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Album Review: Angeline
Rick Sparks
Cover image of the album Angeline by Rick Sparks
Rick Sparks
2024 / Rick Sparks
52 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Angeline is the tenth studio album (plus singles and a "best of" collection) from pianist/composer Rick Sparks since his 2014 debut, Endless. I have reviewed all of Rick's albums and have always been moved by the gentle warmth and beauty of his music. Angeline was inspired by and is a tribute to three of Rick's ancestors, all born in Tennessee the 1800s and all named "Angeline." The ten tracks on the album include seven original pieces and three covers of classics from the 1960s, and all are piano and/or keyboard with synth orchestration. Quietly soothing and relaxing, Angeline is the perfect background music for studying, dining or unwinding from a busy day, but it is also perfect for getting lost in as you let the music ease your mind and replenish your spirit - one of Rick's best albums to date!

Angeline opens with the title track. Inspired by Rick Sparks' grandmother, Matilda Angeline Fortner, his great-grandmother, Mary Angeline Ridge, and his great-great-grandmother, Matilda Angeline Carver, the piece is built around a simple yet compelling piano melody enhanced with strings, choral voices and lots of love - a beautiful beginning! "Elysian Fields" was inspired by "the traditional heavenly abode of heroes and those in my family circle who await me there." Most of the piece is solo piano, but the last half includes strings and voices - very peaceful! If I had to name my favorite songs from the 1960s, The Moody Blues' "Nights In White Satin" would definitely be in the top ten - maybe even the top 5. Rick's arrangement of the song captures the haunting and heartfelt qualities of the original, this time with piano, flute, voices, guitar and strings - no lyrics needed! "Distant Light" is another favorite with its gentle flow, alternating major and minor chords, and feelings of grace and hope. "Sea of Serenity" is the perfect title for the piece and feels very much like how I imagine floating on a puffy white cloud would be - sigh.... "Mother Nature's Son" is the second cover song, originally from The Beatles' White Album. Rick's arrangement of Paul McCartney's song includes bells, flute, strings, voices and piano and is beautifully expressive and soothing. "Matilda's Lullaby" reflects the peace and beauty of Rick's grandmother's spirit. The gently-rocking piano melody and rhythm, string washes and quiet background vocals create a wonderfully relaxing lullaby for "kids" of any age! "The Warmth of the Sun," originally recorded by The Beach Boys in 1964, was co-written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love as a way to cope with the emotional shock of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Rick's arrangement is heartfelt and overflows with grace, bringing another excellent album to a close.

Angeline is available as a CD from Rick Sparks' website, and can be streamed and downloaded from Amazon and Apple Music/iTunes. It is also available from streaming platforms including Spotify. Highly recommended!
May 3, 2024
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