May 2, 2016

New Age Instrumental Review: Ann Sweeten-Where Butterflies Dance

Release Date: June 3, 2016
Label: Orange Band Records

Where Butterflies Dance is Ann Sweeten’s twelfth album. The title is such a great fit for the music presented on this album. If you listen to her hands glide across the keyboard it is not hard to envision butterflies flitting about.

If you take the time to read the inner sleeve notes of this CD you will find that this music is dedicated to the butterflies, specifically the Monarch Butterflies. They are on the brink of extinction because of pesticides destroying the milkweed plants which are their source of food and reproduction. After reading all of that information it certainly puts a different spin on the music you are about to hear.

Creating a vision through music without words surely is a process and more difficult than one could imagine, particularly those of us that are not actually recording the music, just listening. We have the easy job.
I make no mistake about letting people know how much I admire and appreciate instrumental music. The more I listen to it the more I understand how amazing it is. It is not unlike an artist taking a blank canvas and painting a striking picture to be admired by everyone that has the pleasure to see it.

Ms. Sweeten takes you on a journey through 10 tracks focused on her love of the environment and the creatures that inhabit it. Her staunch support and respect for those two factors are the driving force of the music that she creates.

Ann’s piano playing is gorgeous throughout this album, that is the best way to explain it. There is a flow and natural rhythm like what mother earth so generously gives us all. A heartbeat of life that pulsates, ebbs and flows like the tides of the sea, the music will capture you as you fall into it without even knowing it. That kind of experience is indeed magical like all of the miracles of life around us. Most importantly it is a reminder that we need to respect all life and not let corporate greed extinguish it for their profit. 

Each track follows the next in natural progression. One track is not more important than another because they become intrinsically linked like it was meant to be. For that specific reason I need to acknowledge the entire album as one entity not just a few significant tracks, I want to bring attention to it all. 

If you enjoy instrumental music and most particularly piano based tracks, you will love Where Butterflies Dance. It can be enjoyed by just sitting back and listening, meditation, focusing or just decompressing at the end of the day. For those of you that happen to have a stressful commute to and from your place of employment this music would be a great tool to avert the stress associated with that travel.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: ALL

Tracks: 
01. A Trace of You
02. Broken Wing at North Light
03. Elysian Fields
04. Love Among the Ruins
05. Veil of Tears
06. Morning Mist at Chimayo
07. Sateo
08.The Hanging Road
09. Where Butterflies Dance
10. Migration

 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck- New Age Music Reviews Founder
May 2, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

April 28, 2016

Adult Contemporary/New Age Review: Elizabeth Geyer-The Bridge

Release Date: February 22, 2016
Label: EG Music
Website


Elizabeth Geyer invites you to join her on a journey seven years in the making. The renowned trumpet player turned flugelhorn turned vocalist has released a very personal album titled The Bridge.

Make no mistake about it Elizabeth still plays all of those instruments including the piano. You are probably wondering how someone that recorded instruments changed over to vocals? Well as she notes, “I had to find my voice.” Lord have mercy, did she ever.

The Bridge is aptly titled as this lady gathered up all her courage and crossed that bridge into unknown territory. I am here to tell you it was a successful trip. Her voice is beautiful, inviting and warm. She commands a song, she owns it, with an innate sense of melody and lyrics this performer knows how to put together a story in a song and make it all believable.

Another multitalented individual in his own right, Paul Adams, produced, engineered and mixed the album and was kind enough to introduce this amazing talent to me. In addition he played guitar and all the instruments that Elizabeth did not.

“The Bridge” opens the curtain, which is the most important track on any album as it sets the tone for everything else and the fact that it is the title track is all the more poignant. The instrument that is the key to these tracks is the piano, it lays down a solid foundation to build upon. The notes float off her fingers like the petals of a flower coming in for a soft landing on the morning grass. It is tasteful and a perfect lead into the rest of the album and the literal “bridge” to the rest of the story.

The more I listened to this album the more I realized what a great soundtrack it would make for a movie, when in fact it the artist playing her own movie for us to hear through music and words. I must say even though the piano is the most important instrument on this album the horns come in a close second. The brass gives it some nice smooth jazz tones while the piano has a more contemporary feel to it with influences drawn from classical and new age blending nicely with all the other elements presented.

One of my other favorites was the heartfelt track “The Jewel.” The song is too one very special person in the life of an artist going through change, stepping through the fear with courage and getting on with what her heart desires. We all need special people in our life for support, to lean on once in a while and mainly believe in us no matter what. That is what I heard on the track and I will leave it up to the listeners to decide what it means for them.

It is my practice to choose three key tracks but to be perfectly honest I could have easily chosen any one of  the 13 offered on this album and would have had plenty to say. It is all very good. But “Postcards from Paradise” I felt was a prolific track with the perfect ambiance added to accompany the wonderful voice of Ms. Geyer. It made me feel tingly all over like I should be talking a walk on the beach at a favorite vacation spot.

With The Bridge Elizabeth Geyer has triumphed in every way possible. As far as this listener is concerned it is a perfect 5/5 stars!

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: The Bridge, The Jewel, Postcards from Paradise

Tracks:
01.The Bridge
02.Waterfalls and Rainbows
03.Goodnight Romeo
04.Home
05.Perfect Life
06.Rain Falls
07.The Party
08.The Jewel
09.I Weep
10.Postcards from Paradise
11.The Wall
12.Place to Fly
13.Rose

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck- New Age Music Reviews Founder
April 28, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews


April 24, 2016

Instrumental New Age: Jeffrey Seeman-Everything In Between

Release Date: December 1, 2015
Label: Harpeth River Records

Jeffrey Seeman grew up listening to the greats and cut his teeth working at the Ludlow Garage, a literal garage turned performance hall. As part of the Crew, his passion for music became ingrained and he has been playing ever since. A part of the band Wheels, Seeman's desire to play was put to the test as life took him away from his dream, only to bring it back again later in life. Seeman began to make videos of his work and shared them with the legendary Will Ackerman, who suggested they make an album. Everything In Between is the result of that effort.

The first song on the album is "Five Days Old," a strumming piece composed of layers that float over one another. Delicate percussion, multi-instrumentation and a solid guitar base provide a strong foundation for this song as it drifts and glides through every well-crafted note.

"Let's Go" is a buoyant journey filled with jazzy elements, horn, percussion and of course a very spirited guitar. This piece is a crawfish boil in full rapture mode. Joyful gatherings of friends and family captured in a moment frozen in time, filled with all the bumps and dips that make up our lives.    
"Point Well Taken" is a plucky piece with earthy movements, fingers sliding across strings in perfect style. A jazzy horn accompaniment joins the fray, bringing the song to a bit of a climb. Pick after pick and slide after slide, this strident composition is a thought provoking melody. It is the last song on the album and may just influence you to hit the play button one more time.

Jeffrey Seeman has spent most of his life in pursuit of music, either by working in a club or by picking up his own guitar. Working with Will Ackerman of Imaginary Road Studios, this album is a realization of a dream. When the album came out, Ludlow Garage opened back up once more allowing Seeman to trace back the roots of his musical journey. Some places are more than a beginning or and an end. They are an impetus for a life well lived, and each track on Everything In Between gives a little window into the life of a man who finds joy in the simple things. This album is a great listen and I highly recommend it.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Five Days Old, Let's Go, Point Well Taken

Tracks: 
1. 5 Days Old
2. Acadia Walk
3. Michael's Journey
4. Ever Present Always
5. Southern Night In The Woods
6. Let's Go!
7. My Grand Gift
8. Jackie's Grace
9. Point Well Taken

 
DanaWright, Sr. Staff Writer
April 24, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

April 20, 2016

New Age Instrumental: Laima Gaizutis-Simply Beautiful Collection II

Release Date: April 28, 2016
Label: Independent

Laima Gaizutis has an interesting and inspiring life story. The roots of success in early America are due to many immigrants bringing their talents to this country. In more modern times Laima’s parents immigrated to Cleveland from Lithuania and that is where she began her lifetime love affair with piano. 

Simply Beautiful Collection II encompasses eleven instrumental tracks with varying degrees of pace and styles. Once you listen to the album you would have to agree that the title is quite appropriate.

Track 4, “I Missed Laughter Most,” I found filled with twists and turns unlike the previous three tracks. The first few tracks set the ambiance and mood if you will while this track offers a sudden change of pace with elements of jazz stirred into the mixture for a bit more color.

After that variance of sound and texture Laima brings back the softer soothing sounds with “Sunlight.” It’s like the light of the new day gently hitting your face as you draw open the curtains in the morning. The small miracles of everyday that we tend to take for granted take on new meaning and importance while listening to this eye opener.

The Holidays are special times for people of all walks of life around the world. One of the most special is our holiday in America we enjoy called Thanksgiving. It is time to give thanks for all the blessings bestowed upon us and our loved ones. The track “Thanksgiving with You” could hold a multitude of meaning however it is does point to a single person in this case and the gratefulness found in the elegant piano of Laima and the layer of electronic keyboards it seems to glide over to give it an airy spiritual feel. We all have so much to give and be thankful for and this song a beautiful reminder of that.

Laima Gaizutis is certainly a gifted individual and piano player, her emotion and sincerity are realized through the keys of her instrument. The examples I gave are just a few of the instrumental delights you will find on this recording. The only track that seemed out of place, while named properly, was “Penny Arcade.” The music was the right fit but not for this album. Two of the most important tracks are the opener and curtain closer. In this case Laima hit the mark when the curtain opened and everywhere else in between but keep in mind this is my opinion and a matter of what I would expect in a recording such as this but some folks may find it as a pleasant surprise. Even so I loved 10 of the 11 tracks; they put the spotlight on some very talented fingers and a person that is in touch with her inner spirit with the gift of translating that to something beautiful with sounds.

4/5 Stars

Key Tracks: I Missed Laughter Most, Sunlight, Thanksgiving With You

Tracks:

 01. Whispers
02. Midnight
03. Touched
04. I Miss the Laughter Most
05. Sunlight
06. Long Summer Night
07. Stillness
08. Thanksgiving with You
09. Lilting
10. An Angel's Dream
11. Penny Arcade

 

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck- New Age Music Reviews Founder
April 20, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews



April 9, 2016

New Age Instrumental Review: Marika Takeuchi-Colors in the Diary

Release Date: April 1, 2016
Label: Independent

In November of 2014 I covered Marika Takeuchi’s album Rain Stories. Here it is April 2016 and the latest release from this most talented pianist and composer titled Colors in the Diary is now available. Her 4th album is produced by the Grammy-winning producer Will Ackerman and features the world-class cellist Eugene Friesen and violinist Si-Jing Huang. Even though the piano work is good enough to stand alone the addition of these two musicians most certainly accentuate every note produced by the ivory keys.

The colors that populate this lady’s world are what surrounds us all, the beauty of Mother Nature. And through her music Marika paints a most lovely picture and goes from strength to strength to record a solid album. 

With winter disappearing and the spring bringing warmer weather “Frozen Lake” was a quick reminder for folks that experience one of the four seasons. The elegance of Marika’s playing was like watching an ice ballerinas perform on the local lake. It was like a private performance from entertainers, one real and the other imagined thanks to the music brining it all to life.

As “White Mountains” come cascading down through Marika’s talented fingers you use the music as a bridge to the great outdoors. Like an avalanche of emotions, I could imagine looking out my window or driving by to see the beauty and strength of the mountain that sits protecting our beautiful valley. To see something so awesome every day and to watch the changing seasons from afar seems more prolific than seeing it up close, it almost surreal at times yet always appreciated.

The two most important elements of this recording, classical and new age merge to create each piece like it was an individual painting. I think the cover puts that very thought into proper perspective. With tracks like “Remembrance” the cello comes in and creates a longing or sadness if you will. This however is not a negative; it is very meaningful and purposeful. As Marika lets the cello set the tone she introduces a very pragmatic melody and this creates a more upbeat and reflective mood. Remembering a place, person or special day in one’s life comes to mind. This is a very powerful word and so is the music to make it more so.

Marika Takeuchi and her music befit the title of the album Colors in the Diary. The colors are hers but they belong to those that listen to the music at any given moment in time anywhere on earth and certainly easy to relate to for anyone who appreciates and respects the wonders of our natural world. So let this talented lady invite you to paint your own picture and color it with what you will…the colors of life, the outdoors, your emotions, whatever color you are feeling, the music lets you go there. This music is perfect just like the nature that surrounds us and you don’t have to look far to enjoy it.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Frozen Lake, White Mountains, Remembrance

Tracks:
 

01. Frozen Lake
02. Green Field
03. Blue Falls
04. White Mountains
05. Gray Clouds
06. Remembrance
07. Nostalgia
09. Into The Storm
10. Sparkling Sky
11. Colorful Mind
12. Morning Light
 
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder
April 9, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews

April 4, 2016

New Age Instrumental/Vocals Review: Fiona Joy-Signature-Synchronicity

Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Label: Blue Coast Records

Fiona Joy is an internationally renowned musician, known primarily for her angelic voice and ballet style performances. In her newest album, Signature Synchronicity, Joy blends modern day fairy tales into her wispy vocals and solo piano performances. The ten works on the album are all original pieces, some solo piano and others combined with vocals and hints of multi-instrumentation.

Contributing artists are: Borbala Bodonyi (vocal layers), Eugene Friesen (cello), James Englund (percussion), Jeff Haynes (percussion), Jeff Oster (flugelhorn), Marc Shulman (electric guitar), Nick Hawkins (beat-box), Noah Wilding (vocal layers), Paul Jarman (Irish whistle, tarogato), Premik Russell Tubbs (EWI), Rebecca Daniel (violin, soprano vocal layers), Tom Eaton (percussion, keyboard pads, NS bass, electric and bass guitars, Tony Levin (NS bass, electric bass) , Will Ackerman (acoustic guitar),  and of course Fiona Joy provided solo vocals, vocal layers, and her work on the James Englund Australian made Stuart & Sons piano. The album was produced by Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton (Tom also mixed the recording).

"Ceremony" is the first piece on the album, and it gasps to life with stunning piano sequences and breathy vocals. An easy beat floats along in the background, adding even more layers to this invigorating composition. Bold and electric, this is a song to give you courage as you stand before the masses, giving a presentation or even just finding the courage to deal with the challenges of the every day. Set to the backdrop of fairy tale splendor, this song is filled with grace and wonder.

"Grace" is done twice on the album, once with a straight out version and the other a chill version. The first bears more of a classical bearing, deliberate in its movements like a flower unfurling. The second is more electronic with a modern beat. They are both enthralling, but loving the flavor of the more classical pieces, I found myself falling for the first one. Hard. Vocals that whisper like angels sing of grace and it isn't difficult to imagine a scene with celestial beings with their faces turned to heaven, listening for the voice of God. Cello music slips in, giving the piece texture and resonance.

"Little Star" is the last song on the album. Tentative piano sequences play hide and seek like a night sky falling over the land, one small star flickering in the broad expanse of gathering dark. Tender spirals of sound drift up, the universe at play with the tiny being. Like a puppy learning to play, the star drifts along, finding its place in the vast, big world. Very simple and stark, this piece is thought provoking and elegant. 

Known in China as the Piano Angel, Fiona Joy is a force of nature. Will Ackerman founder of Windham Hill Records sees her as one of the top New Age performers of her time. She has her own studio, Little Hartley Music and a line of jewelry, which she wears while performing on stage. Signature-Synchronicity is a marvelous joint effort by a group of performers of the highest caliber, making this album one any classical or solo piano music lover should have in their collection. Fiona Joy is a musician to watch and she is very much on my list of must haves.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Ceremony, Grace, Little Star

Tracks: 
01.Ceremony
02.Grace
03.Fair Not   
04.Once Upon Impossible v
05.Calling Earth
06.Invisible Train   
07.Grace (Chill Version)
08.Signature
09.From the Mist 
10.Little Star

 
Dana Wright, Sr. Staff Writer
April 4, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews



March 31, 2016

Instrumental New Age Review: John Fluker-11:11

Release Date: May 1, 2016
Label: Retribution Records


Composer, musician and vocalist, are a few of the titles that the multitalented John Fluker holds. He has backed folks like Beyoncé, Dionne Warwick, Mavis Staples, John Legend, Boyz II Men, etc. The list goes on and on. So to say that the man is a seasoned artist is putting it mildly.

With the release of 11:11 he showcases his diversity with musical styles using the piano as the foundation where every track finds its path through careful construction. From the colorful atmospheric opener “Awaken,” with classically influenced piano strokes and ambient textured keyboards, the music gives you a wakeup call to this immense talent and pulls you into another world. The theme here is indicative of the title of course so you can focus on that one meaning, look at the track titles then take it from there.

“Artificial Time” is a gorgeous soundscape taking the bounty of that classical influence then pushing the envelope to make it an instrumental new age journey through your own personal space and time. The title reminds us that we invented time so it thereby is artificial in every sense of the word. What we really know is that we are all stardust and our lives are but a bat of an eyelash in the grand scheme of things…indeed.

I love albums like this; the ability to take music and no words then unravel a story through one concept and create an aural painting that freezes in time forever is a gift. Music is everlasting and so are the memories we hold dear. Life and what we know is what keeps us alive and the will to live another day for more wonderful life experiences. Music makes it all that much more enjoyable and when its great piano based instrumentals that are on offer we get the chance to write the story.

Speaking of time and stories, “Tick-Tock Tale” encapsulates everything I just said. The hands of time move ever so fast or much too slow depending on your life situation. With each passing second you change and so do your surroundings however it takes us a while to notice the change happening before us. The tick tock of the clock is our compass to the past and the future. Listen to John’s fingers make another piece of paradise with the ivory keys. It is short and sweet yet poignant and impactful. The title makes you think and then the music ends to fast like our time here on this earth.

11:11 has the genius and presence to get your attention, make you focus and think about all the things that matter in life. I really appreciate what music like this does for me; it is truly a spiritual experience that brings out the very best in me. Give it a listen to see what it can do for you.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Awaken, Artificial Time, Tick-Tock Tale

Tracks: 
01. Awaken
02. In The Beginning
03. Artificial Time
04. The 4th Dimension
05. Piano Story
06. Tick-Tock Tale
07. Moments
08. Age of Eternity
09. Piano Story
10. Hour of Prayer
11. 11:11
12. The Joyful Clock Unwinds

 

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck- New Age Music Reviews Founder
March 31, 2016
Review Provided By New Age Music Reviews