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THE BEST OF CASON

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BEST OF CASON
The Crossing

Review by Bill Binkelman

Shirley Cason, one of my favorite new age music keyboardists, has culled the most popular tracks from four of her previous releases (Forever In Bloom, A Summer Dream, Winter Mornings, and Inner Peace) for The Crossing, a career retrospective that clearly shows why her web site is filled with praise from fans all over the world. As I have mentioned in my reviews of her albums, what sets Cason apart from many other keyboard artists is how her music is deceptively simple on the surface (piano accented by assorted orchestral and new age keyboards) but suffused with genuine warmth, like the comforting presence of a good friend, as well as a heartfelt sincerity that is refreshingly straightforward and not muddied by over-production or unnecessary glitz. She seems to be the kind of person you want to have offer for coffee or a glass of wine, the opposite of a "star," so to speak.

The Crossing contains a good sampling of the various styles Cason is capable of playing, but it contains only previously recorded work, so fans who already own those albums previously mentioned above need to be aware of this fact. On the other hand, the track selection (these are all very good choices by the artist) presents enough allure that even completists will enjoy this disc. I personally think this is one "best of" from an artist that actually merits the title.

The first song on the album, Journey, illustrates what I described as Cason's strengths right away: flowing warm piano in the lead with lightly applied synth strings and a draping of light electronic textures. Cason is particularly good at painting in muted shades, mixing an evocation of remembrance with regret so that fondness and sadness intermix. However, as the next song, Seabreeze, shows, she can also lighten the mood and spice things up with added instrumentation. A jaunty assemblage of piano, xylophone, flute and electronics, the song conjures the titular reference of a sailboat carried along by soft but insistent winds. Next, Cason lets the romantic in her musical persona shine through on Forever in Bloom with its gentle guitar and serene orchestral strings. The forlorn lead melody on Last Walk is juxtaposed by the track's somewhat lively bass rhythms and accented by occasional injection of lighter melodic components. This song is one of the better examples of Cason's skills at exploring an assortment of electronic keyboard sounds within an accessible framework.

Other songs on the CD include one of my favorites from her discography, the eight and half minute Winter Skies. With twinkling synths that sonically mirror ice crystals, smooth synth strings that fall like a gentle snow, as well as muted bell tones and delicately plucked guitar strings, the song perfectly captures the beauty and solemnity of the season. The next track, Icicle Melt, emphasizes Cason's talent across a wide spectrum of electronics and keyboards, including some subtle chill-out beats. Shirley Cason is no one trick pony, merely layering in some strings now and then. The eleven songs here aptly demonstrate just how broad her "music palette" truly is. Yet no matter the song's style, each piece is easily identifiable as "Shirley," due to her music's warmth, her uncomplicated way with the lead melody, and her heart-on-her-sleeve straightforward sincerity.

If you haven't yet heard this wonderful artist's music, The Crossing would make the perfect introduction. Even if you already own several of her previous releases, this is still a recommendable CD because it showcases her best, and her best is, as we say in Minnesota, pretty darn terrific. You betcha!
Highly recommended.

Rating: Very Good +
- reviewed by Bill Binkelman




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BEST OF CASON CD
BEST OF CASON CD
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CD REVIEW by Kathy Parson MainlyPiano.com

“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!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com


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