Monday, July 11, 2016

Spotlight: Skipping on Daisies by Christopher Boscole

Skipping on Daisies is the tenth release from versatile pianist and composer Christopher Boscole. Comprised of fourteen compositions spanning seventy-six minutes, the album’s musical essence is perfectly captured by its accompanying brightly colored artwork, which depicts a field of daises beneath a radiant sun and deep blue sky.

The whimsical-natured title track opens in a high register, dancing about melodically and gracefully. Conveying a warmth and joy throughout, it’s like pulling back the curtains first thing upon waking and letting in the morning sunlight. This positively peaceful mood continues into “Suite Wonder”, a gentler piece imbued with a sense of romance that touches upon cherished memories, and eventually finds its counterpart, “Wonder Suite”, further along the album. “Three Fairies” is a sweetly buoyant composition that easily paints a picture of an enchanted garden or magical world of childlike wonder and innocence. Subtly switching melodies about a third of the way through, it soon reverts back to its initial stanza, as it moves through the high and low registers of the piano. One particular highlight is “Variation on Chopin Nocturne”, a slower-paced number of a more classical fare that beckons a moment of pause to reflect and unwind. The rich and enveloping “Universe” is easily my favorite piece on the album and certainly the most intriguing. Sparse piano notes glide upon a constant flow of cascading keys like that of a bubbling brook, while radiating a constant stream of varying colors throughout. Perfectly timed at over seven minutes, the notably classical signature begets a perfectly understated yet riveting composition. “Raindrops in A Minor” is another favorite piece that seems to perfectly capture the beautiful mystique of a light rain-shower in the sunshine. Casting a welcomed bit of shadow, this lovely composition moves captivatingly through the registers with such grace, ease and fluidity. Next to the last track is “Celestial Sailing”, another favorite that moves along in a similar vein as “Universe”. Imbued with a heavenly aura, it feels like drifting away on a cloud while viewing a harmonious and paradisal world below. Likewise clocking in at over seven minutes, I especially appreciate when Christopher slips into this mode. “Be Happy” is the album’s final piece and gently imparts its simple message of hope and optimism. Graced with sentimentality, this soulfully elevating tune leaves the listener with an overall feeling of peace and renewal.

Possessing a piano-playing style that is impeccably flowing and radiant, I’m simply amazed by the seemingly effortless output of Christopher Boscole’s own two hands! Additionally, perhaps it’s no coincidence that daisies are long-held symbols of childhood, innocence and purity, as the title of this album couldn’t be more fitting, nor the music more exemplary of these themes. Exuding throughout a heart-warming comfort and joy, Skipping on Daisies is not to be missed by fans of positively uplifting neoclassical and solo piano music. ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit the artist's website. This album is also available to purchase on Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby and Google Play.

This review was originally published on Journeyscapes Radio on 07/11/16.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Spotlight: A Bridge Between by Carbe and Durand

Liza Carbe and JP Durand are perhaps best known as two of the co-founders (along with Jim Stubblefield) of the world-guitar band Incendio. On the duo’s album A Bridge Between, Carbe and Durand offer up three original compositions plus ten cover songs of stylistically varied pop and rock classics that span several decades, rendering them entirely as solo acoustic guitar pieces.

The album opens with the title track “A Bridge Between”, an original composition that strums along melodically in a joyful tone. This breezy and carefree tune is evocative of driving through the countryside in the open air with its overall Americana feel. The duo’s acoustic rendition of “Scarborough Fair”, a traditional English ballad made famous by Simon and Garfunkel, is one of my favorite pieces on the album which works particularly well here. Carbe and Durand have preserved the hazy mystique of the original composition while adding an extra dose of passion employed by lovely chord progressions and unique twists on the melody. “A Thought for You” is both the fourth track on the album as well as the second original composition that seems to take the listener back on the road with its forward movement and outdoorsy appeal. One piece I found rather surprising as having been quite effectively interpreted on acoustic guitar is the Stevie Wonder hit, “Isn’t She Lovely”. Here the duo jazzes up the composition with a sophisticated allure that would deem it fitting for dancing under the moonlight to. “Mountain Song” is another one of the album’s three original compositions that bears an undercurrent of folk-rock and moves along at a melodic pace. Along with “Scarborough Fair”, the pair’s rendition of the Sting classic “Fragile” left me with the greatest impression of all. This song similarly works especially well as a solo acoustic piece, with its nocturnal romance and Mediterranean flair that would seem a fitting accompaniment for an evening at a quaint cafĂ©. Lastly, the pair’s rendition of Ozzy Osourne’s “Crazy Train” makes for both an interesting album closer and follow-up to the former elegant composition, as the recognizably classic-rock tune jams along boldly and straightforwardly.

Other covers of classic hits featured on A Bridge Between include songs like Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time”, The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, which variably work to greater or lesser degrees as solo acoustic renditions. Enjoyably diverse and overall compelling, fans of any number of the original compositions along with aficionados of acoustic guitar will likely appreciate the duo’s interpretations of some of their favorite songs, or perhaps savor a few of these classics in a whole new light. ~Candice Michelle

This album can be purchased at Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

This review was originally published on Journeyscapes Radio on 07/10/16.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Spotlight: Journeyman by Crystalline Dream

Journeyman is the follow-up release to Treshold from Crystalline Dream, where multi-instrumentalist Richard Ross provides a diverse array of keyboards, synthesizers, flutes and percussion. His talents are once again complimented by the acoustic and electric guitar contributions of Korey Ross, as well as those of Peter Phippen, who plays both Shakuhachi and Native American flutes. The sonic palette of this album is bolder and a bit more nocturnal than its predecessor, as the trio creates blissfully meditative soundscapes throughout the ten compositions on this forty-eight minute sojourn.

“Journeyman” opens with shimmering tones and distant drones accompanied by a gentle flute melody. As if emerging from space and descending the earth, spiraling textures coruscate among spacious and subtly eerie timbres that eventually dissolve into darkness. Leading us into “Serenity”, washes of synthesizers create a sonic immersion where everything feels suspended in slow motion. Initially beginning in a darker motif, “Robin in the Wind” soon morphs into a brighter piece laced with Celtic nuances, as the enchanting sounds of flute, strings and chimes create a dreamlike haze. An Eastern mystic vibe characterizes “Shadowlands” with its entrancing gong and exotic flute; it’s seemingly evocative of everything I’d envision the mythical kingdom of Shambhala to be. Gently picking up the pace a bit is “Lady of the Meadows”; this piece offers a touch of both Celtic and East Asian sensibilities, as dual melodies of flute and guitar create a beautiful simplicity throughout. The mysterious “Vassillia” is easily my favorite piece on the album, bearing an overall sacred semblance that seems to conjure images of a temple hidden within the forests. This composition features an evocative fusion of guitar and synthesizers with an array of gongs, cymbals and exotic percussion. “The Far North” imparts the essence of tundra regions with is colder airy timbres, while “The Gloaming” offers a warmer atmosphere guided by ethnic percussion. Brighter tones and spatial drones lend a celestial touch to the aptly named “Drifting” for awhile, before a reprise of the opening title track carries the listener away to an idyllic abode among the clouds.

Occasionally treading on darker terrain, Journeyman always seems to be moving towards a source of light where the quieter one’s mind becomes, the more beautiful it sounds. Accomplishing what many healing and meditation albums aspire to, it’s almost impossible not to slip way into a blissful trance while listening, nor come out of it feeling peacefully rejuvenated. Soulfully transportive and mindfully tranquil, Journeyman is an especially essential album for any massage or spa therapist’s collection. ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit Threshold Studios. This album can also be purchased at CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes.

This review was originally published on Journeyscapes Radio on 07/03/16.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Spotlight: Treshold by Crystalline Dream

Threshold is the debut album from Crystalline Dream, a meditative musical project by multi-instrumentalist Richard Ross. Comprised of eleven tracks spanning fifty minutes, Richard provides an array of flutes, chimes, gongs, Tibetan prayer bells, piano and synthesizer, as well as percussive instruments. Musician Korey Ross also lends touches of both acoustic and electric guitars.

“Threshold” opens the album with low drones and velvety tones, creating a spacious atmosphere full of warmth and light. Subtle shades of pastel are further colorized by gentle flute and chimes, as faint angelic voices emerge forth like sunlight peering through a morning fog. This paradisal quality continues into the next track, "Ethereal Gauze", a mysterious piece characterized by gentle bells and electro-organic textures which evoke the quietude of nature. "Solar Flight" employs gentle keyboard textures, sparse melodies and relaxing drones, as gauzy timbres impart an ethereal quality alongside the composition's more grounding tones. "Evensong" possesses both an underpinning of Celtic nuance and Eastern mysticism, accompanied by subtle chimes, melodic flute and minimal guitar strokes. Harp sounds also lend a Celtic whim to "Inner Peace", a composition that imparts a sense of fantasy wrapped in pure peace. My favorite composition on the album is perhaps "West Wind", where shimmering gossamer textures seem to mimic a light rain-shower as the breeze of a flute dances about like leaves in the wind. A three-part medley ensues, beginning with "Crystalline Dream 1", which opens with the sound of meditative gongs. The mood brightens a bit on "Crystalline Dream 2", with its delicate bells and softly emerging synthesizers conveying pastoral images of natural landscape. Darker tones emerge on "Crystalline Dream 3" along with the added touch of an exotic flute, conjointly alluding to a sacred temple hidden deep in the mists. Another personal favorite is "Borealis", where Tibetan bells and rain-sticks are accentuated by dual flute melodies. Closing out this peaceful journey is a reprise of "Threshold", which concludes the album in an uplifting spirit of subtle motion like clouds moving slowly across the sky.

With its deeply relaxing soundscapes akin to Deuter or Liquid Mind, Threshold provides the perfect backdrop for escaping to a place of pure tranquility and inner reflection. Given my own background of working in the Spa industry, I would highly recommend this album as a most wonderful companion for massage and energy work, as well as for any number of other mind-body healing and relaxation therapies. ~Candice Michelle

For more information please visit Threshold Studios. This album is also available at CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes.

This review was originally published on Journeyscapes Radio on 07/01/16.