Reviews 04-15-2011

Music Reviews 



Sacred Love

by Shambhu

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According to Shambhu’s website this guitarist has previously performed with Carlos Santana, Narada Michael Walden and Whitney Houston to name a few. But let’s skip the name dropping and talk about this very impressive solo debut that contrary to its album cover is not flowery and light but actually a very expressive recording that fuses organic contemporary instrumental music with light elements of jazz and world themes. Of course it does not hurt to have the Will Ackerman team, however this does not take away from the creative juices that flow from this new solo artist who co-produced and wrote eleven of the twelve impressive songs. 

The album is anchored in the mature opening track “Together” that features a conservative Charlie Bisharat on violin with the legendary bassist Tony Levin gently driving this mid tempo song. Similar results can be found on “Natural Moment” this time with Shambhu’s shimmering sitar and guitar work giving the grounded composition a unique folksy yet exotic feel. Shambhu also adds the vocal chants of Claytoven Richardson on “Maui Breeze” and “Hide And Seek” cloaking the music with a bossa nova edge to it. 

In contrast, Shambhu also captures a more tender approach best illustrated by the poignant “Eyes Of A Child”, the sublime “Revelation” and even the subdued restrained passion of “Imagine.” On the latter,  Ackerman not only co-writes but also performs alongside Shambhu and veteran bassist Michael Manring who sounds like he is performing on a fretless bass, that only adds to the smooth silky sound. Shambhu takes an even more meditative approach on the likes of “Nirab Amare” and “Call To Spirit” and then seizes the opportunity to add a Western flavor on “Shiva Grove” by adding a jazz element courtesy of George Brooks’ saxophone as he intertwines with flutist Ravichandra Kulur. Simply brilliant! 

Shambhu may have an unusual name and along with the meditative and very light artwork of the album cover, this may not be the smartest marketing decision as the meditative influence is nominal at best. However, this would certainly support the expression of don’t judge the “book” by its cover. Simply put, Scared Love is an album of integrity and maturity that is very capable of exploring several genres yet still creating a very cohesive and entertaining album making it the sleeper hit of 2010.

Reviewed by Michael Debbage of the Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions



by Marc Enfroy

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Unconditional is the third “cinematic piano” release from Marc Enfroy, following Unbounded (2008) and Awakening (2009). Enfroy’s previous releases were self-produced, but this time he teamed up with Randy and Pamela Copus of 2002 to produce an album that is ethereal, graceful, and soothing - more “new age” than neo-classical. Conceived with the theme of unconditional self-love, this warm and peaceful music is “perfect for focusing loving energy on yourself” (quoted from the liner notes). The instrumentation includes piano, keyboard, atmospheric sounds, wordless choirs, flute, bells, strings, and occasional light percussion. The sound is lovely and the production is full and rich - with a strong resemblance to classic 2002. That being said, there is much to enjoy with this album. Soothing and uplifting, the tranquil music transports the listener to a place of well-being, and we can never have too much of that! 

Unconditional begins with “A Good Heart,” a piece for piano, voice, flute, and atmospheric keyboard sounds. As warm and gentle as a spring breeze, it delicately sets the tone for the album. “Uniqueness” brings in more voices and orchestration that create a sound akin to plush velvet - cozy yet elegant. The title song is my favorite. Very peaceful and contented, the simple piano melody, layered voices, and light orchestration make for beautiful easy-listening. “A Beautiful Soul” is celestial and spacious, suggesting visions of heavenly light and open skies. I also really like “A Positive Spirit.” Upbeat and ethereal, little bells and angelic voices evoke joyful visions of light dancing on water. “Peacefulness” is so calming that it’s like a daydream floating on a puffy white cloud. “Safe and Secure” also creates a feeling of floating effortlessly, without a care in the world. Jack Chen’s flute is especially beautiful on this track. “Reaching Authenticity” brings our journey to self-love to a gentle conclusion, refreshed and renewed.

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions

Marc Enfroy has just made the transition from the minor league to the majors by seeking the production assistance of music power duo 2002. Despite creating and producing two very impressive albums, Enfroy’s decision to seek outside help is clearly a risky move by also changing his music stylistic by slowing down the pace and softening the emotional hues resulting in a very transitional album. While his obvious melodies are still intact, this musical transformation is also a very precarious decision that perhaps the title Unconditional may be a subliminal plea to his established fan base. However, the sheer quality of this album should not only quickly embrace his established listening public but will only add to his legion of listeners.

The sheer gracefulness and regal quality of the opening track “A Good Heart” lets you know immediately that this album is going to be something very special. Enfroy delivers with his heart tugging melody while 2002 help create the detail and nuances that have assisted them in being essentially a permanent resident on the Billboard New Age chart for over fifteen years. The supple hues continue with “Uniqueness”, which quietly features Jack Chen on flute and Pamela Copus with her heavenly ethereal vocals. Once again Enfroy delivers the melodic goods.

For over 47 minutes and ten tracks, Enfroy continually dispenses with impressive compositions throughout with no weak link to be found. On the contrary, “Peacefulness” is probably one the album’s most significant highlights with 2002’s production in complete synchronicity with Enfroy’s stunning songwriting. Meanwhile, the album closes out with “Reaching Authenticity” where it all comes together from the production, ethereal vocals and Jack Chen’s flute embellishments. But let us not forget that this album is anchored in the arresting melodic sensibilities of pianist Marc Enfroy.

It has only been a short 4 years since Marc Enfroy released his solid debut album Unbounded only to quickly follow up with Awakening that did not disappoint but also came with the expectation that we had not yet seen the complete artist. With a little help from some musical friends, Marc Enfroy has met and exceeded this expectation leaving you with only wondering just how beautiful his next creation will be.

Reviewed by Michael Debbage of the Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions



by A Liquid Mind Experience

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Liquid Music is the mastermind of keyboard player Chuck Wild who in the early to mid 80’s was very involved in the mainstream musical scene, specifically the band Missing Persons, probably best known for their Top 40 hit “Word”. By the early nineties Wild found himself seeking solace and found it by creating his own solo material under the name Liquid Mind with the goal of allowing his sedative music to find escape from his own frantic pace and lifestyle extending this relief to his listeners. Dream: A Liquid Experience continues to hold true to that theme which also includes previously released material from his past recordings.  

The album includes three very long tracks simply entitled “Dream Ten”, “Dream Twenty”, and “Dream Thirty” whose titles essentially represent the length of the recordings. The first recording is previously unreleased material that continues to focus on the airy and flighty keyboards of Chuck Wild with his non-obtrusive understated melodies that allow the listener to focus on relaxing and placing their heartbeat and pulse to a slower beat. The two additional tracks according to the liner notes are newly edited former released material intentionally chosen by Wild as his most relaxing compositions from the Liquid Mind series. “Dream Twenty” pulls from Liquid Mind IX: Lullaby and Relax: A Liquid Mind Experience. Meanwhile “Dream Thirty” seamlessly draws from Liquid Mind VII: Reflection, Liquid Mind VIII: Sleep and once again Liquid Mind IX: Lullaby. 

For fans of Liquid Music, one new track may not be enough to entice you to buy this record. For the uninitiated this is a great place to start. But please pay close attention to Wild’s warning on his cd’s that his music “may cause drowsiness. Use care when operating vehicles or dangerous machinery. Slow Music may cause a heightened state of suggestibility.” Take heed, as Liquid Mind can quickly take you to Neverland at the blink of an eye, pun and plan fully intended.

Reviewed by Michael Debbage of the Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions


Through the Veils
10th Anniversary Edition

by Unita

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I have to admit that I missed Unita’s Through the Veils the first time around, so having a second chance with the 10th anniversary edition is a real treat! The album was remastered and two new bonus tracks were added, so even if you have the original, the updated version is a must. Unita’s angelic vocals are accompanied by Joseph Akins’ (her husband) piano and keyboards on most of the tracks, and Herb Ernst (keyboards) and Peter Sterling (Celtic harp) also appear. Often compared to the other singers in the new age genre, Unita’s voice is clear and passionate yet delicate. It isn’t often that a singing voice gives me chills, but the deep emotions expressed are incredible. Most of the instrumentation is spare, seeking only to support and enhance Unita’s vocals. It is with very good reason that Through the Veils is up for several awards all over again! 

The title track begins the album and was inspired by a friend’s painting with the same title. Gentle and reassuring, it tells of a place where dreams live forever and we all live together in peace. “Myth” is one of the new pieces, and is mostly an instrumental. Created with the feeling of enchantment and wonder of entering a mythical, mystical world, Unita’s voice was mixed to become another musical instrument. Very visual as well as ethereal, this is a gorgeous piece! “Magic Love” is a tender love song about the kind of true love usually only found in fairy tales. The layered vocals create their own kind of magic and otherworldliness in the instrumental prelude. The second half of this lovely piece adds the passionate lyrics and hypnotic vocals. “In My Garden” is a favorite. Inspired by a dream, this is one of those songs that’s so beautiful it can make you cry. The Celtic harp is a wonderful addition to the piano and keyboards. I also love “Reminds Me of a Dream,” a haunting love song composed for an independent film and that gets to me every time I hear it. There go those chills again! “Wings” is the second bonus track, and again uses Unita’s voice as another instrument in the piece. It’s so calming and peaceful that it’s a song to revisit again and again. Breathtaking! “Father’s Dream” is a powerful tribute to a beloved father, and the words go right to the heart - another favorite! The album closes with “The Dove’s Cry,” a call to peace and love that again sends chills with the emotion and truth of the lyrics. What an amazing album! 

Through the Veils is a true classic in the new age genre, and I’m so glad I had a chance to experience it the second time around. It is available from, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Highly recommended!

Reviewed by Kathy Parson's Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions