While most of the material at this website reviews music featuring female vocals, this page contains concise comments on new instrumental music our audience has either recommended or might enjoy.
Click on album covers or label names for links to further information.
Steve La Cerra
Image © 2000 RCA Victor
(13 February 2000) The latest release from Phil Coulter,
entitled Highland Cathedral
(RCA Victor (USA) 09026-63615-2/3, 2000), is a progression for the artist
with fourteen highly listenable Celtic-influenced new age tracks. Coulter
is the best selling instrumental recording artist in Ireland's history. He
reveals, "To be releveant and healthy, you have to keep growing and be open
to new influences. The one thing, though, that will always be comon to all
of my albums, including those with Roma [Downey] and James [Galway], is
melody. The album is certainly very melodic and very atmospheric. I hope
it's uplifing and its range of soundscapes is soothing on the one hand and
quite powerful on the other." Coulter used the glorious voice of Aoife
(pronounced Ee-fah) Ni Fhearraigh, from Donegal on Ireland's western shore,
home also to Enya and Maire Brennan, and their famous performing family,
Clannad. Máire is Aoife's choirmistress and also performed on her solo
album entitled Aoife (Gael-Linn (Ireland) CEFCD 172, 1996).
"They all have that same ethereal magic, that same quality in their voice.
It's a strange, strange coincidence that they all come from this one
little village in West Donegal," Coulter points out. "It's an ongoing
tradition that is producing these wonderful singers."
The album can be ordered at
amazon.com from February 22.
Certain to appeal to Celtic music enthusiasts and lovers of Clannad,
Shanon and Ronan Hardiman, Highland Cathedral's simple yet lush
tracks are heavily laced with piano melodies and non-overpowering traditional
instrumentation. Soundscapes are painted with additional orchestral textures.
Coulter wrote, arranged and is the main performer on the album. The title
track is comprised of a lovely piano melody and is enhanced with both orchestral
and traditional (pipes) instrumentation. "Holy Island" incorporates
a keyboard effect during its introduction to create the sound of sea birds
as we've heard Iona do before. Aoife makes her first appearance on the
album in "Tranquility," a song with multi-layered soprano vocals, lush
electronic instrumentation and effects supporting its piano melody. The
whistle parts featured within "The Flowers Of The Forest" are sensitively
played while ballads "Over The Sea To Skye" and "Flow Gently Sweet
Afton" are performed entirely on piano, and perfectly illustrate Coulter's
virtuosity. Strings and additional orchestral instrumentation is added in
the soundtrack-like ballad "In Loving Melody."
The traditional Celtic track, "The Gathering - Bealtaine"
is introduced with narration and filled with Celtric bodhran. The melody is
carried by a range of supporting electronic and traditional instrumentation.
Aoife carries the melody in the lovely Irish ballad "If These Stones Could
Speak" supported light keyboard, traditional and piano instrumentation.
The backing vocal part is especially effective. Coulter's lovely instrumental
rendition of the classic, "Going Home" (Dvorjak/W. A Fisher) is especially
inspiring. "The Enchanted Glen" follows naturally with orchestrally rich
instrumentation supporting a lovely piano/keyboard melody. Aoife returns
again in "Pilgrim's Way," carrying the lovely melody over an almost Gregorian
style chant and an extremely broad range of instrumentation including a
Celtic drum passage in the song's closing moments. The upbeat Gypsy-like
"Coutergiest" is performed on piano and accordian with other strings
accompanying. The gaps between the verses produce a great effect and
add intrigue. Aoife concludes the album singing the inspiring "Our
Island Barque," a lovely Celtic ballad accompanied by piano, harp
and further orchestral instrumentation.
Backing vocals provide additional warmth in the choruses.
Phil Coulter's latest album is a masterwork; well written and performed,
it is certain to appeal to fans of modern Celtic instrumentals. Highland
Cathedral is certainly worth further exploration—a very nice listen!
Image © 1999
North America Music
The second release from New York artist Steve La Cerra
following his debut solo album One Step At A Time (1995) is
entitled Flight (North America Music (USA) NAM-1014).
Released in August 1999, the album features thirteen instrumental
tracks highlighting La Cerra's keyboard and other instrumental
work. In 1994 Steve released an album entitled Fate of a
Violent World with the metal band Dagger. He is also a
well known engineer and producer (primarily for Blue Oyster Cult)
and is a Senior Editor at
Best summarised as a keyboard album with an edge that pushes
new age into progressive rock, Flight's tracks are dynamic
and inspiring. The album's opening track "Sierra Nevada" certainly
has new age sounding keyboard work, and as the title would inspire,
a certain Spanish or world feel, like Yannni or John Tesh
might produce. Guitar and electronic percussion contribute to the
lushness of the music. Later the song "Long Ago and Far Away" with
its combination of ambient, classical strings and celtic textures is
reminiscent of Clannad's soundtrack work.
The edge of the album's music is likely best illustrated in
the moving and dynamic arrangements of "Forbidden Planet" and
the ambient and lofty composition to aid in the visualisation
during the brief track "Atlantis."
The "Amazing Journey" segment of the album contains three enticing and
moody tracks. A certain favourite is the first track within it entitled
"Sail On" with its rhythmic acoustic guitar and emotive keyboard-based
melodies. The music perfectly compliments the song's title as it
produces a wonderful vision of an early evening sail gently tacking
upwind. A hot day hike certainly comes to mind during the track
"Havasu Trail." Here La Cerra returns to southwest themes with
a lovely acoustic guitar melody to compliment the keyboards. A
small vocal part is actually included in the song as well. The
segment concludes with a certain favourite entitled "The Road Home."
The song is uplifting and a more new age sounding synthesizer track
yet the percussion notable for being dynamic and extremely well
annunciated. The album closes with a lovely piano-based ballad-like
moody instrumental entitled "Tides Of Cape May."
Additional biographical information on the artist and soundbites
(catalog/online store section) are available on the Jericho Hill
The album is available online there or from
amazon.com. This is an album that
will certainly appeal to maturing fans of progressive instrumental work
the album is certainly worth further exploration—a nice listen!
Image © 1999
No Image Records
Thirteen From The Twenty First (No Image (UK) NICD13)
is the latest release from Richard Wileman's instrumentally
Karda Estra project. With vocal elements certainly remaining,
the Swindon England-based Karda Estra moves on from from Lives
& Times' folky progressive sounds (the earlier Rattlebones
and The Pull Of A Tide and the later Hoarse), past
their more gothic and ethereal phase (Waiting For The Parade
and The Great Sad Happy Ending) into a style with even more
emphasis on atomospheric soundtrack-like themes. There is, however,
a distinct similarity between the mid-career sound of Lives & Times
and the instrumental foundation on which Karda Estra is based. The
latest Karda Estra album has thirteen relatively short tracks
although the three that conclude the album run six to seven
The recording was done from June 1998 through September 1999 at
The Twenty First, Wileman's own studio where the debut Karda Estra
album A Winter In Summertime (No Image (UK) NICD12) was recorded
between January and May 1998. Both CDs were actually pressed by
EMI whose huge facility is conveniently situated in Swindon only
blocks away the infamous Magic Roundabout! Thirteen From The
Twenty First moves further away from the group's progressive
origins more twoards soundtrack work and most certainly appeal to
those that enjoy moody vision inspiring instrumentals with stunning
Written and produced by Richard Wileman, who also performs
significant portions of of the album's instrumentals (electric,
classical and bass guitars, keyboards and samples, acoustic drums
and percussion, effects and experiments), all vocals (largely
vocalise) are performed by Ileesha Bailey. Ileesha also provided
the vocals for the debut Karda Estra album and the last album by
Lives & Times entitled Hoarse (No Image (UK) NICD9). Caron
Hansford (oboe, cor anglais [alto oboe] and bassoon), Zoë King
(flute, saxophone and clarinet) and Rachel Larkins (viola and
violin) also contribute to this album. Ileesha, Rachel and Zoë
also performed on the project's less experimental debut recording
A Winter In Summertime.
The first section of the album is entitled "Surrealisms" and
is comprised of five individual classically textured new age jazz
crossover instrumentals. The concluding track of the set,
"Sleeping Venus," a certain favourite, is a gently sung ballad,
almost a lullaby, that picks up on the instrumental themes
established in the first four. Here Ileesha's vocal similarity
to Sandy Denny comes through yet with more of a crystalline
quality than that of the legendary folk superstar. Readers
interested in exploring Ileesha's vocals should certainly delve
into Lives & Times' Hoarse. Sensitively sung solo and
multi-tracked vocalise spans the other four tracks of the set
initiating, interplaying with and echoing the melodies of the
woodwind instruments and keys.
Image © 1998
No Image Records
The two most symphonic tracks of the set are certainly "The
Ribbon Of Extremes" and "Autumn Cannibalism." They are indeed
surreal, almost gothic textured at times that would likely be
equally at home in the final "Soundtrack" set of the album,
especially with the moody multi-layered vocalise and woodwind
parts. Although a lovely chime melody played on keys and
vocalise contribute a brilliance to "John Deth," there is a
dark undercurrent within the track that develops from the
guitar and deep woodwind parts.
The second section of the album has only two short classical
sounding tracks, and is appropriately titled "Miniatures."
"Bathed In Light" is performed exclusively by the woodwinds
with flutes carrying the melody playing off the oboe. Oboe
and strings continue in harmony into the gentle sound of
"The Toy Musician."
The final set of the album is comprised of six tracks and is
entitled "Soundtracks" appropriately because they all were for
short films except "Remember Me" which was for a radio play.
Here, themes and moods established earlier in the recording are
developed to their full orchestral splendour and symphonic sound.
Moody multi-layered vocalise adds to the overall texture of the
splendid "Evolution - Theme From 'The Jag Man' (Revised)."
"Remember Me" is crisply performed on classical guitar with
violin additing a dark texture to the tune. A lovely vocalise
part contributes to the closing moments of the track.
The visually inspiring moodiness continues with the deep bass,
symphonic crescendos, percussion and darkly gothic vocalise of
"Soulsearcher." "Repercussions" and "Rex Mundi" are complex
tracks, each with several obvious movements in their arrangements;
highly experimental, they include parts on chimes (keys), choir
and multi-tracked vocalise as well as several highly orchestral
parts with all instruments going full tilt. The brighter
woodwind-based and piano-led movements within "Repercussions"
and concluding vocal part of "Rex Mundi" are especially notable.
Equally complex in its arrangement, the orchestrally symphonic,
dramatic and highly dynamic track "River" concludes the album and
with its lovely vocal introduction will be a certain favourite.
Thirteen From The Twenty First is collection of well
written, visually inspiring, highly atmospheric and moody instrumental
tracks. Ileesha's vocal work is outstanding as are the instrumental
performances by the artists involved. More experimental in several
of its tracks, the album is a wonderful follow-up to the group's
A Winter In Summertime which as a suite, might be contrasted
as being a more cohesive collection. Both Karda Estra albums
are available from specialty retailers and they can also be obtained
from No Image; visit their
for details. They are also available from GFT; visit their
website for details.
A natural followon to Lives & Times mid-career projects
the albums are clearly worth further exploratio. Both Karda Estra albums
are highly engaging and intriguing—very enjoyable as a pair!
Image © 1998
Astor Place Recordings, LLC
Paul Schwartz is most well known for his two contemporary opera crossover albums
Aria (1997) and Aria 2: New Horizon (1999)
(review) dominated by stunning
female vocals and modern instrumental arrangements. Revolution
(Astor Place TCD4011, 1998) goes the other way. Here, Schwartz has arranged
eleven of the Beatles most timeless numbers to traditional classical
dance themes. This is an album when played at a gathering will turn heads
and draw lots of puzzled looks from guests since the unmistakable melodies
come through despite the vastly different arrangements. A very unusual album
in all respects, the lovely instrumental work perfectly compliments the
carefully constructed arrangements of the project.
"Blackbird" is played to an Allemande while "Norweigian Wood (This Bird
Has Flown)" is set to a Siciliano, a litlting dance with a lyrical meolody.
The soft song "Across The Universe" is arranged to the Aria style. The lovely
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is played as a Fantasia, a piece in which fantasy
and imagination are given free reign, perfectly illustrated by the light
strings. "I Will" is set to a Contredanse with its rustic and energetic
feel achieved by the plucky nature of the strings.
The lullaby texture of the Berceuse is used in the track "For No One" while
"I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is set to the Passacaglia, a slow dance based
on a repeated bass line. The dotted rhythm of the Loure is used for "Being
For The Benefit of Mr. Kite!" perfectly complimented by its percussion parts.
"The Fool On The Hill" is perfectly set to the mournful Elegy style while
the title track "Revolution" is more exuberent and joyful arranged as a Gigue.
The album closes with "Let It Be" celebrating the release from life as an
This timeless album of Beatles classics arranged as traditional dance
numbers actually works quite well and grows on the listener with repeated
plays. The album can be ordered from
While the vocal work of Schwartz' earlier albums would have
nicely complimented the work, we can certainly understand the drive to
remain instrumental. These new arrangements of classic melodies
are notable and very enjoyable—a nice listen.
Image © 1996 Chesky Records
Originally released in 1996 and as refreshing now as it was then, this
state of the art album is an inspiring instrumental masterpiece. I Ching's
Of The Marsh and The Moon (Chesky Records WO144, 1996) is recorded
with Chesky's high resolution technology incorporating 128x oversampling
and natural surround sound (recorded in St. Peter's Episcopal Church, NYC)
to achieve a production quality that stands head and shoulders above
typical recordings available to the mass market. This is true fusion of
World music with New Age—this modern approach makes otherwise traditional
Chinese music more accessible to New Age audiences willing to broaden
their musical horizons. The album can be obtained from
Three Chinese musicians—Susi Chen (Chinese hammered dulcimer), Tao Chen
(bamboo flute), Bao Li Zhang (er-hu, a two-stringed Chinese fiddle)—schooled
in the ancient art of
traditional music making, join Joel Goodman (synthesizer, sampler)
to create an exotic mixture of music of the ancient and mystical
Far East with the pulse of the 90s. The result conjures images of
romance and mystery offering melodies that are at times achingly
beautiful, rhythmically driving and lushly melodic.
Eleven instrumental tracks of varying style and mood and
average length build the album's sound to comprise the 52-minute collection.
Expert musicianship, accurate and delicate imaging, stunning
recording quality and lush production makes the music highly
inspiring—a relaxing and very enjoyable listen!
Image © 1999 New World Music Ltd.
We were certainly drawn to this album by its title and sensitive cover
photograph. No longer young lovers, we believed that experimenting with
ancient and longstanding traditional practices might create a new spark
where high voltage electricity and strong current flowed regularly in the
not too distant past. This wonderfully packaged new album contains a
lovely and nicely illustrated booklet entitled "Introducing Your CD"
with an overview of the album by Tantra Teacher Leora Lightwoman and
a brief yet effective instruction manual to assist the couple in its use.
The music is sensitive, rhythmic and light and is best classified as
New Age in style.
Composed by Llewellyn, working with Leora Lightwoman and drawing
most of his inspiration from Nature, specifically to incorporate key
principles of Tantra, and to facilitate and enhance Tantric practice,
New World Records' latest release in the Mind-Body-Soul series,
Tantric Sexuality (New World MBSCD908, 1999) is designed to
be both energising and relaxing. The steady, rhythmic drumbeat
througout helps to connect the listener with the energy of the
earth, and to remind us of our basic life energy, our passion for existence
in this body, on this planet, right now. The steady beat also allows
the listener to relax more deeply into a meditative state, and provides
a common rhythm for lovers. The flowing and dancing melodies touch
and inspire the heart. The breathing sounds remind us of the meditative
and ecstatic potential of the breath, and the more ethereal soundscape
resonates with the divine essence of all beings.
The album consists of four parts. Part 1 (5:25) encourages relaxation whilst
gently introducing the beat and a gradual raising of energy. Part 2 (16:37)
heralds a greater focus on the breath, soulful melodies and sensual,
erotic sighs. It promotes the continued deepening and raising
of the energy field. In Part 3 (25:18) the rhythm changes slightly, and the
intensity of the combined musical components increases, to indicate
the crest of a new wave of energy. Part 4 is lighter and more lyrical.
It touches a sweetness within us and helps to bring us to rest in
a place of centred stillness.
Sensual, erotic and certainly relaxing, the music and instructions
work as described!
Image © 1999 Teddy Bear Music
(23 July 2000) Regular Musical Discoveries readers will be familiar with
the two instrumentally-oriented albums by Timothy Martin on the Elithic Music
Label (review). Elithic Music is currently
working with Ed Schaum whose debut album Millennium Guitar
(Teddy Bear Records (USA) 100101, 1999) contains twelve guitar tracks
of classical and progressive origins. Each piece is masterfully played.
Technical production and recording quality of the compact disc is superb;
artwork accompanying it is simple but effective. Soundbites are
available for interested readers to sample
We found the traditional pieces by Mozart, Vivaldi and Terrega
enjoyable and well-played. The highlights of the album were the
Steve Howe-based arrangements and compositions which were played
flawlessly and with a flowing technique. The stark setting of pure
acoustic guitar works quite well and these tracks compliment
the traditional ones nicely. The "Blood On The Rooftops" intro by
Hackett and Collins is a nice bridge between the Howe arrangement of
"Arada" and another Howe contribution to an excerpt from the Yes
song "Turn Of The Century." Most notable tracks include "Clap,"
"Excerpt from The Ancient" and "Mood For A Day."
The album is available from the
Elithic label directly for a very reasonable price and with its
excellent guitar work should be studied further—a nice listen!
Image © 1999 OtterSong Records
(23 July 2000) Elithic Music is also currently
working with John Luttrell whose debut album Underwater Flying Lessons
(Ottersong Records(USA) OSR 2001, 2000) contains seven instrumental songs
composed for piano and synthesizer. Melodies and harmonies are wonderfully
constructed while arrangements vary from simple to moderately complex. The
technical recording quality is superb. Soundbites are available for interested
readers to sample here. We
find the cover artwork particularly attractive, however the artwork is
limited to the jewel box front and back cover.
The album's tracks are well constructed and moody in spots. More new
age in style than progressive, the songs have light melodies often carried
by the piano and are supported by synthesizer in spots. The track "Bank
Shot" has guitar work provided by guest Steve Deeble. Clearly the most
accessible track on the album, it has a lovely and catching melody and
is more closely aligned with a progressive rock track than new age like
many of the album's other compositions. The rich piano introduction on
"Windy Day" provides an overview to a moody new age style track; the
theme returns building intensity as the song develops further. "Rooftop
Ballet" is the most symphonic of the album's tracks and, with several
distinct movements, was the most epic in its construction. We were
reminded of Rick Wakeman's playing in several of the rapidly played
Luttrell is currently writing a progressive album, entitled The
Balance, with guest Steve Deeble. The album sounds like it will
be more guitar-oriented than the debut reviewed above; samples are
available currently at the OtterSong website.
As with Millennium Guitar reviewed above,
Underwater Flying Lessons is available from
Elithic directly; this one is also
available from the OtterSong
label directly for a very reasonable price. With this album's new
age-progressive crossover keyboard work, it should certainly be explored
further by our internet visitors further—a very nice listen!