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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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  Road To Chiang Mai by Bill Wren, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 12/5/2016
  Innisfall by Innisfall, reviewed by RJ Lannan on 11/30/2016
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By Al Conti
Label: Shadowside Music Publishing
Released 10/7/2016
Mystic tracks
1. Mystic
2. Trance
3. Prayer
4. Visions
5. Pilgrimage
6. Contemplation
7. Ritual
8. Devotion
9. Anima Aeterna
With Mist and Fire, Light and Stars
My favorite Al Conti album to date was Scheherazade up until he produced his latest opus called Mystic. Conti has always been able to get out of body musically and transform his compositions into earthy expressions no matter what time period or what location. On Mystic he travels around the planet evoking the mysteries of the ancients and the powers of spirituality. Every culture has a mystic, be it a shaman, a priest, an imam, a soothsayer or an oracle. They guide us in the direction of our faith and unite us to the Gods, sometimes directly and sometimes in mysterious ways.

The title tune, Mystic opens with the tintinnabulation of a distant bell and the voice of a solitary seraph, Charlee Brooks. It is a call, a beckoning to join in the journey. The song is a promise that we will discover many things; much that we do not know and many things we do know, but must search within to finds the answers. Follow.

The tune Prayer had a tinge of oriental influences between the harmonic piano and the fluttering violin as the theme churned up images of man, arms raised to the heavens, begs for guidance and grace. Prayer is humankind’s offering to God what is in our hearts, whether it be thanks or questions. Mahatma Gandhi wrote of prayer, “Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.”

Pilgrimage opens with a marvelous nomadic violin by Manoj George and the tune sound traditional, but suddenly energy flows, warmth is exuded and the journey begins in earnest. There is a lively rhythm as each percussive beat is a footstep, ever going forward. Our goal might be to the top of a distant mountain or down into the depths of a dark cave, but rest assured for we are never alone.

The magical harp of Pamela Copus (2002) opens the song Contemplation. The tune is too lyrical to be meditative, but instead takes on the mantle of a mythical theme. The music speaks of valleys, forests, and rivers. And then we come to that magic place. Be prepared to be amazed.

There are many Gods unseen, many miracles not easily explained, but there is always faith and with faith comes devotion. Conti’s tune Devotion is a celebration of that faith, a thank you, and an acknowledgement of a positive force greater than oneself. The music is decidedly upbeat as if for a dance. It may be around a campfire or under sparkling stars, but its gratitude is obvious even when heard in the darkest places.

The final track is called Anima Aeterna, Eternal Soul. It features the talents of Charlee Brooks on vocals, Varsha Kej on percussion, Jeff Pearce on electric guitar, and Ganesh Mathur on esraj, a rare stringed instrument from northern India. The tune is exotic and blissful. There is a deep poignancy to the melody, a promise of a hopeful beginning and wonderful ending, the lemniscuses of forthright faith.

The blend of female vocal, male chant chorus, and a multitude of ethnic as well as traditional instruments makes this album extremely complex, but balances it with a reverently universal appeal. Mystics rarely have the jurisdictional boundaries that harangue earthly kings and princes. On Mystic, brilliant composer Al Conti has put together a collection of musical invocations that not only praise the wellspring of many beliefs, but also conveys a unity that transcends global distances.
Rating: Excellent   Excellent
- reviewed by RJ Lannan on 11/16/2016
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