River Of Stars

Album Review

Review © Russell W Elliot 1999-2000
Images © 1999-2000 Real Music
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Originally Published: 06 January 2000 | Last updated: 06 December 2006
River Of Stars CD Cover - Click to visit artists' website
River Of Stars (2000) RM8802
Image © 2000 Real Music

With their extensive musical training, Randy and Pamela Copus are the couple that comprise the new age group 2002. They were married in 1988 and combined their formerly individual musical endeavors in 1992 to form 2002. Their latest album on Real Music (USA), entitled River Of Stars, (RM8802) is certain to delight fans of Enya and Ceredwen with the group's return to rich vocalise textures and newly inspired Celtic allusions. All vocals on the album are performed by Randy and Pamela.

The Artists. Pamela is originally from Louisville, Kentucky. She studied a variety of acoustic instruments including flute, piccolo, violin, oboe, bagpipes and synthesizers. She attended both the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and the University of Madrid in Spain playing keyboards and singing in bands performing various styles of music to help pay her way through college. Pamela then composed music and played keyboards, guitar, and flute in several Texas-based bands. After forming 2002 with Randy, she also began playing harp.

  Randy and Pamela Copus
Pamela and Randy Copus
Image © 1999-2000 Real Music

Randy is from Dallas, Texas and studied voice as well as a broad range of instruments including, clarinet, guitar, piano, trumpet, trombone, trumpet, tuba and synthesizer. Fascinated with the recording and production side of the music business, he then logged thousands of hours in recording studios across the country. He worked as a composer, engineer, producer, synthesizer technician, musician and singer. Randy is proficient in many styles of music, including jazz, classical, rock and new age.

About 2002's Back Catalog. The couple's diverse musical backgrounds were blended in their first two highly successful new age albums, Wings and Savitri. From Real Music's website, "Wings (1992) with bright piano, dreamy flutes, tender strings, sparkling chimes and airy celestial choirs transform the flight of Icarus from a classical Greek tragedy into a modern triumph of the human spirit."

Their second album began a trend in which the vocal element from the choirs on their debut album were substantially subdued or perhaps removed. About Savitri, Real Music continues, "[The album is] an epic musical interpretation of a timeless love story, rich with piano, strings, flute, wind chimes and lush, angelic textures. These twelve gentle, romantic songs transport the listener to 5th century B.C. India where the Princess Savitri discovers that true love can conquer death."

The group's best selling third and fourth albums, Chrysalis (1997) and Land Of Forever (1998) continued in the primary new age instrumental vein of their second. Chrysalis was on the Billboard chart for seven weeks. Real Music write about the album, "it is music that heals and nurtures. This hauntingly beautiful album is the blending of angelic keyboards and strings, combined with tender flutes and poetic guitar." They say it has a "its dream-like quality." About Land Of Forever, they write, "On Land Of Forever, sequel to the bestselling album Chrysalis, glistening guitar adds a new depth to the familiar array of angelic strings, keyboard, flutes and harp transporting you into that mysterious other realm."

River Of Stars. Released on 11 January 2000, River Of Stars (Real Music RM8802) is likely 2002's most ambitious undertaking as a new age group. The ten instrumentally lush tracks each convey a special theme. There is an immediately evident and quite strong allusion to Enya's more instrumental and vocalise compositions. It is almost impossible not to make a comparison to her multi-layered work when listening to River Of Stars. However, 2002's instrumentation is lusher—orchestral crescendos, cymbal crashes and chimes set them aside. Each of the tracks seems to open with an Enya-like sound yet the tracks develop with additional depth certainly attributable to the complexity of the instrumental arrangements.

The title track is especially exemplary of the album's music with sensitive vocalise textures contributing a lovely melody to the extensive layers of instrumentation. Strings, balanced percussion and woodwinds contribute to the new age sound. "Elysian Fields" is a slow moving ballad-like number with lovely multi-layered vocals and a melody that is systematically passed around from acoustic guitar to piano and onto other instruments in their ensemble. "Stella Maris" is an upbeat track and perhaps the richest vocal number on the album, with lots of harmonies and light strings—violin, acoustic guitar and harp—and flute carrying portions of the melody. Although there are no lyrics published in the liner notes, some are evident in the catchy vocal chorus. Pamela told us, "there actually are lyrics in some [of the] songs. There are layers of Japanese, Spanish and Latin designed for their combined sound."

"First Daughter of the Moon" is a track of contrasts opening with a melancholy instrumental and building hope as the arrangement develops. The melody is carried principally by flute and trumpet and is again multilayered with exquisite vocalise and supported by harp while percussion adds to the depth of the track. "Starwalkers" is an instrumental ballad dominated by a piano melody. A lovely flute solo is highly notable.

"Heaven and Earth" is another upbeat track, in the style of "Stella Maris," with similar textures weaving some of the themes developed in other tracks of the album into a cohesive piece.

"Lovers' Bridge" builds on the tempo and textures of "River of Stars" passing the melody around from instrument to instrument in the style of "Elysian Fields." Piano, a highly notable harp part, acoustic guitar and dynamic vocalise within the arrangement contribute to the power of the track. An acoustic guitar melody dominates the slow moving tempo of "The Dreaming Tree" while lovely vocalise and another notable harp part adds to the richness of the song's sound.

The rich choral elements and flute melody that open "Tanabata Moon" are echoed by further instrumentation and a lovely piano part as the sensitive and quiet arrangements unfold to include more vocalise. The album concludes with "Rays Of Light" a highly orchestral number much in the style of the opening (and title) track. A melody originally carried by flute is gently passed around the instrumental ensemble and lovely multi-tracked vocalise is given the opportunity to play a major role. The acoustic guitar solo is especially notable.

A significant number of artists have attempted to recreate the Enya sound and in doing so have created some great music. Perhaps most notable for his work on Lord Of The Dance is Ronan Hardiman whose releases included the two Celtic Classics albums under the pseudonym Shannon and another under entitledSolas under his own. Sian James' BBC album Birdman with dramatic solo vocal excursions and more upbeat instrumental passages and The Taleisian Orchestra's two Enya tributes both seem to also capitalise on a renewal in Celtic-inspired new age music. However, on River of Stars Randy and Pamela Copus—2002—have gone steps beyond these other efforts with the extent and effective complexity of their instrumental arrangements. Certainly an album that will appeal to enthusiasts of vocally rich new age music like that of Enya and Ceredwen to name two, River of Stars is one to seek out—a very relaxing listen.

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