Reviews 06-04-2011

Music Reviews 



Autumn Sky

by Blackmore's Night

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With the exception of knights in shining armor and the weapons that accompany them what does Metal have in common with the Renaissance era?  What about the colors of Purple and the Rainbow? Now you really think your friendly neighborhood reviewer has gone barmy! For those of you less familiar with the world of rock, creator of Blackmore’s Night is no other than the world renowned guitarist Ritchie Blackmore who played with the legendary metal groups Deep Purple and Rainbow. Since 1997 he has essentially unplugged his amp and placed himself in self exile from the world of rock and has been quietly and peaceful been recording Renaissance almost Celtic based music with his now wife Candice Night. Their latest offering Autumn Sky may be their most commercial and impressive effort to date 

The partnership of Blackmore and Night predates the group dating as far back as 1993 when Candice performed as a background vocalist on the Deep Purple Battle Rages On tour. The following year Blackmore decided to reignite Rainbow after a ten year hiatus and released the overlooked and impressive Stranger In Us All. It was a onetime recording that featured Night once again on background vocals but this time around Candice also co wrote three of the tracks and all three of the tracks that were essentially the albums more memorable moments. Three years later the world was introduced to the oddity of Blackmore’s Night and needless to say it met with mixed reviews at best. Blackmore and Night decided to follow their heart and play a musical style that is uniquely their own. 

Excluding compilations, live albums and their Christmas adventure Winter Carols, the latest offering represents their eighth studio recording as well as the most mainstream effort to date. Don’t be misled by that statement as Blackmore’s Night continue to embrace their unique style but there is no getting away from the greater accessibility of some of the tracks. Most obviously is the driven opening track “Highland” whose rhythm section is more rapidly related to the school of rock but the group do well to sprinkle it with a healthy dose of renaissance instrumentation.  Candice Night would have been swallowed up by this song had they done this on their debut album however her vocals over the years have significantly matured and strengthened. Comparisons with Stevie Nicks would not be out of line both on a vocal and image level and needless to say her vocals soar. The orchestration of producer Pat Regan only adds to the majesty of the song while Blackmore’s atmospheric guitars are the icing on the cake as the song fades into the night. Blackmore is even more vigorous on the equally strong “Journeyman” and this might be the closest we get to hearing some of the histrionics that Blackmore is more than capable of doing in his sleep. Similar results can be found on the toe tapping “Keeper Of The Flame” though Blackmore is a little more restrained though the results are still as emphatic. 

Autumn Sky also features two instrumental tracks the first two being “Song And Dance (Pt.II)” and “Dance Of The Darkness” that feature all the musical lords of Blackmore’s Night leaping musically as they fully celebrate the Renaissance period. In complete contrast, “Night At Eggersberg” displays a much more reflective Blackmore who essentially goes it alone with breathtaking results. Equal to the task is Candice who is spotlighted on the hauntingly beautiful “Believe In Me” and “Strawberry Girl”. But the best is left for last with her restrained yet moving vocal rendition on “Barbara Allen” that concludes Autumn Sky. 

Blackmore’s Night, with the assistance of renowned producer Pat Regan have been recording remarkable material since 1994 and have yet to record a dud. While Autumn Sky reflects their most commercial effort to date, the nod to a slightly more fashionable approach while they continue to fully embrace the Renaissance era has resulted in August Sky being the crowning achievement of an already impressive recording portfolio.

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


Butterfly Tones

by Coburn Tuller

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I believe this is the first review I’ve ever written about a musical instrument that is brand new! Coburn Tuller has spent the past fifteen years developing and perfecting the instrument he calls The Tones. Inspired by the sound of wind chimes “wafting through the air” during a midnight walk, Tuller went out and bought a piece of aluminum tubing and struck it with a mallet. The tubing responded with a perfect Bb that resonated for more than a minute, and an idea and its corresponding passion were born. The finished Tones stands at more than eight feet tall and consists of three pyramid-shaped frames that hold ninety aluminum and brass tubes that range from 7” to more than 4’ long. “The Tones have a natural sustain and reverberation sometimes lasting as much as 2 minutes and creating overlays of harmonious sound behind the melodies. These overlays produce one of the most unique aspects of The Tones - the music she plays after the piece ends. This is a favorite part for many listeners and is showcased in the long fade outs.” (quoted from Tuller’s brochure for The Tones.) Tuller also says, “If butterflies could sing, perhaps it would sound something like this.” Hence the name of his creation. I have included the back of the CD jacket, which has a photo of The Tones so you can see it for yourself. 

The Butterfly Tones CD consists of nine original tracks ranging in duration from 2’21” to 10’55” - four are more than ten minutes long. The sound of The Tones resembles wind chimes, but Tuller creates melodies rather than making the random sounds of wind chimes. The resonating hum of The Tones also resembles the sound of singing bowls, but since Tuller is striking the tubes with a mallet, he has more control of the pitches of the hum. Because of the percussive nature of a performance on The Tones, it is also possible for interesting rhythms to be created, making this a more versatile instrument than one might expect. Some of the tracks have a more ambient than melodic feeling, and each piece stands on it’s own as unique. I would think this music would be an ideal accompaniment for massage, meditation, and relaxation by allowing The Tones to take a person’s focus and consciousness into a new musical realm altogether. It could also help with sleep difficulties, as the sounds are slow, soothing, and rather hypnotic. 

Butterfly Tones is a very different musical experience and one well worth checking out! It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended especially for the musically adventurous.

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons of the Mainly Piano website reprinted with permission on Ambient Visions


New Life

by Paul Cardall

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Paul’s prior album Sacred Piano released back in 2009 was an effort to reflect on Paul’s recording portfolio as he waited for a much needed new heart as his own defective heart that he was born with was failing him. Life was very uncertain and this was a good time to reflect on his recording portfolio. What a difference a miracle and the wonders of medicine can make as Paul faced an almost insurmountable complicated heart transplant to see his health restored and his creative energies re-harnessed. Needless to say New Life reflects a new beginning for Paul Cardall and he does it in grand style, recording his most significant album to date. 

New Life is probably Paul’s most extensively embellished production since Miracles and the album begins with the concise and beautiful composition entitled “The Traveler” written by his brother Brian who recently passed away. The very brief song is a multilayered cello performance by the always stunning work of Steven Sharp Nelson. It is followed by the lengthy and progressive “Letting Go” that has three very distinct movements that flow effortlessly like a gravity defying seagull gliding over the tranquil yet gently rhythmic ocean. 

The emotion and passion continues to stream from Paul’s fingers courtesy of “Coming Home” dedicated to his wife Lynette and daughter Eden. Good luck getting through this song without the tears flowing. The same can be said for the surreal title track as well as the totally revamped “Gracie’s Theme” that we first heard on Sacred Piano. Paul felt that due to his failing health and limited time, the recording did not have the complete arrangement that he had intentionally envisioned. You will hear it for the first time in its more complete form and it is nothing short of a spectacular transition. The same can be said for “Life And Death” originally written by Academy Award winning composer Michael Giacchino, yet Paul’s arrangements breathes new life into this already magnificent composition. Fans of the TV show Lost should be very familiar with this particular soundtrack. Needless to say there is no filler on this brilliant album that has even surpassed Yanni and Enya in the Billboard New Age Chart hitting #1 without any major label support. Amazing! 

As gorgeous as New Life is, it is supplemented with a bonus DVD that includes a moving visual documentary of Paul’s struggling health ailments with his family and friends staying close by as Paul gracefully remains focused in his faith and on His Creator. After beating the insurmountable odds, as his family and friends celebrates Paul’s victory the documentary flows effortlessly into a recording of his very first live performance only six months after receiving his heart transplant. Frankly, it plays out like a Hollywood movie script when in reality it is a simple but emotional story about a family man who is surrounded by the love of his family and friends and steadfast in his faith.  Paul could not have summed it up better when he said “I was born with half a heart. God made up the difference.” 

Ultimately the New Life CD/DVD celebrates Paul’s transition from his old failing heart to the transformation of an abundantly vibrant heart giving Paul a new lease on life but by the grace of God. With the exception of “Gracie’s Theme”, “Signs Of Affection” and “Come, Thou Fount” all being revisited with significant makeovers, the remainder of New Life is all new material and quite frankly is Paul Cardall’s greatest musical achievement to date.

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


Now I Sleep

by John Albert Thomas

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John Albert Thomas’ beautiful solo piano album Now I Sleep was inspired by the work of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (, an organization of 7000 volunteer photographers who take “remembrance” portraits of families with a newborn baby who has either died at birth or has little chance of survival. These portraits are provided at no cost to the families with the purpose of providing healing and comfort by “honoring their child’s legacy.” John Albert Thomas interviewed ten families who had lost newborns and then composed music in memory of each baby. He also shares each family’s story in the accompanying 12-page booklet included with his CD. While all of this seems overwhelmingly sad, the music is graceful, uncomplicated, and very soothing. A thread of hope runs through each piece, making the album a welcome addition to any solo piano collection. 

The father of four children himself, Thomas mentioned to me that he was often moved to tears as he composed this music. He also said, “It's difficult to explain, but sometimes it felt like I was watching myself compose. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, it honestly felt like God gave me the music in those moments at the piano and I got to participate (and worship) in His music project. It still leaves me speechless and humbled at times. So He gets the credit for the good in it.”  Each piece tells a different story, but all are composed and played with such love and gentleness that it’s impossible to pick favorites. This is obviously a very unusual album, but the bottom line is that all of the piano solos are quiet and heartfelt, offering feelings of peace and calm. 

John Albert Thomas is offering free (or “name your price”) digital downloads of Now I Sleep from his site,, in addition to the CDs. The CDs contain two bonus tracks that are not included in the digital version as well as the 12-page booklet that brings even more meaning to the music. The two bonus tracks are Thomas’ arrangement of “Baby Mine” from the Disney movie Dumbo and “Scandalous Grace,” composed for a young lady on her 21st birthday. Now I Sleep is available from, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!

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