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Earth Voyage
By Joseph Sullinger
Label: Soundship Music Records
Released 9/5/2011
Earth Voyage tracks
1. Drawn by the Wind  
2. Voyage  
3. Escape  
4. Ships at Sea  
5. Sailing  
6. Another World  
7. New Shores  
8. High Tide  
9. Sands of Time  
10. The Ocean  
Earth Voyage
Guitarist Joseph Sullinger's Earth Voyage takes its title literally as the ten tracks on the album transport the listener on a trip across the waves (courtesy of sound effects woven into the fabric of the music). Song titles also make it clear that Sullinger intended this to be a musical narrative of an ocean-bound voyage: "Escape," "Ships at Sea," "Sailing," "New Shores," and more. The music itself merges elements of Spanish/flamenco-style guitar music with adult contemporary yielding a fusion of the two genres that increases the CD's accessibility. Modest yet tasteful cover art suits the album well.

Working with a large (9-strong) cast of guest artists, including two members of the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra (violinist Adrienne Galfi and tuba player Dwight Sullinger), as well as other accompanists on keys and synths, vocals, percussion, and drums, Joseph Sullinger weaves a tapestry of colors into a cohesive musical "quilt" which tells an intriguing and seductive traveler's tale. Engineering (by Axel Ruiz) and mastering (by Steve Hall) is first rate and–huzzah!–someone finally got the mix of drums right, where the rhythms are noticeable but serve to accent the melody, not overpower it! Yay!

Drawn by the Wind is a great opening track, with acoustic guitar (on both lead and accompaniment) buoyed by percussion and subtle keyboards, building into a dramatic introduction to the album's theme motif of traveling. The Spanish flavor of the music is subtle, compared to the next song, Voyage, which is closer to a straight-up fiery flamenco piece, full of exotic spice and sensuality. Galfi's violin adds a romantic spiciness while the sound of waves lapping against a ship lend that thematic touch of a voyage. Sullinger himself contributes on bass as well on this track and the thumping rhythms add even more "oomph" to the already considerable muscle of the piece. The piece could have used some judicious editing down from its nearly five minute length, though.

Escape once again features a slight flamenco flavor, but with Sullinger's electric guitar anchoring the song in a more adult contemporary vein, so that the world fusion elements serve more as textures and less as an overt emphasis (a smattering of electronic rhythmic textures underscores this mixture). Ships at Sea has a breezy, fluid feel, with slow tempo trap kit drums beating out the rhythm, along with electric bass, for an easygoing melody that also contains a slightly melancholic mood, helped along by the discrete addition of synth strings. Gulls crying and wind in the sails of Sailing capture the image perfectly of riding the currents of air across the waves, later emphasized by violin pirouetting around Sullinger's restrained guitar chords and notes. Another World ignites excitement via the lead artist's blending of acoustic and (tasteful) electric guitar leads, with underlying bass and drum rhythms which eventually explode with ferocity and passion, along with pronounced fiery acoustic guitar fingering and chords, along with hand claps and synth strings.

The remaining four tracks include the piano-led warm embrace of New Shores which transitions into a lovely acoustic guitar melody accented by what sounds like (uncredited) flute, the sultry nuevo-flamenco High Tide which blends acoustic guitar with trap kit drums in a ballad-like setting, the powerful and emphatic Sands of Time, and the closing The Ocean, with its opening rumbling of synth drones mixed with thunder before a foreboding Spanish-spiced guitar introduces a forlorn element which concludes the CD on a note of mystery and the unknown which no doubt awaits all travelers who set out for whatever lies beyond the horizon.

It appears that Earth Voyage is Joseph Sullinger's first recording of original guitar instrumentals. If so, it's a solid debut - self-assured and confident. While Earth Voyage will doubtlessly appeal strongly to nuevo flamenco and Spanish/classical guitar fans, the presence of so many other instrumentalists as well as the mixture of genres heard on the CD bodes a bright future for this highly talented composer and performer. I eagerly await future releases by Joseph Sullinger and, if you're any fan of acoustic/flamenco-influenced fusion music, you'll be just as eager as I am!
Rating: Very Good   Very Good
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman on 6/8/2012
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