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Awareness Magazine
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MUSIC REVIEWS

By Michael Diamond

 

David & Steve Gordon
Nirvana Groove
Sequoia Records/Sequoia Groove
www.sequoiarecords.com

Readers of Awareness Magazine may well be familiar with the southern California-based brothers David and Steve Gordon who have been operating Sequoia Records since 1982 and producing classics in new age music for meditation and yoga, as well as Native drumming, Celtic, Worldbeat, and more. In 2002, they expanded their concept and created the Sequoia Groove label focused on down-tempo electronica, a style that evolved out of the chill rooms and dance clubs of Europe. Their Buddha Lounge series of CD’s has been hugely successful and has practically created its own genre.

On “Nirvana Groove” they collaborate with three top producers of this musical niche: Alex Alcyone, Noah Alexander, and Bobby Cochran. The Gordon brothers both bring their skills on native flutes, world drums, percussion, and programming, while David focuses on piano and keyboard with Steve on electric and acoustic guitars.

This album, like their recent “Yoga Planet” is a great example of recycling in that some of the basic tracks are taken from their Native/Drumming CD’s and given new life with the addition of contemporary sounds and grooves. One of the most interesting things about this music is that it is both relaxing and energizing at the same time.

The soothing ambience mellows you right out, while the exotic grooves keep your foot tapping and head nodding to the rhythm — a delightful yin/yang experience that might be described as “chilling but still willing.” World music influences add further spice to this enchanting mix — another winner from David and Steve Gordon.



Ancient Future
Planet Passion
30th Anniversary Edition
Ancient-Future.com Records
www.ancient-future.com

The old expression “here today, gone tomorrow” seems to be more the rule than the exception for many bands and musical ensembles. Ancient Future, however, has defied the odds and recently re-mastered and re-released their seventh album Planet Passion, to commemorate their 30th anniversary — something to be proud of by anybody’s standards.

Described as “world fusion music” by guitarist Matthew Montfort who founded the group in 1978, Ancient Future broke new ground in combining musical styles from around the world before such a concept was popular, as it is today. Yet, even now, few groups cross as many borders to create such a United Nations of music as Ancient Future.

By integrating music from Indian, Nepalese, African, Cuban, Celtic, Arabic, Palestinian, Jewish, Indonesian, Chinese, Eastern European, and American traditions, the album provides a shining example of the unity and harmony that can be achieved by different cultures sharing and learning from each other.

Each of the twelve pieces on Passion Planet is composed of a different aggregation of world musicians expressing mythical stories of love. As such, Ancient Future has evolved into an expansive multi-national ensemble with various constellations of musicians functioning within it. A common thread throughout since its inception has been multi-instrumentalist Matthew Montfort, and in particular his trademark scalloped fretboard guitar, which combines elements of the South Indian Vina and steel string guitar.

Watch for a review of his latest solo release featuring this fascinating instrument in an upcoming issue of Awareness Magazine.



Iasos
Realms Of Light — The DVD
www.iasos.com/dvd

Since 1975 with the release of “Inter-dimensional Music Through Iasos” this Greek-born visionary musician and sound sculptor has been one of the acknowledged pioneers of the new age music genre. His compositions have inspired count-less listeners, and been used by NASA and the Laserium laser light show. In the last seven years he has devoted himself to developing the skills as a video producer that he began with “Crystal Vista” in 1980 — one of the first new age videos. This brand new release is an evolutionary step for this talented multi-media artist.

Using music from his 2001 CD “Realms Of Light,” Iasos has created an experience of sight and sound that transports the listener to a wonderland of luminous visions. Temples in the clouds, floating colors, mandalas, ancient monuments, star fields, slow motion dancers with flowing silk, tropical lagoons and landscapes from earthly to alien intertwine in an ever-evolving panorama.

His use of special effects is mesmerizing, and his affinity for brilliant deeply-saturated colors provides what can best be described as eye-candy. One of the most outstanding accomplishments of the DVD is how masterfully the music and visuals are synched with each other. The celestial synthesizer soundtrack also features some haunting and ethereal solo flute work by Iasos.

His website (http://www.iasos.com/dvd) contains a generous number of video clips which provide a good idea of the magical vistas contained within. Realms Of Light — The DVD opens a portal to a world you’ll want to return to.



Lakshmi Devi
Raise A Holy Fire
www.lakshmidevi.com

While my first impression of this music was that of spiritual folk-rock, several sweet surprises expanded my perception as it unfolded. On the opening song, “Summer Fire,” acoustic guitar and cello set the mood for Lakshmi Devi’s soulful vocals singing about the inner flame of transformation. The music shifts gears as the second song kicks off with a hip-hop beat, funky wah — wah guitars, and touches of electronica — leading to a soaring vocal performance accompanied by an angelic female choir that includes Suzanne Sterling. Earthy vibes and Native American influences blend on “Cedar Smoke Rises,” and further illustrate the stylistic range that Lakshmi Devi brings to this CD.

The production on “Raise A Holy Fire” is quite lavish and includes a large cast of supporting musicians and vocalists. Major credit goes to drummer, producer, and engineer Christopher K. who co-produced, mixed, and played on the album. All the songs, except the traditional tune “She’s Been Waiting” were beautifully written and sung by Lakshmi Devi in her powerful, clear, and emotion-ally-moving voice. She has an extensive musical history and has performed her original music all over the west coast, and from Hawaii to Thailand in a variety of venues.

While there are diverse musical fibers that weave through her sound tapestry, always present is a deep mystical and spiritual energy that uplifts the heart and mind of the listener. In her words, “each song is a prayer dedicated to the Hero and Heroine’s journey that we are all on.”



Clifford White
The Gods Of Olympus
MG Music Ltd.
http://www.cliffordwhite.co.uk/

It’s been way too long since we’ve heard from English recording artist/producer Clifford White, who over the course of his career has released eight of his own CD’s as well as garnering writer/producer credits on 26 albums for other artists. “The Gods Of Olympus,” an interesting thematic choice for an album, is a lofty undertaking, which he succeeds at with grace and splendor.

Opening with a powerful and majestic intro, the CD proceeds through fourteen tracks evolving through a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses — from the heavenly harps and angel choirs of Aphrodite to the up-tempo thunder of Zeus. Each piece is distinctively different and paints a musical portrait of the corresponding Deity, with one of my favorites being the appropriately aquatic “Poseidon.”

This synthesizer/sampler-based music compares favorably to that of well-known composer Vangelis, and should also appeal to listeners who enjoy Jean Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, David and Diane Arkenstone, or Michael Oldfield, whose landmark album “Tubular Bells” was a major influence on Clifford. In addition, there are also shadings of contemporary electronica, ambient chill, and down-tempo groove genres, which blend interestingly with occasional Greek and ethnic sounds.

Although some of Clifford’s previous albums have been more on the meditative side, “The Gods Of Olympus” has a lush cinematic quality that feels like an epic movie soundtrack. Providing inspiration and support for the project was fellow English recording artist Medwyn Goodall, whose record label distributes this CD. I thoroughly enjoyed this album and highly recommend it.



Michael Diamond is a music producer, recording artist, and journalist in the San Francisco Bay area. Visit: http://www.mdiamondsound.com