Chimes of the Spirit, the third and latest CD from Acoustic Ocean, is a beautiful and engaging collection of original instrumental music that arouses reflection, touches the heart, and lifts the spirit.
The music on Chimes of the Spirit tastefully blends the genres of Folk, New Age and Contemporary Instrumental. The eleven compositions feature Peggy Morgan on Celtic harp and Bette Phelan on guitar. On several cuts they are joined by Kay Aldrich on cello and Anne Berliner on flute. Additional supporting instruments, played by Morgan and Phelan include: fretless bass, low whistle, electric guitar, mandolin, hammered dulcimer, voice.
Chimes of the Spirit invites the listener on a musical journey through the process of transition and transformation. The music gives voice to the breadth of feelings experienced during times of change. When life-altering events sweep through our lives, the expression of our feelings through art and music comforts us, lifts us up and brings us back into balance.
Acoustic Ocean Bio
Acoustic Ocean is the collaboration of two veteran musicians and recording artists, Peggy Morgan and Bette Phelan. The music of Acoustic Ocean reflects the musical and healing arts backgrounds of the artists as well as the beauty of the Hawaiian Islands, which helped to inspire the music. After a successful touring career that spanned 20-years, Morgan and Phelan relocated to Hawaii to pursue careers in the healing arts.
In 2009 Acoustic Ocean released their debut album, Light Returning. The recording was well received by New Age radio DJs and listeners worldwide. It received widespread airplay and was on the Top 100 Zone Music Charts for 7 months, reaching a top position of #8. It was nominated for five ZMR awards, including Best Album of 2010.
Acoustic Ocean’s second album, Reflections on Still Water, was released in July 2010. It was on ZMR Top 100 chart for 11 months reaching a top position of #3. The album was nominated for Best Contemporary Instrumental album and was chosen as a Top 10 Pick for 2010 by RJ Lannan, a staff reviewer for ZMR.
Acoustic Ocean’s third album, Chimes of the Spirit, was released in 2013. It entered the Zone Music Reporter Top 100 Chart at #3 for February and went to #1 in March. It spent 7 months on the Top 100 chart and was #9 for the year. It is currently up for Best Album 2013 and Best Instrumental Album - Acoustic.
Acoustic Ocean is made up of the talented musicians and recording artists Peggy Morgan and Bette Phelan. Both artists have backgrounds in music and yoga. The use of music as a healing medium and with their combined talents, have crafted a sound that is also reflective of their love for the Hawaiian Islands. The two have toured together for many years, and have played internationally. Both women are certified in the healing arts and use their musical talents to reduce stress and heal the body and mind. Chimes of the Spirit is their third album. Guest musicians include Kay Aldrich (cello) and Anne Berliner (flute).
“This Love Is Forever” is the first track on the album. It trickles across your senses like a fresh bubbling stream, washing away the cobwebs from your mind. The blend of guitar and harp marries seamlessly and evokes an image of island forefathers and mothers devoted to the islands that inspired this music. Hawaii with its graceful waterfalls, beautiful Polynesian culture and environs that can sooth the soul like no other gets into your soul as Phelan and Morgan weave their cascading spell of music.
“Into the Mystery” is the intricate pattern in the sea shell you find on the beach. The conch, so full of mystery and wonder, you can still hear the magic of the sea echoing in your ear long after it has been plucked from the water. Notes and melodies that sail across oceans of time merge to paint a seascape of dolphins sailing through oceans of blue. Of mermaids gliding through the murky depths, promising the world for a single kiss.
“Tsunami” is an audible tapestry that has to be my favorite piece on the album. This one gave me goose bumps as the passionate guitar and harp merged as one to tell the story of ocean waves building, cresting and moving toward the islands with ferocious intent. The vocals were a light chant, woven together with an anticipatory feeling that something is coming. The forces of nature are about to collide with man. Are we strong enough to survive the wrath of the ocean in all of its power? The patterns and melodies concocted with this piece are monumental and show just what these two artists are capable of creating. Simply beautiful!
“If I Had Wings” is a blend of harp, guitar and vocals that will stir tears to your eyes. The song spirals up and out like the promise of life in a new land. How rich will the future be to look toward the end of the journey and a new life beyond. To find what you are looking for in lands beyond the sea. A lost love? A fate that holds promise? An adventure far beyond comprehending. Look out toward the great ocean beyond and feel the pulse race in your veins.
Chimes of the Spirit is a journey of the senses. This album could not have come across my desk at a better time. The holidays are here, with all the stresses and illnesses that tend to hit you when you least have the time or energy to deal with them. Listening to this music brought me to a place of peace, reflection and an inner stillness that could not have been more needed. A blend of folk, contemporary instrumental and New Age, this album features Peggy Morgan on the Celtic harp and Bette Phelan on the guitar. Their love of the ocean and Hawaii shines through in each track on this album. If you like a bit of folk and are looking for a respite from the world for a while, check out this amazing album.
Key Tracks- This Love Is Forever, Into the Mystery Landscape, Tsunami, If I Had Wings
Dana Wright-Muzikreviews.com Sr. Staff
November 21, 2012
RJ Lannan, Zone Music Reporter, Staff Reviewer
It does not surprise me that living on the Big Island of Hawaii is a constant source of inspiration for the double act known as Acoustic Ocean. Harpist Peggy Morgan and guitarist Bette Phelan blend their talents and instruments into a delightful combination of world, New Age and contemporary music that crosses the miles and settles deep down in your spirit no matter where you are. Because of their choice of acoustic instruments the music often takes on a Celtic feel, but that is to be appreciated. On this particular album they are joined by Kay Aldrich on cello and Anne Berliner on flute. Love that acoustic stuff.
This Love Is Forever opens the album with a light, vibrant tune of promises and pledges. Forever in this day and age can be considered a weekend, but to the confirmed romantics that haunt the universe looking for and finding their soul mates, forever is just that. The harp sparkles in this one sending out a call and then of course, the guitar answers every hopeful note.
The gong of a Tibetan bowl and sublime guitar begins Into the Mystery Landscape. I was surprised however, to hear an electric guitar in this, but that is quite forgivable. The song brushes away the curtain of reality and explores the unknown scenery of the Otherworld, for it is a given that landscapes do not exist solely in the physical world.
Midnight Rendezvous had the most prevalent Celtic feel of any of the eleven tracks and I liked it for that. The stoical cello played by Kay Aldrich, the melodic piano and the capricious flute formed a troika of friends that conspired to unite a star-filled sky, warm ocean breezes and the love of the universe. Let us dance!
The title tune, Chimes of the Spirit had a long introduction of harp and accordion (electronically generated I think), but then the melody produced a turbulent sea of notes. Not a really destructive storm, but the kind that pushes one along the ocean in search of calmer waters. Anne Berliner’s flute acts as a guide in this song, pointing our way to our destination.
About a year ago an earthquake in western Canada triggered a series of events that spawned one of the most deadly of Mother Nature’s catastrophes, a tsunami or giant undersea wave. Recent history of tsunamis in Japan and Thailand caused a great deal of alarm in Hawaii. The island’s history of tsunamis in 1946 and 1975 is not without great sorrow. Luckily, the islands were spared and peace remained. Acoustic Ocean’s tune, Tsunami relates the dark and foreboding fear that can accompany the threat of such a disaster. But somewhere, deep in the song, is the beauty and power of the ocean that cannot be ignored.
There is a warm familiarity about the final cut, Only Love Remains. It is an uplifting and carefree ballad. When you think about it you can distill the events of every part of your life from happy events of births, marriages, and successes to deaths, chance meetings and personal sacrifices (the kind that come about after many years of commitment) and what is left? Only love remains. It is a positive feeling that is magically captured in the music.
This is Acoustic Ocean’s third album to my knowledge and they are all on the same level of perfectionist performance and light-hearted melodies. The duo’s respect for the planet, the people and each other are entwined into every recording. For music that will please you year after year and multiple listenings, you cannot go wrong with this talented twosome. Rating: EXCELLENT
Bill Binkelman, Zone Music Reporter, Staff Reviewer
Peggy Morgan (Celtic harp, rhythm guitar, piano, Tibetan singing bowls, vocals) and Bette Phelan (acoustic and electric guitar, fretless bass, pennywhistle, mandolin, hammered dulcimer, wavedrum, vocals, and keyboards) are Acoustic Ocean and this, their third release, is their best yet. The small issues I had with their first recording, Light Returning, have been addressed and the engineering and production (and especially the mix) are greatly improved. In addition, while their music still focuses on the interplay between Celtic harp and guitar, the compositions (to my ears) have broadened in their influences and styles. While the main draw here for most listeners will likely be the strong Celtic flavor to the music, the pair also incorporates a strong New England seafaring sound, such as on Farewell Safe Harbor.
Chimes of the Spirit features 11 tracks with mostly gentle, relaxed melodies, although rhythms are present at times and a strain of liveliness and good cheer does permeate selected songs. Nothing here is morose or somber, instead evoking nostalgia, beauty, and contentment (the exception being the uptempo track Tsunami because, well, obviously there is no such thing as a "mild" tsunami, is there?).
Also making appearances on a few selections are cellist Kay Aldrich and flutist Anne Berliner, but the CD is more or less Morgan's and Phelan's show, and these two artists' musicianship is in ample evidence throughout the album. While I can’t say for certain whether my next statement is fact or just perception, I sense that Phelan's acoustic guitar plays a larger role on this album than on the two previous ones, although maybe I just notice it more in the mix. Regardless, the interplay between guitar and harp on many songs, such as the opening This Love is Forever, is delightful and engaging. It's obvious that these two have played together a lot because their sense of simpatico is pronounced, and whether trading the lead or sharing it, they do so with grace and ease.
There is a breeziness to many of the songs, a natural, almost organic, flowing sensation, that is mirrored not just by the duo's name, but also the album cover picture of an ocean-going sailing ship as well as several song titles calling to mind seascape images. However, other musical elements surface as well, such as the singing bowl which kicks off Into the Mystery Landscape, a cut on which Phelan's guitar playing (both acoustic and electric on the track) brings to mind Marc Knopfler's soundtrack for the film Local Hero, with its gentle whimsy and sweet melodicism. Rift Rider features a fast-paced, energetic harp lead, and has Morgan playing both harp and rhythm guitar. Changing pace, Under the Starlit Sky is a slow, reflective tune, with harp, mandolin, guitar, and hammered dulcimer as well as a smattering of low whistle for an added dash of Celtic flavor. Midnight Rendezvous strikes a stately rhythm, evoking castles and lords and ladies in waiting during Renaissance or maybe even medieval times, aided by Berliner's delicate flute accompaniment. The title track opens in a gentle mood, as piano and harp slowly circle each other, but slowly unfurls with some moments of drama (wavedrum rolling rhythms) and melancholy (mournful clarinet) before settling into a pleasant English folk-like mood, accented by Berliner's lilting flute in the final third. If I Had Wings is the sole vocal tune on the CD, featuring both women's voices; it's a softly played guitar and harp tune with some cello as accompaniment.
In closing, the lovely music on Chimes of the Spirit brought to mind Sara Teasdale's poem "Barter" which contains the following verses:
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up,
Holding wonder like a cup.
Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like the curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.
Spend some time with Peggy Morgan and Bette Phelan and invest in your own life's loveliness, if only for a moment or two. Rating: VERY GOOD