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Color Me Home
By Darlene Koldenhoven
Label: TimeArt Recordings
Released 4/21/2017
Color Me Home tracks
1. First Light
2. The Pleasure of the Mourning Dove
3. Kalahari Calls
4. Song of the Swans
5. Eternal Love's Song
6. Indian Summer
7. Embracing This Moment
8. Ode to Our Orb
9. Until
10. Open Skies
11. Color Me Home
Released 2017 on TimeArt Recordings
All songs composed by Darlene Koldehoven.
Produced and arranged by Darlene Koldenhoven
Engineered and Mixed by Darlene Koldenhoven and Steve Shepperd
Mastered by Ricky Kej and Vanil Veigas

Darlene Koldenhoven: vocals, piano, synthesizers, Native drum, shaker, programming
Tom Boyd: oboe; Courtney Jacob: flute and piccolo; Charlie Bisharat: violin; Wouter Kellerman: flutes; Brent Fischer: vibraphone, marimba; Tom Scott: clarinet; Gayle Levant: harp; John Sarantos: Native flute; Al Jewer: English horn; Lyn Bertles: violin and viola; David Arkenstone: guitars; Ricky Kej: keyboards; Vanil Veigas: keyboards; Jeff Oster: flugelhorn; Nick Vincent: drums; Mike Miller; guitars

Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Darlene Koldenhoven reaches for the stars on Color Me Home and succeeds in every aspect. Her artistry reaches stratospheric heights on this dazzling album and all her considerable talents, be it singing, performing, composing, or arranging (not to mention the concept of the album itself, and more on that later) are on ample display from the first note to the last. It will certainly be in the running (from my perspective, at least) for album of the year in nearly any contest worth paying attention to next year.

It’s hard to know where to start in praising Color Me Home. There are the warm, engaging, drop-dead gorgeous melodies, a wide assortment of superb instrumental performances (by both Koldenhoven and a stellar cast of guest stars), the artist's stunningly beautiful vocals (whether singing English lyrics or vocalese), and the broad spectrum yet cohesive blend of New Age, pop, jazz, electronic, and world influences. And, as if all this weren't enough, the fantastic packaging itself is as stunning as the music on the CD. The cover art is dazzling, but the liner notes are where the packaging truly excels. Those liner notes are copious and personal, revealing both Koldenhoven's influences as well as how the music came to be. As the famous infomercial states, "But wait, there's more!" The booklet that houses the liner notes is also a coloring book! The package I got even included colored pencils! Let's see anyone top that!

As you can see in the review header Color Me Home features some fantastic guest stars, and that is likely an understatement. Each one of them contributes in superb fashion. For me, the most amazing things about this album are twofold. One, the artist manages to form a cohesive musical vision despite a myriad assortment of influences: new age, world, jazz, orchestral pop, and more, and all of it is executed flawlessly. Two, Koldenhoven's arrangements are staggeringly well done. This is a "big" album, and many of the songs sound like they are from a Broadway show. The marriage of the artist's multi-octave voice with the lushly produced music is something truly special.

Singling out tracks for special praise is a purely academic exercise since each of the eleven songs offers up one delight after the other. Discrete use of nature sounds on some tracks are spot on when they are applied in order to accentuate and accompany the melodies. "First Light" kicks things off with an orchestral ode that enchants and delights, featuring vocalese, flute, piano, oboe, and more. The song is like a musical portrait of sunrise in the forest (a la the cover art). "The Pleasure of the Mourning Dove," which is next, is a somber yet beautiful lyric song, anchored by a mournful piano/string melody and some of Koldenhoven's evocative singing. Later in the album, world influences include African ("Kalahari Calls") and Native American ("Indian Summer"), while those Broadway musical sounds are present on tracks such as "Embracing This Moment" and "Until." "Open Skies" flirts with a combination of new age and jazz. The overt electronic aspects of "Ode to Our Orb" reminded me of some of the tracks on Koldenhoven's last release, Tranquil Times, but embellished here with tasty acoustic guitar licks.

Color Me Home is an utterly charming, totally beguiling, and highly entertaining recording which deserves many repeat playings in order to appreciate the care and detail that went into crafting it. Credit is due Darlene Koldenhoven and all the talented folks who made this album a massive success. It is surely the crowning gem of Ms. Koldenhoven musical career (so far).
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 5/5/2017
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