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The Sounding Board by R J Lannan
RJ Lannan is the reviewer for The Sounding Board.
Other reviews from The Sounding Board by R J Lannan:
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By AO Music
Label: Abbeywood Records
Released 4/7/2017
Asha tracks
1. Jabulani
2. Love Knows the Way
3. The Wildest Dream
4. Where in the New World
5. Thi Na Ngen Jabulo
6. Quixote
7. Gael Medley
8. Terra
9. Though We Are Here Now
10. The Inbound
11. Four Simple Joys
12. Asha
Asha means hope
I am always excited to learn that AO Music has a new album. There are certain things that I am assured of when I play their music. It will be an international celebration that honors all the children of the world. The music will be animated, professional, and entertaining. The album will be a journey in of itself to places I have always wanted to visit. And the singing will touch every part of my spirit.

AO Music features the talents of legendary singer Miriam Stockley, composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Richard Gannaway, the voices of the Dong Ba Xiang Children’s Choir from Tibet and a myriad of guest contributors. The AO albums have been mainly vocalese, sounds that substitute for words when the music is sung. Asha, however, has lots of lyrics.

The album begins with the tune Jabulani and it is what it sounds like; a jubilant celebration of sound and delight. Popping percussion, joyous voices and Stockley's ebullient vocal combine to make this a wakeup call for the world. Go forth and celebrate life.

One of the more complex and mythical songs is Ganaway's Love Knows The Way. The refrain is "How can the story of One, Be a sailing song of a trillion suns, Oh Love knows the way." One is your God. A God that only knows love. Adhya!

Where in the New World is an adventure, plain and simple. It is the story of man changing from war to peace in the blink of a millennium. The music is Arkenstonian at times and it is a wonderful thing. We hitch a ride with the mythical dragon Shen and witness the world as it changes. One of my favorites on Asha.

Perhaps Spain's first superhero had the right idea. We must always remember Don Quixote's raison d'être. He traveled around the land to right the wrongs. AO's song Quixote is a chronical of passion. The message is hope for a better tomorrow. Stockley's voice is muted while Gannaway's lead offers strong lyrics. He adds banjo, bouzouki, and we hear the addition of daring flute by Mark Holland.

A different bold undertaking is the tune Terra. The earth vies for the attentions of her beloved sun and the story is sung in poetry by Stockley and Gannaway as if it was a story book escapade.

"Terra the child queen, in love with the good king
Cause he is the light in her deep blue eye."

Although the ending is unknown, we know that we see them together every day.

War and exploration are a hard business. Being away from your family and your homeland is exhausting on the body and soul. The only thing that keeps you going is hope. Hope that your family is still healthy. That the land is still green. And that your God has watched over both. Though We Are Here Now is a Scottish Gaelic ballad sung by Julie Fowlis and Miriam Stockley that breaks the heart with its sad melody. There is an air of finality to the song that is disheartening. The tune is a lush example of Gaelic story songs.

The closing tune is fittingly, "Asha". Hope. A shimmering, sparkling finish to an album chock full of faith. Jay Oliver's lush string arrangements give flight to the passionate lead vocal of Emily Tessmer, Gannaway and Stockley. Sandeep Chowta's synthesizer intro is ethereal, adding light to an already bright rendering. The vocalese is soft and assuring. The song stays true to its theme; that no matter where you look, you can always find a ray of hope.

I learn so much from an AO recording and like any great music it makes me want to explore and pursue questions I harbor like secrets. I travel, I wonder, I hope.
Rating: Very Good +   Very Good +
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 7/7/2017
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