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Mackland Ave by Mike Woodlark
- posted by Lillian on 7/16/2019

Mike Woodlark is one of those ultimate new age musicians who creates a stunning, varied and full-bodied sound, mostly by himself, as heard on his new MACKLAND AVE album. Woodlark is primarily a pianist, but he also is adept on acoustic guitar, electronic keyboards and synthesizers. He rounds out the music overall by creating a variety of other instrumentation including strings, percussion, electric guitar, horns and electric piano. In addition, on this album he also sings in a soft, gentle style on five of the 12 original compositions. Three special guests -- on piano, cello and fiddle -- make an appearance on one tune each. This is simply excellent ensemble new age music. Especially don’t miss the folk-pop song “Hey Vincent” (an ode to Van Gogh with two versions), the bouncy “Rainshine” (also with some vocals mixed in) and the rhythmic nearly out of control “Mackland Ave” tune.
Rating: Excellent
Altiplano by Ciro Hurtado
- posted by Helena on 7/16/2019

Peruvian-born acoustic guitarist Ciro Hurtado is one of the most brilliant, yet understated of all Latin guitarists, and because of his birth and younger years in Peru (which he revisits from the USA regularly), he does not sound quite like anyone else. Although there are some Peruvian flutes on this recording (plus percussion, a little cello and a few Spanish female vocals), this is primarily an acoustic guitar album with the spotlight firmly on Hurtado. Check out his solo guitar tunes especially the remarkably difficult to play “Ciudad del Lago” and the delicate “Entre Las Estrellas.” After absorbing Peruvian folk music as a child, Hurtado heard The Beatles on short-wave radio and from that moment on he began blending native sounds with music from the rest of the world which gives his playing, composing and arranging a unique feeling. But the bottom-line is that this is accessible, easy-to-digest music that crosses cultural boundaries and has that kind of appeal that all musicians long for, music that simply sounds good and moves the listener regardless of influences, instruments or languages.
Rating: Excellent
Memoirs by Michele McLaughlin
- posted by Steve Sheppard on 7/9/2019
A truly delicious album
Michele describes her latest release Memoirs as a collection of 12 solo piano pieces that she had released as singles over an 18 month period, each track has its own individual story and this is therefore the musical voyage we are to undertake right now.
We begin with the up-tempo and radiant offering Thankful, this one bounces along and its vibrant nature and ebullient energies literally flow all around us as we listen, this has to be the perfect track to begin the release with.
One of my early favourites is the delightfully pretty Pure Joy; here we have a track with a masterful melody and one that at times reminds me of Elton John in content and composition. The fluent nature of this track and the exciting intensity it created for me was a thrill to listen to; I do so adore the major minor combination.
Dark Moon is a horse of a different colour entirely, short form in structure, but never the less so beautifully graphic in its content and energy, this is also a deeply moving and emotional composition, one can really feel a state of deep reflection burning to be set free from this offering.
As we move forever onward we come across a piece called Triumph. This one has all the hall marks of an anthem and has that film score arrangement about its construction. This is a delightful opus to listen to and one also has to add that the performance here is simply sparkling with every note played.
On Little Love we are gifted one of the most attractive compositions from the release, McLaughlin plays with such a charming level of tenderness on this track that you won’t fail to be wooed by its beauty. This track has a smoothness of tempo that is so crafted and cleverly performed it is a pleasure to listen to.
As I move to the piece My Life With You, it’s easy for me to glance to my left and watch my lovely wife just sitting there, her radiance fills my heart with such joy. For me this piece says all that and more, it’s a musical expression of appreciation and the gratitude of being able to share a life with someone you love so deeply, one has to also add that McLaughlin has created it with such a gentle hand on the keys, this piece is literally bursting with love.
The next offering is incredibly interesting to jump into and called Beneath The Surface. This is played with an incredible awareness of creation and McLaughlin’s skill set brings us something quite mystical, it is as if we are literally swimming in a crystal clear sea and discovering all manner of new and wondrous things, this is one of those pieces you could listen to many times over and hear something special each time you do so.
For any of us that have suffered that terrible feeling of being Alone, then this track will resonate somewhere within you, this is a deeply moving piece and brought back memories to me of those times when I was so low and down it was almost impossible to look up and see the sky. The performance on this composition is some of the best work I have ever heard the artist play; her performance is full of memory, sadness and aloneness, this is clearly played with her heart firmly on her sleeve.
Winter is a strange season, it is the face of death and its dour seasonal cloak of grey seems to shroud the landscape for an eternity, but there is always the hope of spring! Here McLaughlin paints with her piano a track that is quite moody and dark, one that illustrates this tough season perfectly. The arrangement and performance style once again borders on being film score standard, the creational talents of the pianist here is exceptional and masterfully creative.
I so wish I could one day see the Northern Lights. The Aurora Borealis is an enigma unto itself, starting and ending as a flicker of colourful lights, this show in the skies is beautifully played on one of the most dramatic pieces off the album. McLaughlin is in full flow here and brings us one her finest performance’s, one that made me think that perhaps this may indeed be a fan favourite one day, it would be an amazing piece to see played live.
Our penultimate offering is surely something the entire planet has to embrace, just drop the fear and hate and give yourself fully to Peace. Once more the artist has manifested a composition that is anthem like in its construction; it raises the energy, uplifts the soul, and musically gives us something we all need in our search, hope!
Our last musical gift from the artist is called Dismissed, for me I found this a fascinating offering and one that had a slight European feel to it. One could easily listen to this piece and imagine the streets of say Paris, and gaze at the lonely people, who wander from town to town in search of work and find nothing but rejection and of course that leads to despair. This is a dramatic performance from Michele McLaughlin, and one that highlights her outstanding talents as a pianist with aplomb.
Personally I rate Memoirs as McLaughlin’s best work to date, Life was a delicious album, but I think that this even tops that. The release is packed with innovative musical compositions that illustrate what an abundant 18 month period it has indeed been for the pianist, she has now added, with a certain sensitivity of performance, an ability to enthral the listener with many moods and that wonderfully multi-talented approach can be heard within the confines of this new album and it is simply magical. This is truly an album you are really going to want to add to your ever growing musical collections, whether you are fans of the solo piano genre or just lovers of really good music.
Rating: Excellent
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