Rick Sparks | Endless

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United States - South Carolina

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New Age: Solo Instrumental New Age: Relaxation Moods: Featuring Piano
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Endless

by Rick Sparks

Quiet piano to replenish your spirit. "An album full of grace, beauty and spiritual inspiration." -Michael Diamond, Music & Media Focus. "One of the top albums of 2014." -Bill Binkelman, Wind & Wire
Genre: New Age: Solo Instrumental
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Beautiful
4:27 $0.99
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2. Dream Angus
4:23 $0.99
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3. Endless
3:39 $0.99
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4. Be Thou My Vision
3:41 $0.99
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5. Portree
4:25 $0.99
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6. Wexford Carol
5:02 $0.99
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7. Wonderful, Merciful Savior
4:17 $0.99
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8. At Rest
3:35 $0.99
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9. Loch Lomond
4:08 $0.99
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10. Be Still, My Soul
3:38 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
"Endless" is an album full of inspiring, melodic songs framed in simple yet powerful arrangements. From Gordon Lightfoot's 70's hit "Beautiful" to poignant Scottish & Irish songs to lovely originals, this is music that feeds the soul. "It's a beauty from the stunning cover artwork to every note of music." -Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com

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Reviews


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Bill Binkelman - Wind and Wire

Fantastic album from a relative newcomer in the new age music genre
As sometimes happens to me, I find myself amazed at how professional and accomplished some artists' first or second releases can sound these days. It's almost as if these recording musicians come out of the gate as seasoned pros! Such is the case with Rick Sparks on his second release, Endless. The cover states "Quiet piano to replenish your spirit" and that statement sells this album short by a landslide. Sparks' use of keyboard textures and embellishments, to accent his mellow and warm piano lead melodies, is way ahead of many of his contemporaries, to the point that I was shocked to learn that this was a homegrown effort (all the arrangements are his, and he composed two of the album's ten tracks as well as handling all the production). Even the cover artwork (a gorgeous starscape from photographer Ben Canales - I want it on my office wall!) is excellent as are the choice in fonts (and boy, that is rare).

Sparks has chosen an interesting and varied collection of tunes for the album. There are covers of songs from Gordon Lightfoot and fellow pianist Bill Leslie, as well some traditional covers, and some religious hymns. This diversity points to Sparks' formidable versatility as well as his cohesive music persona which manages to pull all of these considerably disparate sources together into an ear-pleasing musical whole. Well done! According to the liner notes, four of these songs are Scottish in origin and one is Irish, and while echoes of those two countries can be heard, I would not classify any of this as "world music" due to how expertly Sparks' integrates that element into his arrangements. This speaks loudly of Sparks' unique music and artistic vision - the tracks always instill a sense of peace and quiet in the listener.

Star-shimmering synths kick off the first track, a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's "Beautiful" alongside a mellow piano lead which soon leads into a nicely sampled guitar accompanying the piano and accented by sparse echoed synth textures. This is as close as you can get to classic (and I do mean CLASSIC) new age music from the golden era of the late 80s and early 90s. What a fantastic opening track - it had me hooked on the first playing! Next, the traditional "Dream Angus" (which does carry a hint of either Scotland or Ireland in the melody) comes to the listener with a soft, gentle piano melody, later embellished with subtle strings - just gorgeous. The injection (later in the song) of some lovely chorale samples is spot on and elevates the beauty of the tune even higher. Sparks' first original is next, the title track, and it's a subtly somber tune but continues the wonderfully serene piano playing which imbues the entirety of this recording. Once again, strings are applied with utmost discretion and proficiency - Sparks should hold classes on how to layer in synth strings to many other artists. A lilting flute accompanies the artist's piano on "Be Thou My Vision" and, as much as I hate being a broken record, once again Sparks' sound echoes so much of what made new age music so great two decades ago. However, don’t misunderstand me - this is not an homage disc or a throwback. Sparks' has a (now) unique way OF blending his piano leads with synths, but the sound itself is wholly contemporary in that these are fresh melodies.

As the album progressed, I kept waiting for a slip-up on the artist's part (hey, I'm a cynic), but Sparks' kept performing admirably, with a veteran's artistry, track after track, from his cover of Bill Leslie's "Portree" (wonderfully subtle synth pads underneath the piano - and those bell tones!) to another original track, "At Rest" (another nicely layered in flute line as well as discrete chorales), and a truly beautiful version of "Loch Lomond" on which the integration of superb chorales brings to mind no less a comparison than to the artist who exemplifies that kind of music, the estimable Bill Douglas.

Endless is, to me, one of the top albums of 2014, which is saying a lot because there was a lot of great music released this year. However, Rick Sparks just has "it," that indefinable quality attributed to fantastic music, and there's no sense denying it. Endless is one of the more "complete" albums I've received in a while - gorgeous graphics, flawless production, and virtuoso performance. Pick up a copy (or download it, but you'll miss the artwork - trust me) before it sells out!
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Michael Diamond (www.michaeldiamondmusic.com)

Review excerpt from Music and Media Focus
Of all the musical elements, the foundation of Rick’s piano-based music is melody. In his words: “I love melody – every song on “Endless” has strong melody. I think that’s why I’ve always loved the music of The Beatles & Beach Boys… great melodies and harmonies.” In a most interesting selection for an opening track to his album, Rick has chosen “Beautiful” by Gordon Lightfoot. In addition to Rick’s lovely and delicate piano melodies, the piece also includes washes of dreamy ethereal synthesizer and accents of acoustic guitar sounds played on keyboard.

Another influence heard on the album is Rick’s Scotch-Irish ancestry. Among the songs that reflect this are “Dream Angus” and “Loch Lomond.” Also, a love for Romanticism and the music of Rachmaninoff shows through emotionally in the sense of longing and mystery in album’s evocative title track, which I found quite moving. On a number of his songs, I particularly enjoyed the flute accompaniment as well as the elegant string and choir arrangements.

Rick follows a “less is more” direction with regard to his orchestration and arrangements. He has a wonderful sense of just what instruments to use and when to bring them in to perfectly accent his sensitive piano melodies. I appreciated how accompaniment is used sparingly, yet effectively – never overpowering the arrangement, but supporting it elegantly. I enjoyed the diverse threads of musical influence in Rick Sparks’ music and the beautiful sound tapestry he weaves with them. Rick’s goal is to create music that “feeds the soul,” and he has certainly done that on Endless, an album full of grace, beauty, and spiritual inspiration.

To read a full length review of this CD, as well as others, please visit: www.michaeldiamondmusic.com
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Kathy Parsons

From MainlyPiano
"Endless" is the debut recording by composer/pianist/broadcaster/teacher, Rick Sparks, and it’s a beauty from the stunning cover artwork to every note of the music. All ten tracks are piano-based, with some being solo piano and others that have keyboard/synth enhancements. Two pieces are original compositions (including the title track), four are hymns, and there are lovely covers of Bill Leslie’s “Portree” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Beautiful” as well as some traditional Scottish and Irish tunes - quite a varied collection! All of the songs are wonderful, but I hope Sparks will grace us with more of his originals next time! In his bio, Sparks says: "I wanted to record a quiet piano album that would help replenish the spirit of the listener. Music has such power to affect us at the deepest level - these melodic songs are tranquil but emotional at the same time." Sparks is also the programmer and founder of The Cove, one of the top 10% of Live 365’s 138 new age stations.

"Endless" begins with Sparks’ arrangement of Gordon Lightfoot’s hit from several decades ago, “Beautiful.” The simple piano melody is accompanied by ethereal atmospheric sounds for the first verse and then guitar takes a solo and later strums along with the piano melody and peaceful ambient sounds - a very sensitive treatment of a gorgeous song. “Dream Angus” is a peaceful traditional Scottish lullaby. Mostly a sweet and charming piano solo, synth strings and voices add washes of sound to some of the verses. I love the title track, a gentle and soothing piece that suggests vast open spaces and infinite peace - this is a must-hear! “Be Thou My Vision” is a very old Irish hymn that has become a very popular instrumental piece the past several years, but Sparks makes it his own. “Portree” originally comes from Bill Leslie’s 2013 Album of the Year (ZMR), Scotland - Grace of the Wild. This beautiful piece is given a new interpretation on piano with strings and ambient washes. “The Wexford Carol” is one of the oldest Christmas carols in the European tradition. Hauntingly beautiful, flutes, strings, piano, synth instrumentation and light percussion give it the feeling of a film soundtrack behind sweeping scenes of the Scottish or Irish countryside. “At Rest” is the second Sparks original. Piano, flute and choral voices offer a quiet mind and brain massage certain to chase the cares and burdens of the day right out the door. “Be Still My Soul,” is another old hymn that has enjoyed renewed popularity as a soulful instrumental piece. Still, Sparks makes it his own as a graceful and serene piano solo.

Rick Sparks’ new career as a recording artist is off to a great start! If you are looking for some quiet, heartfelt piano music, be sure to check this one out! Recommended!
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