By Michael Diamond
Dream In Blue
“Dream In Blue” is a CD I’d been reading about for a while as placing high on the charts of Zone Music Reporter and capturing the CD of the Month honor on Echoes radio. After giving it a listen I can hear why it has been garnering such adulation. Michael Allison who records as Darshan Ambient, has conjured a dreamy alchemical blend of ambient, electronica, and jazz elements. While the album began as a nod to Miles Davis and John Coltrane and definitely includes jazz shadings, the overall feel leans more towards the ambient side of the spectrum.
Michael plays all the instruments on the recording including synthesizers, piano, guitar, bass, drums, and trumpet. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of the trumpet, which paid homage to Miles, although in this ambient setting recalled to me more the music of Mark Isham or Jeff Oster.
There is a lot of musical diversity on the album and other tracks traversed sonic territory in a wide range from Patrick Ohearn to Brian Eno, yet all in the totally original style that has distinguished the numerous Darshan Ambient recordings over the years. For those not familiar with this multi-talented artist, “Dream In Blue” would be a wonderful introduction.
Janet Carol Ryan
Flower Of The Heart
Subtitled “Meditations, Prayers, & Blessings for Heart-centered Living,” this lovely CD by Janet Carol Ryan, radiates warmth and beauty, while providing guidance and support for attuning one’s being to the vibration of love in their life. The program opens with a brief welcome from Janet, followed by a musical meditation with Tibetan Bells and Crystal Singing Bowls, creating a sacred space for centering and looking deeper within. From there the journey continues with guided visualizations, songs, prayers, and blessings for opening your heart, remembering your Higher Self, and maintaining that awareness throughout the day.
This is Janet Carol Ryan’s second release following her “Abundant Blessings” CD, which included meditations and affirmations for increasing one’s prosperity. In her work as a spiritual counselor and educator, she sees her role as a catalyst, combining a practical application of universal principles and affirmative prayer to help people “turn obstacles into stepping stones.” “Flower of the Heart” is practical on an outer level, as well as deeply meditative and engaging of one’s inner nature.
In addition, Janet has recently produced an inspiring new music video with Karen Drucker called “I’ll Light A Candle,” which can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/vqM1_u_aUR8
In the Wake
In a recording career that has spanned 14 years and includes 9 best-selling albums and 2 Italian compilations, Ann Sweeten has managed to achieve a level of success that many musicians only dream of. In addition to her music consistently placing high on the charts, receiving extensive radio airplay, and winning numerous awards, she holds the prestigious title of an official “Steinway Artist/Composer,” placing her in the company of some of the most distinguished pianists in the world.
Her latest release, “In The Wake,” is a showcase for the skills that have elevated her to such lofty musical heights. The album is co-produced by Windham Hill Records founder and Grammy award-winning producer Will Ackerman, who also plays guitar on two tracks. Additional instrumentation includes flute, English horn, oboe, violin, violoa, and cello, all used sparingly to lightly season and subtly enhance the flavor of her rich piano compositions.
Among her inspirations she lists one of my all-time favorite pianists, Suzanne Ciani, as well as composers Stephen Sondheim, Erik Satie, Tchaikovsky, and Debussy, revealing her classical background and new age influences. Her music is both contemplative and emotionally evocative, providing a world-class listening experience.
Monks of the Desert
Blessings, Peace & Harmony
Gregorian chant is an ancient musical form dating back to the early Middle Ages. It gained a new audience in recent years as groups like Enigma and others melded its ethereal harmonies with contemporary drum loops, synthesizers, and sound effects to produce a modern hybrid. However, this recording by Monks of the Desert contains no electronic enhancements — it’s the real thing and probably sounds pretty much like it did centuries ago.
This group of Benedictine monks lives in the high desert in a remote corner of northern New Mexico where they are totally off the grid. Their monastery is built on a sustainability model featuring passive solar electricity and water heating, biodiversity, and more — all of which won them a National Green Award.
They view chanting together as a way of building community as well as “creating peace in a world that is so clearly not at peace.” It is emphasized that one doesn’t have to sing along, or understand the words in Latin, but that “just listening creates peace,” and can even change the way our brain works. The best way to experience it is to “listen with the ear of your heart.”
In the interest of “keeping it real,” let me share that I had some involvement in the production of this recording, so the focus of the review will be more factual than evaluative. MD
The marimba is not usually the first instrument that comes to mind when thinking of new age music, being more commonly associated with orchestral, jazz, or world music. Its deep resonant woody tones have a sonic signature unlike any other. As an accomplished percussionist Julia brings many years of experience to this project and in addition to marimba, she also added atmospheric textures on synthesizers. Another element that was an influence on this recording is her interest in the healing power of sound, which was “instrumental” in motivating her to create this album.
The music on this CD was inspired one day when she got a strong message during meditation to tune in and record on the marimba. After minimal editing, additional tracks of synthesizers, guitar, and nature sounds such as ocean, dolphins, birds and a mountain stream were added creating a musical spectrum that ranges from meditative to moving. “Marimba Dreams” is a unique offering that provides a soundtrack for relaxation and letting your imagination flow.
Michael Diamond is a music producer, recording artist, and music journalist in the San Francisco Bay area with over 30 years of experience writing for nationally-published magazines and more recently worldwide on the internet. He currently has five CD’s including two with new-age music pioneer Steven Halpern. For additional reviews of CD’s, DVD’s, and more, please visit: www.michaeldiamondmusic.com