December 10, 2018

Classical-New Age Review: Samer Fanek-Guide Me

Release Date: December 11, 2018
Label: Independent

Samer Fanek is a talented keyboard player. I covered his debut WishfulThinking two years ago. I gave it a 5-star rating and I have no reason to believe things would be different with his new offering Guide Me. This is an instrumental recording filled with classical and contemporary music with a new age feel.

According to the artist, the first track “Grand Opening,” is intended to be exactly what it says it is. The curtain opener is an exciting burst of colors and energy that has you envisioning a scene in an action movie or an emotional still picture with a soundtrack to make it come alive. It is an amazing song but it does not set the tone for the album that most opening tracks do because of the eclectic nature of the overall presentation. “Chasing Time” is similar to the high level of energy and general pace.

What you will discover while listening are different moods, a story being told through the fingers and ivory keys. There is no doubt that this music can move you and it is meant to. The changing tides of sound and textures are a credit to Samer’s characteristic creativity and tastefulness. It can give the astute listener an opportunity to step outside any sort of emotional bubble one may feel trapped in. 

An interesting point is the artist spent the last two years dealing with his own life and through the music found a path to enlightenment…a point of letting go and allowing himself to walk through the door of change and renewal. This is what Samer’s music can do for anyone. The first step is hitting play and letting the music encapsulate your surroundings and then changing your thought process. That is a monumental change for anyone feeling stress, distraught or just sad and lonely. If you have heard anyone say “I can be in a room with 300 people and feel alone,” then that gives you an idea of the level of pain one individual could be feeling.  I think the key is to own whatever it is you are feeling at the moment then be ready to let go and move on with the help of the music.

Guide Me is an extraordinary musical achievement that will give listeners the occasion to feel what the artist is feeling and what part they may be playing in the story. Sometimes, for me, it feels like I take on my own part in the story and get this flood of feelings and emotions listening to this music, and then any isolation I may be feeling just slips away. On the positive side of the coin, there is a necessary solitude that I enjoy. It recharges my inner batteries and gives my soul a shot of light and hopefulness. It may sound complicated to some folks but it certainly works for my listening experience.

As the music guided Samer it will guide you to another space and time with a mindset that can give you a healing internally that you will come to expect from this music. I had set the bar very high for Samer on his sophomore release and he came through with another instrumental masterpiece.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
December 10, 2018

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Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks: 

01. Grand Opening
02. Long Time Ago
03. Newborn
04. Now You See
05. Guide Me
06. Guardian
07. Before Dawn
08. Chasing Time
09. For Lila
10. Sense of Purpose
11. Back to Hometown

 



December 7, 2018

Holiday Review: Dan Blanchard-The Spirit of Christmas

Release Date: December 7, 2018
Label: Peaceful Vibes  
Website
Dan Blanchard has created one of the more unique Christmas albums I have ever heard. The Spirit of Christmas is the title, which is about as generic and traditional as you can get but don’t let that simple title fool you. This is a significant music project and a tremendous accomplishment for the artists involved.

Dan has some incredibly talented people join him on this release and since there is the song “Twelve Days of Christmas,” he gives us 12 tracks to enjoy and guess what the twelfth track is? Everything seems to fall in line so far…just wait.

What Daniel sought to create was a musical holiday adventure that was steeped in traditional Christmas Carols and Indian Classical Music. This, of course, provided the opportunity to combine these elements with some improvisation. The cross-section of instruments included on this recording includes Sitar, Santoor, Harmonium, Keyboards, Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Tanpura, Tabla, Percussion, Bansuri Flute, Indian Slide Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Violin. Just stop and think about the kind of sounds all of those instruments can make and you will be filled with anticipation before hitting the play button.

This is exactly the type of Holiday album I love to hear actually, rather than the same songs year after year with no expectations of change or any kind of new experience. I do respect these traditional songs and from whence they came, however, I do enjoy an artist that is willing to try something entirely different with enough confidence that it is going to work. When it does work, a listener can become mesmerized and also very appreciative of the worldly experience that is being offered.

The core foundation of Indian Classical music is three components, Drone, Rāga and Tāla. The Drone is the part of the music that is continuous throughout the song, the Rāga is the melody and the Tāla is rhythm. So, what you get are two classic traditional forms of music intersecting for a fantastic combination of sounds, rhythms, textures, and color.  Think of it as big Christmas tree with a multitude of different colored lights, that is what this music is and it’s absolutely beautiful, meditative, spiritual and joyous.

Dan’s love for both traditions is what inspired this album and why it turned out so well. I usually get the “Bah! Humbug!,” feelings when I see all the holiday things coming out the same time just before Halloween, it just feels so artificial and money driven. So along comes musical projects like The Spirit of Christmas to put it all into a proper perspective and allow me to focus on the true meaning of the holiday and the pure beauty and worldliness of the music.

Music, the universal healer, it makes the world a better place and this kind of release make you think about the entire planet, not just your own community in a town or city. This is a worldwide spirit that comes in many different forms, languages, and sounds, it really is a beautiful thing and I am grateful for the reminder of that. Thank you, Dan, for transforming me from the Scrooge into old Saint Nick! This truly is The Spirit of Christmas.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
December 7, 2018

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Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks:
01. We Wish You A Merry Christmas
02. Ode to Joy (Beethoven’s 9th Symphony – Movement 4)
03. Jingle Bells
O4. It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
05. We Three Kings
06. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
O7. Carol of the Strings (Bells)
O8. Silent Night
09. Joy to the World
10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
11. Good King Wenceslas
12. Twelve Days of Christmas

 

November 23, 2018

New Age-World-Electronic-Meditation Review: Rigzin-PROTECTION ~ A Ceremony of Protector Prayers

Release Date: November 9, 2018
Label: Rigzin Music
I had strong feelings that I was about to embark on a music spiritual that I would never forget before listening to the recent Rigzin release PROTECTION ~ A Ceremony of Protector Prayers.

I received a gift last Christmas, a book titled 365 Dali Lama Daily Advice From The Heart. I have faithfully read these passages every day and it most certainly has piqued my interest and changed my outlook on life. This is the path I have been on seeking spiritual enlightenment through New Age music. I have had some amazing music to listen to over the last three years and it just got more interesting when I received the third release in a sacred trilogy from Rigzin. If anything, it has increased my knowledge and curiosity about the practice of Buddhism.

Rigzin has dedicated her life to the practices of Tibetan Buddhism. She had trained intensively to sing the prayers of elaborate ceremonies, during her traditional 3-year retreat, which now stands at more than 30 years ago.

So where do I begin with such a unique artist and the messages she is imparting upon the human race? This is not a simple task but then again what good is a listen if it does not present a challenge and time to reflect?

This work of musical art can be described as new age, world, meditation and electronic. Each track delivers all of those elements in a most prolific and thought-provoking way. One of the lines I heard loud and clear was “Love will defeat hate.” I like that line and I believe it holds true and will be the world’s saving grace if we only take heed. 

There is so much going on with this recording, at times you just cannot put it into words. There is chanting and worldly sounds and electronic textures and above all, a rhythm flowing through this music that is inherently spiritual and pure. That is something I find very appealing and can find some guidance from within. This music will speak to your soul. If you are a spiritual individual you will find great value in this music. I really enjoyed the complexity and all of the tools used to make something ancient and trusted into a more relatable, listenable, and then freshly interpreted, for a person of today. You could call it a spiritual morphing.

The tracks that had the most impact on my mind, body, and soul (through the ears) were “Bodhicitta,” “Prophecy” and “Wrathful Guru.” These tracks are epic translations of spirituality driven by the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism. The messages are clear and concise and they will make you rethink everything, I can promise you that. You may already agree and be aligned with these thoughts and beliefs and came to a realization long ago about where you stand spiritually. Even so, this will still call out to you to reaffirm and possibly bring to light more of what you need. 

The music of PROTECTION ~ A Ceremony of Protector Prayers drives and steers the words and feelings straight to your heart, even if you do not understand the language of chants, somehow it all it works and very well at that.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
November 21, 2018

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Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks: 
01. Call to Awaken 01:16  
02. Buddha 00:53  
03. Red Lotus Dakini 03:46
04. Prophecy 03:12
05. Wrathful Guru 03:30
06. Protection 06:11  
07. Vajrasattva 08:15  
08. Kilaya 06:42
09. Protectors of the Land 10:40
10. Heart of the Lotus 07:28  
11. Bodhicitta 04:58

 

November 9, 2018

Instrumental New Age Piano Reviews: Brian Hagen -You're The One

Release Date: November 15, 2017
Label: Independent

Brian Hagen began piano lessons at four years old. That is a very young age when most children are not even in the first year of school. It looks like the lifelong commitment to the mastery of the ivory keys have paid many dividends.

You're The One is Brian’s third proper album. His range, acumen, and styles encompass contemporary classical, new age and jazz. All of the music is straightforward piano instrumentals with no accompaniment.

What I find most compelling about music like this is the way it can hold you from start to finish. The piano is so pure and unconstrained - it flows, bends, moves and shapes your emotions. It is all dependent on the pace and timing of the composition. What is simplistic at first blush can be just as complicated as several instruments playing together and so can the emotions you have that follow. It is a powerful and effective instrument.

Artist like Brian Hagen and recordings like You're The One continue the tradition of great solo piano recordings. The torch is being carried and burning ever so brightly for gifted musicians such as this.

You're The One transports fourteen tracks of pristine beauty, relaxation, and contemplation. It awaits your calling. The listeners have the easy job, we just sit and take it all in. The creator of the music is the gift from the heavens that brings us peace and joy through the music. It is work but it most definitely sounds like a lot of joy and love goes into the creation of these wonderful sounds.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
November 8, 2018

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Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks: 
01. You're The One
02. By The Limpid Stream
03. Nocturne
04. Contemplation
05. Diabelli Sonatina
06. Fantasie
07. Lonesome Road
08. Beethoven Sonatina WOo 50
09. Afternoon Waltz
10. Let It Flow
11. Now and Forever
12. Autumn Afternoon Homecoming
13. Kleine Studie
14. Sunflower 


November 5, 2018

New Age Piano Instrumental Review: Brian Crain-Piano and Night

Release Date: March 1, 2018
Label: Crain Records, Inc
Brian Crain was a musically inclined child, but he was never formally educated in music, and yet has still found success as a pianist/composer.  His passion was baseball however he found his true destiny in the ivory keys.

Based on what I have heard on Piano and Night, Brian Crane’s 17th album, he is doing exactly what he was meant to do. He has quite the back catalog that prospective listeners can explore, for now, we shall explore his latest effort that was released in March this year.

Brian composed and performed all 11 tracks on Piano and Night. What the title suggests to the listener is the magic of nighttime can be yours to enjoy. It does not have to be the basic fact that the sun went down. Look at the cover of the CD with all the beautiful Chinese lanterns floating upwards like little stars going home to the heavens, and Brian is off in background playing his piano to this dance of light. This is what the nighttime was meant for, star gazing and the solo piano music of a talented composer and musician.

Piano and Night is slow dance under the stars so you, as the listener, can picture in your mind's eye the beauty of the nighttime and all its offerings. Brain Crain makes the suggestion of these thoughts and then makes it a reality through his music. One man, one piano, and the nighttime are all you need to enjoy this music to the fullest extent. It was a very relaxing and comforting journey to partake in for this listener and it most certainly put a different spin on the night time, and that is exactly what this was meant to do. Mission accomplished to all within listening range.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
November 5, 2018

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Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks:
 
01. Dreamsong
02. Starry Night
03. Paper Lantern Sky
04. Sleep Nocturne
05. Moonlight Waltz
06. Time Lapse
07. Firefly Stars
08. Forest of the Night
09. Dream of Wild Horses
10. Lullaby Sonata
11. Smile

November 1, 2018

Holiday-Instrumental-Classical Review: Andrew Colyer-Christmas Time-Piano Improvisations

Release Date: November 16, 2018
Label: Inner Nova Music

Well here it is almost Halloween and me, I am listening to a Christmas album! So why am I doing this right now instead of waiting until its closer to Thanksgiving? My answer to that is I knew it was going to be a different type of recording, an improvisational type of piano excursion with dissimilar influences peppered into the final recipe to make it more interesting and tastier.

For Andrew Colyer Christmas Time-Piano Improvisations is a big step away from Circuline, a progressive rock band he is part of. I covered the band’s Counterpoint album in 2016.

So, knowing this I was getting ready for a real treat. What Andrew decided to do was to record live off the floor. Everything is completely spontaneous without arrangements or refinements. That, by all means, is a big risk to take for any recording artists. All I can say is, this man has a lot of confidence in his abilities. Magically, all of this works out very well.

I really enjoy covering improvisational holiday music, particularly on solo piano. The inherent risks and difficulty level are very high. Most folks want to hear all the traditional holiday songs performed without any improvisation because it’s a yearly tradition. That is all fine with me but it is a wonderful thing to hear a piano player take all of his talents and create eleven tracks of holiday cheer with elements of jazz, classical, and new age all mixed in. It's like a musical hot toddy with some extra spice thrown in for some bite and to make sure you remember that last sip.

Andrew really appreciates George Winston, as do I. If you happen to be a musician by trade then you take that interest in George’s music to another level. He does that nicely with his ode to Charlie Brown on “Christmas Time is Here” (part 1 & part 2). He cleverly spreads the two tracks out from #3 to #9. Then of course track 8 is the obvious “Ode to George.”  Another well-done song that I am sure Mr. Winston would appreciate, in fact, I think he would enjoy this entire album.

It is great to see an artist not only step out from a musical comfort zone but to do it all without any plan or design of what to play. A free-form piano improvisation is more than just fine with me and I enjoyed every bit of it. This is solo piano music that can be appreciated any time of year actually. For this listener the timing was good, it is helping me get in the frame of mind that old man winter is right around the corner. I need to prepare myself mentally with a good attitude and be grateful for the four seasons and what they bring us. Thanks for Christmas Time-Piano Improvisations and the shot of positive energy Andrew!

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
October 30, 2018

Founder of:

Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks: 
01. Silent Night
02. Jingle Bells
03. Christmas Time is Here (part 1)  
04. Melancholy Holiday
05. Let It Snow in New Orleans  
06. A Night in Brooklyn
07. We 3 Kings...in 5
08. Ode to George
09. Christmas Time is Here (part 2)
10. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
11. Hawaiian Healing Meditation [Ho'Oponopono]

 

October 29, 2018

New Age-Meditation Review: White Sun-White Sun III

Release Date: September 28, 2018
Label: Be Why

White Sun is an American musical group formed in Los Angeles, California. The line-up consists of Gurujas Khalsa (singer, principal songwriter), Adam Berry (producer, instrumentalist), and Harijiwan Khalsa (founder, percussionist).

Two years have passed since I listened to and reviewed White Sun II. The album won the 59th Annual Grammy Award for Best New Age Album in 2017. That did not surprise me in the least as it was well deserved.

White Sun III arrived at the end of September ready to capture listeners attention. This time it is a two-cd set with 23 Kundalini mantras. That is a lot of music and plenty of opportunities to get grounded, centered and refreshed.

I find myself in the same frame of mind as I was two years ago where I am not used to an entire album of vocals accompanying all the instrumentation. That is a rarity for me, to hear an entire album with vocals in the new age genre that a band like White Sun offers.

Once again, I found complete joy in this music and the fact it is all sung in a different language did not phase me. The reason this is apparent is the angelic voice of Gurujas Khalsa. You instantly become set at ease with her gentle and reassuring vocal style.

The instrumentation is superb throughout all 23 mantras. The instruments included are diverse and worldly. There are the normal things like guitar, piano and bass and then the more interesting additions of gong, table, fiddle and kora. The inclusion of such diversity gives this music a definitive foundation for Gurujas to put her perfected vocals on top of. It is the most beautiful partnership of music and voice one could imagine.

White Sun III continues my path to new discoveries in the genre of new age and meditative instrumental and vocal music. It is a huge door opener for anyone seeking meditation or spiritual renewal. All 23 mantras are built for renewing and rebuilding the soul in need. If you are struggling with anything physical, emotional and spiritual, you need to find this fantastic group called White Sun. Their music and vocals will give you faith and hope, something the world we live in desperately needs now.

I think White Sun III will be another recording in the running for a Grammy this year. Their consistency and flow with each track is amazing and to do that with 23 tracks is quite the accomplishment.

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
October 29, 2018

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Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

Tracks:
01. Anik Naad
02. Wah Yantee One
03. Adi Shakti
04. Guru Ram Das Song
05. Aisa Naam
06. Ong Sohung
07. Ek Ong Kar
08. Maha Kal Sat
09. Har Singh Nar Singh
10. Asankh Nav
11. Ek Ong Kar Lullaby
12. Jat Pahara
13. Ram Ram
14. Sa Re Sa Sa
15. Say Saraswati
16. Sochai Soch
17. Teree Mer
18. Eka Mai
19. Tithai Too
20. Mere Lal Jio
21. Pavan Pavan
22. Wah Yantee Two
23. Jai Te Gang