MUSIC REVIEWS 1988 - 1999 by Michael Riversong
This music review project has a specific purpose, which is to bring out music having special qualities. Music is a powerful tool for healing and environmental enhancement. However, a lot of good things get lost in today's shuffle of hype and overpromotion. Many music reviewers seem dedicated to trying to be funny by viciously slamming as much music as possible. As a practicing musician, performer, and recording artist, I know what goes into the process, and have always felt someone with this knowledge ought to be letting people know what's going on in the music world. These reviews were first published in various small magazines, all of which have gone out of business. Putting them on the web allows you to browse, and find music of timeless value for your collection. Please contact the addresses listed with the reviews to order the selections. If you find that something listed here is no longer available, please let me know right away. Also, if you have any other comments, feel free to email me at: email@example.com
Most of the albums reviewed here fit into the category called "Extended Classical". Some music industry people had created a label called "New Age" for this music, but it never has fit well. A big part of the problem is that people creating Extended Classical music all over the world come from a variety of religious backgrounds. The term "New Age" has been associated with a certain spiritual movement, which is somewhat incompatible with the doctrines of many specific groups. To apply a label to music which was intended for a particular spiritual movement has done a disservice to the artists involved. That's why this new label has come up, since people must have labels for their music.
You won't find negative reviews in this series. If I don't like something, it simply isn't reviewed. If an album is nice, but doesn't seem to particularly do anything for people, it will usually be skipped. You will find things here by both well-known and unknown artists. It is my hope that you will find the albums reviewed here useful additions to your environment.
These music reviews are provided for informational and entertainment purposes. Although health conditions may be mentioned, any recommendation along those lines must be confirmed by a legally constituted health professional.
P.O. Box 9858
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504
Occasionally, a song comes out which is so compelling, it remains in memory for a lifetime. "Calling All Angels" is such a song. Its message is essential for our times, and one we can all benefit from. The other selections on this album are also excellent, especially in the lyrics. Eliza's music can actually help people come to a higher awareness of other beings. 10/95
Where the Wild Salmon Run
P.O. Box 2034
Red Bank, New Jersey 07701
Seriously enjoy this album. It is a good ensemble collection built around the Australian Digeridu, hand drums, and guitar. It supplies a firm, dynamic energy background, and has already proven excellent to play while doing office work. Could also see it used as a great background for conversation among friends. 10/95
David & Steve Gordon
Sacred Earth Drums
Peaceful drums? I love the concept. Drums are considered by many musical scholars to be the original musical instruments on this planet. That may be. We certainly can feel a primal energy from good drumming. The playing on this recording is delicate and centered. Excellent for active working, without over-exertion. Natural sounds, especially bird calls, help create the proper atmosphere. I especially suggest this for people who must spend too much time in urban environments. 10/95
TIME DREAMS -- Bruce BecVar Gus Swigert Management
1537 Fourth St. #197
San Rafael, California 94901
In a world of sound-alike jazz musicians jamming the "Adult Alternative" airwaves, Bruce BecVar always manages to keep his own distinctive feel. His music is varied, full, and melodic. There can be no question in anyone's mind of his status as a master musician. I noticed the effects of this album were generally calming. It would be especially useful as a background to any kind of computer work, and also for doing household chores. Might as well dance through that stuff. 8/95
Dream Suite -- by Suzanne Ciani
20 Sunnyside Ave. # A 197
Mill Valley, California 94941
Pure Classical music is alive and well on this album. You will find a great refinement of the form here. People who like the music of Johannes Brahms will feel right at home with Suzanne's new work. A group of Russian musicians ably assists her in this venture.
A sense of patience is embodied here. This is the timeless patience of someone who knows the spiritual nature of life, and has the ability to continue a worthwhile project in spite of all obstacles. (This reminds me of some of the embattled ranchers around Cheyenne.) It has been several years since Suzanne last recorded, and the delays were due to business, not artistic problems. This is an especially frustrating situation for a great composer, yet Suzanne has weathered this period well, and come through it with her highly refined artistic abilities intact.
Nikola Tesla once said, "when the genius of women is unleashed, civilization will truly begin." Suzanne's music is a great step forward for our civilization. 12/95
Oceans of Love -- by Celestial Winds
10625 Whipple St.
N. Hollywood, California 91602
When listening to this album, I kept thinking of the Navajo prayer, which contains the phrase "In Beauty will you walk". The creation of this beauty seems effortless here. Electric Celtic Harp and Recorders form the foundation of this music, with several other instruments layered over. Many of the melodies are simple, which adds to the allure of this album. It is actually difficult to use simple melodies when one is very good at playing an instrument. There is always the temptation to "jazz things up" a little, show off abilities, and make everything more complicated than it needs to be. Lisa Franco and David Young are truly masters of music, in that they are able to keep it simple but intelligent.
The entire album has a romantic feel. It works well for intimacy. If you know someone about to get married, get this album as a wedding present. You will be greatly appreciated for doing so. 12/95
Bruce BecVar -- The Magic of Healing (3-tape set), also available as a CD
Gus Swigert Management
1537 Fourth St. #197
San Rafael, California 94901
Saying something is one of the most important musical events of this century sounds like a lot of hype. In this case, however, it is true. Awareness of Ayurvedic medicine, which dates back thousands of years in India, has been growing in this country. This awareness has largely been the result of work by Dr. Deepak Chopra, M.D., who combined solid medical credentials with ancient knowledge, and had the ability to communicate the basics of this healing system to people. More importantly, the system works much better than conventional medicine, especially on conditions like overweight, asthma, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which normal doctors generally cannot treat successfully.
Until now, the only music which related to this system came from India. Most Americans could not connect with it, because it sounds too weird until you get used to it. Bruce BecVar has changed all that. He has found a way to solidly integrate Western music with the ancient healing principles of India. From a technical standpoint, this is a monumental achievement, because translating between India's musical system and ours is a difficult task. The fact that this music is great for listening makes his achievement even greater. If you heard these pieces out of context, you would simply think they were among the best contemporary instrumental music you had ever experienced. When used as part of the Ayurvedic system, you may experience results.
Details of the healing system are already written up in many sources, including excellent books by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Vasant Lad. Reading these books will help you get more out of the tapes. This three-tape set is designed to be played according to a schedule, just as ancient music of India was structured. However, due to a particular health condition, one may want to play a tape at a different time, to generate a certain effect. Here are some effects noted from using the tapes:
VATA: helps when one needs to slow down, or regulate life better. Also used Side 2 a couple of times to help go to sleep after hectic evenings. It can have a positive effect on breathing problems, and it did once help me get over a cold quickly.
PITTA: a definite calming effect. This was especially useful in Denver's rush-hour traffic. Playing this tape on longer drives has also worked out very well. Alertness is increased, and the driver can remain calmly in control.
KAPHA: energizing. Will blow out laziness. Use it first thing in the morning when you really need to get something done. Highly recommended for combatting Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and for exercising. 1/96
Gabrielle Roth & the Mirrors -- Tongues
P.O. Box 2034
Red Bank, New Jersey 07701
Here's a cooking little album of "world music". It has been getting played a lot around the office and for friends. Several songs are unusually memorable. My own favorite is "Silver Desert Cafe", which has a distinctive moving bass line. I always dance when it comes up. Towards the end of the album, the pace slows down considerably, which makes it a good choice for late evening. The unusual combination of instruments from all over the world, plus some occasional light vocals woven into the music, should give you interesting dreams. 1/96
Nine Daughters by Vince Madison
P.O. Box 662
Golden, Colorado 80402
Simplicity is a value too often left out of music. A simple solo piano album is a great contrast to the usual lush synthesizer layered extravaganzas we see so much of these days. Vince is an able musician, and can evoke a great amount of contrast from just one instrument. In an interview, Vince said, "Everyone asks me if i really have that many daughters. Of course not, but you could say that each musical composition is kind of a child of its composer."
Each one of these pieces has a distinctive character. And each, just like one's own daughter, possesses a unique beauty. On casual listening, you will find this album very relaxing. With deeper listening, intellectually stimulating and contrasting patterns emerge which make this album a worthwhile investment. 4/96
The Waterways Album by Lightstream -- David Wheatley
P.O. Box 27713
Los Angeles, California 90027
David Wheatley composes in the Extended Classical genre. In this album, he brings together seven other top-notch musicians to play a suite of 14 compositions. Each part is an impression of a pleasant piece of life. From the start of the album, you can feel the buoyancy and expansiveness of the music, lifting you up into a better world.
David believes that life can work, and that progress is possible. Part of making life work is to focus on those beautiful moments which come along unexpectedly, and use them to carry you through rough times. He reflects this in the music, which is quite an achievement for a fully instrumental work. 7/96
Sons of Somerled -- Steve McDonald
Somerled was the legendary ancestor of Clan Donald, who saved the Western Isles from Viking depredations in the 12th Century. In this album, a mixture of traditional and original songs traces the rise of the clan from the first Lord of the Isles to the present day. Woven within the work is a vivid depiction of ancient Scottish religious beliefs -- possibly the best such illustration ever put to music.
What drives this album is the beauty of the singing and poetry. McDonald has a rich, mature voice, which soars over his excellent synthesizer arrangements. Even though synthesizer is the primary instrument, the music has a pleasing sound, and forms a good foundation for the great achievement of this Bard. 7/96
Into the Wind by Serah
Great Northern Arts
Box 675 Union School Road
Middletown, New York 10940
Magic still happens in this Universe. Serah's album is living proof. Waves of beauty are released from above, cascading onto the listener in colors too bright to be named. That's the power of her music. One of the most extraordinary things about this album is that the words could stand alone as poetry, and be regarded as equal to many great works of literature from years past. These words are intensely spiritual, and uplifting in themselves. When coupled with the lush, magnificent synthesizer and orchestral arrangements, this becomes an album which can allow you to transcend the boundaries of time and space. 10/96
Twelve Twelve -- The Miracle of Tepeyac by Kenny Passarelli
9200 W. Cross Drive #510
Littleton, Colorado 80123
Miracles can happen just about anywhere, any time. One of the most significant miracles in history was the appearance of the Virgin Mary to a peasant named Juan Diego in Tepeyac, Mexico on December 12, 1531. This vision had tremendous historical significance, as it made the acceptance of Christianity by several Indian tribes possible. This miracle, accompanied by an unseasonable falling of roses, struck into the hearts of almost every Catholic on this side of the planet, and still inspires many today.
Kenny Passarelli has created a magnificent achievement here, translating this miracle into modern musical terms. Throughout the lush and full arrangements is a pleasant Spanish-Mexican flavor. The way he does it, this instrumental music is accessible to all. This album has the potential to bridge gaps in religious understanding, just as the original miracle of Tepeyac did. Therefore, it makes a perfect gift among those seeking reconciliation in a family. 10/96
Reflections of Hope by Joyce Handler
600 North Mountain Avenue # B-205
Upland, California 91786
From the first note of this work, I was captivated by the simplicity and beauty of an extraordinary musician. I had to know more about this person, and arranged an interview with her. Joyce has worked many years as a music teacher and evangelical Christian performer. After observing how music was a catalyst for the personal growth of many students, she took several years off from music to obtain a Doctorate degree in psychology from a Christian school in California. Then, she returned to music and released this album. She knows more about music than most people would imagine existed, and employs that knowledge in a generous and powerful manner. Her intention is to create music which produces hopeful images in the listener, and in that she succeeds. 10/96
Edges of the Soul by Harold Moses
P.O. Box 19191
Boulder, Colorado 80308
Relaxation is essential at times, especially when you need to assess your situation and think up some new ways to use the gifts you have. Harold Moses has put together one of the most relaxing albums of all time. He plays the Viola, which looks exactly like a Violin, only bigger. It has a smooth, deep, resonant sound, free of all the irritating overtones commonly associated with the smaller instrument. Over a background of beautiful synthesized orchestral arrangements, these melodies are a perfect complement for any activity which can benefit from a relaxed physical and mental state.
Obviously, a lot of thought went into this masterwork. It follows a deliberately structured cycle of melodies which invoke the entire process of creation, continuing, and ending. In the ending is an echo of the beginning, ready for a new creation. 11/96
Winds of Honor by Gary Stroutsos
P.O. Box 2756
Bismarck, North Dakota 58502
Each tribe on this planet has a special gift of some kind. Stroutsos has travelled extensively among several North American tribes, and put together a dynamic collection of flute songs from several traditions. Each song stands on its own as a work of art, and taken together, the album has a good flow among the widely varying styles exhibited. Some of the songs are traditional, learned from tribal elders, and others are original compositions. The arrangements include traditional Native American group singing, drums, and a few other instruments to add color.
This album worked well as gentle background music, never being obtrusive but always interesting. Closer listening revealed an album of great sensitivity and complexity, with a lot of beautiful ideas packed into a small space. It certainly stands out among the large number of Native American flute albums now flooding the market. 11/96
Islands Calling by Magical Strings
P.O. Box 1460
Redway, California 95560
One of the greatest gifts of this planet is its thousands of islands, scattered through lakes, rivers, and oceans. This group of great musicians picked out a few of the most fascinating islands and wove their musical traditions together into a solidly upbeat celebration of life.
Instrumentation includes guitar, cello, violin, synthesizer, flute, drums, and harp, along with a variety of other folk instruments from several islands. It is rare to find a group which successfully can integrate the sound of the harp into its work, and Magical Strings has done extremely well. Musical influences from Ireland, Madagascar, Maui, and several other places are woven into this album. Overall, there is a great joy, lots of good rhythm, and an upbeat mood ideal for parties and salon evenings. This music stimulates a sense of optimism. 11/96
For a special article on using music as an anesthetic, click here.
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