November 20, 2014

World New Age Review: James Asher and Sandeep Raval-Drum Travel

Release Date: Nov 11, 2014
Label: Starfield Records

James Asher and Sandeep Raval are two incredibly talented men with the gift of knowledge that encompasses a multitude of instruments, mainly percussive so it is no surprise that the title of their recent release is Drum Travel.

There is a bit more to this than just the title Drum Travel. The artists refer to this recording as the Tipi Experience. The image on the cover is a pyramid with a swirling gateway or rhythm portal, as it is referred to on the CD cover, all brought to you by their Global Percussion. If you notice however there is a city on the water that the beautiful image is overlaid on. There is a message here and you are cordially invited to  find the meaning in the music and what is beyond the portal awaiting your discovery. It all makes more sense once you start off on your journey with Asher and Ravel.

These two amazing artisans are assisted by Simon Brewin (bass, guitar, Wit,The Discerning Don) and Carolina Maggio (vocals, charrango, painting, creativity and enthusiasm) and several other talented folks. These gents have a marvelous sense of purpose but also maintain a good sense of humor. After all, James plays a ton of instruments but gets credit for “Kitchen” so I am assuming he provided sustenance in the form of food and drink for his musical warriors whilst recording this endeavor.

Drum Travel is a two CD set comprising 13 tracks on disc one and 7 tracks on disc two, both clocking in at over 70 minutes. The very first track “Fugira” kicks things off in a marvelous way with splendid percussion, amazing rhythmic vocal styling’s (in Italian) and some fluid guitar lines. This music is a worldly blend; there is new age, world, jazz, blues and rock. Everything blends together superbly into a musical melting pot that will bring joy to your soul and aural beauty to your ears.

The instrumental tracks are a literal omnibus of musical delights. When Asher and Raval combine their efforts it’s like a wall of drums that envelopes you. It does not encapsulate you in a power driven sphere and take you away; it is like being swept away by a gentle wave then feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin and the best part is the wave never ends. You can respect the awesome power it commands but feel grateful for the retreat that it affords you into audio bliss.

“Bring on Brasil” is just that, you feel like you have arrived in that beautiful country and are suddenly taking in all the breathtaking landscapes and walking the city streets. It’s like world travel by osmosis. Then to change things again, “Beside The Blues,” delivers the blues and jazz sensations via the right percussion, keyboards and guitar flourishes. To say that this recording offers diversity is an understatement, you simply do not know what is coming next and that is what makes the listen so intriguing.

Chili Pickle Chaser” is a great example of the percussion collaboration of Asher, Raval and friends. It has an interesting name but let me tell you it is nothing but pure excitement that builds as the track plays out. 

“If The Earth Could Speak” is the first track I heard and was so taken with it I featured it on Rate The Tracks and to no surprise it jumped to the #1 position on the charts within a day and it continues to get plays. The title is quite prolific and so is the music. Everything that is good about what these people do when making music comes flowing forth like a river with a definite path to the ocean. It has meaning, beauty and first and foremost touches your spirit in a way that is most memorable.

Now if all of that was not enough they end the set with “On the Outbreath,” which is one minute short of 30 minutes. If there is one song that takes everything to another level it’s this one. There are some amazing creative juices flowing throughout this mix. This time frame made up an entire album in years past yet it is one song out of 20 that make up this implausible gathering of sound, elements and textures that capture your attention and engage your senses.

There is something true and natural about drums particularly when used in such a manner. It calls to you and invites you into their special rhythm portal. Listen, take the journey, you will not have any regrets.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Fugira, Bring on Brasil, If The Earth Could Speak, On the Outbreath

Disc: 1

01. Fugira
02. Takita
03. How it Feels
04. Bring on Brasil
05. Beside the Blues
06. Drums for the Dragon
07. Chili Pickle Chaser
08. Rhythm Network of Sparks
09. Neptune Skank
10. Percussive Kitchen
11. Pappadoms form Persia
12. Breaking Good
13. Seven Veils

Disc: 2

1. African Angel
2. Los Cuentos
3. Hey Wanaina
4. If the Earth Could Speak
5. Accelerando
6. The Great Transition
7. On the Outbreath
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder
November 20, 2014
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

November 18, 2014

Holiday/New Age Instrumental Review: Erwilian-Midwinter’s Night

Release Date: December 2009/Remastered November 2014
Label: Independent

Erwilian is a band that embraces acoustic sound at its finest. A blend of Celtic, renaissance, fantasy folk, bluegrass and more, every instrument resounds with a natural symmetry. Midwinter’s Night is the band’s first ever re-issue with remastered, non-continuous sequencing. 

The Seattle based group is comprised of Bill Bowser (Guitar, Violin), Jordan Buetow (Recorders, Hammered Dulcimer), Brian Matheny (Sound Engineering), Bethel Melton (Hammered Dulcimer, Soprano Recorder), Scott Melton (Guitars, Mountain Dulcimer), Robert Schuweiler (Mandola, Bouzouki, Tenor Guitar) and Jeff Reed (Percussion). The group was saddened this past autumn with the passing of Jeff Reed and the void left by his absence has been keenly felt by all who knew him.

When I first began to play this album, I had never encountered Erwilian before. In a few seconds I was hooked for life. The magic these artists weave is a solid one, bound by years of working together and a harmony of sound and spirit you don’t often find. It was like being at a Ren Fest while I was sitting in my writing room, minus the giant turkey leg in hand and mud on my shoes. Much better.

The album opens up the “In Convivio” complete with the audience applauding in the background. The music spiraled up and out like a smooth bite of seasonal mead going down the hatch. Ah but it made my heart happy. Perfect for the season, the very familiar holiday tune came through, along with the joy of the musicians playing it. I was in love. 

Midway through the play list is “Wandering.” The recorder lilts out a solitary melody that invites introspection and solitary contemplation. It fit my mood on this gray and gloomy November afternoon as time just stopped and I was thankful for good company, a warm puppy snuggling at my side and the blessing of this wonderful music in my ears. Simple, but profound, other instrumentation seamlessly wanders in and takes what is there and expands it. Guitar, percussion and more. It is beauty personified and it made me want to weep. About half way through the piece, it livens up and I thought immediately of the Hobbit and the wandering voyage of our lives. We are all of us wanderers and some of us blessed with companions that love us and little things like this music to brighten the path we go by. 

“Gigues” is the final piece on the album, a medley of five familiar holiday tunes. The multi-instrumentation of this piece brought me back to memories of watching A Christmas Carol when I was young. Then it spun up and became a jolly romp of festive dance music. A ball of brightly colored gowns and gallant gentlemen escorting the ladies as they bowed and curtsied, making their way through the paces. Joy. Pure and simple. 

Erwilian is a band I will now follow like a fan girl. Their unique blend of acoustic instrumentation is bold and lively and brings out all the best from New Age to bluegrass and folk. The remastered album is a seamless live effort without too much in the way of clapping that can be annoying, at least to me. This was perfect. All the music, moderate applause…full on enjoyment. This is an album that you will love all year round but especially now as the holiday season comes upon us and we draw close to those we love best. In closing, a heartfelt thought to the band members and family of Jeff Reed. Some lights never dim even with the passing of time. 

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Midwinter’s Night, Wandering, Gigues

01. In Convivio
02. Midwinter's Night
03. South Prairie Rain
04. Villancicos
05. Wandering
06. Billy in the Lowground/Swinging on a Gate
07. Calling Birds
08. Memories
09. A-Wassailing
10. This Little Babe
11. Gigues

DanaWright, Sr. Staff Writer
November 18, 2014
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

November 16, 2014

New Age Instrumental Review: Neil Tatar and David Darling-Where Did The Time Go

Release Date: August 23, 2013
Label: Indie

Neil Tatar plays guitar, piano, hand drums and percussion and cellist David Darling accompanies him on their recording Where Did The Time Go. Once I read Tatar’s biography and understood all of his talents it was easy to pay attention to everything happening in each track. In essence every note played from any instrument stands out as relevant when you can listen in such a manner. The duo complements each other beautifully on all nine tracks.

Tatar is a diverse artisan that uses several years of experience to his advantage playing the guitar and other instruments with grace and strength while Darling provides his cello lines to make each piece a complete work of art.

The music set me at ease when the first track “Journey” started and I noticed a definite distinct sound coming from Tatar’s guitar. I found it engaging and so pleasing that it made want more. 

“Where Did the Time Go” came across as a lament to life itself and the reality of how fleeting it can be. I felt very sad while listening but also recognized the inner beauty and reflection so obvious in the music presented.

“Last Dance” is a slow burner with a sense of reflection and sadness but the beauty and elegance override those emotions as with the previous tracks. As the saying goes-beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. What I behold and translate while listening certainly would be different for someone else so it depends how it can relate to your own life before any particular emotion makes sense.

Where Did The Time Go is beauty in motion and in the same instance brings the listener an entire range of memories and emotions. Only powerful music has the ability to engage an audience in such a way. This is real gem and a must have acquisition for your instrumental library.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Journey, Where Did the Time Go, Last Dance

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder

November 16, 2014

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

November 12, 2014

New Age Instrumental Review: Rick Sparks-Endless

Release Date: October 1, 2014
Label: Independent

Rick Sparks began his journey into music at a mere seven years of age with an old spinet. Over the years he has played in churches, been a music DJ, a broadcaster and finally an artist with several albums to his credit. Pop, gospel and classical all make an appearance and he was heavily influenced by Vince Guaraldi and George Winston and grew to love New Age. His new album Endless is a mix of original compositions an Irish hymn and four Scottish ballads with a song from Bill Leslie’s hit album Scotland - Grace of the Wild. The cover was designed by starscape photographer Ben Canales and the theme of the album is God’s everlasting love, always endless, always present even when sometimes it doesn’t seem like it.

The album opens with Gordon Lightfoot’s 1970 piece “Beautiful.” It then moves into the piece “Dream Angus.” When I first heard the title I immediately thought of last night’s dinner of a dreamy looking steak sitting on my plate and as I closed my eyes, my spirit was indeed replenished and rejuvenated. Whether by the thoughts of last night’s bliss or the beautiful piano music drifting over me, I felt the peace Sparks was trying to convey. Sleeping dreams can be had while we are awake if only we allow ourselves to see the greatness in all that God has provided us; sound and substance, melody and rapture, or even just a steak with some very lovely sauce. Piano and eloquence is the champagne of life.

“Endless” is the title track for the album. Delicate piano strains twist and turn into a provocative and thought provoking musical narrative. God is the endless sky…the eternal force that keeps the universe ticking. No matter the name-because names are fleeting-the energy is there. Always and forever. A breath of life and a sparkle in the velvet darkness.

“Wexford Carol” is an old song that makes me think of the holidays whenever I hear it. Full of hearth and heart, it calls to mind the gathering of family and friends to take stock in all that is truly important in this world. Percussion, wind instruments, piano and a myriad of instrumentation bring this classic song of hope and the majesty of the human spirit to life.

“Loch Lomond” is pure magic. The ethereal nature of this piece was a shiver of delight. Vast and eternal as the starry skies on the beautiful album cover, this song is a blend of vocals, piano and various other electronica. The blend of music and effects crafts a piece that dips deep into the primordial mysteries of a loch in the wilds of Scotland and I wouldn’t be surprised if a wee kelpie were to pop up and say boo. Of all the tracks, this song was one that reverberated with mystery and made me want to look into the deep to see what would be watching back.

Rick Sparks is a musician with several albums under his belt. His love of music shows in every track on Endless and the blend of original works, cover songs and historic favorites make this album a wonderful listen. He is a professor of mass communication and a pianist at his local church.  If you want a respite from the world this holiday season have a sit down with Endless. It is a joy to the world. Kind of like pie…

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Endless, Loch Lomond, Wexford Carol, Dream Angus

01. Beautiful
02. Dream Angus
03. Endless
04. Be Thou My Vision
05. Portree
06. Wexford Carol
07. Wonderful, Merciful Savior
08. At Rest
09. Loch Lomond
10. Be Still, My Soul

Dana Wright, Sr. Staff Writer

November 12, 2014

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

November 11, 2014

Instrumental New Age Review: Marika Takeuchi-Rain Stories

Release Date: November 11, 2014
Label: Indie

A little over a year ago Marika Takeuchi released an impressive album titled Impressions. Now she has returned stronger than ever with Rain Stories.

Her piano playing is outstanding. On the opening track “Rain In The Park,” her music is built around one simple theme (which carries through the recording) and it is mesmerizing. The track brings forth, excuse the expression, a flood of emotions. Its beauty is so overwhelming it nearly brought me to tears. It is filled with a bittersweet sadness however I was really awestruck with the emotion it hit me with. The entire album is pure magic.

Marika’s music is influenced by classical compositions and as recognizable as that is, it still comes out sounding like a gorgeous new age instrumental. Every track one after the other produces different feelings and moods of what rain can bring. It is all transmitted through the talented fingers of this young artisan. I think what she has to offer is a gift from heaven and we are the fortunate recipients to have the opportunity to hear all of these healing sounds.

“Raindrops” actually sounds like rain with the way Marika lets her fingers dance along the ivory keys. Rain can fall hard or slow down to a drizzle and I think she really captures the delicacy and flow of Mother Nature so beautifully within the song. As they saying goes…a little rain can fall in everyone’s life but once the storm clears there are the warm rays of the sun and blue skies waiting to reappear. The entire piece, while audibly pleasing, is and can be very symbolic in anyone’s life.

“Koyo” or colorful leaves are to the Japanese autumn what cherry blossoms are to spring. Marika brings the beauty of Japan right to you with this song. With rain and dropping temperatures we get the foliage that the fall brings. I enjoy it every year and it looks as though God takes a huge paint brush in the sky and paints the landscape. It’s a wonderful thing to experience the changing seasons and even more captivating when envisioned through music.

Marika’s music is tremendously picturesque and moving. As I listen to this type of music more often I realize that it offers so much for each and every listener. It can serve as a time for relaxation, meditation, or used as soundtrack music for films or plays. It has a multitude of gifts to offer and the only requirement is to hit the play button, sit back and absorb all the color, textures and sounds.

Rain Stories tell many tales built upon one simple foundation, what comes out the other side are many musical delights. The seed planted is about what the elements can bring and once that germinates there is so much more to take in and realize inside this beautifully performed music. 

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Rain In The Park, Raindrops, Koyo

01.Rain In The Park
02.Misty Night
04.Lost In Darkness
05.Alone In Dreams
10.After The Rain
11.Into The Sky

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder

November 11, 2011 

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

November 7, 2014

New Age World Instrumental Review: Erik Scott-Spirits

Release Date: 2014
Label: Indie

Mr. Erik Scott has quite the resume. From playing with Alice Cooper and Flo & Eddie to releasing a string of successful new age world instrumental releases, his influences are dramatically different. And The Earth Bleeds was released in the spring of this year so I did not expect another album so soon.

Spirits is Scott’s second release this year so to say the man is in a groove would be an understatement. Groove being the operative word here considering he is a bass player. Violins, flutes, electric guitars, various keyboards and more make up this montage of audible delights.

I think diversity is the key to success in area of employment and never is it more evident than with Scott’s music. His bass is a magnificent tool that prompts all the other sounds to bubble to the surface in the most wonderful way. “Free (Instrumental)” is a Celtic influenced track that is modern and clean yet it takes something from years long past and carries on the tradition and legacy of that timeless sound. If you are not thinking of castles and horse drawn carriages while listening to this song you had better check for a pulse!

Scott’s bass is quite prolific throughout this recording; his prominence and importance to the overall presentation reminded me of the dominance of a Jaco Pastorius or Tony Levin. It is like the purity of a hot springs bubbling essence and the synchronicity of time meeting for a grand explosion of colors and sounds. It’s both beauty and wonder put together in one tightly wrapped package.

“Donnie and Sancho” takes you to yet another time and place, Scott’s bass rolls over your body like a warm summer breeze and you feel like you are on a private beach in Mexico dipping your toes into the ocean. Ambiance and the intermingling of genres create a dance as the sands of time stand still. His bass is powerful, beautiful and ambient at times. It is kind of hard to explain but you have to hear it and feel it to totally assimilate the entire presentation. I know that sounds complicated but it’s actually quite the opposite because it’s right as rain straight on through. “Weightless” has a way of making you feel that way and once again the picture is painted on the right canvas. You find as things move along that this artist has impeccable taste and knows exactly how to create emotion and a deep sense of being one with the music. 

“Run (Instrumental)” has a tribal world feel to it as many different instruments take part in the festivities. It makes you feel like you are in the wide open spaces with an ancient civilization during some kind of ceremony or ritual. It gives you timeless music and a space to fill it all in with the inner most thoughts one can create as you take it all in. And if all of that wasn’t enough he does his own unique version of The Beatles “Yesterday,” which is brilliant. In a word, this man does more with one bass than some bands do with multiple instruments at hand.

“Proper Son” is the penultimate track that takes the bass as a lead instrument to an entirely new level. The combination of Scott’s bobbing and weaving bass lines coupled with layers of various instrumentation, are so impressive. I can hear this track playing during a rather exciting scene in a movie, perhaps a pursuit of climbing the highest peak or a deep jungle adventure.        

The music keeps you focused and mesmerized, track after track it will immerse you and make your heart sing. An consuming musical experience is what everyone needs on occasion and if you give Spirits a chance it will make you whole and satisfied with who you are and your surroundings. That is the purpose of a great musical experience. The day and stresses melt away and there is nothing else to focus on but the music. To me this is heaven, the very Spirit of mankind in its essence and purity, unencumbered by distractions. 

Spirits is a masterstroke of divergence and a cultural musical stew of joy and absolute bliss. It would seem one could listen to this album and land just about anywhere in the world. This is indeed a job well done Mr. Scott! You are a very talented individual and I hope you continue on this path you are on and have some more joy to bring us again very soon.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Free (Instrumental), Donnie and Sancho, Proper Son

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck- New Age Music Reviews Founder

November 7, 2014

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

November 6, 2014

Track Stream: Marika Takeuchi-Rain In The Park

I was so taken with this beautiful track I had to post it right away. Without a word it sweeps you away and brings so much emotion. It nearly brought me to tears. There is solace and a slice of heaven in this woman's fingers.

Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
More About Marika Takeuchi:

Composer and pianist Marika Takeuchi, a native of Japan, began studies in classical music at the age of three. In addition to the piano, she played violin and french horn for several years. She began studying composition and building career as a composer at the age of 18 at Shobi Music College in Tokyo. Her early career includes composing for Japanese national radio, a major TV series and Universal Music Japan. As well as being strongly influenced and fascinated by classical impressionism and film music, her passions have been also extended into new age music, as she truly believes that music has the profound power to heal and change people’s lives.