Chill Out Island

From New Age to downtempo electronica to acoustic folk, Chill Out Island surveys the finest in relaxing music.

Archive for July, 2008

Bryan Rowe’s ‘Songs of the Soul’ paints ‘landscapes of personal memories’

Reviewed by Carson James

Artist: Bryan Rowe

Title: Songs of the Soul

This meditative, mood-spanning collection of piano instrumentals from Bryan Rowe opens quietly, but it’s a stillness you won’t forget. If these compositions are supposed to reflect human emotions and personal experiences, then the first cut, “Redeemed,” seems to open with the initial silence of life forming in the womb; it takes a few minutes before the melodies become apparent, as if they are gradually crawling towards the light of existence. When the music increases volume and tempo, it is the equivalent of gazing at the sun as it breaks through the morning haze. Rowe isn’t simply expressing himself with notes here; he is painting landscapes of personal memories.

For the most part, the music elaborates on the song titles; given that none of these pieces have words, that is a pretty remarkable achievement. “Broken Bond” has an overall feeling of sadness and loss; there is almost unbearable melancholy in its tones. “Embraced” is appropriately affectionate while “Dance of Light” seems like an extension of the introductory song, its giddiness suggesting a flower in bloom. “Abandoned” is appropriately stressed, even agitated.

Listening to Songs of the Soul is almost an uncomfortable experience because it is so naked and revealing. It takes courage and talent to produce an album as compellingly honest as this. Treasure it always.

Movin’ Melvin Brown is welcome throwback to Motown’s glory days

Reviewed by Carson James

Artist: Movin’ Melvin Brown

Title: Love on My Mind

They don’t make them like Movin’ Melvin Brown anymore. Brown is a welcome throwback to the Golden Age of soul music, when sultry crooners such as Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and Smokey Robinson healed a country aching from the bloodshed of the Vietnam War with their soothing, passionate singing. Of course, these type of vocalists never really went away, just became scarce and, whenever you would hear anybody remotely comparable, the production would be too cold and slick. Not so with Brown. Nearly every track on this CD sounds like it could’ve been recorded during the late ’60s-early ’70s creative peak of Motown.

The title track is an epic (at 5:53!) slow-dance number with sensual bass lines (for the ladies, of course) pulsating below Brown’s yearning vocals. “The Girl Is” picks up the tempo, revealing Brown’s Motown ambitions with its vintage R&B rhythms. “Smooth Situation” and “Nothing Else But Love” find Brown in purely funk territory without drowning out his voice’s bedroom appeal. The production is fairly raw throughout; however, in this that’s perfect because you want these tracks to feel authentic, to make believe they’re from the glorious era which inspired their creation.

Geresti fuses own personality in piano renditions of ’70s classics

Reviewed by Julian Wilson

Artist: Geresti

Title: Keys into the 70’s

At first, Keys into the 70’s may seem like one of the dime-a-dozen Muzak versions of moldy Easy Listening hits. But when you begin listening to the album itself, you’ll be as surprised as I upon first spin. Geresti isn’t simply playing note-for-note piano renditions of Top-40 classics from the bell-bottom generation. Rather, he has fused his own personality in them, letting his fingers create magic on the keyboard. On his cover of the Stylistics’ priceless “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” Geresti’s playing is immaculate, radiating a loving glow that doesn’t wear off until long after the CD is done. He’s not trying to imitate the soulful, angelic qualities of the original; instead, he’s paying tribute to it.

You get the feeling that these songs are personal to him, that they most likely helped inspire his growth as a musician. Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” is given a jazzy elegance; you don’t need hear any singing because Geresti’s piano is already whispering the words in your ear. Styx’s breathtaking “Babe” was almost unrecognizable in the beginning with its playful intro, but when the familiar melody kicks in, you are swept away by it. Geresti has turned what could’ve been a generic Brand X product into a deliciously seductive work of art.