Reviews 10-24-2006 


Music Reviews 



The Road Less Travelled

by Michael Straugh

CD Baby website


“The Road Less Traveled” is the follow-up to pianist Michael Straugh’s 2004 debut, “True North.” The title was inspired by Robert Frost’s poem of the same name, which the artist found encouraging when he reached a fork in his own road of life several years ago. My main criticism of “True North” was the use of a non-acoustic piano, and that’s my only problem with this album, too. The music is strong, expressive, and original, but the piano sound has the metallic edge of an electronic instrument and the dynamics don’t vary much throughout the album. A non-pianist might not be able to hear this, but an experienced ear will pick up on the lack of subtle nuance very quickly and will miss the rich sonority of a good acoustic piano. The music itself is very enjoyable.

“Blush” opens the CD with a gentle confection full of sweet innocence. Calm and contented, it is a lovely way to begin. “Caela’s Song” has an aura of mystery about it and is a bit more intense. “Ekta” means “unity” in Hindi. One of my favorites on this album, this piece has a fluidity but also a lot of strength. The piece evolves into an Indian musical style halfway into the piece which is very effective on this piano, returning to the original theme to the end. The title track is very introspective - musical soul-searching - and is also a very effective piece. I really like “A Winter’s Tail,” which sparkles in the upper registers of the piano, suggesting a dance of light. “Beside You” is a sweet and reassuring love song. “Adagio” dates back to 1982, and is soothing and evocative. Slow and elegant, this very beautiful piece leisurely unfolds and reveals itself, using a variety of themes that dovetail into each other, creating a cohesive whole. “All Roads Lead Home” is a lovely exploration. Sometimes warm and contented, sometimes a bit more agitated with a sense of urgency, the piece goes through quite an evolution, ending the album with kind of an open-ended question.

The music on “The Road Less Traveled” is solid and well-crafted, and a good grand piano would have made the CD even better. It is available from

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions




by Paul Avgerinos

Visit RoundSky Music's  website


Continuing with spiritual new age ambience Paul Avgerinos's latest album is Gnosis - which means knowing and knowledge. This time he's focused on ancient Greek instruments and vocal styles. To achieve this he's accompanied by several guest musicians on both well known and exotically named instruments such as the Oud, Sarangi, and Tabla.

The album gets off to a beautiful start in “Pure in Heart” where angelic wordless female vocals consort with Eastern “wah-ing” sounds and lovely plucked guitar to create a reverential melody. The style changes in the next track “Follow Your Bliss” as occasional watery drums and a processional percussive rhythm using shaken instruments creates an hypnotic aura with an awestruck male voice reciting something in an Eastern language, and occasional “ahh-ing” chorales.

A strong sense of place and mysticism is created by this work, and the reciting voice that occurs on several tracks adds a personal touch. What I think is remarkable about Paul's albums is that besides the spiritual aspects it's also fantastic music that can be enjoyed for itself by those who don't strongly identify with the artist's vision, in this case the “pure being” of Gnosis.

After the mainly rhythmic and melodic first few tracks the rest of the album takes on a calmer ambient demeanour. Indeed, it's brought to a close by the minimalist “We Are One” where gentle sonic filaments snake and glide over a backdrop of subtly layered drones and exhalations. We've been taken to a plane of existence where the interconnectedness of all beings is palpable.

Listening to Gnosis is like stepping back in time to the ancient world and witnessing sacred rituals and personal meditation. You don't need to be religious or spiritual to appreciate Paul's delicate and deeply felt music.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions



Music in the Silence

by Ron Clearfield

CD Baby website


Master cellist/composer/conductor Ron Clearfield has created a masterpiece that melds classical, jazz, world, folk, and new age stylings to convey a message of love, healing, and global unity. “Music In the Silence” is Clearfield’s third release of original music and is simply gorgeous. Clearfield has a rich background in a wide range of musical pursuits in classical and pop music as well as film and television scoring. The cello is such a soulful instrument, and in Clearfield's hands, it sings, cries, dances, and offers solace and hope. Clearfield accompanies himself on most of the tracks with piano and keyboard, and several other acoustic musicians appear on two tracks. A true fusion of many musical styles, this CD offers something for just about everyone.

The title track opens and closes the CD with a message of unifying humankind with our common experiences rather than being divided by our differences. Almost hymnlike, the cello and keyboards combine to express a powerful image. “Appalachian Fantasy” is a cello solo that weaves “Amazing Grace” and “Simple Gifts” in a classical fusion style. Sometimes the cello strings are bowed and sometimes they are plucked, reflecting the style of the Appalachian Mountains where Clearfield lives. “Himalayan Reverie” was composed in honor of the many teachers who have come from that part of the world. Soulful, stirring and evoking the feeling of vast open space, this is a real beauty! “Song Of a New Earth” is one of Clearfield’s earliest compositions. A fantasy for flutes, strings, and percussion, it tells of a vision of a healed world - shimmeringly beautiful and at peace. “Transformation” is a musical trilogy for cello and piano, and contains my three favorite tracks on this CD. The first of the three pieces is “Soaring.” The cello has the haunting melody with the accompanying piano doing runs and arpeggios that create color and a gentle rhythm. “The Challenge” is a bit darker and more of a cello/piano duet, describing life’s difficulties and frustrations. The third part of the trilogy, “Resolution,” also very much a duet, tells of acceptance and compassion leading the way to understanding. This trilogy alone is well-worth the cost of the CD! “Global Awakening” is an intense ensemble piece with the message that our greatest hope for peace lies within each of us as individuals rather than with our world leaders. The closing version of the title track was composed for seven cellos and contrabass, and Clearfield plays them all! A lovely closing to a spectacular album!

“Music In the Silence” is an album of incredible beauty that will definitely be on my Top 10 list for 2006. Bravo! It is available from, and other online and retaill outlets.

Reviewed by Kathy Parsons reprinted from Mainly Piano on Ambient Visions



Secret Voices from the Dark

by Various Artists

Visit Prudence's  website


Secret Voices from the Dark is a collection of mystic ambient and chillout pieces, from other albums, by Achillea, Bernd Scholl, Mergener & Amici, TYA, Alquimia & Gleisberg, Tyndall & Scholl, Stadler & Rule, Karmacosmic, Art of Infinity, and Stella Maris – some of these artists having more than one track featured. It's not as dark as the title suggests, dark-lite and mysterious is how I'm inclined to describe it.

Gregorian chant features in the short opening track “The Monks of Lindisfarne” by Achillea. Like Enigma this piece uses such chant in a a modern way, starting with a slow melody of pointy sounds the “monks” then come in with their sacred verses while an electric guitar adds an introspective element and electronic rhythms and percussion keep the piece moving.

One of my favourite pieces is “Farewell at Midnight” by Bernd Scholl. This has some of his hallmark sounds such as the Kitaro-esque pinging synth lines and sustained electronic and vocal drones all put together in a tribal style. It's a collage of sounds that connect together sounding both primeval and modern at the same time.

There's a good mix of tracks that are purely instrumental and those containing vocals – though most have vocals if only of the wordless kind. The more lyric based are those by Alquimia & Gleisberg, for me the best of these being “Aileen” which includes melodic humming and rather breathless lyrics delivered in a syncopated manner, like much of the music, with a curiously medieval feel.

The Prudence label can usually be relied upon for quality new age releases, and Secret Voices from the Dark is no exception. Here is music for the twilight hours where robed figures silently pass by on the edge of one's vision. It's a collection of disparate yet loosely connected tunes of mystery and imagination.

Reviewed by Dene Bebbington reprinted from on Ambient Visions


Return Home