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Kathy Parson : Reviews
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album review by Kathy Parsons
Forever In Bloom
“Forever in Bloom” is a collection of original pieces played in a variety of instrumentations on electronic keyboards. Melodic and accessible, most of the songs have a pop influence. Shirley Cason cites Jim Brickman as one of her favorite composers, and there is a somewhat similar approach in both composers’ work - an eagerness to please and to soothe the listener.
My favorite track is a passionate and darkly gorgeous piece called “Queen of Hearts”, dedicated to the life of Princess Diana. A sense of tragedy prevails until an instrument comes in that sounds kind of like an Italian accordion. I find the contrast kind of jarring, but am sure Cason had her reasons for including it in such a heartfelt piece. “Eternity” is also very beautiful, with a sadness and deep sense of melancholy. Sincerity runs through all of Cason’s compositions, and most of the ten songs in the collection are on the lighter side. She also writes lyrics for many of her songs and includes them in the liner notes, should anyone choose to sing them - an interesting concept!
If you are in the mood for some quiet instrumental music , I think you’ll like this album! “Forever in Bloom”
A Summer Dream
“A Summer Dream” is quite different from Shirley Cason’s previous album of original material, “Forever in Bloom”.
Cason’s sister, Carol, suffered from liver diseases, and this CD tells the story of the summer of 1998 when Carol’s illness became severe and took her life. Although there is no singing on the CD, Cason wrote lyrics for many of the songs and included them in the liner notes for listeners to look at as they listen, giving more insight into the meaning of the songs. Without the lyrics, though, the songs are very evocative and powerful, allowing the listener to attach his or her own experiences to them as shared emotions.
Cason uses various synthesizer sounds and samples to convey her feelings very effectively. My only criticism of this very fine album is that I would love to hear a good acoustic piano instead of an electronic keyboard where the piano parts are. I know that this is often a matter of economics for indie artists, but, esthetically, a piano is still so much warmer and richer than the electronics.
“A Summer Dream” opens with Carol’s favorite song, “Springtime”, a bright and sunny tune, full of fun and joy. “Come Out and Play” shifts moods a bit, as a sister calls to her sleeping sibling to “hold my hand and say ‘let’s go’”. “The Calling” recalls Carol seeing her mother at the end of the bed, and calling her. The lyrics are from Carol’s perspective, not being able to understand what was happening, but looking forward to being free from the pain of her illness. The song is sad, but full of hope. “Summer of 98” would make a wonderful movie theme. Bittersweet and melancholy, the song is full of questions and a tangle of emotions that everyone has when life becomes especially difficult. “Lost” is much more abstract and heavy - again the weight of the swirling emotions and sense of impending loss is very powerful. “Last Walk” is perhaps the strongest piece (musically) in the collection - the mix of emotions being conveyed so successfully is amazing. “I Love You, I Do” is a simple love song - a reaching out before the inevitable comes. “Last Breath” is again abstract, conveying the sense of unreality that occurs when something devastating happens. Some of the sounds are distorted and “bent”, creating a surreal feeling. The tones are very dark and bleak, and a tremendous sense of loss comes through. “Mama” is again reaching out, this time for comfort and peace. “A Summer Dream” closes this most effective CD on a much lighter note - full of hope and looking forward, and even moreso of the healing that only time and closure can provide.
On a personal note, I lost my dad to cancer at about the same time Shirley lost her sister, and I found this album to be an amazing journey down a familiar path. I hope composing this music brought Cason some peace, as it will certainly be a comfort to others.
All of the music for “Winter Mornings” came to Shirley Cason during the early hours of winter days, hence the title. Played on various keyboards, several of the selections have a cool, ambient feel while others are more melodic and structured.
“Beauty of the Earth” opens the CD with a gentle song about God and Earth’s marriage, and all of us being the children of their universe. “Winter Skies” is a bit more orchestrated, depicting an icy coolness and the stillness of early morning. Ambient and floating, this is a very effective piece. “Icicle Melt” comes from the dripping sounds of icicles melting off the house. Electronic and elegant, this piece is much more ambient than melodic, and has a very shimmering beauty.
“10 Degrees” is my favorite track. Darkly beautiful, it is like the light dancing and sparkling off of early morning snow. There is also a sense of mystery and of a vastness that works really well. “Snow Dance” is almost a musical Christmas card. Gentle bell-like sounds create the feeling of snowflakes swirling and of morning light bouncing off of the surface of the snow. Very serene and peaceful with a gentle rhythm for the dance. “Children and Snowmen” is a bit lighter although it is far from bright and carefree. The piece becomes more orchestrated as it develops, and would be lovely as the soundtrack to a scene of winter activities.
The CD closes with “Gulf of Florida,” a musical admission of needing to flee the snow for a week each year to warm up. It’s a very charming way to end this chilly and evocative collection. “Winter Mornings” is a wonderful CD for relaxing or cozying up to a winter fire.
”Inner Peace” is Shirley Cason’s sixth release and contains eleven very personal original compositions that convey a variety of moods and emotions. Performed on keyboards, this is Cason’s first album in four years, due in part to the loss of her best friend of twenty-five years. Some of the pieces on this CD express sadness, but others are more joyful - all are very loving. I have enjoyed reviewing all of Cason’s CDs, but I think this is my favorite. Also a songwriter, Cason has included lyrics for some of these pieces in the CD’s liner notes and on her website (everything on the recording is instrumental), adding another dimension to the music. It is suggested that this CD be used for relaxation, healing, massage, and Reiki, but I think just about everyone can enjoy this music. Honest and heartfelt music communicates to anyone receptive to its message, and this music certainly fits that description.
“Inner Peace” begins with “Waiting For You,” a somewhat mysterious piece that is more ambient than melodic and has a slightly Asian flavor. It’s an intriguing beginning that invites the listener to proceed and see what’s next.“Come, Into My Room” calms and soothes with the joy of new love - a beautiful and touching song! The title track speaks of seeing the beauty that shines around the one you are in love with. This piece also has an Asian influence and is very atmospheric. “You Are Beautiful Music” is a gorgeous love song to that someone who reawakens deep emotion and brings inspiration. The instrumentation is simple, with ethereal voices behind piano and guitar, creating the feeling of vast open space. “Follow the Teacher” is a jaunty, playful piece that reminds me of some of Suzanne Ciani’s earlier keyboard pieces. It’s very rhythmic with a spare but joyful melody line, creating a change of mood from most of the rest of the album.“I Shouldn’t Care, But I Do,” is quietly reflective, very honest, and more than a little frightened of loss. “Inner Peace With Love” is graceful and warm like a cozy hug. “Peace For The Moments Of Your Life” is a blissful guitar closing that expresses contentment and serenity.
“Inner Peace” is a great choice for a calming and soothing musical escape. Very accessible and satisfying, it is available from shirleycason.com and amazon.com & iTunes.
“The Crossing” is a collection of eleven of Shirley Cason’s most-requested pieces from four of her previous albums. I have always liked Shirley’s music a lot, and this compilation has taken her strongest pieces from the past nine years and exhibits the variety of colors in her music. Much of Cason’s music was borne of personal crises and the loss of loved ones, so there is definitely a melancholy cast to many of these pieces, but they are never bleak or without hope. Cason’s music is instrumental with classical and pop influences, and most of it is lightly orchestrated on keyboards. Cason has placed the music on this CD in chronological order with three tracks each from “Forever In Bloom” (1999), “A Summer Dream” ( 2002), and “Winter Mornings” (2003), and two from her most-recent release, “Inner Peace” (2008). If you are new to Shirley Cason’s music, this is a great place to start! If you have her previous recordings, it’s still really nice to have a “best of” collection with favorites all on one disc.
“The Crossing” begins with “Journey,” the opening track from “Forever In Bloom,” and a piece full of wistful longing. “Seabreeze” has an easy tropical rhythm and a graceful, carefree sway. I absolutely love “Last Walk” from “A Summer Dream.” On the dark, mysterious side, the emotional impact of this piece is incredible. I found myself coming back to it over and over. The rhythms and melody are simple, but they certainly communicate! “I Love You, I Do” is a heartbreaking goodbye to a terminally ill sister, and then “Summer Dream” tells of being with loved ones again in dreams, that in dreams we never die. There is a real warmth and sense of peace that is truly hopeful and healing. “Beauty Of the Earth” from “Winter Mornings” is a gorgeous guitar piece with light orchestration that shimmers with beauty and glows with a deep sense of contentment. “Winter Skies” is more ambient, and sparkles with the chill of winter light dancing on snow - so peaceful! “Icicle Melt” is also very ambient, suggesting the sound of vast open stillness and the percussive sound of ice melting - wonderfully haunting! “Inner Peace With Love” from “Inner Peace” warms things back up again with a tender love song that is graceful and soothing. “Peace, For Moments in Life” is a heartfelt guitar piece that brings this collection to a charming, thoughtful close.
If you enjoy peaceful synth and keyboard music that comes from the heart, “The Crossing” is a great choice! Recommended!