Saturday, November 11, 2017


Artist: Sarah McLachlan
Label: Verve
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Duration: 11 tracks, 36:42

Sarah McLachlan, the Grammy winning singer-songwriter-musician, is one musician with a great love for Christmas and its music. Unlike others who give it one shot and move on, McLachlan’s Wonderland is her third Christmas offering following her 2006 Wintersong and 2015 The Classic Christmas Album releases. While Wintersong contained a mix of standards and more recent offerings (Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ and McLachlan’s own ‘Wintersong’) and The Classic Christmas Album was basically a re-release of Wintersong with three additional songs including her work with the Sarah McLachlan School choir), Wonderland displays her love for the traditional holiday sound. Wonderland is packed with old standards, both pop and hymn composed for those with updated pallets.

“The Christmas Song” opens with vocals breathy, light, clean and fresh as the first winter snow. Listen for the Jazz bass mid-way through the song. A poppier version of the great standard “Let It Snow” has bright keyboard backing warm vocals while light guitar lays foundation for “White Christmas”.

Emmylou Harris and Martha Wainwright share vocals with McLachlan on “Go Tell It On The Mountain” making for a magical sound. Synth and percussion add a new feel to “Winter Wonderland” contrasting the dramatic strings found in “Huron Carol”. A soft touch sounds throughout with piano and strings accompanying vocals in “Silver Bells”.  McLachlan’s soaring vocals punctuate “O Holy Night” to complete the collection.

With her soft, sensual mezzo-soprano vocals and a great love for the Christmas holidays and all they stand for, McLachlan has once again added a special sound to our favorite holiday. For those looking to Christmas as a time to be thankful and full or joy, Wonderland will be the album for this holiday and many, many more to come.

Scott S Mertens

4 tocks

Artist: Roland Bühlmann
Label: Roland Bühlmann
Release Date: January 5, 2015
Duration: 7 tracks, 51:53

Roland Bühlmann’s solo debut Aineo is a Christian inspired instrumental with a strong basis in prog rock and modal interests. Aineo displays a fine tuned, emotionally laden effort. Bühlmann, a guitarist, composer and producer hailing from Switzerland lends everything of his craft with the exception of drums and percussion to the collection including all guitars, string instruments and synthesizers recorded from his home studio.

Aineo, in many ways, has similarities to later efforts by early prog psych rockers Jade Warrior both in progressive rock and expression. Throughout, there exists a driving quality as if guided by another, more powerful force. The collection’s lead, “Breakthrough”, is a prime example of hard driving prog rock. “Meldilorn” also shines with an echoing, pulsing movement reminiscent of later Jade Warrior prog psych.

Expressive composition is found in the album’s namesake, “Aineo”, having great play between lead, rhythm and percussion. “Ham’nagen” provides the listener with thought invoking moments with its Asian-like percussion and soft steady rhythm. Both “Unexpressed” and “Kenosis” have a spacious, dreamlike quality. A more perfect title could not have been given to “Contemplation”, a wonderful ending to the collection and the perfect muse for a soft summer evening.

The inside flap of the album’s digipak states, ‘While the musician played (ham’nagen), the hand of the LORD came upon him.’ The Bible, 2 Kings 3:15b. Clearly, the driving quality behind Bühlmann’s Aineo is found in this statement and the title Aineo that translates ‘to praise, extol, to sing praises in honour to God’.

Scott S Mertens

3.5 tocks