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Cupid Blindfolded by Michael Whalen
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 7/20/2019
A collection of masterful tunes and melodies
There is nothing quite like immersing oneself into ambient musical landscapes, especially when they are so beautifully produced and created so tenderly, this is what we have when we walk through the musical portal entitled Cupid Blindfolded by Michael Whalen.
Whalen is a master creator on the keys and can manifest anything into reality he wishes by the soothing caresses on the piano, the journey through this brand new album starts with the homely opener and proud title track Cupid Blindfolded. A beautiful and gentle opus can be found here, the performance is a flowing cascade of brilliance and simply the perfect start to the album.
Whalen follows up that stunning beginning with one of the most delightful tracks off the album entitled All of My Heart, All of My Soul. I found this a fascinating composition, at times a little David Lanz and at others like a film score to a movie, but whilst flowing with the melody, one was always kept hooked into the piece with that little element of suspense, which was beautifully crafted.
There is something incredibly artistic in Whalen’s performance style that I adore, he paints with music so beautifully and writes with notes that literally drip off the page. Reflection of My Affection is one of the most heartfelt and moving offerings off the album, and one that you will find impossible to leave with a dry eye, this is Whalen at his very best, moving and fluently passionate and extremely reflective.
We now have a moment of sublime ambience to enjoy, it is called Sunrise in the Desert. By the time I had reached this track I had lost all awareness of time, and this really sweet opus just added to that musical dimensional loss of a linear existence. Whalen has once more manifested something so soothing and calming, one could easily imagine watching the sunrise in the desert to this one, smooth, fluent and truly geographically stunning indeed.
As we arrive at the half way juncture we come across a little mystical energy, one that perhaps lies between the keys themselves, in a musical land we call genius. This offering is called The Muse, something that can sometimes be hard to find, but when we do, it’s a total life changer. There is a clever juxtaposition of performance here by the artist; a little energy of mystery hovers all around, leaving the muse floating in an air of expectancy.
I was left breathless at the sheer beauty of this next offering called At the Touch of a Lover. This must be one of the finest examples of melodic, sultry ambient piano I have heard for decades, one that literally took me to the connection that two lovers have, when two become one and the meld that is created, this is simply beyond anything you have ever experienced. For me Whalen’s performance here was, and is spellbinding, and this creation will be part of my every day musical life for ages to come.
Standing in the Rain, this is something I would love to do right now in this long roasting summer of ours. However Whalen’s interpretation within music of my wish is sublime, and simply does what it says on the can. Through the performance on piano, I can feel with ease the rain falling upon my head, and the energy of reality that this gives me is a wonderful thing indeed. Once more the creativity of the artist here is far reaching and almost emotional at times as well.
The inventive playing on Serendipity was a treat to listen to, perhaps serendipitous itself! The natural elements of liberated musical genius run strong within this piece, and Whalen’s composition whether discovered by chance or not, has left us in a very happy mood indeed; I also adored the almost jazzy Keith Emerson style here as well, utterly masterful and wonderfully fluent indeed.
The penultimate offering is entitled Isle of Skye, strange but true, although I lived in the UK for most of my life I have still yet to visit Scotland, however I would really love to do so, perhaps a visit to Skye, after hearing this melody and creation, that may make my desire even stronger. This is a really focused offering and directed at the stated location, through the tones and sensitive but poignant performance, one can be there with ease thanks to this marvellous manifestation of artistic perfection.
We complete our sojourn through the realm of Cupid Blindfolded with the ending track, City of Lights. This colourful and descriptive finisher is delightful to listen to and reminded me on journeys home with my father in his car during nightfall, my gaze always fell upon the lights of the city below. Whilst that image still holds a fond beat in my heart, I am taken to another place through the performance, perhaps standing upon a hill, looking at the sparkling lights of the city below and this simply timeless opus can now be my soundtrack to that moment.
I had to sit for a while and mull over what I had just heard, to allow this journey to sink into every part of my psyche, had I really listened to one of the best solo piano albums this century, and I personally think that the answer has to be a resounding yes. I was moved emotionally, I was enthralled and intrigued by the depth and crafted genius of the compositions and Michael Whalen needs to give himself a huge pat on the back for manifesting an album of such outstanding quality.
Now I will excuse you, while you pop off to make your purchase of Cupid Blindfolded, but I need to hit the repeat button and once more get lost in this fine collection of masterful tunes and melodies, just one more time, perhaps!
Rating: Excellent
While It Lasts by Geoff Hall
- posted by Kathy Parsons on 7/19/2019
Warmly Optimistic and Gently Soothing
While It Lasts is the follow-up to Geoff Hall’s 2016 debut, Understanding the Signs, which was nominated for Zone Music Reporter’s “Album of the Year,” “Best New Artist,” and “Best Electronic Album” awards. The nine original tracks on While It Lasts focus on Hall playing finger-style acoustic guitar backed by strings and/or light orchestration. Warmly optimistic and gently soothing, this is great music for relaxation, driving, quiet activities, and just generally getting lost in. Most of Hall’s pieces have fairly non-specific titles, allowing each listener to decide what the music “means.” Hall used a variety of guitars for the recording, finding the best tonal quality for each piece. A graduate of the Berklee School of Music with a degree in Orchestration and Film Scoring, Hall’s music is visual and often tells a story (without words).

While It Lasts begins with “Arrival,” a gentle piece for guitar and strings that expresses a sense of anticipation and of looking forward. “Something On the Wind” is a bit darker and very evocative. Oboe is one of the instruments in the “orchestra” and seems to give the piece a slightly mysterious tone. The guitar is always front and center, but the oboe provides a very interesting counterpoint. “Resolved” begins rather intensely with guitar and strings intertwining and dancing around each other before coming to a “resolved” end - very clever! “Solitary Alignment” is a sweetly poignant guitar and violin duet - very uncluttered and open, contrasting the smoothly-bowed violin and sparkling acoustic guitar. “Lifted” is lighter than air with guitar and keyboard in a lively dance that expresses joy and positivity. “Remembering” returns to guitar and strings with a simple melody that seems to tell the story of an event or series of events that is being remembered and savored all over again. “Pheidippides” is the most cinematic of the tracks. Named for the Greek figure that inspired marathon races, strength and energy pour from every note. More fully-orchestrated than the other tracks, the guitar maintains its place at the forefront of the piece. The title track is another lovely guitar and violin duet that contrasts the smoothly bowed strings of the violin with the plucked strings of the guitar. With the opening track titled “Arrival,” perhaps it is only fitting to close with “Departure.” Although it is far from dark or despairing, it doesn’t seem quite as upbeat as the first track. Again, it is up to the listener to decide on the story each piece is telling.

While It Lasts is a wonderful accompaniment to many of life’s quieter moments and is available from iTunes and CD Baby as well as many streaming sites.

-- Kathy Parsons Reviews
Rating: Excellent
Mystic Messages by Brooks & Day
- posted by Gena on 7/16/2019

The new Brooks & Day album is flute-oriented and full of incredibly-lovely new age music with hints of world-fusion, smooth-jazz and meditative-ambient. The album primarily features Ben Brooks on flute with quiet backing by Peter Day on acoustic guitar, but both also add some electronic keyboards, and they are joined by longtime contemporary jazzster Rob Mullins on keyboards (electric piano and synth) and Rich Mangicaro on percussion (who has played with Michael McDonald and members of The Eagles). Generally soft and gentle, the music also has some propulsive rhythms. This music should go over well with new age music fans who want something gentle, but not TOO peaceful. Enjoyable to sit and listen to, or to relax with, this is first-rate stuff.
Rating: Excellent
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