Under Southern Skies
This is probably my personal favourite album. It features a slightly more up tempo feel, great to play perhaps while driving or over dinner. There are also a few very tender tracks and many people write to say that Wishing Star is their most favourite. If you like my albums Windjana or Wilderness, then I think you will like this one even more.
1. Southern Skies
3. Spirit of Capricorn
4. Chase the Sun
5. Wishing Star
7. Silent Vigil
Review by : Wind and Wire
The Australian Tony O'Connor, that brilliant composer of warm, friendly, and affirming relaxation music, is one of my true faves. He always delivers great music, peppered with signature touches yet different enough to never be repetitious. On Under Southern Skies, his latest release, he really hits the ground running, so to speak. By infusing his music with a new sense of urgency and more uptempo rhythms, along with some new melodic directions, he's hit another high. God bless 'im!
The opening cut, "Southern Skies," begins with an almost spacemusic intro, but soon develops into a medium fast tempo (with cool thumpy bass notes!) fully orchestrated number with a great dramatic refrain; it's almost anthem-like. Crescendos of strings and timpani are positively joyous. Tony's piano carries the lead line over a whole string section (really just Tony on his arsenal of keyboards, of course). This is grand music - full of life and happiness and a sense of adventure in the classic sense. I could easily see this used as the accompaniment to an excellent travel video, the camera soaring and gliding over waterfalls, forests, coastlines - you name it.
Things slow down on " Twilight," a slower-paced and more romantic number. Picking out "instruments" on this album could be a full-time job because there's a lot here to "hear." Per the liner notes, Tony plays piano, four different brands of synths/sampler, two kinds of electric woodwinds (one of his real masterful instruments) as well as guitars, bass, and percussion. Tell me this guy ain't talented! And he does it all with tons of style and grace. Returning to the music, "Twilight" is a soft song featuring harp, strings, and oboe, I think (or is that a French horn?). On the next cut, " Spirit of Capricorn," we're into a faster tempo again, led by bongos or some other kind of hand drum, with the melody carried by acoustic guitar and electric guitar. This piece has a tropical feel, a little like Govi's music but less exotic and more laid back, despite the ass-shakin' rhythm that kicks in later in the song.
The nature-sound-enhanced "Chase the Sun" is funkified with heavy synth bass beats and a swirling didgeridoo, courtesy of Matt James. Synth bells and piano share the limelight from a melodic standpoint and do so in a cheery but never sappy way. This one really put a smile on my face. The didge, expertly played by Matt, is used more as coloring so don't be put off by my mention of it if it's not one of your favorite instruments. I think even non-fans will like how it sounds here. Tasteful electric guitar licks enter the song and trade lead lines with the piano later on, adding a certain breezy jazziness to the cut.
Other songs include the sweet and slightly sad "Wishing Star," which is vintage Tony O'Connor to my ears - so pleasing to my heart and soul - and the lively "Earth Bound," featuring great hand percussion and a silky woodwind lead that soars and sways. The latter cut truly cooks, but in such a wistful way that you're not really aware just how fast a tempo the song is in until you really listen to it. The rhythms are played against a lush layer of synths and this is another number with a strong visual/cinematic feel to it.
The quasi-bluesy "Silent Vigil" features piano and Chaquico-ish guitar. It's a supremely pretty yet quite mournful ballad that's laced with regret even though musically it's exquisite. The final song is a reprise of the first cut, this time done with a more insistent bass line. Synth choruses elevate the song into something almost ethereal at times. As the song progresses to the finish, the beat gets more and more thumping, the piano plays the refrain louder, and basically the album races to a true climax. Strings soar, timpani crash, and by the gods, it's like an adrenaline rush of emotion! What a closing number! I only wish it didn't fade out; I would have preferred a legitimate final crescendo. But that's my only reservation about this CD.
Tony O'Connor deserves a much bigger audience in my native country of the USA. I don't know why he isn't consistently on the NAV charts and selling in the stores over here. This man is flat out a great composer and about as talented a multi-instrumentalist as exists today in contemporary music. Fans of Ciani, Yanni, Spheeris, and other similar artists need to listen to this CD. It's meticulously recorded, filled with great melodies and catchy rhythms, and so damn sincere that you can't help but be spellbound. Tony, my man, you done good - real good!