New Age Music Reviews

Artist: Michael Stribling
Title: Union - Music For Lovers
Genre: New Age Instrumental
Release Date: October 1, 2017
Label: Leela Music
Website: http://leela-music.com/

It has been a few years since I had the chance to enjoy and provide some coverage of Michael Stribling’s music.

Union - Music For Lovers came out this month. Michael went down the path of providing listeners seeking peace with an option to attain that. He does accomplish his goal within his capabilities and artistry.

Although the title may suggest something else dependent on your outlook, it remains relevant. These are atmospheric and ambient sounds for people to find a zone of comfort. And this can be accomplished in union or by yourself; that is my belief, not necessarily anyone else’s. The union you achieve could be with yourself and a higher power or existing on another plain of attainment for some time. It truly depends on what you seek in the moment you start listening to these 11 tracks.

Michael uses a combination of keyboards and other computer-generated sounds and beats to create something that sounds like a flowing tapestry of beauty. It is a slice of electronic heaven if you will. I know that may not sound very warm and inviting; however, this music really is. He is a master at molding and shaping these sounds into a magical wonderland of vibrations, colors, and moods.

Union - Music For Lovers has many different shades of light and an ever changing pace. You will hear ethnic influences in his music as well, the kind that transport you. Those elements are the things that make this such an eclectic and enjoyable journey.

What Michael Stribling accomplishes is quite difficult, considering how he gets it all done and without help or support from anyone else. Union-Music For Lovers is a marvelous achievement of ambient and electronic new age instrumental music.

4/5 Stars
Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck
October 24, 2017

MainlyPiano.com

Union: Music For Lovers
Michael Stribling
2017 / Leela Music
72 minutes

Michael Stribling's tenth release, Union: Music for Lovers, creates a warm and soothing musical atmosphere for physical and/or emotional intimacy or simply some quiet time with your special someone (even if that someone is yourself!). The eleven tracks were compiled from six of Stribling's previous albums, and although it isn't officially a "best of" collection, it features some of his most beautiful and expressive work to date.

Stribling is an electronic keyboard artist who has been releasing albums on his own Leela Music label since 2006; I've reviewed all but the first one. A multi-instrumentalist from the age of seven, Stribling earned his Bachelors in Music degree with an emphasis on percussion performance in 1974. He played drums touring with Johnny Mathis for a time as well as performing in jazz bands, philharmonic orchestras, and doing a lot of studio work in various capacities. In 1981, he left the music field and went to graduate school, eventually becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist and working in the mental health field for many years. He returned to music in 2005, and the rest, as they say is history! Stribling formed Leela Music (leela means "divine play") to undertake a very simple mission: to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit.

Union: Music For Lovers begins with "New Day Dawning (Part 1)," a piece that suggests the tranquility of a sunrise and the promise of a new day. (This version was not previously released.) Graceful and very relaxed, it sets the mood for the album. "New Love" is more orchestral (electronic) with an ethereal sound the feels much like the magic and wonder of making a profound connection with someone. "Letting Go/ Afterthought" goes a bit darker and more reflective. Almost ambient at the beginning, the piece becomes a piano solo that seems very simple at first, but expresses a complex mix of emotions; the more ambient orchestral sound returns for the closing moments. "Seven Faces of Home" is one of my favorites. A bit more on the smooth jazz side, the leisurely tempo and gentle melody evoke feelings of warmth and comfort. "Longing" has been a favorite for many years. Throughout the piece, a playful little melody dances in and out of the foreground but is always there. The bass drum sounds like a beating heart as strings and other instrumentation create a poignant and hypnotic mood. The liveliest of the eleven tracks, "Longing" is still my favorite. "Veiled Dancers" is exotic, mysterious, and very sensuous. "Union" is fifteen minutes of musical heaven, allowing the listener(s) to float on a cloud of serenity - relaxed and worry-free. "Expansion" and "Afterglow" extend the blissful peacefulness for another twelve minutes - ambient and ethereal. "Quiet Conversation" gently caresses the senses with feelings of the closeness of shared moments - possibly talking about nothing or about everything. "At the End of the Day" brings this lovely album to an ambient and very contented close.

What a treat! Michael Stribling hints that this is the first of his themed compilations, so it will be interesting to see what he does next! Union: Music For Lovers is available from Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com
10/22/17

Contemporary Fusion Reviews

Michael Stribling intimate sacred energies

 

Michael Stribling – UNION/MUSIC FOR LOVERS: You get well over an hour's worth of Michael's soothing and inspiring music on this grand excursion into the energy fields that lovers need to inhabit. The opener alone, "New Day Dawning", makes it clear that Michael knows how to help those in love find the vibrations they will need to keep the fire going eternally. Of course, since I've reviewed his skillful work so often (most recently in issue # 161, I know just how careful he is in crafting his soundworks.

The absolute beauty on "Seven Faces of Home" will inspire and move your spirit just as deeply as it did mine. Michael's pacing is pure perfection, especially in the context of his wish (on the liner notes) that "all your explorations be blessed and delightful." I can tell you (right now) that the creative spirit was at work when he put this music together; it literally "speaks to your soul."

The masterful combination of strings and horns on "Expansion" will take your ears to new heights; I've come to expect nothing less than total immersion when it comes to Michael's music, and that's exactly what you get here.

Of the eleven compositions Michael has assembled for this October 2017 release, it is, without a doubt, the marvelous "Quiet Conversation" that gets my vote for personal favorite. The interaction of keyboards with string sounds is stellar, and certainly provides that "musical environment" that Michael wanted to give lovers 'round the globe – I absolutely love this tune.

I give Michael a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.99 for this excellent sonic adventure. Get more information about this most intriguing player and his enchanting music at Michael's Leela Music site. - Rotcod Zzaj 9/19/17

Zone Music Reporter

Michael Stribling
A Better Place
Leela Music

Maybe Where You Are

 Generally, a better place refers to the hereafter, a heaven perhaps or even the achievement of enlightenment. But not always. What about a better place in the here and now? On earth, where you live. Musically, instrumentalist Michael Stribling offers his new album, A Better Place, as proof that some sense of peace and contentment can be found in your everyday life. Using synthesizer, keyboards and nature sounds, he does a remarkable job in presenting a tableau of fourteen soothing tracks of atmospheric music that puts your troubled heart at ease and comforts your fatigued body. Let us learn about the music.

I saw the sun rise this morning, a soft, flavescent beacon to my day, and although I could not feel its warmth, like oxygen, I knew it was there. The ascension of the morning star reminds me that every day is new and full of promise. Michael’s song, First Light started out unhurried, but like the day, light turned into energy and it breathed animation into the planet. Such is the music.

The knell of distant horns introduced the tune Winter Encounter. They are desolate omens to the bleak cold, blustery harshness, and snow that is to blanket the earth. All the while, we witness the winds howl and the snow fall, mounting drifts against the solid objects of our lives, but then we realize. Under that covering of frozen flakes, life goes on. Somewhere there are roaring fires, steaming soups, books to be read a plenty and warm, fluffy blankets to drive away the cold.

Dreamy piano and waves of warm sound suffuse the tune Just A Moment. The tempo is deliberate, the melody welcoming. It is a harmonious hand held up to ask you to wait for the next thing to happen. We could be witness to a rare flower bloom or maybe a shooting star. Just wait for it.

Using a sincere piano melody and like something out of a movie soundtrack Michael plays Dust Yourself Off. I liked this song for its values of encouragement. Being in a better place can certainly offer hope when you find yourself at the nadir of everyday life. The music whispers, "fortitude my friend, fortitude." The music is sparkling and quietly effervescent.

The song Reassurance has an inorganic voice in the theme that is beautiful and haunting. After peace and hope, most of us are always on the quest for reassurance. Our jobs, out loves, our dreams all require that fleeting touch of optimism.  Michael’s refrain is reassurance in musical form, hope between the cordial notes and expectation in the modest silences.

Michael Stribling reminds us that we should always keep looking for that better place, whether it is on a big, flat rock in the middle of the forest or deep in our own hearts. We cannot always take two weeks to refresh our lives, but every day we might just sit in the park, walk to work, tell a secret to a friend or remind ourselves that life is worth living. Sometimes a better place might be found in our dreams, but at other times, it is waking up to a fresh, new day.

Rating: Very Good

One World Music Radio

A Better Place
By
Michael Stribling
Written by
Steve Sheppard

There is so much beautiful music around at the moment and it is my great pleasure to bring you yet more, this time in the guise of Michael Stribling and his latest album, A Better Place.

It's also good to see the new age music genre now back in full swing and flourishing, and Stribling has added to that flow with this stunning new release. I am however wary of tracks called "First Light" I have reviewed several albums this week with that theme alone, but I am more than happy to report that Stribling's interpretation of this wonderful time of day is not only good, it is a real scene setter, the natural sounds and steady increase of musical narrative gets it a big thumbs up from me.

The transference from that track to the next one is almost seamless and works superbly; the piece is called Looking Up and is a deceptively clever composition, and constructed with a good deal of skill by the artist. The slow tempo begins to build into an almost dance styled piece, with some relevant hand claps and subtle percussion, while the keyboards continue to drive the arrangement.

Winter Encounter is another short form piece that floats across a January sky. Whilst listening to the track, which is just over two minutes long, ones senses are encapsulated in the beauty of the tones which describe this season so aptly in music.

Now dear reader you have a chance to allow your thoughts to drift in the cosmic realms of a track called Dream Waves. The use of the keyboards here are sublime, creating literal waves of music that simply flow back and forth within the mind's eye. There seems also to be interplay between tones, as if the higher and lower are completely entwined with each other and mingle seamlessly with ease, the bass here is subtle but perfection.

I had eagerly awaited the arrival of the next piece dear listener; it was called Self Seeking Self. This is such a deep and moving piece that starts in an almost dream like way, one could almost visualise a scene of a meeting of minds and a combination of self-realization. It also reminded me slightly of the mood set by John St John on his album Tranquil Harbour, from the late 90's, quiet beautiful indeed.

Michael Stribling has indeed brought something special here to the world of new age music and to prove the point he almost goes back in time himself in style with the track, Just a Moment. This has to be one of my personal favourites off the album, there is such a slow and delicate build to this piece, that is enhanced with such great panache with the piano and synths, they create such a delightful combination of melody, it is a truly moving composition and also quite addictive, as I have now played it five times already. I must draw a likeness as well with British artist Kevin Kendle on this piece and that's never a bad thing.

Repose, is the next piece, so time dear reader to allow yourself to ease into a state of rest, you could do that to the whole of this album, but this track is ideal and has a delightful ambience to it that floats like a late autumn mist around your senses. It may only be just over two minutes long, but in my view I could listen to an hour of this track alone.

We slip, with certain carefulness into the second half of the album and dear constant reader, we are greeted by another track of ambient perfection, which will be known forever as the title composition and is of course called, A Better Place. Perhaps we can see a thread that we have followed from the previous composition develop here, the energy of this piece is somewhat similar, but has a more astral and angelic feel to it and truly feels like one has ascended to new level entirely. The title track is always the showcase for the album in my opinion and the subtle but evident tones of suspense and grandeur here make this arrangement a total winner.

The more I listen to this album, the more I fall in love with it, I have yearned for something this meaningful to come along for some time and here it is in A Better Place. Now the artist takes us further into the fabric of his work with a composition called Soliloquy. The act of speaking ones thoughts aloud and being proud to do so is upon us, again a short piece, which in this case is apt and the lightness of this song lifts the energies of uncertainty and doubt. Short but incredibly sweet.

Dear constant reader I hope you are enjoying this journey with me as we travel the halls and realms of the musical world of Michael Stribling's, A Better Place. At times in the track Reassurance I sensed a little influence of Genesis, but then again the veil between New age and Prog Rock is quite thin these days, the melody here is so memorable, I defy you not to hum or whistle along with it.

Within some of us at certain times, one can perhaps find a little Quiet Certainty. Within this track I find great skill and a soothing piece of music that has almost has a little Vangelis thrown in for good measure with its steady construction and progression. The gentle layers in this piece are absolutely gorgeous to listen to over and over again, one could easily imagine this being the theme music to a sports event, but then again perhaps I am still in Chariots of Fire mode, but this piece is that good.

Now here is a determined little track dear listener and reader and it's called Dust Yourself Off. This is also the longest piece on the album at just over eight minutes, in fact it is almost like a suite all of its own. Stribling has created a masterpiece here and you can't help but get carried along with the narrative, in fact the arrangement is such, that you feel you are in the story yourself and can see the struggle, the falls and the victories, but above all else the determination to drive onwards. A marvellous track indeed and one that I feel that Stribling will be well remembered for in years to come.

So, once more we find ourselves at the penultimate track of the album and it is called Time for Bed Sweetheart. You can almost sing the title to the melody on this one, and yet again, this reminds me of a track off an album called Small Creeps Day by former Genesis member Mike Rutherford. The mood is very slow and the keyboards draw a veil over the day's proceedings, there is also a certain element in the piece that seems to be musically summing up the day.

Towards the end it even obtains a grandness and power to the composition that brings such a level of depth and emotion to the piece, it is truly moving.

With the day here just about done and the cloak of the night firmly lying over the mountains in the distance, it's time for that last track, before we have to leave the realm of Michael Stribling's, A Better Place. He now goes onto sum the album up with an almost cheeky little number called Ever Onward. The light refrain here is almost a little Jazzy at times and a little Celtic thrown in for good measure perhaps. If I were to give marks for originality, I would give Stribling 10 for here, what a clever way to leave the album.

Michael Stribling and the album A Better Place is a breath of fresh air for the new age music industry, it's an album that contains great music, great narrative, it's deep when it needs to be and fun and light when required, all in all this is one of the most enjoyable albums of this genre I have heard for quite some time, a thoroughly recommended recording.

MainlyPiano.com

A Better Place
Michael Stribling
2015 / Leela Music
67 minutes

A Better Place is the first album from keyboardist/composer Michael Stribling in several years. I was introduced to Stribling's music back in 2007 with Out of the Darkness, Into the Light and have reviewed (and enjoyed!) six more of his albums since then. After becoming a licensed marriage and family therapist, Stribling worked in the mental health field for many years, returning to music in 2005 during a transitional period in his own life. The mission statement of Leela Music sums up Stribling's goals with his music: "to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit. (Leela means 'divine play')."Stribling's albums have always been visual and spiritual, but A Better Place seems to come from the heart of someone very much at peace with himself and his life. Using keyboards and synths, Stribling creates music that tells a story using a broad range of instrumental sounds and rhythms. The fourteen tracks on this album are diverse and range from ambient and floating to more uptempo rhythms that invite toe-tapping and moving your body to the beat. It is a pleasure to have Stribling's music as a backdrop to other activities, but I think it is even more effective when listening with eyes closed, letting the beautiful waves of sound envelop you.

A Better Place opens with "First Light," a piece that begins with the sound of birds chirping contentedly and then goes into a peaceful and colorful depiction of early morning light. Fully orchestrated as the birds continue to sing in the background, the music gently coaxes us to a place of warmth and tranquility. "Looking Up" begins with a quietly ambient introduction/prelude that picks up the tempo considerably about a minute in. This wonderful piece overflows with happiness and a carefree spirit - my favorite track! "Winter Encounter" moves in quite a different direction, but is still very soothing and peaceful. The music paints a picture of icy stillness in all of its splendor - another beauty! "Dream Waves" is hypnotic with its smooth, ambient flow - a mind massage! The next several tracks continue in an ambient and dreamy mode with a varied palette of musical instruments. The title track is a bit more dramatic and symphonic, although still very peaceful and warm. "Quiet Certainty" takes us back (or moves us forward) to more melody and an infectious rhythm. I love the titles for "Dust Yourself Off" and "Time for Bed, Sweetheart," both very soulful and heartfelt pieces. "Ever Onward" is light and breezy, and seems to reflect on the power of love and positive thinking/living - a great way to end the album!

It was worth the wait for A Better Place, an album sure to take you to a better place, if only for an hour or so! It is available from www.leela-music.com, Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

7/21/15

Music and Media Focus

A Better Place by Michael Stribling

June 6, 2015
CD: A Better Place
Artist: Michael Stribling
Contact: http://www.leela-music.com/

Recording artist/ composer Michael Stribling describes his new album, A Better Place as: "14 instrumental tracks in a calming and reflective celebration of the joy of love, growth, healing, and nurturing relationships." That definitely sounds like something we can all use. I was looking forward to the release of this recording, having greatly enjoyed his previous release Safely In The Arms Of Love, which I wrote about back in 2011. Since that feature article contains a lot of info about Michael's rich musical background, readers who would like to learn more can click the above link to read the details.

A lot has happened in Michael's life since 2011, and in a recent interview he spoke with me about that, and the effect it has had on his music in general, and this album in particular. In his words: "I got married three years ago this month, and that changed some priorities for me (an understatement, perhaps). My last CD release was nearly 4 years ago, while Alana and I were courting, and while I continued to dabble in the studio, completing and releasing a new CD was placed on the back burner. I like to think that I've mellowed somewhat over the past 3 years, thanks in large part to Alana's influence in my life. The tunes that have emerged over that period of time seem, to me at least, to reflect those positive changes in my life. The energy in this project seems different, somehow; more at peace and centered. The compositions themselves weren't necessarily inspired by anything in particular; I just follow the Muse and become curious about what develops. I guess the project reflects an opus that covered a 3-year span of my recent life, and it's been a glorious ride."

This idea that these compositions weren't inspired by anything specific, and that Michael just followed his Muse, is a bit of a departure from his previous release, which was a "concept album" and told a story from beginning to end, like chapters in a book. While I do appreciate the thought and planning that goes into a concept album, I also enjoy just "going with the flow," and giving free reign to one's creative spirit. What Michael has produced here with A Better Place is a beautiful collection of imaginative musical compositions that fits perfectly with the mission statement of his record label, Leela Music, to "help others in their journey toward wholeness, through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit."

Accompanied by the sounds of chirping birds, the album opens with the appropriately titled "First Light," that bathes the listener in a luminous glow of serene sound and sets the tone for what is to come. While the music is created primarily from synthesizers and samplers, it's not necessarily an electronic-sounding album, but often leans towards the emulation of orchestral instruments. Having said that, there are exceptions such as track 2, "Looking Up," with its percolating sequencer and bouncy beat. This is one of the happiest tunes I've heard in a while, and for me conjured a Tolkien fantasy of Hobbit-folk dancing merrily in The Shire. The scene shifts on the next track, "Winter Encounter," and as the title implies, reflects a quieter ambience appropriate for the season.

On "Dream Waves," glistening harp arpeggios, washes of synthesizer, and flute-like sounds open the piece that evolves into an interesting blend of classical and contemporary influences as the sound of woodwinds weave around an electronic bass line. Michael's music sometimes displays yin/yang-like contrasts between pieces, as he does on the next track, "Self Seeking Self," with its spacious meditative atmosphere. One of my favorite compositions is the album's title track. At nearly 7 minutes in length, it provides ample time for the listener to be enfolded in its lush orchestration and slow dreamy flow. Although at about half that length, a similar description could be made for "Reassurance," that is deep and warm with a most comforting countenance.

A plucky arpeggiator pattern provides motion under layers of ethereal synths, punctuated by an electric piano melody and fretless bass line on a track called "Quiet Certainty." I must admit that I was intrigued by the title of "Dust Yourself Off," and was curious as to what it would sound like. Upon listening, I find that the word that best describes this 8-minute piece is: "epic." There is a cinematic flair as it evolves through a variety of musical movements, starting with a lavish electronic soundscape and ringing tones that brought back a pleasant memory of Mike Oldfield's classic album, Tubular Bells. This composition is definitely a soundtrack in search of a movie. For me, however, Michael has saved the best for last as the album draws to a close with the upbeat "Ever Onward." I listened to this track a number of times with headphones to pick up the nuances of the subtle, yet intricate opening rhythmic tracks with their enchanting clockwork or music box feel, and I loved the way the various sounds interacted with each other. As the song goes on picking up other instruments along the way, the expression is so buoyant and positive that it makes a wonderful note to end the album on, leaving the listener feeling energized and optimistic.

There is a lot to like about Michael Stribling's A Better Place. One of the strong points for me is the way he is able to integrate electronic and orchestral sounds so seamlessly. This synergy of contemporary and classical influences is a distinguishing characteristic in Michael's music. In addition to his skills as a composer and instrumentalist, the album highlights his keen abilities in arranging and orchestration, as well as being a creative musical storyteller. I mentioned earlier how Michael's previous release was a concept album. Although this new release does not follow a scripted storyline from track to track throughout the album, many of these songs are like short stories within themselves. The music is evocative and quite visual in terms of creating images within the mind's eye of the listener. I greatly appreciated all the work and inspiration that Michael put into the details of this album and I'm sure that listeners will truly enjoy getting into A Better Place.

http://michaeldiamondmusic.com/2015/06/06/a-better-place-by-michael-stribling/

New Age Music Reviews

Artist: Michael Stribling

Title: A Better Place

Genre: Instrumental New Age

Release Date: May 10, 2015

Label: Leela Music

Website: http://www.leela-music.com/

 

A Better Place is Michael Stribling's latest release. It is the first release since 2011. The goal of this music is to enhance the human condition. After listening to the album straight through, I would have to say that is achieved.

Stribling offers relaxing sounds that put you in a spiritual place. He uses keyboards to create his musical symphonies and in doing so brings forth a sound that is like a warm summer breeze touching your face or the gentleness of flower petals falling silently to the ground. This is the essence of his music. There are moments of transition that keep things interesting and energetic spurts that let you know he has the ability to step it up a few notches when he decides to and add a little excitement to the mix and make the softer approaches that much more poignant and meaningful.

As it says on the artist website, "The mission of Leela Music is to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit (Leela means 'divine play')." Certainly that is accomplished through the music. Being a diverse listener always helps to be more open to new sounds. There is not a day that passes that I cannot use a good dose of music that takes the edge off, and Michael reminded me of that while listening.

The amazing thing about how this man creates his music is that it's just him, his keyboards, and various sampled sounds captured by a MIDI, then shaped and molded through Digital Performer and multiple plug-ins. It is electronic-based music, and it comes together quite nicely and sounds beautiful. It takes a good ear and plenty of talent to create music like this.

"Dust Yourself Off" is a favorite. I loved the keyboards and synth sounds; it is a marvelous and very effective combination. "Looking Up" into the skies day or night is a wondrous and spiritual thing; it has been for me my entire life. And this track is the most upbeat, driving, and dramatic take on the entire recording. It's exciting, like something Vangelis would do for a movie score. The brightness and joy brought forth will bring a smile to you, inside and out.

"Time For Bed, Sweetheart" is a symphonic lullaby. It is pulls you right in like an inviting warm bed on a cold winter's night. It is purposeful and determined, yet soft and sweet at the same time. I liked the texture and atmospheric nature of this track. It was like a bit of aural heaven for my senses.

As the album closes out, it is a reminder to all of us that life moves "Ever Onward"; as a gentle and happy invitation begins with keys and tinkling bells, you look back at everything you just heard and all the feelings the music was able to draw out of you. Music like this is not only relaxing, its intuitive nature allows contemplation and reflection of what is on the inside, not the superficial daily things. The question is what is really going on inside your head and what moves your soul. In spirit you can find the truth, and the final result is inner peace. I believe that is the goal of what Mr. Stribling strives to accomplish with his music. Thank you for making that a reality for me, sir; I look forward to your next outing of ear candy that translates to spiritual bliss.

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Dust Yourself Off; Looking Up; Time For Bed, Sweetheart

Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck-New Age Music Reviews Founder

http://www.newagemusicreviews.net/2015/06/michaelstriblingabetterplacereview.html

Rate the Tracks

Track Feature: Michael Stribling - A Better Place

Michael Stribling's new album, A Better Place, was released this month and the title track says it all. If you are looking for a better place and space than what you are in presently, this music will take you there.

The inviting sounds are a great way to start your day as I just found out. The textures and colors brought forth are mesmerizing and pleasant as any new age music I have heard and I look forward to enjoying the entire album.

Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck 5/5 Stars

http://www.ratethetracks.com/2015/06/michaelstriblingtrackfeature.html

ZoneMusicReporter

Michael Stribling
Safely in the Arms of Love
Leela Music

Michael Stribling's latest recording is a true "concept album," a special accomplishment considering it's an instrumental release. Rock concept albums, of course, tell a story via lyrics and music, but Stribling manages to convey his tale of star-crossed lovers via music alone (of course reading the story in the liner notes "explains" the music, which is certainly beneficial). The tale begins in the Scottish highlands as the lead character crosses the channel and wends his way through medieval Europe, eventually meeting an Asian woman who he discovers dancing at a carnival and who he then falls in love with, despite placing himself in great peril doing so. He is imprisoned by the Inquisitors but is later freed by his father and uncle and then reunited with his lady love, his "Asian Flower."

Stribling is able to convey these events and their various moods through an assortment of styles, but he also weaves common musical motifs, themes and phrases (a la a motion picture soundtrack), through the CD's fifteen tracks. "Spirit of the Highlands" opens with bagpipes and then features lilting Irish whistle (all the instrumental sounds are played on keyboards, but Stribling's keys are, as always, first rate), and plucked harp, as well as orchestral strings. Later, a gently propulsive rhythm is introduced, no doubt meant to convey a sense of the man's traveling to the coast. "Stormy Seas" is one of the livelier pieces on the album, albeit tinted dark with minor key melodies, painting the titular picture with assorted percussion effects and drums as well as dramatic synthesizer swells and some stinging electric guitar-like licks (Stribling gives the pitch bend wheel a workout!). Things quiet down on "Far Away From Home," with gentle harpsichord, serene flute, rhythmic tones and piano. Stribling aptly conveys a sense of loneliness, as the traveler realizes he has left home far behind. The next four songs take the hero through an assortment of adventures and wonders, from the pomp and majesty of the "The Royal City" through the mystery and magic of the "Alchemist's Workshop" (fascinating how Stribling brings earlier musical themes into play here) and the exotic otherworldliness of the "Byzantine Carnival Parade" and ending up at the sultry sensuality of "Asian Dancers." It is here that our hero meets his love-to-be and the next two tracks ("Asian Flower" and "Alone in the Night") find the pair igniting their romance, with the former track carrying a hint of Asian influence, while the latter has a more straightforward romantic aspect, told via layers of keyboards, in particular a series of retro-sounding sounds (mini-moog perhaps?).

After this, the musical story moves into more dramatic territory as the young man is brought before the Inquisition and eventually imprisoned. Stribling again makes liberal use of pitch bending his keyboards, an element that, sadly, I grew a little tired of as the album progressed (not enough to seriously dampen my enjoyment, though). The track "Miserere Mei" features Latin liturgical chanting by male and female choir, and evokes the despair the young man comes to grips with during his imprisonment. Dramatic and powerful, "Escape and Pursuit" features some of the same musical elements as "Stormy Seas" but with a heightened sense of urgency and driving rhythms and the same electric guitar lead lines. By the end of the album, the young man is reunited with his Asian dancer where and he finds himself "Safely in Arms of Love." This closing track has an almost ambient-like flow to it, featuring a steady repeating tonal rhythm and gently quavering melody on that same retro (moog-like) keyboard that is heard on some of the other tracks on the CD.

Certainly Safely in the Arms of Love is unlike anything I have heard so far from Michael Stribling. The presence of a fair amount of retro-style keyboards and synths took some getting used to, but Stribling commits to it and I admire him for it. While this is not my favorite recording from this accomplished artist, it is unquestionably unique and certainly ambitious and, as such, is noteworthy and recommended, more for Stribling's fans than newcomers.

Rating: Good+

RajMan Reviews

CD Review – Safely in the Arms of Love, by Michael Stribling

Keyboard wizard Michael Stribling takes his usually sunny disposition in a bold new direction with this dark tour-de-force that soundtracks an epic journey from the highlands to the city to exile and, finally, safely into the arms of love.

Stribling's imagined story takes place in the foreboding depths of the medieval ages, and as such, he has cooked up a musical alchemy that is every bit as brooding as those dark times. But as in those days, there are bright spots in the music as well, so all is not doom and gloom.

This is not to say that the doom and gloom is bad. In fact, this makes the music that much more dramatic and compelling. The bits of sunshine that do peek through provide glimmers of hope for a better future.

The set opens with the subdued pop anthem "Spirit of the Highlands," which gains momentum in the middle section with some propulsive percussion and establishes an initial sense of hope and confidence. "The Royal City" is as regal as it sounds, with synthesized horns heralding great expectations.

Clouds begin to form with "Dark Times (The Inquisition)," a dynamic track that interestingly starts out sounding like a ubiquitous piece of incidental music from the 1960s/1970s Mission: Impossible television series and unlikely becomes the most rocking piece on the CD, like dark pop.

The highlight of the album is "Miserere Mei," a total creep-out that sounds like a Gregorian chant gone horribly wrong, but in a good way. After a very gothic, Transylvania-style pipe organ intro, an eerie choir of male and female voices chants "Miserere Mei" to a crescendo, followed by a dark synthesized passage, and then more chanting. The choir sounds similar to the choir in John Williams' "Duel of the Fates" suite from the Star Wars prequels, as well as the choir in the musical motif during the encounters with the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. This one track encapsulates the spirit of the CD and is especially spooky at night.

Although not the final track, "Desolation and Absolution" is a peaceful resolution to the involved themes preceding it. The serene and tranquil tones instill a sense of quiet release and expectant hope for the future.

Once again, Michael Stribling has used his musical canvas to render a portrait of a visceral world of drama and emotion, and it is quite the experience to behold.

The Borderland

Michael Stribling - Safely in the Arms of Love
(Leela Music LM11a)

Concept albums haven't been the most popular type of album in recent years [perhaps even for decades], and multi-instrumentalist and composer Michael Stribling's new album is most definitely a concept album. Safely in the Arms of Love has a narrative story about a forbidden romance between a travelling Scottish highlander and a beautiful [aren't they all?] young woman from a different culture, which may be Islam. The fifteen tracks musically animate this tale of love surviving all, and I have to admit that it is a pretty good musical adventure. Mr Stribling is a one man band, perhaps even the term orchestra is more apt on this album. Musically, the music veers between prog-rock, new age and Celtic - it is dramatic, tender, romantic and beautifully performed. The fifteen track titles are: Spirit of the Highlands, Stormy Seas, Far Away From Home, The Royal City, Alchemist's Workshop, Byzantine Carnival Parade, Veiled Dancers, Asian Flower, Alone in the Night, Kyrie, Dark Times (The Inquisition), Miserere Mei, Escape & Pursuit, Desolation & Absolution, Safely in the Arms of Love. To add to the romantic flavour of the album, the inlay cover illustration is a section of "The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt. There is definitely a narrative feel to the music, and reading the short story printed within the inlay should enhance the musical experience. As you will appreciate this isn't Conan the Barbarian set to music, it may - to some ears - sound more like the soundtrack to a Mills and Boon romance, but I think they may be missing the point, which is that narrative music still exists, and it can sound very good indeed!

MainlyPiano.com

Safely in the Arms of Love
Michael Stribling
2011 / Leela Music
1.1 hours

In the tradition of Michael Stribling's previous six albums, Safely in the Arms of Love is the soundtrack to a story or message created by Stribling. Fully orchestrated and performed on keyboards, the music ranges from very bold and cinematic to quiet and introspective, from joyful to hopeless despair. A variety of world music influences and a broad range of powerful emotions make this a fascinating musical journey. The story itself is told in the liner notes and on Stribling's website, but even without the text, it is obvious that this album is telling a very adventurous tale.

The story begins with "Spirit of the Highlands," which tells of a young man leaving his home in the highlands against his father's wishes. He is headed for the continent, seeking his fame and fortune. Celtic flavors include pennywhistle, fiddle, and what could be the drone of bagpipes. "Stormy Seas" depicts the challenge of crossing over to the mainland. Dark, intense, and very dramatic, this is one of my favorite tracks. "Far Away From Home" is much quieter and more reflective. The boy eventually finds "The Royal City" where he becomes an apprentice in his uncle's alchemy shop. The majestic and stately music describes the grandeur of the city. One day, the boy hears the sound of the approaching Byzantine Carnival Parade — mysterious and exotic. Fascinated, he leaves work, goes to the carnival tents, and is lured by the sultry music of "Veiled Dancers." The beauty of one of the Asian dancers and her slow, sensual movements captivate the boy, and he returns later that night to find his "Asian Flower." The music here is smooth and simple, conveying the magic of new love.

The story is set in Europe during Medieval times, when the Inquisition was in full force, and the young couple knew that their being together would mean serious trouble. Officials arrest the boy and take him away. "Dark Times (The Inquisition)" is full of dread and the feeling of imminent danger. While imprisoned, the boy could only pray and ponder his fate. "Miserere Mei" is pitch black with organ, chanting, and the feeling of utter despair. When all seemed lost, three shadowy figures appeared, opened the cell door and led the boy away from his captors. "Escape and Pursuit" is intense, agitated, and very dark. Guitars and strong rhythms suggest a breathless chase that fades out near the end. Later, the shadowy figures reveal themselves to be the boy's father and uncle, and his lady love. "Desolation and Absolution" begins mournfully, but turns around about halfway through, becoming hopeful and full of grace. Now "Safely in the Arms of Love" as the story comes to an end, the mood of the music is light, warm, and full of optimism.

Michael Stribling is a master of this kind of musical story-telling, so if you are new to his music, this is a great place to start. Fans of his previous releases will find much to love about Stribling's newest work. It is available from Amazon, iTunes, and CD Baby. Recommended!

Michael Diamond Music

CD: Safely in the Arms of Love
Artist: Michael Stribling
Contact: www.leela-music.com

While Michael Stribling's new CD portrays a fictional tale of life's transitions, his own story reflects the real-life changes and cycles of human experience. Although he began piano lessons at the age of 7, he was swept up in the first wave of Beatle-mania and switched to drums where he became so accomplished that he eventually went on to play and tour with Johnny Mathis in the mid 70's. He became even more deeply immersed in the music industry as a performer, composer/arranger, producer and engineer, as well as having played in numerous musical theater productions, and worked as an announcer on a rock radio station. However, in the early 80's he left the music world behind to attend graduate school where he became a psychotherapist, and later studied with world-famous transpersonal therapist Stan Grof.

Although it took many long years, he eventually came full circle and returned to music in 2005. Since then he has certainly made up for lost time having released seven albums which have attained numerous accolades and top ranking in their genre on a variety of new age music charts. Not only has he returned to music in general, but also to his first instrument, piano and keyboards. His years of study in psychology and personal growth have fostered a spiritual perspective, which is mirrored in name of his music company: Leela Music (Leela means "divine play"). In his words, "The mission of Leela Music is to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit." He adds: "that after all those years and projects, working for others, Leela Music has been my opportunity to "do it all myself."

This idea of a divine play is particularly relevant on his latest release, "Safely In The Arms Of Love" which is a concept album that follows a storyline similar to a play. He characterizes it as "The story of a young highlander's adventures… fifteen original compositions describe his leaving home for the big city, falling in love, getting in trouble with the authorities, and escaping to freedom." While the details of this particular tale, as outlined in the liner notes, are all original, it bears some semblance in form to the mythical pattern popularized by Joseph Campbell in "The Hero's Journey" which is a metaphor for the process of growth and self realization. Although stories vary, "the quest" is common to a variety of literary and film works such as Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and even Siddhartha to some extent.

Michael is not a novice as a musical storyteller. His previous CD "Paradise Lost" solemnly relates the saga of the displacement of the Native American peoples at the hands of the Europeans. While there is indeed a narrative that accompanies this latest album, it is a tale told in music – and well told it is. Opening with "Spirit of the Highlands," you can almost feel the mist drifting across the moors as sounds that evoke bagpipes, pennywhistles, and Celtic harp set the scene for the drama to unfold. On the second track entitled "Stormy Seas" the mood changes as the hero barely survives a dangerous ocean crossing in foul weather – his first of many challenges. The music takes on a driving ominous tone, which makes it clear that the security he has known is behind him. On "Far Away From Home" harp arpeggios, keyboards and synth flute wistfully convey an air of longing. The clouds begin to clear however as track four, "The Royal City" erupts in fanfare, ushering in the entrance to a magical kingdom. Orchestral flourishes swell and swirl and bells ring with appropriate grandiosity. Each track has it's own very distinctive character and sound which lend to the storybook-like feel. This is exemplified as the next track, "The Alchemist's Workshop", conjures a mystical soundscape that evokes images of candles and incense burning whilst beakers of colored liquid bubble and brew. Things go from esoteric to exotic as the "Byzantine Carnival Parade" begins on track six, leading eventually into the seductive and entrancing "Veiled Dancers." You can just envision the hero's wide-eyed wonder as he gazes upon sights never before seen.

Michael has shared the story eloquently in word and music, so I won't attempt to re-tell it in it's entirety here, but by now an idea of the feel and flow of the album should be apparent. This release shows remarkable breadth and depth in it's composition, arrangement, and performance, and further reveals Michael Stribling as an emerging talent, although the term "re-emerging" would be more fitting. "Safely in the Arms of Love" is a grand adventure in music and imagination.

MuzikReviews.com

Artist: Michael Stribling
Title: Safely In The Arms of Love
Genre: New Age Instrumental
Label: Leela Music
Release Date: September 1, 2011
Website: www.leela-music.com
Source Link: Muzik Reviews.com

Michael Stribling has been many things. Radio announcer, composer/arranger, engineer, musician, musical theater performer and family therapist are just some of his accomplishments. After a life transition, he decided it was time to focus on his own music, and Leela Music, or "divine play" was created. Safely In the Arms of Love is Stribling’s 2011 release.

"Spirit of the Highlands" spirals outward on wings of bagpipes and ambient music. A whisper of chanting echoes in the background as the wind instruments take over the piece. Jingling bells, feathery percussion and strings take you away .on a ghost dance of the past. If you close your eyes, you feel like you are floating through the air. All of a sudden, the song picks up tempo and you are cresting on dragon wings spiraling through the sky, laughing as your soul takes flight on a journey that is only beginning. An excellent piece! Marvelous composition!

"Alchemists Workshop" leads you down a flight of stairs into the inner workings of an alchemist mastering the mysteries of the universe. Ambient sound, keyboard playing and light percussion bathe you in the possibilities of what may yet unfold. What hides behind the hidden veil of darkness? A pensive pause in the music and down you go, further into the alchemist’s lair. Delicate horned instruments lead you into a dance from which you cannot escape and wouldn’t even if you could. This track is very compelling as the repeating harmony keeps you in its spell.

"Miserere Mei" has a darker feel. Organ music heralds the sinister presence of something as yet unseen. A light hiss combined with ghostly chanting made you feel like you are witnessing something great and terrible at the same time. Darkness unfolds like a malignant flower. Fear blossoms in your heart and your breath catches in your throat. Images of a Black Mass and Rosemary’s Baby come to mind as the notes weave their spell of terror and suspense. The use of near cinematic imagery and audio cues in this piece are phenomenal. It is my favorite on the album.

Michael Stribling is a talent worth checking out. His work in the mental health field combined with his studio time make for an interesting combination. The use of harmony and melody throughout the album to create different atmospheres and reaction from the listener is both artful and skilled. I found myself listening to this album repeatedly, loving the light songs like "Spirit of the Highlands" and the darker music of "Miserere Me" for the way they captured my imagination. A great find and one I will keep in my listening library.

Stars- 4.5/5

Mt. Shasta Magazine

CD Title: Paradise Lost
Artist: Michael Stribling
www.leela-music.com

I consider Michael Stribling's Paradise Lost commendable for two reasons. It is an evocative song cycle, creating a sound-scape that effectively captures the majesty and nobility of nature and the indigenous populations that inhabited this continent for centuries, as well as the misguided energies that intruded on that "paradise" and brought a culture of suffering still afflicting the populations of the beautiful continent today.

Secondly, he does this using instrumentation dominated by synthesizer and electronic instruments, to which this reviewer generally responds unfavorably. Stribling manages, however, to capture the heart and spirit of his subject and trace a quietly epic and poignant arc, grounded with the heart and passion of the archetypal themes, an astute and well-tuned musical vocabulary, and some keen placement of older, more organic sounds here and there — rifle, wind, snare drum, the calls and commentary of hawk and wolf, etc.

It's a satisfying journey, and despite the subject, is uplifting. Stribling's arrangement of recurring and evolving melodic themes carry the listener seamlessly — symphonically when warranted, more contemplatively when required — from the Eden of America's indigenous days, through the assault of the Europeans' brutality and greed, and ultimately to the redemption and peace of the Spirit World.

The suite flows nicely, and, as I mentioned, is so evocative of the true Spirit of his subject that the listener can often forget that these are synthesizers pouring forth the majesty of heart and drum.

Zone Music Reporter

Paradise Lost
By Michael Stribling
Label: Leela Music
Released 8/2/2010

The First Nation

There is some wonderful music by Native Americans artists out there, but there is not a lot of music about Native Americans. In Paradise Lost, Michael Stribling's finest work to date, we, as listeners and participants, accompany the artist somewhat like the characters in John Milton's Paradise Lost where we, as readers, accompanied Adam and his angel in a quest to uncover the sins of man. They are all too obvious in both cases. In this electronic musical epic, the drama unfolds like an orchestrated performance or a classical work. The music does an amazing job of chronicling the plight of Native Americans from when they were "discovered" by the Europeans up to modern time. The work is imparted in three deferential acts, the land as it was, the coming of the white man, and the resulting tragedy. It may still be in dispute as to whether Scandinavia or Italy was responsible for the discovery of the New World, but none can argue as to the vast wealth that was discovered there. Sometimes wealth is measured not in nuggets or doubloons, but in knowledge. My vote is for knowledge. Although many societies are noted for their intricate intertwining of man and nature, none is stronger or more evident than that of the Native Americans. However, with the influence of the white man, no society was more stifled or vanquished more rapidly.

It appears that one can actually feel a sunrise, the golden light of day warming the earth and giving life a jump start. In the first song, Prairie Dawn, Michael has created the vastness of the sea of grass and flowers that is Middle America. Its wind driven amber waves hide as much mystery and as much sustenance as any salty counterpart. Within that mystery is the stalwart countenance of a people that have braved the hardships of their environment and carved their history long before wooden ships sailed into their lives.

Sometimes the sound of their hoof beats resounded like thunder across the grasslands. Few creatures have made such great contributions to their environment than the Tatonka. The buffalo are a source of food for many tribes and they are the subjects of countless stories and parables in the Native American oral history. Guardian of the Plains pays tribute to the power and majesty of the beasts that are equated with endless blue skies, numbers once ranging in the hundreds of millions, and the singular concept of freedom.

One can almost envision Natty Bumpo darting through the undergrowth, flintlock in hand in pursuit of the elusive whitetail in the thrilling tune, Hunting Party. Native American's respect for nature and all the animals that made up his surroundings taught him to thank the spirits for not only the meat, but the sacrifice of the creatures. The pace in this song is relentless and the guitars are reminiscent of Jan Hammer's familiar sound, making it a very exciting tune.

There is somberness to the tune, Approaching Storm. We sense that lightning flashes and thunder echoing off the canyon walls and the clouds thickening in the distance. In the East, rivers will swell and lakes will rise. In the Middle of the country, nourishing waters will help to grow the corn and wheat that are staples, and in the west flash floods will sweep the land. In the desert, flowers will bloom by the millions and give the stars themselves earthly competition. Rain means many things to many people.

Paradise Lost [is] the sound of a thousand voices throughout the ages praying for peace. It asks the question, "Why can we not be ourselves and live in peace with all creatures?" The intruding sound of the iron horse and the foreboding shrill of the Age of Machinery permeates the song, challenging the ersatz notion of progress.

I could expound on all thirteen tracks, but space is a concern. Leave it to say that I have enjoyed Michael Stribling's latest offering more than any of his works that I have reviewed before. I liked its concept, its content, and most of all, its commitment. His electronic compositions formed purposeful scenarios that will endure in heart and spirit.

Rating: Very Good

New Age Retailer

Michael Stribling
Paradise Lost
Leela Music

Thematic "concept" albums are relatively rare in New Age music, but Michael Stribling's Paradise Lost does not just belong to that singular category, but also comes highly recommended. Stribling commands impressive control of his assorted electronic keyboards and uses that combination of surgical skill and artist's soul to paint a musical portrait of life for the Native American peoples. Ranging from ambient-like soundscapes to more active electronica-laced pieces, Stribling concentrates less on "sounding" Native and more on conveying his "story," which allows his musicianship to shine through loud and clear. Regardless of one's personal beliefs on the subject matter, this is an excellent New Age music release for fans of electronic keyboard-based music.

newagemusicworld.com

Michael Stribling tells of Paradise Lost

In the millennium before the nation of America was founded and a new way of life was envisioned, Native Americans lived brave and free throughout the land. History tells of the conflict and injustice imposed upon indigenous people thought to be hindering this new way of life, but in fact Native Americans were already living the proverbial American dream in sacred lands they viewed as paradise.

Michael Stribling has released an album to commemorate the past while honoring every Native American who lived and died protecting their sacred homeland. To me, Michael’s dedication struck a familiar chord concerning our present values and the high price we readily pay to keep the diverse ethnicities comprising the America of today free.

Paradise Lost is Michael’s seventh in an enduring lineage of New Age Electronic albums making an impact in the genre, winning awards and universal acclaim during his years as an accredited musician producing outstanding ambient music. His electronic discography like recent The Promise which dealt with life transitions is indeed a success and in my role as review publicist, quickly identified his exemplary artistry in the first few measures, so Paradise Lost is not worlds apart from earlier albums, but is clearly a monumental one as those familiar with his music would agree.

Paradise Lost has 12 symbolic songs defined by three movements and while retracing the ancestral life experiences of Native Americans, the perspective I determined from this viewpoint ranged from total relaxation to energetic, so you will find Paradise Lost is not gloomy or somber and I felt more epic in nature. Another point worthy of mention knowing this album recounts the Native American experience, conceptual electronic orchestrations are the expressive medium given during this rendition so a harmonious contrast to more traditional depictions by wood flutes, chanting or bass drums.

Prairie Dawn is first of 5 songs to reveal a distant gaze upon the clear majestic landscape and of people living during this historic period, emerging with a more ambient view of tribal culture where spacious orchestrations echo the expansive lands of our past. French horn heralds in Guardian of the Plains, then strings become like strands of wheat gently moving in the breeze while flute sets the melody upward in flight during Forest Heart. Synthesizer projects a windswept Eagle Above, River Below, then growing excitement and tempo ensues while racing among the scenic timberlands in Hunting Party.

March of Destiny is first of 3 songs to reference the battle over territorial supremacy and true to song title, a crisp drum cadence is timed in lock step rhythm to a salutary march across the open wilderness while horns make the melodic call to arms then a swirling crosswind of mystery surrounds the more ambient Approaching Storm with blended electric guitar strides and again in Vision Quest where a drifting cloud of haziness finds origins by long extended atmospheric notes.

Paradise Lost ( Title Song ) is first of the final 4 songs to represent the loss of humanity and prized territories, shown by contrasting synthesizer runs, an elevated prominence boldly reaches an ascending summit while heightening the majestic image this project in entirety symbolizes. Lament for the Land is more tributary by a solemn narrative that is likened to the soulful Hymn for the Fallen.

Return to the Spirit World is a song telling of a higher perspective during Michael’s closing adaptation, and while entering into an ever rising plateau of instrumental ambience, each expansive layer also finds equable ground for every note to build a foundation upon, coinciding with the present unified territories everyone observes today from every corner pointing North and South, East and West.

MICHAEL STRIBLING
Paradise Lost
(c) (p) 2010 Leela Music

You’ll find an endless beauty and a sorrow
In searching of forgotten paradise

This is a slightly mysterious music that attracts the listener’s attention from the first chords. Michael Stribling begins to tell his story and he makes it very delicate. His electronic music is full of aerial harmonies and enigmatic polyphony.

What does the newest album by Michael Stribling tell about? As it is indicated on the press-release “Paradise Lost” solemnly commemorates the displacement of the Native American peoples at the hands of the “white man” as they immigrated to North America. Therefore the strong dramatic effect is inherent in this music. Michael Stribling divided his twelve original compositions into three acts: paradise, in the “before days”; the coming of the white man, and the resulting conflict and tragedy; and lament, requiem, and resolution. As a result we can enjoy the epic story which is devoted to the bitter story of the American Continent.

But the music of Michael Stribling soars above the pain and sufferings. The composer allows the listeners to look at past horrors and fears and to realize the emptiness and pettiness of the modern civilization. And the music of “Paradise Lost” is infused with the deepest sympathy and sincere love to the Native Americans who are the true owners of this land and whose spiritual development and state of consciousness were higher than "civilized” white men had.

This music has an undoubted therapeutic effect which helps purify the mind and raise the spirit. And with it I’d like to return to the musical aspects of “Paradise Lost”. Its sound is refined indeed. Michael Stribling excellently interweaves his music with natural sounds. His keyboard parts are very accurate and tuneful.

Maybe the main feature of the Michael Stribling music is that after listening to his album “Paradise Lost” one can be made aware of a very simple thing: your life should bring you joy.

The Borderland (Musicwatch #16)

Michael Stribling - Paradise Lost
(Leela Music LM10A)

The paradise lost in the title of this album was that of the American Indian tribes once European settlers arrived on the east coast of the continent and spread inexorably westwards. After reading this in the sleevenotes I was expecting the usual ethnic rhythms and chants to be part of the music but it came as a pleasant surprise to find that Michael Stribling's new album, Paradise Lost, is in fact more in the ambient/electronica style, and I suppose the 'new age' tribes will also claim it. To my mind it has more of a Vangelis cinematic synth-orchestral feel to it - full of widescreen sound vistas, multi-layered synths creating mind pictures of the great plains and the pastoral lifestyle of the tribes before the invasion. Perhaps there is even a hint of Tangerine Dream in the more rhythmic tracks. The ethnic sounds that you would expect to hear are largely missing but the music still subtly hints at American Indian original music throughout. There are a dozen tracks which depict the life before the invasion, the struggle for freedom during it and the aftermath. Rather than being overly dramatic the music is more reflective and played as a whole is almost symphonic or more like a tone poem to one of history's most tragic episodes. Michael Stribling is a master composer and musician and this album packs a powerful emotional resonance without utilizing the usual clichés when depicting the ethnic peoples of America. As well as being a damn good listen I think Paradise Lost is an excellent album and deserves to be heard widely. For me, easily one of the albums of the year on The Borderland.

MainlyPiano.com

Paradise Lost
Michael Stribling
2010 / Leela Music
58.7 minutes

Paradise Lost is award-winning composer Michael Stribling's seventh album and is perhaps his most ambitious project to date. His Songs of Hope and Healing was named Best Electronic Album in the 2006 New Age Reporter Lifestyle Music Awards, and each subsequent release has garnered similar accolades. Stribling's albums often tell wordless stories or depict spiritual journeys and experiences, and this one solemnly commemorates the displacement of the Native American peoples at the hands of the Europeans who traveled to North America and laid claim to the land, often without regard for the lives of the people who were here first. The twelve original compositions are divided into three acts or movements: paradise in the "before" days; the coming of the white man and the resulting conflict and tragedy; and lament, requiem, and resolution. The music is often very symphonic even though it is electronic, and nature sounds are effectively placed throughout the album. Although much of the story being told is full of heartbreak and tragedy, the music does not become overly dark or violent. I have enjoyed all of Stribling's music, but I think this is my favorite of his albums so far. Few artists are as adept as Stribling in successfully combining ambient and melodic music, and his recordings are always a pleasure to listen to.

Paradise Lost begins with "Prairie Dawn," a piece that depicts wide open spaces and an endless sky. Peaceful and serene, we hear the quiet world as it gradually awakens. "Guardian of the Plains" suggests the majesty of vast open plains, conveying a sense of solitude and calm. "Forest Heart" is very light and gentle, blending acoustic guitar with flutes, then adding French horn and other orchestral instruments. The results are gorgeous and incredibly tranquil. "Hunting Party" is a favorite. Rhythmic and intense, it conveys focus and energy. "March of Destiny" signals major changes and the resulting confusion. The latter part of the piece has a military march sound, but it is more melancholy than triumphant. "Approaching Storm" is ambient and becomes darker as it evolves. "Vision Quest" tells of the people seeking the wisdom to guide them. Also very ambient, turmoil and confusion seem to give way to a sense of direction. The title track includes the sounds of battle behind an intense rhythm that builds as the piece develops. "Hymn for the Fallen" is solemn and reverent, allowing time for reflection and remembrance. The final track, "Return to the Spirit World" is an almost eleven minute meditation on the return to the spirit world "from whence we all come and to which we all return"(quoted from the liner notes). The music is soothing and gently reassuring about the spiritual home all souls return to at the end of this earthly life.

Paradise Lost is certain to return Michael Stribling to the top of the new age/adult contemporary charts. It is available from www.leela-music.com, Amazon, CD Baby, and iTunes. Highly recommended!

RajMan Reviews

CD Review – Paradise Lost, by Michael Stribling

For his sixth album, the always reliable keyboard master Michael Stribling delivers a sonic magnum opus that solemnly commemorates the legacy of the American continent's first residents and their fateful encounter with newcomers from across the sea.

As befitting the artist's inspiration for this set, the material is epic, grandiose, vibrant, and, most important, reverential. The music beautifully expresses Stribling's affinity for the original Native Americans. The CD has the feel of a soundtrack, providing accompaniment to the storied events in this land's history that became the focus of Stribling's muse for this project.

The drama unfolds with the sweeping opening themes of "Prairie Dawn" and "Guardian of the Plains," which convey the expansive majesty of the New World as it must have been under the watchful and respectful care of its indigenous gatekeepers. The sentimental melodies and lyrical textures of "Forest Heart" and "Eagle Above, River Below" further elaborate on the beauty and tranquility of the thriving ecosystem. The propulsive rhythms of "Hunting Party" express the vibrancy of Native American life.

The plot thickens as the Native Americans sense the dark, ominous clouds of an "Approaching Storm" that finally arrives as the white European settlers embark on their proud and determined "March of Destiny," which features elements of the mighty "Procession of the Avatars" from Stribling's third album, Another Day in Paradise.

The action culminates in the dynamism of "Vision Quest" and "Paradise Lost," after which Stribling reflects on all that has transpired with the solemn "Lament for the Land" and the reverential "Hymn for the Fallen." The proceedings end on a positive note of hope with "Return to the Spirit World."

Although Stribling has created a formidable musical tapestry with a specific context in mind, the music is so strong that it stands on its own. In fact, the compositions come across as love songs to nature. The album would be a perfect soundtrack for a trip to Yellowstone or Yosemite, or any national park or local nature preserve. This in itself is a fitting tribute to the legacy of the Native Americans, who so revered nature.

All discussions of history, context, and themes aside, the album is a strong reminder of Stribling's compositional brilliance and musical prowess. Stribling is equally adept at creating bold themes ("Prairie Dawn," "Guardian of the Plains"), pastoral reflections ("Lament for the Land," "Hymn for the Fallen," "Return to the Spirit World"), and groove-laden jazz-rock fusion complete with thumping bass lines and propulsive backbeats ("Hunting Party," "Vision Quest," "Paradise Lost") – all anchored by Stribling's unmistakable signature sound and conceived in Stribling's mind and channeled through his fingers on keyboards and synthesizers. Paradise Lost, like its exceptional artist, is an absolute winner.

New Age Retailer

The Promise
Michael Stribling
Leela Music, www.leela-music.com

Electronic keyboard artist Michael Stribling gets better with each successive release. His sixth, The Promise, demonstrates his mastery across a variety of styles and moods, as he deftly navigates from the percolating electronica of the opening "Bright New Day" through the dreamy fluidity of "When Love Comes Near," the aptly-titled languid "Late at Night," the quasi-ambient melancholy of "Forgotten Dreams," the gentle bubbliness of "Distant Shores," and the playful effervescence of the closing trippy "All in Good Time" (reminiscent of uptempo Ray Lynch). This is a richly diverse and highly accomplished album.

CircleOfLight.com

The Promise by Michael P Stribling
By Barbara Cronin

Michael Stribling, the artist behind the CD The Promise, inspires listeners to relax and unwind while connecting to a vaster perception of life.

Electronic instrumentation and a combination of melodic and ambient music provide a background for inspiring the listener to take an inward journey.

Each song builds on the next with a purpose. You can easily understand why, when you learn that Michael formed his website, "Leela Music (leela means "divine play"), to undertake a very simple mission: to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit." The ZoneMusicReporter choose this CD as its number two pick for October.

Michael Stribling's The Promise

When it came time to review Stribling's CD, I contemplated the title name.

A promise can be words that bring peace, clarity, and beauty. Michael Stribling's new CD, The Promise, does the same to the listener. An eclectic blend of traditional musical instruments along with more modern sounds creates a harmonious, inspiring CD sure to uplift the spirits of all listeners.

With tracks that range from soft and quiet to ones that are more energetic and moving, The Promise has something for every listener. This CD is great for work, long drives, or just milling about the house on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

If music inspires you and you know well its ability to transform the ordinary day to one of adventure and wonder, you'll want to grab a copy of The Promise for your own music library.

I loved the subtle stirrings of Track 6 with its comforting rhythm coupled with subtle sounds that leave the listeners' imagination to explore worlds beyond. Energize with Tracks 2 and 3 that gently add enthusiasm to your day and brighten even the dullest day.

Music for Looking Within

This CD makes an excellent companion for meditation, yoga, or any other type of time you devote to looking within for direction, love, and peace. In fact, Stribling says himself it's the mission of his music to "to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit."

This mission shines through in The Promise. And it should. Stribling began playing the piano at age 7. He also learned to play violin, clarinet, and the guitar. He progressed through several musical stages but explains that once he heard The Beatles he picked up the drums and never looked back.

He spent much of his life in the throws of rock and roll, playing the drums for Johnny Mathis, announcing on a rock radio station in the '70s, as well as composing, producing, engineering, and spending time in musical theatrical productions. He then returned to grad school and became a marriage counselor where he worked for many years only to find himself back with his first love – music – in 2005.

Stribling says his musical influences come from the music of Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa as well as J.S. Bach and Igor Stravinsky, to name only a few of his favorites.

Stribling's music on The Promise is a blend of peaceful, imaginative, and positive energy. With subtleties only caught with several listens, this CD deserves a spot in your musical library.

EAGLEyeONE.com

THE PROMISE - Michael Stribling - Michael is yet another artist who has been busy making albums - this is his sixth. Utilizing the electronic keyboard, Michael demonstrates his mastery across a variety of styles and moods. ranging from rhythmic and upbeat to soulful and peaceful, his music is sure to inspire feelings of joy and optimism, while creating a dreamy and relaxed state. www.leela-music.com

Issue #71 - May-August 2010 ["22/23/24 Reviews"]

Zone Music Reporter

Do You Believe?

Is it possible to go from the reality of mortal man to the existence of a true soul and on to the concept of an afterlife all within fourteen tracks of music? Okay, I am oversimplifying things to a great degree, but that is the synopsis of Michael Stribling's new release The Promise. Michael's success apexed with his breakthrough album Songs of Hope and Healing and he has released a number of albums to his credit. This New Age electronic artist boasts a multitude of degrees not only in the music field, but also in theology and marriage and family therapy. His influences are many including Igor Stravinsky, The Beatles, and Vangelis and every once in a while I can hear the echoes of Jan Hammer in his compositions.

The journey of his music begins with the Bright New Day. Many of the songs on the beginning of the album are high-energy tunes. My day starts off a bit slower so it took some time to catch up with him. His song reminded me that every day is a new opportunity to start fresh. Many of us do not. So let us take the hint.

At first, I did not like the tune Daily Living. I thought it was entirely too frenetic and then I got it. This is a deliberate representation of everyday life with its harried schedules and empty assurances of unwavering love, happy life and eternal friendships. There are no guarantees in life with the exception of faith.

The tempo seems to even out, if not slow completely on the tune When Love Comes Near. Time becomes our companion and we are given the opportunity to observe and appreciate. There is gentleness to the tune, an almost calming effect is present and we can take the moment to enjoy the love in our lives in all its manifestations. Loved ones, children, friends and even pets become a bountiful source.

Michael adds an element of otherworldly travel in the tune Ascending Through Clouds. There is a sensation of falling up when listening to the tune, but not to the degree of danger to our spirit. It is more like drifting or gliding. There is a slight wind, but there is no peril. Only the impression that as we ascend, we reach a level of clarity unbeknownst to us before the now.

Distant Shores is like a beautiful tropical island on the horizon of a shipwrecked sailor. There is comfort to be had in the shelter, the water and the nourishment of something green and growing. There is the sense of safety as we approach the rocky beach. From this coast, we can fish, gather food and use the new horizon as a focal point to our dreams. Distant Shores is hopeful.

The final cut All In Good Time is a reminder of patience in our spiritual lives. It starts out as sort of a spunky tune, but then the serious bass line kicks in and the energy of the song begins in earnest. In the mean time, it is a tune full of promise and I liked it just for that reason. I have always believed in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow even though many times the reward cannot be measured in metallic substances.

Michael Stribling does offer a musical path for us to follow in our life's journey. And like our lives, some of it is slow, some of it is high energy and somewhere in there is the stability we seek every single day. We have Michael's music to thank that we can achieve the balance and it is a promise we can give ourselves.

Rating: Good +

Rotcod Zzaj

Michael Stribling - THE PROMISE: Literally everything you hear on this magical CD came from Michael, or (as he says) "All tunes, tracks, and tinkering"... and what becomes evident (certainly by the second tune, "Daily Living") is that Michael has an approach to music that can't be characterized as anything except JOY! Some reviewers believe that music composed on electronic instruments can't have the same degree of "life" in it as that made on purely acoustic instruments... Stribling makes it clear that is not true, and pulls it off with high-spirit and talent! The tunes he has put together here will take your soul on a soaring journey to where the good side of man exists, particularly on tracks like "When Love Comes Near" - his string washes rapidly envelop you and allow you to feel what "real" is meant to be. For pure unadulterated pleasure, though, you must listen to my favorite piece on the album, "Distant Shores"... the kind of music the angels would play as you make your transition to the other side... gentle, yet infused with hope and forward vision. I'm very much impressed, and you will be, too... "The Promise" gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for listeners who want more than "everyday" on their menu. It gets an "EQ" (energy quotient) rating of 4.92, very high (here) for a "new age" or "inspirational" CD. Get more information, as well as access to full-length versions of these tracks) at www.leela-music.com (ed; Michael also asked me to point out his http://leela-radio.com site, which has the music and newsletters, videos, etc.) Rotcod Zzaj

New Age Retailer

The Promise
Michael Stribling
Leela Music, www.leela-music.com

Electronic keyboard artist Michael Stribling gets better with each successive release. His sixth, The Promise, demonstrates his mastery across a variety of styles and moods, as he deftly navigates from the percolating electronica of the opening “Bright New Day” through the dreamy fluidity of “When Love Comes Near,” the aptly-titled languid “Late at Night,” the quasi-ambient melancholy of “Forgotten Dreams,” the gentle bubbliness of “Distant Shores,” and the playful effervescence of the closing trippy “All in Good Time” (reminiscent of uptempo Ray Lynch). This is a richly diverse and highly accomplished album.

MainlyPiano.com

The Promise
Michael Stribling
2009 / Leela Music
1.1 hours

Michael Stribling's latest release, The Promise, is a musical exploration of life's transitions and changes using the medium of electronic instrumentation and a combination of melodic and ambient music. Stribling's previous releases have been award-winning chart-toppers, and I would expect the same for The Promise. Stribling founded his label, Leela Music, with the mission of helping others "in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit"; he has more than succeeded in his mission. Stribling is an artist who has had a wide range of musical experiences, ranging from being Johnny Mathis' percussionist to being a disc jockey to composing and recording his own music to creating a new internet radio station (free-new-age-music-and-more.com). Those experiences (and many others) enrich his music and give him a unique and distinctive musical voice.

The Promise begins with "Bright New Day," a piece that exudes hope and optimism. Rhythmic and upbeat, it's an inviting start. "Daily Living" sparkles with joy, yet there is a sense of tension and urgency underlying the fun. "When Love Comes Near" becomes much more ambient and "spacey" than the first three tracks. Gentle guitar and floating electronic sounds create a dreamy atmosphere that is relaxed and soothing. The melody in "Late At Night" is slow and peaceful, and the use of only a few instruments gives it a sense of solitude. "Forgotten Dreams" is one of my favorites. More ambient than melodic, it has an ethereal, otherworldly feeling created by oboe, strings, and atmospheric sounds - very serene. "Ascending Through Clouds" becomes the centerpiece of the album at almost 10 1/2 minutes. Before the soul can cross over to the other side, it rises to higher levels as though "Ascending Through Clouds." Mysterious without being frightening, with feelings of darkness in vast open space, you can almost feel yourself being effortlessly pulled up as you float on a peaceful cloud of sound. The title track is very cinematic and makes me think of a sunrise - quiet, intense, and optimistic. Returning to a more melodic approach, this is another favorite track. I love the simple but expressive melody and the gentle rhythm that brings it to life. My favorite is the closing track, "All In Good Time." Playful and buoyant, it reminds me just a little of Ray Lynch's classic "Celestial Soda Pop" - more in spirit than sound. It is quite a contrast to the more ambient pieces, but fits perfectly, ending the journey with a big grin.

The Promise will be a delight to Michael Stribling's many fans and is a great place to start for those who are not yet familiar with his music. It is available from cdbaby.com and digstation.com. Recommended!

Kathy Parsons
MainlyPiano.com

10/7/09

The Borderland

Michael Stribling - The Promise
(Leela Music LM09A)

Michael Stribling is a new musician to me and my website but on the basis of his latest album, The Promise, I certainly would like to hear more of his music. The Promise is the musical story of 'Everyman', recording the turmoil of life and the emotional journey through that life. In actual fact what you have is a collection of fourteen tracks of electronica instrumentals that straddle most areas of electronic music. You could interpret the sound and structure of this album as new age lift music, but there is more depth here than in the usual new age album. I found the variety of moods in the music a lively mixture, with some of the longer tracks taking on an epic hue - especially the ten minute long Ascending Through Clouds, with its multi-layers of drones and drifting melodies. Track Four, When Love Comes Near, also has a suspenseful drawn out atmosphere with overtones of oriental sounds. The tempi of the tracks vary, but never reach dance tempos, but I could see this album being used in the 'chill out' rooms in clubs or radio stations for relaxation purposes. It would be easy to make idle comparisons but I think if you like the music of Yanni, Gandalf and Kitaro then The Promise could be for you. It has certainly become a regular on my CD player, and is one of the best albums I've heard this year.

NewAgeMusic.nu

Promising Transitions in Music
John P. Olsen (newagemusic.nu) 10/1/09

Since everyone must make life transitions whether they really want to or not, let me tell you a story about a musician from Fresno California who has a successful history of making transitions and can perhaps offer some insight on the subject of change.

Michael Stribling is an award winning New Age composer who readily embraces change having already made many positive adjustments in his lifetime. His just released album titled The Promise smoothly arrives at the next stage of his long career in music with a look and feel that confirms and conveys an admirable composite of Electronic and Ambient music.

Michael’s transitions include earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Music, work as a radio announcer, performing in theatre musicals and playing percussion for Johnny Mathis just for starters. His story gets even better since after then becoming a successful Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist offering help to those who needed a hand with their transitions, he returned to his earlier love and formed Leela (Divine Play) Music.

["I formed Leela Music to undertake a very simple mission : to help others in their journey towards wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit." Michael Stribling]

This return to music is beyond more than promising since Michael’s first album Songs of Hope and Healing made it to # 1 on the Top 100 in NAR / ZMR charts, securing the Electronic Lifestyle Music Award in 2006 and Out of the Darkness, Into the Light, lit up the # 2 spot on the Top 100 in January having 2 nominations for the Lifestyle Music Award in 2007. Another Day in Paradise is indeed praiseworthy, while Love, Light, and Water, earned nomination for Best Relaxation / Meditation Album in 2008, making each day even brighter for this independent recording artist with an optimistic outlook toward the challenge of change.

Michael Stribling has clearly made many successful transitions in his musical lifetime, giving him a first hand perspective to help others cope with change. The positive yes responses shown in his earlier music and in this brand new release only proves his natural composing abilities for bringing hope and inspiration to others.

The Promise is Michael’s very latest to deliver 14 original songs like his newest composition in musical ambiance is an autobiography of his attitude, comprehension, and inner thoughts drawn from daily observations, then transcribed into beautiful music.

Beginning with "Bright New Day" a crisp new perspective is announced by abundant keyboard activity that vividly lights the occasion while percussion distinctively beats beside a synthesizer full of energy, creating much animation by the opening number to forecast what lies beyond in future melodies. "Daily Living" likewise moves right along in style and tempo by the upper register bell tones that counteract with middle range melody and is much like the positive vibes given in "Angular Reasoning" and the uplifting theme projected during "All In Good Time".

Like many songs in his prior projects this album does take timely breaks into the deeper hues of contemplation and reflection.

"Forgotten Dreams" exemplifies this apparent yin and yang transition to a more down to earth reasoning with a single oboe tone melody bordered by a mesmerizing and hazy background, touching on a bit of sadness which is after all, a valid part of the total human experience. "Love’s Anticipation" also brings a realistic and happier yes response by the lighter melody along side piano passages, much like the easy going natural feel presented in "Distant Shores".

Title song "The Promise" begins with a quiet moment of solitude in a melancholy horn tone wrapped in sadness, but this moment gently advances forward in a creative moment of divine intervention nicely provided by the artist.

Changing the piece by one moving sweep in music composition, this percussion backed melody gently makes a beautiful transformation from an already graceful song into a lovely song of splendor, very much like a caterpillar cocoon would change into a butterfly, keeping the promise of inner peace and harmony everyone discovers in the final stages during each of life’s transitions.

Michael Stribling Delivers on Promise

The Promise, Michael Stribling -- Five Stars

After the orchestral explorations of Love, Light, and Water, contemporary instrumental keyboardist Michael Stribling returns to form on his fifth album, The Promise. The CD comes after the longest hiatus of any of his previous works – about a year – but the wait was certainly worth it, as it showcases Stribling doing what he does best – composing upbeat and engaging tunes structured with strong, memorable melodies and propelled by bright bursts of piano, energetic bass lines, driving percussion, and solidly timed backbeats.

In fact, the thing that separates Stribling from his peers in the New Age genre is that his songs are infused with a jazzy, pop-oriented sensibility that makes his music easily accessible to more than just the most ardent New Age purists. Sure, there are the introspective and pastoral themes associated with New Age music, but these are balanced by the energetic numbers, resulting in a nice mixture that offers something for everyone while maintaining stylistic and thematic fidelity.

“Bright New Day,” “Daily Living,” “Angular Reasoning,” and “The Promise” are the most kinetic songs on the album, with their catchy hooks and propulsive percussion. “Facing the Great Unknown” strikes a balance between the energetic and the introspective, with a sensitive, subtle melody anchored by soft, jazzy percussion, resulting in a light, casual, easy-listening feel.

“When Love Comes Near,” “Late at Night,” “Distant Shores,” and “Expansion” are among the more thoughtful compositions that soothe the heart and soul with inner peace and calm and transport the mind to higher dimensions of enlightenment and awareness. “Ascending Through Clouds” is ten minutes of pure electronic and spiritual bliss.

The two strongest, most standout tracks are the album opener “Bright New Day” and the title composition “The Promise.” Both grandiose, epic themes, they respectively embody the spirit of starting fresh and anew full of hopes and dreams, and the resolve and determination to keep reaching for those dreams. While “The Promise” isn’t exactly the last track on the album, both of these tunes serve as fitting thematic bookends.

As with his previous albums, Stribling’s Promise ends on a positive note with the expectant and hopeful tunes “At the Last” and “All in Good Time.” These tracks wrap up the CD nicely, anticipating the thrill of the wait for the next time we hear from Stribling.

Ultimately, the best thing about Michael Stribling’s music is its positive outlook. Stribling’s first album was called Songs of Hope and Healing; all of his work can be described as such. This is music that inspires, emboldens, and empowers.

New Age Reporter

Love, Light, and Water Probably three of the most powerful forces in our lives are Love, Light and Water and probably in that order. The latter two will keep the body thriving, but the first, love, keeps the soul alive. Electronic artist Michael Stribling seems to have woven together a kaleidoscopic web of music that brings together all the forces into one powerful album. This is my third review for Stribling and I feel that not only are his compositions getting better all the time, but his ability to join themes that have innate relaxing qualities and even healing properties seem to be improving. The album is split into three sections and you guessed it, they are called Love, Light and Water. Love: The opening of the earth’s eyes after a starry slumber and the illuminating rising of the sun is portrayed in the opening number "First Encounters", which segues nicely into "Dream Frontiers". "Dream Frontiers" has that eerie, yet familiar sound of a Theremin. The sound of an electronic wraith dances in your mind as your dreams take shape, nebulous though they may be. "Pleasant Journeys" is a remarkable tune for its tabla percussion and synthetic score. Sort of organic versus inorganic and yet they are complimentary. It is a trip on a rocky road with lots of exciting things to see. The very music of discovery. Light: "Bright Silence, Quiet Light" is a dazzling tune with flowing, faraway harmonics that dance about like red laser light on white clouds. It is the musical billowing of lumpy, cumulus clouds that expand moment after moment that capture your attention. Nothing makes you feel lighter. Water: One of my favorites on Love, Light, and Water is "River Canyon". The majesty of the music is quite grand. The rolling tempo belies the power of the water that flows endlessly, carving the gorge into breathtaking depths. Who knew what beauty would be revealed after layer upon layer was worn away. "At the Gates" is fairly reminiscent of a Kitaro tune and there is nothing wrong with that. The music is not that of someone on the outside looking in, but of one who has crested a pinnacle and there before him or her in gloriously splendor is the beginning of all things possible. Michael Stribling's music is always calming and thought provoking. With his third [fourth] recording he proves that there is nothing repetitive in his repertoire, only fresh perspectives with every listen. Michael's music keeps the soul alive. Rating: Very Good

New Age Reporter

MICHAEL STRIBLING Love, Light, and Water Leela Music (2008) Michael Stribling keeps getting better on each successive album. This is his fourth release and, if [he] keeps this pace up, a lot of big name artists are going to be caught flatfooted as he zips past them. Love, Light and Water is Stribling's best and most cohesive recording. Most of the album is a drifting and serenely flowing blend of electronic new age, ambient and spacemusic. A gentle soothing mood is sustained throughout, with only a few rhythmic pieces offering brief detours (quite pleasant ones, though). Since I have limited space in this review, I'll just spotlight some tracks and let you discover the album's many delights in depth on your own. The album is divided into three sections: "Love" (first), "Light" (second) and ending with "Water" as well as two closing tracks that are not associated with any of those three headings. "Love" contains five tracks. After a short ambient-ish intro ("First Encounters"), "Dream Frontiers" cruises in on layers of warm keyboards and a sampled theremin (!). The lush romantic synths of "New Love" sound like Jon Mark's from albums such as A Sunday in Autumn (a gigantic compliment from me). "Pleasant Journey" is the first of several rhythmic pieces, but as I inferred earlier, the rhythmic feeling is subdued, played on ethnic percussion (tabla or udu), and the lead retro synth instrument has a gentle playfulness to it. The "Light" section features two shorter and two longer songs. The brief "Sunrise" is classic spacemusic with washes of soothing keyboards. "Bright Silence, Quiet Light" again reminds me of Jon Mark. Multiple synth pads, all of them serene and soothing, evolve into Liquid Mind-ish neo-classical territory with strings and woodwinds. "Behind Every Cloud," another rhythmic piece, is somber and even a bit dark with sparse synth bass beats, plucked strings, and a lead retro keyboard sound with pitch-bending emphasized. "Water" contains four tracks, highlighted by "Prairie Rain" which invites comparison to James Asher's classic "The Great Wheel" with its repeating minimal lead refrain against a backdrop of ambient/new age keyboards. "Dancing on the Water" is the liveliest tune on the album, with synth arpeggios evoking a slight Berlin-esque atmosphere, but still keeping the mood "light," not frenetic. Closing out the album are "Quiet Conversation" an ambient mixture of warm pads, washes, echoed piano and new age keyboard tones and "At the Gates" which has an ethereal, even angelic/celestial feel to it, before morphing into more Jon Mark-ish piano/strings and keyboards. Love, Light and Water will likely land on many reviewers' "Best of the Year" lists. I know it'll be on mine. Highly recommended! Rating: Very Good+

MainlyPiano.com

Love, Light, and Water Michael Stribling 2008 / Leela Music 1 hour "Love, Light, and Water" is Michael Stribling's fourth CD to date, and I think it's his best work yet. Leela ("divine play") Music's mission is "to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit." Stribling is not unique in this musical quest to soothe and heal, but one of the things that sets him apart from many of the other composers in this genre is that his music is not all sunshine and puffy clouds—he allows some of the darker and more pensive aspects of life into his music, which is a more realistic picture of the human experience. The music on this album is divided into three suites that "celebrate the hope and promise of new love, the energizing beauty of light, and the sustaining power of water." Although the music is often quite orchestrated, Stribling creates all of his music himself on keyboards. Some of it is quite melodic, and other pieces are more ambient and atmospheric—all of it is very beautiful. The first of the three suites is "Love." The five tracks are dreamy, warm, and ethereal, and convey feelings of joy and contentment. "Dream Frontiers" feels like floating in deep space, completely relaxed and absorbing the light of the twinkling stars. "Pleasant Journeys" has an Asian flavor in some of its themes and expresses joy and fun. "Light" is the second suite, and begins with the dawning of a new day. "Sunrise" is a perfect portrait of the slowly spreading light of dawn and the awe-inspiring colors of the morning sky. "Bright Silence, Quiet Light" is cinematic in the fullness of its sound and yet is so very peaceful and calm. Horns can be jarring, but here they are tranquil and restful. "Behind Every Cloud" is my favorite track. Guitar plays a gentle rhythm that gives the piece movement while the other instrumentation is more abstract, floating, and freeform. Love it! "Water" has four movements. The quiet guitar rhythm on "Prairie Rain" describes rain while keyboards create an ambient, serene atmosphere with just a touch of mystery. "River Canyon" is more majestic. "Dancing On the Water" sparkles and shimmers on the surface, but has a darker flow behind that—again very ambient and peaceful. The last two pieces on the CD are not part of the suites, but are in no way out of place. "Quiet Conversation" has piano in the lead with keyboard washes for additional color and depth. The piece itself feels like a very intimate and personal conversation with someone special. At about the halfway point in the piece, the "speaker" shifts to keyboard, and then the "speakers" alternate—a true dialog and another favorite. "At the Gates" ends the album with an ambient piece that is full of hope and warmth. "Love, Light, and Water" is music to really listen to and savor. If you use it for background music, expect to stop what you're doing from time to time to focus on what Michael Stribling is saying with his music. Inspiring! The CD is available from www.leela-music.com, cdbaby.com, amazon.com, iTunes, and Digistation.com. Recommended!
Michael Stribling Gets in Touch with His Inner Light Love, Light, and Water, Michael Stribling -- Five Stars On his fourth CD, Love, Light, and Water, contemporary instrumental keyboardist Michael Stribling offers a refreshing change of pace from the dynamic and propulsive intensity of his previous, percussion-heavy albums. This time, Stribling's muse provides a mystical revelation of peace, solemnity, and mystery, resulting in a musical journey that fuses the boundaries of New Age and neoclassical music. The album opens with the velvety, spacey synthesizer chords of "First Adventures," a brief introduction that revives the sonic majesty of "Procession of the Avatars," the opening track from Stribling's previous venture. Stribling follows that up with the quirky, quizzical reverie of "Dream Frontiers," before segueing into the symphonic sweep of "New Love." In fact, "New Love" is indicative of the most striking aspect of Love, Light, and Water – its orchestral feel. Although Stribling created every single note and sound with keyboards and synthesizers, many of the songs sound as if they were recorded by a full orchestra. Compositions such as "New Love" and "Bright Silence, Quiet Light" simulate lush orchestral strings laden with graceful horn/flute melodies, while touches of classical guitar can be heard on various tracks as well. "First Adventures," "Pleasant Journeys" (with its beautiful understated tablas), "Before the Dawn," "Sunrise," "Behind Every Cloud," "Prairie Rain," "Afterglow," "River Canyon," and "Dancing on the Water" feature Stribling's classic New Age keyboard and synthesizer sounds, but they never sound electronic. Stribling's inward musical journey winds down with "Quiet Conversation," which is exactly that – an intimate exchange between Stribling's piano and synthesizer, and "At the Gates," a calm and hopeful anticipation of things to come. While the music overall is quiet, it is far from simple. It is full of intricate harmonies and patterns found in serious, disciplined classical music and sophisticated popular music such as that by The Police and Genesis. Also, every song title accurately conveys the feel of the given track. The lasting impression is one of music that, while generated electronically, is far from the tinny and metallic timbres of many of Stribling's peers and is, in fact, simply beautiful music.

The Sounding Board

Atmospheric Artwork With the tinkling of wind chimes and the subdued supplement of horns your soundtrack to Another Day in Paradise begins. This is the newest album by Michael Stribling who follows up to the success of his previous album Songs of Hope and Healing, which I enjoyed. However, I believe I like his newest work even more. There is something energetic about it. Also something comforting with a bit of promise in every track. Paradise is, of course often equated with Eden. For some paradise is a tropical island with warm breezes and the lap of ocean waves in the background. For others it is the smell of pine needles and the first snow of the season. For many it is a full stomach and a place to sleep where no demons can penetrate. For most I am sure, it is peace for the spirit. Michael’s blend of atmospheric tracks is the musical panacea we have been looking for. The opening track is called "A Further Glimpse Beyond/Procession of the Avatars". A bit wordy I suppose, but the song is quite rhythmic as well as memorable. What gives the tune its otherworldliness is the feeling of floating music that enfolds the listener like a melodious embrace. The second theme, "Procession of the Avatars" may not be what we obviously think in this modern age of computer personas. Instead, it may be the embodiment of everyday deities that touch our lives without making a physical presence. Call them what you will, but they are out there. "Asian Dawn" has the eerie sound of a shakuhachi flute that conjures up the mysterious East. It also has the droning of the contemporary world throughout. Even though the music represents the rise of the red sun from the blue Pacific, the tune carries the distinctive quality of witnessing the event in black & white. Talk about dichotomy. "Celebration" at first did not seem to belong on the album, but then it did. Yes it was confusing to me too. However, the search for a paradise on any level when ending in triumph is a cause célèbre. Sometimes, just waking up is a reason. Getting the job you always wanted, or climbing to the heretofore unassailable pinnacle. This is that festivity. It is perky and upbeat. Everything the occasion deserves. "Ocean in the Sky" has whale song mixed with electronica and while not exactly Space music, it is very enjoyable. It is a tune that almost, but not quite languishes as it meanders through your mind. Droning background is the canvas for whirling washes of sound and high pitched colorful echoes all the way through. Honorable mention goes to two other tracks — "On a Quiet Afternoon" and "Union". Some of the titles make you ruminate for a spell. I did that when the title "Union" came into play. At just over fifteen minutes long, the music is everything you might think. Pensive, drifting sound could be a theme for meditation, lovemaking or creatively coming to a conclusion. We are always looking for answers and to many paradise might be in the discovery. On the track "On a Quiet Afternoon" a strong piano lead takes us by the hand and welcomes us to the mid day where peace and serenity are the watchwords. Michael’s music lets you actually feel the warmth of sun and wind, the slow moving shadows of leafy trees and the sweet smells of oranges as the day progresses. This is my favorite track on the album. As we hear in Stribling’s music, paradise is many things to many people. It is exciting to have a musical accompaniment for your ongoing search. This is the third album of Michael’s music I have reviewed and as I said, it is my favorite. My idea of paradise? You can always find it if you read between the lines. Rating: Good +

New Age Reporter

MICHAEL STRIBLING Another Day in Paradise Leela Music (2007) Michael Stribling explores a variety of musical landscapes using his considerable assortment of keyboards on Another Day in Paradise. His composing and performing skills continue to impress me, as they did on his debut Songs of Hope and Healing. I think this is his best release to date. Varying from powerful anthem-like tunes such as the opening "A Further Glimpse Beyond/Procession of the Avatars," with its trumpet fanfare, march-like drums, and triumphant air to the world-fusion inspired haunting shakuhachi flute and birdsong of "Asian Dawn" to the flowing synth washes, sequenced notes and bell tones of "The Sacred Land," Stribling takes the listener on a musical voyage that alternately invigorates and soothes but always entertains. While playing Another Day in Paradise, I was alternately reminded of Chris Spheeris' Culture, James Asher's The Great Wheel, and David Antony Clark's Beyond Africa. All of these recordings (Stribling's included) feature a trans-global mindset, evidenced through use of an impressive assortment of keyboards as well as all kinds of percussion. All of them also intersperse quieter pieces or passages with dynamic musical songs or movements. Besides those mentioned above, there are eight more tracks on the CD. "Celebration" evokes its title through a blend of cheery synthesizers, burbling effects, dramatic tribalesque percussion and a flowing lead flute-like keyboard. "Ocean in the Sky," intermixes waves, shore birds and whale song with synth washes and pads that gently undulate and flow, becoming gradually spacier and more ambient before the emergence of subtle Berlin-like sequenced notes. "Forever Young" opens with "ponging" synths amidst the sounds of children playing and set against light-hearted music which builds in intensity with the addition of many rhythmic elements as well as other keyboards. "Evolution" once again brings world fusion elements into play with gamelan-ish tones, gentle but spirited tuned wooden percussion (perhaps meant to be kalimba?) and shaker rhythms. As the cut gathers steam, ethnic singing (I assume African in origin both by the dialect and musical "clues") and more propulsive drums/percussion are introduced until the cut takes on a more joyous feel. The centerpiece of the album is "Union," a sprawling fifteen-minute opus that eschews the power and drama of some of the other tracks here in favor of a soothing and slowly morphing soundscape comprised of a multitude of keyboards, later evoking the forlorn mood of the desert via some great sampled wind instruments and a slow subtle rhythm imparted through synth bass beats. There is also a faint air of majesty and regality as well, but you have to listen for it. In stark contrast, the next track, "When Angels Dance" flies in the face of titular expectations as Stribling dials up an electronica infusion with lots of overtly "synthy" synths and gently pulsing techno beats. I'm not saying this is dance floor material, since the melodic component is still "pretty" and the beats are deep down in the mix, but it does stand in dramatic contrast to the previous piece. Finally, the (too short) "At the End of the Day" closes things out featuring soft piano, synth strings and some soothing retro-style keyboards. Michael Stribling (along with other artists such as Marshall Styler and Harrison Edwards) is swinging our focus back to electronic keyboard-based new age music as it used to be back in the "good old days," but using contemporary instruments propelled by his own unique vision. In his talented hands, we are assured of a new supply of music to help us take imaginary trips to distant lands from the comfort of our living rooms. Another Day in Paradise may not be as good as visiting a real paradise, but that's what our imaginations are for, right? The album rates a solid recommendation from me and I look forward to much more from this artist.

www.MainlyPiano.com

Another Day In Paradise Michael Stribling 2007 / Leela Music 1.1 hours "Another Day In Paradise" is the [third] release from multi-instrumentalist Michael Stribling. This new CD is a soundtrack of sorts for a typical day in paradise, and literally picks up where "Out of the Darkness, Into the Light" left off. More electronic and ambient than acoustic or melodic, the music brings the listener an uplifting mood and a positive state of mind. Johnny Mathis' percussionist and a radio disc jockey for a number of years, Stribling combines those pop sensibilities with his advanced training in psychology and spiritual studies to present a unique musical point of view. Calling his label "Leela," which means "divine play," Stribling's mission is "to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit." Stribling uses a variety of ethnic musical stylings to give his music a universal theme that can bridge a multitude of cultures. Unlike some of the other spirituality-themed recordings out there, Stribling does not present a world of all sweetness and light. His music has a strong positive feel to it, but does not ignore some of the darker moments or influences that come into everyone's lives. "Out of the Darkness, Into the Light" ended with "A Glimpse Beyond," and "Another Day in Paradise" begins with "A Further Glimpse Beyond" coupled with "Procession of the Avatars," which is based on the 13th century Benedictine plainsong, "Adoro Devote." Starting with a feeling of floating in vast open space, the march then brings quite a contrast in mood and a cinematic feeling of triumph. "Asian Dawn" makes another mood shift with bamboo flute, keyboard ambience, and the sounds of birds in the background. Both calm and dramatic, this piece has a very haunting quality. "The Sacred Land" has an upbeat and catchy rhythm over a very atmospheric foreground; in the middle, the two styles merge, perhaps symbolizing the natural and the man-made working together. "Ocean in the Sky" is once more ambient and ethereal, with vast open space and the sounds of sea creatures and wind. "Forever Young" is light and whimsical, with the sounds of children's voices contributing to the carefree spirit. "On A Quiet Afternoon" is a languid piano piece—effortless and easy. Other instruments come in with countermelodies and color, but this is mostly a lovely piano piece. "Union" is an epic 15-minute piece that is serenity set to music—don't try to wake up to this one in the morning! Sigh... "When Angels Dance" is another beauty. Free and energizing, yet perfectly calm, it makes me think of fluffy white clouds gliding across a brilliant blue sky. "At the End of the Day' is content and sleepy, relaxed and ready for the journey to dreamland. What a great day! "Another Day In Paradise" is an excellent listening experience with full attention or in the background—it works nicely either way. Michael Stribling is well on his way as a major force in new age music, continuing a tradition but also blazing his own trails. His music can be found at leela-music.com, amazon.com, cdbaby.com, and iTunes. Recommended!

Amazon.com

Former Johnny Mathis drummer turned New Age keyboard/synthesizer player Michael Stribling keeps you wide awake -- and happy -- with bouncy, driving, and multilayered melodies and rhythms that approach the sonics of stadium rock acts like Journey, Yes, and Genesis. The CD features both beautiful soundscapes and propulsive numbers like the energetic "Forever Young," which sounds the most like a Genesis track. The only thing missing are vocals by Phil Collins. Other highlights include "Procession of the Avatars," "The Sacred Land," "Celebration," "Evolution," "When Angels Dance" and "At the End of the Day." This is a truly masterful work.
Michael Stribling's Paradise Filled with Joy Another Day in Paradise, Michael Stribling -- Five Stars Michael Stribling's third CD, Another Day in Paradise, cements the New Age keyboardist's status as one of the most dynamic composers of our time. The collection of 11 instrumental compositions is an exhilarating musical journey that celebrates the vitality of life and pulsates with a positive, energetic vibe that just makes you feel glad to be alive. The former Johnny Mathis drummer's pop sensibilities and knack for rhythm manifest themselves in the form of propulsive percussion, hook-laden grooves, and infectious bass lines. The proceedings start with the mystical tones of the previous album's final track ("A Further Glimpse Beyond") before segueing into an epic theme ("Procession of the Avatars") that, with its solemn melody and march-like percussion, could be a perfect opening theme for the Olympics. On a couple of songs, Stribling introduces an ethnic flavor into the mix (the Far East flute sounds of "Asian Dawn," the Middle East-like melody of the intimate "Union," which features a pop cultural musical reference or two for discerning listeners). The CD also features introspective interludes such as "On a Quiet Afternoon" and "Ocean in the Sky," a symphony of marine animal sounds against the backdrop of lush synthesizer tones that would make an ideal soundtrack for an IMAX nature/science documentary. A human element is added through the presence of wordless vocals, for example, ancient tribal chants ("Evolution") and the laughter of children at play ("Forever Young"). Other inspiring tracks include the reverent "Sacred Land," the high-spirited "Celebration," and the buoyant synth-pop of the electronica-tinged "When Angels Dance." The album closes on a peaceful note with the aptly titled "At the End of the Day," which revisits the ethereal siren tones of "New Day Dawning" from Stribling's first CD but creates a beautiful new melody accented with graceful piano chords. It's a fitting coda to the bliss and joy that have come before and gives us a chance to take it all in. Stribling makes music that stirs the soul, and it's clear from this album that Stribling is in the right place spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. Listening to this CD will put you in the same place as well. Stribling's music surges with the energy and life force of the universe, and the result is another day in paradise.

New Age Retailer

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light This follow-up to his award-winning debut album sparkles with driving electronic beats, astral high strings, evolving filtered synths, lush atmospheres, and melodic pianos and bells—a CD that soothes without overdoing the electronica.

New Age Reporter

MICHAEL STRIBLING Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Leela Music (2006) Michael Stribling’s follow up to Songs of Hope and Healing is a more cohesive and fully realized recording. Out of the Darkness, Into the Light is still slightly of two minds, as was his previous album, but this time the split personality is only apparent when going from track two to three. The CD opens with the propulsive energizing “Driven,” a bouncy slice of electronica propelled by pulsing bass beats and a flurry of melodic synthesizers. After this four-minute song, the CD starts to settle into its primary groove, attuning most of the remaining nine tracks to an ambient/spacemusic/new age vein. While I wouldn’t mind hearing Stribling record an entire album of music like “Driven,” I also think his forte is the quieter more introspective pieces which dominate this fine CD. The title track features wavery synths, buzz-sawing keyboards, and subdued pulsing bass beat, segueing into a harpsichord bridge with melancholic gothic undertones, before yielding to a more triumphant celebratory explosion of bell trees and crescendoing cymbals and finally subsiding into a repeat of the song’s opening. Things really start to gel with the third track, “Northern Lights”, with its gently soaring spacemusic washes and mournful synth flute (later in the cut) that lazily circles the assorted keyboards. “Letting Go/Afterthought” has a funereal opening with layers of synths cascading and washing over the listener, and the warm lead flute line tints the song with a sad kind of beauty. The keyboards disappear leaving a lone piano to play a lovely refrain that has a nostalgic flavor to it. Once again, Stribling reintroduces the previous keyboards towards the song’s conclusion (this appears to be his signature touch, i.e., the reappearance of a song’s opening melody and instrumentation). “Seven Faces of Home” features a circular piano refrain surrounded by synth washes and subtle choral effects, almost as if the piano was adrift on a slowly undulating sea of musical textures. “Ripples of Awareness” harkens back to any number of golden age electronic new age music recordings, aglow with twinkling synths, shimmering keyboards, and an ethereal cosmic sense of wonder, concluding with spot-on sampled flute and what I think is a soprano sax. “Longing” is an album highlight with flitting retro keyboards and sequenced notes over warm washes, perhaps a little reminiscent of Ray Lynch, however with less of a classical music influence. Closing out the album is “Glory and Honor/A Glimpse Beyond” which starts off with an assortment of retro synths, twinkling like dancing starfields and an undercurrent of muted hand drum percussion. The percussion eventually becomes more prominent and evolves into a more pronounced East Indian-influenced tabla soundalike, but the synths ground the track more in the electronica/new age genres than in anything remotely like world fusion. I thought Songs of Hope and Healing was a very solid recording (albeit one that bounced around a bit) and showed great promise for the artist. It was obvious to me that Michael Stribling had talent when it came to wielding his electronic keyboards. With Out of the Darkness, Into the Light, Stribling ratchets up both his technical prowess and also narrows his artistic focus to a much tighter beam, the result being a highly recommendable collection of ambient and electronic new age music that is, for the most part, centered around the quieter, sedate side of things. Color me impressed with the strides Michael Stribling has made in just one album and consider me solidly in his camp of followers, as you will be too if you latch onto this fine CD.
Feel-Good New Age Synth-Pop This debut CD from New Age artist Michael Stribling (Out of the Darkness, Into the Light) sounds not like the work of a newbie, but rather that of an experienced, old musical hand. Perhaps this is due to Stribling’s pop past as drummer for Johnny Mathis, which informs many of the propulsive tracks on this buoyant collection. In fact, it was the second tune, "New Day Dawning", which hooked me on Music Choice: Soundscapes with its initial tranquil reverie that eventually burgeons into a joyously upbeat tune full of hope. The CD has a nice mix of synth-pop (especially the Genesis-like "Let the Pony Ride"), grand keyboard washes of sound ("Big Planets", "Reminiscence", "Peace at Sea"), and hauntingly beautiful solo piano interludes ("Trust", "Before the End"). This is a bright, vibrant, and very accessible New Age CD that even aurally discriminating fans of pop music might enjoy.
Michael Stribling Takes It to the Next Level The second CD from the thoughtful New Age artist presents a kinder, gentler Michael Stribling. Aside from a couple of enjoyable tunes that have the power-pop overtones of Genesis and Journey, Out of the Darkness, Into the Light is much more serene and tranquil than Songs of Hope and Healing. The songs have a piercing inner quality that penetrates to the very heart of the soul. Also, they are all positive, inspirational, and uplifting, which sets Stribling far above many of his peers. Standout tracks include "Letting Go/Afterthought", "Reflection", and especially "Seven Faces of Home", with its jazzy piano and synth-bass hooks and ambient keyboard washes. However, pay special attention to "Northern Lights", which exudes the ethereal quality of the Aurora Borealis. The last five notes of this song reference a famous sci-fi film, and whether or not it is intentional, it sums up the feel of this album beautifully.

www.MainlyPiano.com

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Michael Stribling 2007 / Leela Music 62’41" "Out of the Darkness, Into the Light" is multi-instrumentalist Michael Stribling’s follow-up to 2006’s chart-topping "Songs of Hope and Healing." I haven’t heard Stribling’s earlier work, but I sure like this CD! Most of the ten tracks are ambient and spacious, but there are a couple of very rhythmic, uptempo pieces that make you sit up and take notice. The piano appears in several of the pieces, but this is much more of an electronic CD. Stribling’s mission is "to help others in their journey toward wholeness through the gift of music, by creating works that inspire and uplift the human spirit" (from his website). Stribling calls his label "Leela Music," and "leela" means "divine play," so this music obviously comes from a rich variety of sources. Stribling has been playing the piano since he was seven, and was a percussionist for Johnny Mathis early in his career. After several years working as a studio musician, playing in musical theater, and radio announcing, Stribling went back to graduate school in 1981 and became a marriage and family therapist. After working in that field for many years, life changes brought him back to music in 2005. Lucky us! The CD opens with "Driven," a piece whose pounding beat and intoxicating rhythm I find completely addicting. In the car, I had the volume up to the point of being almost painful and kept hitting the "repeat" button on the CD player. My piano students could probably hear me coming from several blocks away! Sure to bring a smile and more than a few head bobs! From there, we get down to more serious business. The title track takes us on a journey that begins with the feeling of dark mystery that is non-threatening, but not entirely comfortable. As the piece unfolds, it explores several themes, gradually brightening until it breaks into the light as the darker theme fades out. "Northern Lights" gives the feeling of floating in darkness that is deep, but also very peaceful and beautiful. Various sounds suggest the changing colors of the Northern Lights as they melt from one breathtaking hue to another. Gorgeous! "Letting Go/Afterthought" is much more introspective and melancholy. The middle section of the piece is solo piano, personalizing it even more. One of my favorite tracks is "Longing," which begins with a very simple but compelling rhythmic theme that suggests a plucked stringed instrument. That theme continues throughout the piece as string washes add fullness and color. Becoming more orchestrated as it evolves, the simple theme comes to the forefront from time to time. As feelings of longing are, the piece is tinged with sadness and loss, but is not without hope. Very effective! "Glory and Honor / A Glimpse Beyond" begins on a jaunty, upbeat note. More melodic than most of the works, it also has an infectious rhythm and a playful spirit that segues later to the ambient feeling of crystalline open space and of floating peacefully on air. "Out of the Darkness, Into the Light" is a fascinating musical journey and one that I really enjoyed. It is available from www.leela-music.com, cdbaby.com, and amazon.com. Recommended!

New Age Reporter

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light By Michael Stribling Label: Leela Music Released 1/1/2007 This is more like it Michael Stribling has a little more pep in his step on new album, Out of the Darkness, Into the Light, his follow up to Songs of Hope and Healing. This one has a stronger ambient texture with contemporary overtones. A few of the tracks have that minimalist quality a la Steve Roach, but for the most part the music is Stribling's friendly, therapeutic offerings as a study in serene. Driven has a Progressive Rock tempo that really grabs your attention. It has a pounding bass line that gives strong forward movement and, not to sound redundant... progress. It made for a great tune in the car, but it would be equally at home on a club dance floor. Ever onward! Out of the Darkness, Into the Light, the title cut, is a sensuous journey of sound. The tempo is pendulous as the melody unfolds and the drifting sequences begin. As the title suggests the music is a bit busy and then more organized and focused. At last everything flows in the right direction. My favorite cut on the album is Northern Lights. The sense here is that there is a closet minimalist at work. At over nine minutes long it has a dreamlike quality that allows you to drift around sampling different states of mind. Shades of grandfathers Brian Eno and Steve Roach. For me the tune was musically transparent. It plays well in the background no matter what you are doing, but it still makes its presence known. Mild clarinet, flute and brooding background make for a pleasing contemporary tune called Ripples of Awareness. It has just a tinkle of industrial sound, but the music turns out to be pastoral in an electronic sense. With this kind of tune you might actually sense what happens when the ripples stop and the surface returns to a calm state. One of the most interesting tracks and the last cut on the CD is called Glory and Honor / A Glimpse Beyond. A powerful bass track and crescendos of sound everywhere gives this tune a strong, influential tone that sets the background for a vision of the future. There will be pure light, voices will be sparkling clear and your cares will be lessened. To me it sounded as if Michael made this into a trilogy of music, with a beginning, middle and an end that becomes lighter as it progresses. To me he has held true to his theme. My title to this article, "This is more like it" is a reference to Michael's previous album Songs of Hope and Healing that I felt didn't really reflect his title. However, on Out of the Darkness, Into the Light I believe that he has hit his mark. The start of the album is jittery and unsure, a mild confusion. But by the time we finish and come full circle we are more calm and balanced. More reassured and focused. I like that. It has "divine play". Rating: Good + - reviewed by RJ Lannan on 1/2/2007

Sounds from the Ground Up

Songs of Hope and Healing Michael Stribling Leela Music (559) 436-4994, www.leela-music.com As a whole, the eclectic and widely varying styles in Michael Stribling's new recording, Songs of Hope and Healing may leave you in wonderment trying to categorize it. In addition to the tranquil tracks inferred to by the CD's title, there also are intentional diversions of ethnic percussion and electronica. The serene New Age tracks are the album's strengths: "Peace at Sea," the nine-plus minute ode to the ocean with its waves of strings and opening water sounds, and the two ambient tracks, "New Day Dawning" and "Big Planets," with their broad and pastoral orchestrations all top the list. Other points of musical interest include the electronica-based tracks "Percocious," an ode to Stribling's percussion past and influence of Jan Hammer; the Main Street Electrical Paradestyle of "Striding Through Eternity"; the peaceful "Love Will Find a Way"; and the piano solo "Trust." If your customers have open minds, broad tastes, and eclectic styles, turn them onto Michael Stribling with Songs of Hope and Healing.

Merced Sun-Star

Hits from the Heart Merced native Michael Stribling's debut album, "Songs of Hope and Healing," captures an array of sounds and is meant to help people through tough times. By Krista Bjorn SUN-STAR CORRESPONDENT Last Updated: October 26, 2006, 01:45:34 AM PDT It's not often that a musician's debut album reaches number one on the ratings chart. Yet that's what happened for new age musician Michael Stribling when his album, "Songs of Hope and Healing" reached number one in July on the Top 100 List of the New Age Reporter (www.newagereporter.com). "That was pretty gratifying," Stribling said with a smile. Born and raised in Merced, Stribling comes from a family of musicians including his mother, Lorraine Murphy, and his sister, Patrice Stribling Donald. Stribling started playing piano at age 7, studied violin, clarinet, and guitar and composed his first piece of music at age 10. "When the Beatles arrived in America in 1964 I switched to drums and never looked back," he said. He received his bachelor's in music from California State University, Fresno with an emphasis on percussion performance. "I was able to play drums everywhere from jazz band and marching band to philharmonic orchestra," he said. Stribling became a radio announcer for a classic rock station in the early '70s, playing music such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and of course his beloved Beatles. His boss was none other than Ray Appleton. He toured with Johnny Mathis, did a lot of studio work as a performer, composer/arranger, producer, and engineer, and performed in many musical theater productions with the Good Company Players. In 1981, Stribling abruptly changed careers and went to graduate school, eventually becoming a psychotherapist, specializing in marriage and family therapy. "When I changed careers, music pretty much went in mothballs," he said. About a year and a half ago, Stribling lost both an important relationship and his job and was faced with starting over. "I asked myself what I'd do if I won the lottery," he said. "I went back to my bliss and this album is the result of that." Writing his own music and being his own boss was a liberating experience for Stribling. "I was always working for someone else," he said. "This was the opportunity to do one album by me, for me, without dealing with other egos. It was a project of love." The album, "Songs of Hope and Healing" presents a kaleidoscope of musical forms. "Someone has referred to it as a box of chocolates," Stribling said. "It represents a wide variety of styles all within the New Age genre. Some refer to it as heart music." Although the album has received glowing accolades from New Age music afficianados, it is actually a very personal project. "I think initially it was just for me," Stribling said. "A part of it was a process of going back. I think I knew when I started this project that come hell or high water I was going to finish. I did this for my own healing and hopefully for the benefit of those listening to it, to bring some peace into their lives." He believes that the album would not have been possible without the support and refining influence of his loved ones. "I really think that with any performing art we are just vessels," he said. "The idea is to keep the vessel clean. I'm grateful to those who helped get the gunk out of the garden hose and keep it flowing clean." For Stribling the composing process begins with quietness and contemplation. "I pretty much sit still and listen and pay attention to whatever flows and try to capture it," he said. "Sometimes it will wake me up in the middle of the night. Something will rattle around in my head and ooh! Ooh! I've got to get it down. I'll get up and start noodling around. Sometimes it just feels good to play." The entire instrumental album was created without the use of microphones because Stribling was able to capture a fine quality of sound with various computer programs. "Computer synthesizers have an amazing array of sounds," he said. "I liken it to a palette." He finds that inspiration comes simply through tinkering around with sounds and instruments. "Very often that's where the germ of an idea will be born," Stribling said. "A sound that captures my fancy or a chord progression. Once that basic skeleton gets formed, then I'll go back and start adding things. Sometimes it will develop itself fully in the span of a day, and sometimes it takes months and months." Once an initial idea is found, Stribling works with it like a sculptor does with clay. "It's building and building and building," he said. "Which is fun for my obsessive, compulsive personality. Then I go back and add the icing on the cake, a bit of percussion, a harp here, a cymbal there." Then he begins to mix. "All the things that further enrich the sound," he said. "I just love it!" Along with the creative process, Stribling credits the album's success to those who have influenced him significantly through their writings and friendship. "A lot of people contributed to whatever flowed," he said. While "Songs of Hope and Healing" is Stribling's debut album, it is not his first CD. He wrote a meditation to help with hypnosis and is currently at work on a third CD that is set for release in January. "Songs of Hope and Healing" is available at www.cdbaby.com, www.amazon.com, www.itunes.com or from the trunk of Stribling's car. "You get signatures if you order from the trunk of my car," he said.

New Age Reporter

MICHAEL STRIBLING SONGS OF HOPE AND HEALING Leela Music (2006) While not the most misleading title I’ve ever seen, Michael Stribling’s Songs of Hope and Healing may elicit some head-scratching from New Age music fans during the first track, “Percocious” which opens this diverse CD with propulsive sampled ethnic percussion and drums amid influences from gamelan, Africa kalimba, and the Far East, setting a fast pace as if one was running on the Serengeti plains or up a mountain path in Tibet. If you come to this recording expecting nothing but serene gentle soundscapes, you’re either going to be pleasantly surprised or alarmed. In fairness to the artist, according to a letter which accompanied the CD, this variety of moods, tempos, and styles is wholly intentional. Stribling is quite adept at navigating through the various sonic waters he travels, whether it be the flowing ambient-ish washes and tones of “New Day Dawning” (which morphs into a bouncy cheery slice of electronica, a la Davol or Soundician), the dramatic spacy washes of “Big Planets,” a plaintive and sparse solo piano piece (“Trust”), the burbly electronics and syncopated synths on “Where do we go from here?,” or the somber ambient soundscape of “Reminiscence” which may invite comparisons to Patrick O’Hearn at his least percussive. The album contains twelve tracks, two of which clock in at over nine minutes in length. “Peace at Sea,” one of the lengthy tunes, is a contemplative flowing new age piece with lots of synthesizers and occasional ebbing and flowing string washes which could also be categorized as semi-classical (all of this is buoyed by the sounds of waves underneath it all). The artist makes a dubious choice for a final track, the rhythmic electro-tribal-world fusion tune “Striding Through Eternity,” but I think he was aiming at ending the CD on an optimistic and energizing note, not going out on a more typical peaceful fade into nothingness. Kudos to him in making that unusual decision. Michael Stribling took a 25 year break from music and Songs of Hope and Healing is his return to the fold, as it were. Apparently, the absence hasn’t hurt his talent or his skill. This CD is well performed and produced and the originality of some compositions can’t be overlooked either. Everything here is accessible and enjoyable from the get go, provided you have a broad taste in new age music. The more uptempo electronic pieces dominate, so be prepared to tap your toes or snap your fingers (there are some catchy hooks to be heard). If I was pressed for a comparison, I’d be tempted to cite Peter Buffett, or Aetopus, although the former’s music tends to be more cinematic in feel and moodier. Stribling wears his heart on his musical sleeve, which in this case is just fine with me. I hope he doesn’t leave the scene for another 25 years before making more music like this. Rating: Good+

New Age Reporter

SONGS OF HOPE AND HEALING I’ve have been listening to Michael Stribling's new album for a few weeks now. Yeah, sometimes I listen to the same album for a month before I actually put down words. Songs of Hope and Healing offers a mix of electronic and contemplative tunes that are very palatable, but the title of the works seems a bit off center. Don’t get me wrong. I think that all music has some cathartic properties, especially with our genres of music. Stribling's mix of energetic tunes and emotional themes has that effect. Michael's CD has some long cuts on it; some of them better than eight minutes, but once you get into it, and you will get into it, the time passes without notice. The opening tune Percocious has an almost industrial electronic sound. It has a driving beat and a snappy score that gets the heart pumping and the feet tapping. There’s a bit of drama to the subject and a taste of the Oriental with the banging of the gongs. Notice the spelling of the title. I like his sense of humor. The mood changes quickly and positively with the next song, and one of my favorites, New Day Dawning. I thought I could feel the rotation of the planet with this music playing in the background. The song is a metamorphosis of force as the sun warms the earth and, as the song progress, it gains in inertia as well as energy. There is momentum gained and spirit renewed. With a whisper of angelic voices and a touch of ocean waves Peace at Sea is the absolute best cut on Songs of Hope and Healing. This song is true to the overall theme of the album and I played this one a hundred times; it is that beautiful. It has a pastoral score that more than once crescendos with emotion and excitement. Musically, it is the sun guiding your course to home. It is the climax of seeing the rocky shore after being lost on the dull, green ocean for a lifetime. It is the crimson and gold delight to the eye of the sunset once safely on terra firma. And for this miraculous journey - you never leave your doorstep. Outstanding. With a nod to composer Jan Hammer and to every Italian TV commercial there ever was comes the spunky tune Striding Through Eternity. This is a funny bouncy song that gets you going. If you have trouble rising each day, just play this one. It generates its own energy and you are powerless not to be affected. A fun tune. It seems like Michael's music is a good balance of liveliness and feeling after all. I enjoyed listening to the music especially driving down the road after a long, hot afternoon with the day’s work done and with the knowledge that home was not far away. Rating: Good +

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