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Music Reviews


Reviewed by Michael Diamond

Natura Poetica (DVD)
Suzanne Ciani
Seven Waves Productions

Suzanne Ciani is an artist of extraordinary talent, as attested to by her five Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe, an INDIE award, and more. Over the course of her remarkable career beginning with studies in Classical Music, and going on to become one of the pioneers of electronic music, Suzanne has produced fifteen albums of original music. On the DVD, “Natura Poetica,” which has been recently re-mastered, she marries some of her most loved music from those albums with stunning visuals that incorporate nature scenery with special effects, creating a treat for the eyes and ears. Much of the nature footage is by leading cinematographer David Fortney, whose work is possibly some of the most beautiful ever filmed. Floating colors and abstract imagery are provided by visionary videographer Ken Jenkins, who is best known for his magical “Illumination” DVD.
“Natura Poetica” opens with a close-up of light reflecting on flowing water, which is not surprising, as water and waves have been an ever-present theme in Suzanne’s work. Aquatic imagery abounds in scenes of the ocean, dancers in the surf, waterfalls, ripples in a stream, close ups of water droplets, and more. Other scenery includes birds in flight, mountains, forests, and grasses waving in the breeze, often interspersed with scenes of Suzanne playing the grand piano.Her lush romantic compositions and lacy electronic soundscapes weave an enchanted tapestry of sound that wraps around the visuals as though they were made for each other. The stunning beauty of “Natura Poetica” will be greatly appreciated by music and nature lovers alike.


Steven Halpern
Relaxation Suite
Inner Peace Music

As the pre-eminent composer of healing and relaxation music worldwide, Steven Halpern has sold over 7 million albums and is widely considered to be the founder of this genré of music. On “Relaxation Suite,” he combines his talents with virtuoso cello playing of the internationally-acclaimed artist David Darling, who has released many solo and collaboration albums and toured for seven years as a member of The Paul Winter Consort.
Literally from the first notes of the first song, one begins to feel a state of calm peacefulness emerging within. For the next 75 minutes, over 13 tracks, the listener is transported on clouds of sound that are at once tranquil yet uplifting. I was especially taken by the alchemy of Steven’s dreamy synthesizers and luminous electric piano with acoustic cello tones. The blend of wood and wire with electronic atmospheres was mesmerizing.
These melodies range from sweet to soaring, with the soul-stirring vibrations of the cello resonating through your body as you listen. Some tracks also feature shakuhachi (Zen bam-boo flute), silver flute, and the heavenly harp playing of Georgia Kelly, all of which adds up to a blissful experience that melts away stress and is perfect for meditation, yoga, massage, and intimate moments. While researching this CD, I came across overwhelmingly positive listener reviews on amazon.com, with some ranking this as one of Steven Halpern’s best works. And I, for one, am wholeheartedly inclined to agree with that assessment.


Lis Addison
The Song Of The Tree
All Aglow Music

While “The Song Of The Tree” by Lis Addison certainly has some cool ambient groove music and chanting on it, there is actually quite a bit more to it. In her words, it is “a creative tool for healing and transformation,” whose focus is to balance the seven Chakras, or energy centers of the body. The word “Chakra” is Sanskrit for “wheel” and may be familiar to those who have studied Eastern philosophy, although the Hopi also teach of seven levels of consciousness. The Chakras are receptors of vibration and respond to sound, which elicits deep emotion and healing. To evoke this balance, Lis has created a sys-tem she calls VoCHeT (Vocal Chakra Healing Tones.) There are, correspondingly, seven pieces on the album, which are arranged in ascending order from the key of C to B. The included instructional booklet details each vocal pattern. Percussion and synthesizers lend musical support to the tones. The music is a blend of the earthy and ethereal, and is well represented symbolically by the tree, whose roots go deep into the earth while its branches reach towards the sky. In addition to her incredible vocal abilities, Lis, who holds a Master’s Degree in Electronic Music from Mills College, played most of the instruments, along with some assistance from percussionist extraordinaire, Christopher K., who also mixed and mastered the project at 7 Generations Studio. In addition to providing a tool for personal growth, the CD benefits the planet by providing a portion of the proceeds to tree-planting projects worldwide.


Mariah Parker
Ancient-Future.Com Records

I found the title of the latest CD release by Mariah Parker to be quite appropriate. Sharing the same name as the popular festive drink, Sangria is a blend of red wine, a variety of fresh fruit, sweetener, and sometimes a dash of soda or other spirits. The music on Mariah’s “Sangria” is, indeed, an intoxicating melange of diverse sonic ingredients. The album’s subtitle: “An Indo Latin Jazz Musical Experience” further hints at the heady fusion contained within. Mariah shines on piano and santur, a Middle Eastern hammered dulcimer. She is joined by an all-star cast of musicians including Paul McCandless on sax and English horn, Matthew Montfort, who is well-known from the group Ancient Future, on his signature scalloped fretboard guitar and flamenco guitar, and Mindia Devi Klein on flute and bansuri, whose musical camaraderie helped catalyze this project. The ensemble is propelled by the dynamic tabla drumming of Debopriyo Sarkar and Anuradha Pal, percussion by Duru Demetrius, and Kash Killion on bass, cello, and sarangi. This beautifully-packaged CD features liner notes on each song - providing insight into the composition. The music is exotic yet accessible, and while some of the international musical formats may be unfamiliar, your tapping foot and nodding head are signs that your body is speaking the same language. If musicians of different nationalities and genres can come together and create such harmony, world leaders could learn a lesson from their example. Mariah Parker’s “Sangria” is a wonderful cross-cultural musical experience and highly recommended.



I was very happy to receive this new release from Char-El (Charles Thaxton,) having enjoyed his previous CD’s “Heaven & Earth” and “Worlds Without End.” This 2009 release is actually a time capsule of sorts and features unreleased music he recorded at various periods over the past 20 years, which has been re-mastered and some new tracks added. As such, it fits right in with the current revival of interest in vintage analog keyboards, with the particular sounds, and retro 70’s-80’s vibe they evoke. Char-El’s music is mainly synthesizer-based with symphonic overtones. Perhaps the term “synthphonic” would be most appropriate. Fans of Kitaro, Tangerine Dream, David Arkenstone, and perhaps early Yanni, will feel right at home here. There’s also a shade of progressive rock influence on some songs that leans towards the Genesis/Yes side of the spectrum, although the music on “Resurrection” is all-instrumental. Along with classic analog and digital synths are electronic drums, samplers, sequencers, and some stellar guitar playing by Bob Baratta. And speaking of retro, Char-El’s music features a Mellotron, a keyboard instrument from the psychedelic 60’s, popularized on The Beatle’s “Strawberry Fields,” as well as on many of the grand epics by the Moody Blues, one of Char-El’s major influences.Song titles like Star Dancing, Astral Flight, and Ancient Temple, reveal a fantasy, sci-fi storybook quality that is present in much of his sound. Listening with headphones accentuated this element even more. With 19 tracks spanning 80 minutes, “Resurrection” is a treasure trove of sparkling sonic gems and magical melodies.


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