August 23, 2016

Instrumental New Age/Classical Review: Terry Lee Nichols-At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree

Release Date: August 19, 2016
Label: Heart Dance Records

Terry Lee Nichols first release has a very long and descriptive title. At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree is a great title actually, and if you look at that title and the cover of the CD, you can see a story. So without ever hearing the music there is something happening. I would have to say that is a very good start.

Terry said: “I tried to create a soundscape/film score backdrop that reflected specific events throughout my life.” That statement tends to put it all into proper perspective for the listener.

There are 17 tracks that move along at a brisk pace. It seemed like before I knew it I was on track 6. This is because I was really enjoying what I was hearing. Being swept away by the music and hearing the story narrated by all the instruments is a beautiful thing.

The title track opens the door to the great outdoors pictured on the cover of the album. The music ushers in the atmosphere and sets the tone like any good opener should. First impressions are everything when you are listening to an album. I have always believed when you open that curtain to your audience, you better make an impact real soon or you will lose them…Terry Lee gets the job done. He captivates you and captures your spirit and imagination. Personal experiences of joy and emotional pain bring about many things and music can be the universal translator.

“Timekeeper” clocks in, no pun intended, at 3:07 and the pace is like that of a watch keeping good time. The piano rolls along but ever so delicately while bringing the listener to the end of the line in the most intentionally gentle way. The ride goes by much too fast but you are so appreciative. Short and sweet, this track makes a good impression from start to finish much like all of its predecessors.

The musicianship is outstanding on this recording and it definitely is the kind of quality music you would hear on a grade A film. It also provides deep relaxation and a thought process that is more clear and precise than you could have during a busy day at work. It is not easy to empty out what is between your ears, and music such as this gives you carte blanche to do so.

I have heard such gorgeous instrumental music this year, it moves me, makes me reflective, grateful, happy, sad, reminiscent, basically the entire range of human emotion is prompted to rise within me and the music is my escort. That to me is the key to success with any recording.

“On My Way To See The Dancing Sisters Figg” is an upbeat track with Celtic World flavor with a nod to the classical genre however it ends up an amalgamation of them all and then becomes an instrumental new age masterpiece. It is a short jaunt coming in at 2:57 but I felt an injection of joy with a hint of the past smiling at me as it faded away. This was one of my favorites for its sparkling movements and how it changed my melancholy mood into joy in an instant. Once again the power of the music took me away and had a strong influence on my senses and reaction to the vibrations. 

“Sailing” is wonderful melody like a bright sunny day with a clear blue sky and I did just sail away with it. It also gave me the gift of freedom and spirituality. I always loved sailing on the lake with my father, god rest his soul. Joy with a hint of sadness is what I felt but the thoughts of freedom of the wind and waves gave me chills. It was all good so thank you Terry Lee.

At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree is real triumph for the maiden voyage of artist Terry Lee Nichols. Putting out something so inspired and precise for a first album is an amazing accomplishment. The future certainly looks bright for this gentleman.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father’s Tree, Timekeeper, On My Way To See The Dancing Sisters Figg


Tracks:
 

01. At Peace Beneath the Shade of My Father's Tree
02. Only You
03. Follow Me
04. Reflections
05. Appassionato
06. Timekeeper
07. Train to Dachau
08. Pamela's Time
09. On My Way To See The Dancing Sisters Figg
10. A Winter's Tale
11. Sailing
12. Crossroads
13. A Curious Life
14. Last Train Home
15. Autumn
16. Lullaby
17. Requiescat

 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
August 23, 2016
Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

August 21, 2016

Instrumental New Age/Jazz Review: Holland Phillips-Circles of 8

Release Date: August 26, 2016
Label: Ageless Records

Holland Phillips is set to release his fifth album titled Circles of 8
I was curious to know more about the artist, his process and what the title of the recording referred to. I received some good information from Holland regarding that.

Holland wrote all the songs and began by warming up on the piano at first which set the tone for the album. Usually he would have a set of ideas or tracks leftover from the previous release however this time he would start from scratch which makes this project even more compelling from where I sit. The correlation between the music creation and numbers is significant as well. 

Holland said this about the tracks: They came quickly, in sets of three over a period of about 8 weeks.  It wasn’t long before I knew what the album would feel like, and what the title of it would be.  As the album notes talk about, Circles of 8 is really an idea that revolves around the circles that we all experience, and that 8 is one of the fundamental vibrations of life as we know it.  Interestingly enough, at the same time that the album was being formed, I was cataloging all the recordings that I’ve done over the years – the total including the eleven that make up this album ended up at 96 – which, ironically enough, is 12 multiples of 8.

The production (with Ronnie Campbell), engineering (with Frank D.) synths, pianos and guitars where all completed by Holland along with the saxes by Paul Christensen. I certainly like to give credit where it is due with such an interesting and captivating recording. 
“Starting Over” is the perfect title to open the album considering all the processes he described. It is an ambient number that lets you relax and kind of just melt into the music like a big comfy chair. Then a different tone and atmosphere settles in with the following track “Night Tracks.” The gentle piano and tick tock rhythm of the synths sets the pace as each layer is added it gets more introspective and colorful. It is night when we all unwind (hopefully) and the world pauses to recharge their batteries to be able to face the next day’s challenges. Music like this does renew you.

“Stephanie's Song” is like a combination of new age and the quiet storm as smooth jazz lines come from the sax and keyboards are interspersed for an effective combination of texture and musical paint if you will. The canvas of your mind clears and you begin to rewrite the story your own way and create a masterpiece of serenity and joy. The atmosphere provided washes away the day.
I really appreciate the combination of jazz and new age fused together and not because they are two of my favorite genres but recognizing that they are close cousins, taking elements of the same foundation to build something special that you will not forget. I admire any artist that can take a blank canvas and create something so beautiful and that is exactly what Holland does on Circles of 8.

If you have ever given any thought from whence we came about our past in ancient times, then there is a track for you to reflect upon that. “Strains of an Ancient Past” is a slow burner that induces a contemplative state and in the same instance creates wonder and the sensations of floating and going back to another place in time when things were much simpler and made more sense. It is ironic in a sense that technology created the music that brings you back so far. There can be a lot to think about while listening, dependent on your state of mind however this music is meant to heal and relax. The harmonics are mesmerizing and allow all of that to happen with ease.

Circles of 8 is full of compositions that are both inspirational and spiritual, which is what I find in most music if I am willing to really listen and absorb it. It was easy to accomplish that with Holland’s music.

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Night Tracks, Stephanie's Song, Strains of an Ancient Past


Tracks:
01. Starting Over
02. Night Tracks
03. Stephanie's Song
04. The Journey
05. Strains of an Ancient Past
06. Save the Dance
07. Circles of 8
08. The Moment
09. Marking Time
10. Classic by Design
11. Lullabye for Us


Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
August 21, 2016
Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

August 17, 2016

New Age Instrumental Review: Bill Wren-Road To Chiang Mai

Release Date: July 26, 2016
Label: Independent

Bill Wren has a story for those who may be going through a tough spot in their lives and he gives you inspiration once you find out more about his life and music. Bill’s latest release Road To Chiang Mai was inspired by his trip to Thailand and finding his soul mate and starting a new life. This is a collaborative effort between several musicians and the two main composers Bill Wren and Frank Ralls.

The first track I had the pleasure of hearing was the magical trance like “Enchanted Kingdom” which was featured on our Rate The Tracks site. This is a magnificent and picturesque track that lifts you up and never lets you down. Of course the musicianship is beyond reproach and always timely and rhythmic, like the heartbeat of mother earth in sync with all living things.

“Harmonia” is another amazing and inspiring track. It sounds like a soundtrack to enlightening movie about traveling in some far away land and witnessing all the wonders you have never seen before. The blend of instruments creates a gorgeous wall of sound. The orchestration is what carries everything else in this track and it holds its head high like a noble warrior after victory.

Some of the instruments used are acoustic and electric guitars, cello, bass, live strings, mandolin, banjo, penny whistle, drums, piano and orchestral programming. It is a mind boggling variety of sounds and color splashes on the musical canvas that continually paints a masterpiece.

As Bill says “Music is the way I express what is in my heart without words.” And with that the Road To Chiang Mai is a direct link to your mind, body and spirit or in other words it goes straight to the heart and radiates out into the triangle of life. You can tell the artist is a gentle soul and the music speaks that with clarity and purpose.

“The Other Side” is a good example of the gentle touch within a track. Female vocals are added to give it a touch class and more of pop flavor than the other tracks however the orchestration gives it the necessary foundation to build the rest of the track. There is a certain element in every composition that the rest of the instruments float over and melt into and this one really stands out.

Road To Chiang Mai is a great album. I really appreciated all the elements that came together to make it such a wonderful music flight.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Enchanted Kingdom, Harmonia, The Other Side

Tracks:

 01. Enchanted Kingdom - (Feat. Frank Ralls)
02. The Other Side - (Feat. Frank Ralls)
03. Ponder Dust - (Feat. Ann Marie Calhoun)
04. The Beginning
05. Road To Chiang Mai
06. Harmonia
07. Journey Around The Sun - (Feat. Frank Ralls)
08. Longing - (Feat. Frank Ralls)
09. Memories - (Feat. Frank Ralls)
10. The Way It Was
11. Land Of Smiles
12. Today In Paradise
13. Ebb And Flow
 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
August 16, 2016
Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews


August 13, 2016

New Age/Classical Review: Marc Enfroy-Crossroads

Release Date: July 26, 2016
Label: Dream Score Music
Website
 
Marc Enfroy’s latest release is Crossroads. As the title would specify this is about making your way through life’s doors and the choices they offer. A good artist takes emotional suffering and pain and turns it into something beautiful. That is exactly what Marc did on this recording. Through loss comes personal discovery and for this artist found solace and healing in his music. Personal and professional turmoil rocked his soul and now we have a musical version of that journey. With nearly 70 minutes of music on offer, the committed listener can sit back to listen then watch the script of life unfold. There is a balance of new age and contemporary classical with this presentation.

I believe everything happens for a reason and within the last few days I got news that put me at a Crossroads in life. This music came right at the perfect time for me to absorb, feel and process. This is something I do naturally however now I feel more connected because of my life circumstances.

The opening title track is an epic cinematic entrance into a beauty and the beast scenario. The beast is the challenges and difficulties of change and making the right decision. The end result is the essence of absolute beauty and emotion of the music. Marc’s piano leads the way and all the other elements that join in make it an incredible way to kick off an album. This is truly a cinematic soundtrack to one’s life and it is just the beginning.

It really helps to get some background as to what actually inspires an artist to paint a musical picture like Marc does on Crossroads. What I found so interesting was the fact that there are compelling instrumentals provided and he mixes it up with added vocals on a few tracks to make it a bit more diverse. “Your Silence is a Razor” featuring Aili Laine on vocals is a superb example. This one is a real burner. Silence can be more hurtful than words and in this case it is so sharp it cuts the recipient like a sharp razor. Aili’s voice is the perfect accompaniment to the fast moving and powerful instrumentation. It is definitely a different road to take musically and one trip you simply cannot forget.

“Fading White” is yet another incredibly emotional track. Featuring Lila Ives, who is a prolific vocalist as well, makes the music more meaningful and authoritative. It is similar to the other vocally enhanced track, it moves you in such a way that you can relate to the emotionally charged vocal style and perfectly matched music.

“Dying In Degrees” sounds dark and very serious however that is not what you hear. The changing emotions of the song get that across but in more of an upbeat quirky way in comparison to the previous music that you hear. The title certainly grabs you as some of the others do and it’s very straightforward with the message. It starts of like a suspenseful movie and then gathers some steam and starts moving quicker. The music calls out to you and you fall right into it creating your own cinema and dramatics for that silver screen that lives in the mind. We all have a constant flow of images and thoughts going through our brains in waking hours but music like this stops the train and puts everything on a different track. That is the power and magnetic quality of music, which is what you will hear on Crossroads from beginning to end.

Crossroads is a master stroke of musical genius and emotional representation. If you would like to hear something that pulls you away from everyday life, excites and relaxes all at the same time then this is the only road to take.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Crossroads, Your Silence is a Razor, Dying In Degrees

Tracks:
01. Crossroads
02. Toxic
03. Your Silence is a Razor (vocals feat. Aili Laine)
04. Sepia
05. Betrayed
06. Fading White (vocals feat. Lila Ives)
07. Dying in Degrees
08. Shattered
09. Shed my Skin (vocals feat. Lila Ives)
10. Moonlight Obsession
11. Fading White Reprise
12. Wildfire Rising
13. In that Moment
14. Unbounded
BONUS TRACKS
15. Shed my Skin Instrumental Version
16. Your Silence is a Razor Instrumental Version

 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
August 13, 2016

Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

August 5, 2016

Instrumental New Age/Classical: Samer Fanek-Wishful Thinking

Release Date: July 22, 2016
Label: Independent

Samer Fanek’s first release Wishful Thinking was just released a few weeks ago. It is with great pleasure I introduce this talented young pianist to an audience eager to hear an emerging talent playing instrumental new age music with a definitive classical influence.

Just as his website indicates, Samer's compositions blend the piano and orchestral instruments with the more contemporary, including synthesizers, rock and ethnic instruments. He cites Yanni and others as an influence and you will most certainly hear that panoramic and cinematic sound as the curtain opens on this ambitious recording.

The title track engages you right away providing a marvelous introduction to Samer’s sound. “Freefall” is exciting track filled with keyboards and orchestrations. When you look at the cover of this CD it projects simplicity however this music is far from that. It is definitely a “Freefall” into a wall of sound and oh so beautiful.

If you are “Ready to Go” this track is a whirling dervish of textured keyboards and colorful nuances. It is tastefully done as he presents it with a forcefulness to push the music out but with a determination and grace that only an accomplished keyboard maestro can provide.

To make sure you see all the emotions and a different side of his musical interpretations he creates a touch of divine inspiration with tracks like “Fantasy.” Picture yourself floating up to the heavens as the other spiritual beings come down to greet you and carry you away. The song creates a nice floating sensation that made me feel connected and spiritual thus making it easy for my own interpretation of the track.

You have to be a true visionary to create instrumental music so full of life and emotion. Samer Fanek has recorded a superlative debut and I would expect that he will be recognized in short order. I think the folks in not only in the music industry but in films need to take notice of this young man’s talent. It is a nice relaxing experience to hear this music but I sure can hear it playing as a soundtrack in a movie as well. So the options are endless for music such as this.

The anticipation for more great music already begins once the CD is finished playing. For now you will have to hit play again until he returns with a second installment of instrumental bliss.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Freefall, Ready to Go, Fantasy

Tracks:

01. Wishful Thinking
02. Universe
03. Freefall
04. Fairytale
05. Lost Waltz
06. Ready to Go
07. Left Behind
08. Fantasy
09. Desperation
10. Escape
11. Remember Me
12. Exhibition   
13. Finding Closure
 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
Founder of:
August 5, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

July 28, 2016

Instrumental Electronic/Chill/New Age Review: KevOz-Relaxation And Action

Release Date: July 1, 2016
Label: Kevin R. Osborn Music

Kevin Osborn otherwise known as KevOz released Relaxation And Action the beginning of this month. The recording consists of 14 tracks of instrumental electronic new age chill. The only real way to explain this music is to tab it Zentronica, which happens to be a track on the album. Music can be your Zen moment if you go with it and let it take you.

So if you happen to desire putting some relaxation time into action this can be your nonstop ticket to get there real quick. 

For you keyboard devotees KevOz use the following equipment:
Yamaha SY77 with an assist on a couple tracks from a Yamaha MOX6, Korg Kaossilator Pro, and then some loops and virtual instruments through a DAW, Mixcraft and a Focusrite audio interface into a PC.

I always enjoy hearing how people make their music. I am particularly fascinated with the advances in technologies and how keyboards have the capability to sound like every instrument. I realize this has been going on for some time but it has not diminished my interest.

One very good example of instrument emulation is “Bongos in Flight.” I have always appreciated the percussive instruments and the need for their use in the mix of every song to drive along the underbelly of what you are hearing. To these ears any percussion is the steering wheel where the music is going. The track was quite enjoyable with the bongos and the quirkiness of the varying keyboard sounds to make it sound so original and different that it implores you to listen further into the album.

Speaking of different and unusual, “Magic Wand” weaves a different spell. It is kind of spacey with several different textures but it moves along with fluidity. Certain elements of each track will catch every individual’s ear and for my pleasure I enjoy the diversity of the electronic keyboards.

Those of that have a propensity for jazz (that would be me), “Close Enough for Jazz” may or may not do it for you however if you have an open mind and are into any kind of fusion, funk or rock then you should be all ears. This is an adventure into lands yet explored fully by the artist but a good taste of where he could go which is an intriguing thought.

“Panned-a-monium” is probably one of the more spaced out freaky dances on the album and I loved it. The title is perfect for the music and a very good choice. It is a straight up reflection of what you will hear bouncing off the walls. It’s like a musical pin ball machine without the paddles, just the balls bouncing around without anything to propel them except sound.

What you would consider as relaxing is a personal choice. This not going to be for the purists by any means, what you get is electronic virtuosity and some experimentation all packaged together in 14 tracks. If you are up for a lighthearted listen, have a good imagination to make the music come alive in your mind’s eye then Relaxation And Action awaits your consumption.

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Bongos in Flight, Magic Wand, Panned-a-monium

Tracks: 
01. Victory at Hand
02. Waves of Nostalgia
03. Bongos in Flight
04. Epic Space Cola
05. Just You and Me
06. Magic Wand
07. Zentronica
08. Close Enough for Jazz    
09. Panned-a-monium
10. Chiptune Delight
11. Ping Pong Blues
12. Yoga Worship on Mars
13. Love You Every Day
14. Purple Hearts

 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck”
Founder of:
July 28, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

July 26, 2016

New Age Instrumental Review: Jill Haley-National Park Soundscapes

Release Date: April 12, 2016
Label: Independent

Jill Haley is an oboist, English horn player, pianist, and composer who has written and released 4 recordings about the National Parks in the United States. Her most recent release National Park Soundscapes is a reflection of the beauty in nature that surrounds us and can be found all over the U.S. The album which is a digipack, features all 12 parks pictured with photos by the artist as well, all encapsulated into new age and classical instrumental pieces.

Music is the eternal communicator and something all of us can understand and interpret in our own way. The beauty of the instrumental album creates and continually supports that thought process.

Jill’s oboe playing is soothing and flowing much like the way nature takes its course on a daily basis. “Prairie Grass Dance” is like the heartbeat of the prairie as the grass dances in the wind. The strumming rhythmic guitar lays the groundwork for Jill’s work to take hold, courtesy of husband David Cullen. The ear catching toe tapping track gets your attention immediately and keeps you. It easily became one of my favorite songs on the album. 

Dana Cullen, the couple’s daughter also lends her talents to the recording with the horn and son Graham with the cello, making it a true family affair.
“Shenandoah Stillness” offers a soft piano to invite you in to another world that is quite different than the previous one you just visited. And as the acoustic guitar is introduced the colors and textures change and become fuller of life and energy. This is the theme that carries you through this recording, all the varying degrees of sights and sounds each National Park can offer.

The following track “Towers and Kivas” really caught my ear as well. The husband and wife chemistry is quite evident as David’s fine strumming acoustic guitar sets the rhythm and pace then as Jill adds her lovely oboe to the mix, well it’s like magic. I appreciated the energy right from the start with the guitar and the way the oboe balanced everything out so nicely with its warm textures.

Each track paints a different picture on the musical canvas offering the same diversity each National Park does allowing the project to focus on a true feeling of synchronicity or oneness with nature if you will.

I not only appreciate expressive instrumental new age music I honestly respect and admire our surroundings. Mother Earth needs our care and protection and perhaps this project will serve a gentle reminder of that.

I would not change a thing about National Park Soundscapes it is simply beautiful and picturesque just like its namesake. It doesn’t hurt to have an appreciation for new age classically influenced music either. Any way you look at it this one is a keeper and although I chose three keys tracks as I always do, I think the entire album was an absolute joy for the senses.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Prairie Grass Dance, Towers and Kivas, Shenandoah Stillness

Tracks:

01. The Ledges
02. Prairie Grass Dance
03. Waters of Acadia
04. Shenandoah Stillness
05. Towers and Kivas
06. Mariposa Sanctuary
07. Kaibab Trail
08. Waves of Wind
09. Sunrift Gorge
10. Sunflower Cantilena
11. Ten Thousand Islands
12. A Soldier's Sacrifice
 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
Founder of:

July 26, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews