David Arkenstone and Charlee Brooks
2013 / QDV Recordings
Review by Michael Debbage
David Arkenstone has been very busy as always recording, though his last few projects have been specialty projects such as Ambient World in 2011 and the soundtrack for Echoes Of Creation back in 2010. So in order to back track to his last mainstream project you would need to retreat five years when he released the temperamental Echoes Of Light & Shadow. Fast forward back to the present year and you will find the adventurous artist in a very different mood as Loveren represents Arkenstone once again in a sweeping symphonic concept mood. This time around he shares the spotlight with the relatively unknown vocalist Charlee Brooks, but this secret will be very short term judging by the stellar results on Loveren.
Once again Arkenstone spares no expenses and delivers a fully orchestrated concept project with his typical pounding percussion and exotic instrumentation along with a fully colorful 16 page booklet that includes the conceptual story of a romantic mermaid tale. Enter our beautiful damsel Charlee Brooks, however she is not just another pretty face and voice. In fact, Brooks is an impressive recording engineer in her own right and she shares this and productions credits with Arkenstone. She also brings her guitar, kalimba and zil capabilities to the table. Alongside her own unique rich vocal elements, there are some similarities to an Enya and Miriam Stockley hybrid that makes for a very compelling vocal style.
As for the album itself, Mr. Arkenstone seems to be fully engaged with this collaboration resulting in what might arguably one of his finest recordings to date. The album opens with the mystical “Origins” that begins with a relatively quiet passage. But in typical Arkenstone fashion, it builds as the percussion enters, the vocals overlay and the strings surge. It is amazing how an instrumental song with wordless vocals can still share a story of high sea adventure. Brooks' chants towards the end of the song certainly share similarities with the previously mentioned Miriam Stockley. Similar results can be found on the swelling “Lumaria”.
In complete contrast, the more reflective and delicate heartbreaking “Sessa Nulma” soars on the back of Charlee’s simply gorgeous vocal performance that is uniquely her own. If you feel that your ears have been musically “shampooed” by this extraordinary vocal rendition then you might want to seek a luxuriant deep musical “hair conditioning” courtesy of “Slip Away”. Once again Brooks’s vocal rendition is conservatively soulful only to be further complimented by Eric Rigler’s performance on the uillean pipes.
While Arkenstone takes somewhat of a backseat on the above two songs, there is no doubting the driving arrangements of the uplifting and tremendously positive “Jamboree”. Full of optimism, rhythm and choral arrangements, it brings to mind a vocal rendition one would expect from the former Yes vocalist Jon Anderson. Based on both its merit and sequence position, “Jamboree” is without a doubt the anchor and centerpiece of this magnificent album with absolutely no filler.
For those of you that enjoyed the vocal collaborations of Miriam Shockley’s on Arkenstone 2004 album Atlantis, you will be swept away by the pure yet intoxicating vocal performances of Charlee Brooks. Alongside Arkenstone’s sublime performances, Loveren is one of Arkenstone’s most complete recordings in years. So much so, that Loveren stands proudly and impressively alongside Arkenstone epic recordings In the Wake Of the Wind and Sketches From An American Journey. Yes, Loveren is that outstanding!
May 23, 2013