is like the water melting off an icicle on a late winter’s day. You can actually feel the warmth and you are acutely aware of the clarity. West of Eden is the album. Vance Sheaks is the amazing artist. His romantic, thought provoking compositions are far and above the mainstream of the contemporary instrumental genre and his guitar playing and blending of instrumentation is exquisite.

Guitarist Vance Sheaks has a plethora of talent on the album. It features keyboards by Darren Rogers who co-wrote the title track, drums by Mark Ham, and vocals by Jessica Knickerbocker and Rebecca Saathoff. Together they make a joyful noise.

Morning Mist is an incredible musical vignette of the sun as it radiates through the trees just after sunrise. It is a warm day with the promise of friendly breezes and everything has taken on a pale golden glow. Tinkling bells and dreamy guitar join with lush synthesizer as you hear the earth breathe. Is there no better reason to get out of bed?

1969. I was sitting on a lobster pot on the shore of Cape Ann, the sailboat safely anchored at the pier, when I heard the very same storm come off the ocean. Such is the sound in the introduction to Running with the Wind. The rush of the wind in this song is the sound of racing on the ocean, cycling through the plains and soaring over the desert. You are stronger, faster and higher than have ever been before. Luminous guitar and cheery inorganic voices accompany you in your pursuit. A most notable track on the album and I have listened to it countless number of times.

A Gentle Summer Rain is my favorite cut on West of Eden. When I do reviews and listen to a disc for the first time I usually skip around to hear what can be heard. When this song came on I couldn’t tear myself away. Brilliant piano, sensuous guitar and the sound of ocean breakers crashing as you watch the rain fall over the sea. The waves keep time as the rain falls from the dull leaden sky. And yet every drop is a precious thing of beauty.

Sandlot is glorious song celebrating the sound of innocence and the echo of joy. Kids laughter and well, their noise are the background for a delightful song with cello, guitar and synth. This is what the sound of happiness sounds like. It renders the same feeling you get when you see a beautiful child walking along holding his or her mother’s hand and smiling just because. You smile in your heart, don’t you?

As if that wasn’t emotional enough along comes Heart of a Child. Echoing keyboard saunters along on a blue-skied summer’s day with bright guitar at her side. There is openness to the music, a feeling of being welcome no questions asked. I guess the title says it all.

The best cut on the album is It Will Never Be the Same which you might think would be negative, but it is not. It is the most positive concept you can imagine. It says that now that I know you my life will be different and better.

The final cut West of Eden featuring the ambrosial trumpet of Jerry Serrano is the only vocal of the album. Rebecca Saathoff is the chanteuse that adds spice to the song about the elusive place called Eden.

“We look to the west
West of Eden
A Place where youth and innocence lives.
Where dreams are fulfilled”.

Vance’s uncle Sonny played in Buddy Holly’s band. Talk about a mentor! At the age of twelve Vance took up the guitar. He played in the ubiquitous high school bands, but his taste soon changed and he was listening to Michael Hedges, Leo Kottke and other contemporary instrumentalists. It wasn’t long before he got into composing.

Sheaks’ music is like a sun-bright ray of hope on a dark sea of despair. There is beauty offered and beauty imagined and romance reigns supreme. Everything is here. There is not a cut that I did not enjoy. A rare thing these days. This album is definitely going on my Top Ten for 2005.

Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 11/25/2005
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