Thursday, August 9, 2012

Morgen La Civita - Who I Am


Morgen La Civita - Who I Am
Independent Spotlight

I've known Morgen La Civita for a few years now, through musical social sites as a musician and more so as a friend.  She has one of the most soulful and heartfelt voices I have ever heard.  I own her first two albums "From the Basement" and "Old Souls", each being excellent albums, standing on their own as masterpieces sung by this grand voice.  

Just over a week ago, she released "Who I Am"; a collection of solo piano pieces recorded live in studio.  This release covers the finest songs I believe that she has written to date.  I love to listen to Morgen from time to time, when I want to get away from it all and get lost in the stories that she paints with her lyrics, but with the release of "Who I Am", I get taken to a whole different and greater level of emotion.  

From the title track at the start of this album ("Who I Am") all the way to the end with "There Are Angels", you are taken on a great journey of various joys, trials and tribulations through well crafted songs that make you sit back and take in all their glory in simplicity of a voice and a piano.  I have a hard time latching on to a favorite only because I love every song on this release.  What really takes me over the top is the piano playing, because it is so perfectly done for each track.  Every accompaniment is absolutely beautiful and has an emotive quality all its own.  

Listen to the lyrics to these tracks and take in the feelings that Morgen is pouring on the page as she is writing these songs.  "Who I Am", "I'm Okay" and "Pretty Marie" make me well up every time I heard the original versions.  Now they make me feel the lyrics deeper than before.  I believe this change is brought about by the intimacy of singing with a solo piano.  

This is the prettiest singing that I've heard in a long time.  When Morgen sent me this album, I listened to it about 20 times that afternoon, and played it over and over in the car last week until I picked up a new album by Jennifer Thomas.  Both different but beautiful releases.  Today I've returned to Morgen's album, because it is resonating with how I feel at this moment.  I absolutely love the lyrics to "Who I Am" because it's such a powerful song.     


Here is a clip from Morgen's first release "From the Basement" showcasing her bio and accomplishments. 

Morgen La Civita had already made her mark in the world of radio and television voice overs, as well as commercial copy writing, when she made the transition to songwriting.

In only 2 years, she has been featured on 20 albums, has had several songs licensed by various music publishers and has received Radio airplay on major market stations, including WWOZ in New Orleans, Jazz88 in San Francisco and NBC's "Good Morning New Orleans".

Her fusion of Americana, Folk, Blues and World Music, which
she uses to tell the musical equivalent of campfire ghost stories, gives her an edgy and unique sound in today's increasingly competitive market.


Her EPK reflects, both her personal style as well as her ability to collaborate in other genres of music.  

Socially conscious, Morgen provides specialized music, for causes close to her heart. This has earned her the reputation of being not only unaffected, but genuinely down to earth and easy to work with, a fading quality among today's rising stars.

Morgen has a home studio where she writes, records and mixes all her music with her Grammy winning partner Jake R. Tanner.

As with any independent release, I'll tell you to please purchase the album from the artist.  And for the price of $7 on her website, this is a bargain for such an awesome collection of beautifully crafted tracks.  This is worth skipping the venti-5-shot-vanilla-soy-latte any day. 

Please visit Morgen's website to purchase this release.
You can catch more of Morgen on ReverbNation
Watch videos on her performing on her YouTube Channel 
And join her fan page on Facebook

"Old Souls" can be purchased through Amazon.com

If you listen to the album on Bandcamp, listen to another one of my favorite tracks from "Who I Am" titled "Pretty Marie"...enjoy.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Jennifer Thomas

Jennifer Thomas - Illumination
Independent Spotlight

In my 30 years of playing piano and listening to beautiful piano music, I have come across many piano players that have dug deep into the inner recesses of my soul and brought me to a peaceful place where I can escape the daily grind.  Okay, so that was a little melodramatic, but the point is that there is nothing like a good piano CD to take you on a journey and away from your cares and woes.  This album tops them all.  Don't get me wrong, David Lanz, Robin Speilberg, Peter Kater, Kostia, Secret Garden, Kevin Kern and Yanni all have their place in my heart, but there is a new brilliant and wonderful player taking place at the top of the list: Jennifer Thomas.  

I don't know how to describe the magic that I heard in every piece of music on the album "Key of Sea".  Its like a journey played through a beautiful phrasing that crosses over classical boundaries into the New Age and World Music genres.  I recently went to Jennifer's Facebook page to see what was going on with her new release.  I listened to samples of her upcoming 2012 release, "Illumination", and was floored.  

I was first introduced to Jennifer back in 2010 when I heard a song that she had posted on OurStage in one of their instrumental competitions.  Immediately I was hooked.  Sadly, it was a time when I was out of work and could not afford CDs or MP3 albums.  I had put her album on a wishlist at that time.  Seeing and hearing the upcoming release reminded me that I had it on a wishlist for almost 2 years now.  So I purchased the album around the April time frame and had wanted to write the review around "Key of Sea" but time gets away from you sometimes when you want to write.  It is now late July and I had just purchased "Illumination" from Amazon.  I downloaded the album from Amazon in the parking lot of my favorite breakfast spot right onto my phone and hooked it up to my car stereo.  When I pressed play and put the car into gear and started driving away from my parking spot, I was transported from the daily grind of an hour car ride to work, into a whole other world.  I literally don't remember the drive into work.  All I remember is this album.  I purchased this on Friday the 27th, and its is all I have listened too since that date.  Both albums are amazing, and I have to give the tracks to "Key of Sea" some light of day at some point, but I just can't stop playing this new release. It's that good.  

Two words to describe this album: Epic passion!

Track Review:

  1. √Čtude for the Dreamer - This song makes me want to put on my running shoes and get back in shape.  Why? Because it motivates me.  It's epic nature makes me want to reach for that goal that I am aspiring to reach.  This is great theme music for life and the pursuit of happiness. Every time I listen to this, it puts me into the right frame of mind.  
  2. After the Storm - As I see the clouds parting, the rain ending and the sun shining through again onto someone who is standing atop a cliff looking out over the ocean and pondering life.  Again, another visionary and powerful song.  I feel like I'm transported onto a movie set at the end of a happy moment in time.
  3. Illumination - This is the title track.  Very strong and emotive again.  I can nature blooming all around me, everything awakening, life in all of its glory.  This song and this album are a grand re-awakening.  This is one of those experiences that will move you, if you are open to it while listening.  Listen within the music, not to its structure, but its passion and emotion. 
  4. Gymnopedie No. 1 -  This is the most beautiful version of Erik Satie's music, that I have ever heard.  
  5. New Life - This song starts out so tender and soft.  I love the mix of violins with the piano climbing and the mild percussion in the background.  Its painting another picture of a child being born.  From the moment of anticipation to the birth at the end.  The child pauses and connects with the mother and then takes in the world around them. Brilliant.
  6. Beyond the Summit - I feel like I just climbed to the top of the mountain and am now looking out over the grand vistas and the eagles flying through the valley rising up to the sky again.  What a great picture this paints.
  7. Into the Forest - I love the female vocals on this song and the didgeridoo that floats in from time to time.  I feel like I'm running through the forest as the rest of the forest runs and plays with me.  
  8. Secrets - The first time I heard the opening to this song, I had shivers running down my spine.  Very romantic, very touching and it hits an emotional side of getting in touch with your inner self.  Then it takes you down the rabbit hole and into a whole other world that just bursts with color and sound and all sorts of fantastic creatures playing.  It paints a beautiful storybook world for me. 
  9. Toccata and Fugue - Again Jennifer takes me on a journey and turns a grand Bach piece into an epic interpretation. 
  10. Rainforest - Birds flying between the branches of the trees, spider monkeys jumping from branch to branch, tribal rhythms showing their love and respect for Mother Earth, rain falling heavy, flowing from creek to stream to river.  Life ebbing and flowing.  Awesome song.  
  11. Fire Dance - I'm being transported to Spain, to a flamenco dance being performed by two very talented dancers throwing their hats into the ring and squaring off with each other, till they twirl and dance their way into a passionate embrace.  Very romantic and powerful at the same time.  Taking a breath for only a moment before ending in a fury of fire. 
  12. Pachelbel's Canon (a Duet) - an enjoyable and beautiful version of this popular song.  I like the addition of the drum and how the theme builds, and then the change occurs at the two minute mark.  This transports me to the more traditional and builds upon itself.  Around the three minute mark it turns into an epic piece of music.  I've never really been a huge Pachelbel Canon fan, but this takes me to different places within the structure and has actually brought me into liking this piece of music again.  Not since I heard David Lanz do his rendition on "Return to the Heart", have I heard a version of this song that has made me feel "at home" again. 
  13. Across the Starlit Sky - The first time I heard this song, it actually made me tear up.  Getting lost in the beauty of our sky at night, out in the middle of nowhere, brings peace to anyone's world.  It makes all the problems of our lives fade away, when we realize just how tiny we are in this existence we are in.  You can feel the wonder and love in this song. This has become my favorite track on the album.
  14. Requiem for a Dream - This song has always been a favorite and even more so now.  What a grand version!  I love her interpretation of this theme.  Its so moving and perfect.
  15. Sonata Minore - Another very emotional piece of music that is just so pretty and moving.
  16. Eventide - while Across the Starlit Sky has become my favorite track, this is right alongside it.  I say these two tie for first.  Again, the peace that this song brings, is indescribable.  Kelley Marie Johnson plays some of the most beautiful violin I have heard in a long time on this song.  This is just a stunningly beautiful song.  Tugs on the heartstrings within the first couple of notes and all the way through the song.  
  17. New World Symphony - What a way to end an album.  Jennifer plays an awesome violin solo on this track that takes my breath away.  Just one simple word:  WOW.  Just kick back and listen and take it in.  WOW.  

All the tracks of the album are just heavenly.  I can't say this enough, buy this release, support independent artists like Jennifer Thomas.  Attend their concerts when they are performing and help them bring new music to the masses by turning other people onto their latest releases.  Go to jenniferthomasmusic.com and click on the link to purchase her CDs or MP3s and get lost in the paradise of her compositions.  Oh and make sure you pick up "Key of Sea" as well!