Sunday, July 29, 2012

CD Review – Deep Alpha: Brainwave Synchronization for Meditation and Healing, by Steven Halpern

Pioneering new age music legend Steven Halpern has programmed his latest CD with sonic frequencies designed to prepare the human brain for meditation and healing.

Not only does Halpern get the job done, but he has also created a musical work that is as stirring in its melodic reverie as it is impactful in its recuperative power.

Halpern achieves his eight-hertz frequency mainly through the use of magical tones generated by his Rhodes Mark 7 electric piano, augmented by soft, gentle textures created by Halpern’s additional keyboards and synthesizers.

Although Halpern goes it alone on most of the tracks, he is joined by Paul McCandless, whose hypnotic oboe mesmerizes on the opening tune, and Michael Manring, who adds buoyancy to a couple of numbers with his fretless bass.

The result is a musical journey that is both enjoyable and cathartic.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 22, 2012

CD Review – El Dorado, by Luna Blanca

The latest album by internationally renowned German group Luna Blanca is an exhilarating journey through a variety of global music traditions, resulting in a vibrant mariachi/merengue world-fusion sound unlike any other.

Luna Blanca’s unique style consists of Richard Hecks’s lead guitars, Helmut Graebe’s piano and keyboards, Bino Dola’s rhythm and additional lead guitars, Clemens Paskert’s bass, percussion, and additional keyboards, and Christian Landgraf’s additional keyboards.

Using nouveau flamenco as an anchor, Hecks and company fuse together such diverse elements as classical, Latin, European, Hawaiian, reggae, and new age. The result is continually evolving musical hybrids that are infectious and engaging, pulling the listener in and never letting go. The rhythms are tight and the guitars are enticing and seductive.

Although I have favorite tracks, the entire CD is a joy to listen to. This is not only one of the best guitar-based albums ever, but also one of the best records of music in general.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 15, 2012

CD Review – American Impressions, by Lisa Hilton

Accomplished and versatile jazz pianist Lisa Hilton extends her extensive discography with this lively collection of ten originals and two classics, inspired by the American experience.

Hilton is joined once again by her band members from her previous release: J.D. Allen on saxophone, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums. This is my second time hearing this band on record, and they are a tight, solid unit. Although Hilton is the primary composer and bandleader, she fits right in and sounds like one of the players. Her piano is still the focus, but the other instruments are just as important to the mix. While each performer has his or her unique style and sound, all of them think and feel and flow as one.

The compositions are dynamic and engaging, demonstrating musical acumen and yet loosening up with quirky playfulness. The covers of Joni Mitchell’s “Rainy Night House” and Duke Ellington’s “Echoes of Harlem” are in line creatively and musically with the original tunes, which is a testament to Hilton’s masterful writing.

This is a fine addition to Hilton’s catalogue and a worthy tribute to the diversity that is America.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 8, 2012

CD Review – Cycle, by Takashi Suzuki

The second proper album by Takashi Suzuki proves that the architect, sculptor, painter, and composer/musician is no one-hit wonder.

Suzuki returns with a collection of synthesized textures that soothe and refresh, providing sonic refuge as well as musical stimulation. The tracks are called episodes, with the only distinction in name being their numerical sequence. This engenders focus on the album as a whole suite of movements rather than a collection of individual tracks. This also prevents any preconceived notions based on titles and centers attention on the music itself.

As a result, Suzuki’s mysterious and mystical compositions captivate and enthrall with their piercing and penetrating vibrations, creating an ethereal experience that provides cathartic release and creative satisfaction.

--Raj Manoharan

Sunday, July 1, 2012

CD Review – Touched by the Sun, by Todd Boston

This is only Todd Boston’s second solo album, but you might think it’s his twenty-second judging by the intricate compositions, masterful performances, and impeccable musicianship that make the guitarist sound like an old hand.

In addition to acoustic guitar, Boston plays dotar (an Indian lute), flute, and bass, and is joined on this outing by a stellar lineup that includes bassists Michael Manring and Tony Levin, percussionist Jeff Haynes, tabla and cajon player Ramesh Kannan, violinist Charlie Bisharat, cellist Eugene Friesen, and vocalist Snatum Kaur (whose 2012 tour features Boston).

The wide-ranging instruments and the talents behind them give the CD an equally varied and exotic feel, encompassing new age, world, and fusion. But at their core, all the tracks exhibit a down-home, folksy vibe that makes the music warm-hearted and accessible.

My favorite tracks are “Twilight,” “The Brightest Night,” “Under the Orion Sky,” and “Touched by the Sun,” but the entire album is serene and beautiful.

--Raj Manoharan