Music Review: Song of Solstice

Buy this CD.  Buy it.  Buy it now.

I don’t think I’ve ever had this strong a positive reaction to a CD, especially a holiday CD, but I can’t recommend this work of pure art by Jennifer Cutting highly enough.  There is not one single track I’m not in love with.  Song of Solstice “invites contemplation and celebration, consideration of darkness and light in both spiritual and natural realms that accompanies the turn of earth’s time from autumn through winter and back to spring again.”

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Jennifer Cutting’s OCEAN Orchestra

Song of Solstice
12 tracks – Original music, Rare Celtic, and Medieval Songs
CD – $17.97 + shipping on CD Baby
Download Album (MP3) – $9.99
Or talk to your local metaphysical store – shop local!

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Yes, I’m gushing.  Let me tell you why.

There are original songs, old world classics in French, orchestra accompaniment, hints of steampunk, Renaissance recorders, electric guitars, female singers and male singers.  You wouldn’t think such musical diversity would work on one CD, but the unifying theme of midwinter pulls it together nicely.  All the songs celebrate the season in some way, and while most have a distinct Pagan vibe to them, your Lutheran mother would enjoy it, too.

Cutting’s unusual childhood with a mixture of spiritualities and her respect for the divine influences the entire CD, but is best displayed in a capella song Light The Winter’s Dark.

(Refrain)
So let us all sing the Lady’s name
To light the winter’s dark
And may her light grow brighter still
With each new year we mark

Each verse, and the refrain, change to honor a different deity or sage such as Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, and the Pagan Lady. It ends with a verse that even atheists could happily sing.

When we all brought our light to earth
We made it a better place
We loved and lost and loved again
And learned from our mistakes
So let us all sing each others’ name
To light the winter’s dark
And may our light grow brighter still
With each new year we mark

Summer Will Come Round Again is my favorite cut.  It’s pseduo-Celtic, which I normally detest, but this original by Cutting wouldn’t sound half as well done any other way.  The vocals are wistful and colored with hope, exactly the essence of Winter Solstice.  I listened to this song last night while sipping wine and wrapping gifts and it was one of the more pure moments of contentedness a person could experience.   The lyrics are profound and successfully trigger the scent of strawberries, a first kiss, and sunlight on a dragonfly’s wing.   It’s a song that easily could have been sappy or maudlin, but is soaring and evocative.

Another song that succeeds against expectation is Fall, Leaves, Fall.  It’s a song celebrating the death and decay of Autumn and Winter using Emily Bronte’s poem of that name.  Celebrating? Oh yes, and it does it in full electric Gothic splendor with vocals by Annie Haslam.  If Haslam’s name (or voice) is ringing a bell you just can’t place, you may remember her from the 70’s British rock group Renaissance.  Jaunty, with a nod to early punk marches, you’ll “smile when wreaths of snow, blossom where the rose should grow” and “sing when night’s decay ushers in a drearier day” along with Haslam.  Even a perennially black t-shirt wearing goth like A Darker Shade of Pagan’s Jason Pitzl-Waters would enjoy Fall, Leaves, Fall.

I could write about every song on this CD (listen to the title song Song of Solstice with a mug of beer, preferably at Merlin’s Rest), but I’ll turn to the performers.   The musical talent and high production values mingle to create a CD that is a joy to listen to.  I hate to say it (no, really, I hate that this is true) but many Pagan or Pagan friendly CDs fall short because their production values are so poor.  Kidos to you, Jennifer Cutting for producing such a high quality CD.  As for the vocals, in addition to lead vocalist Lisa Moscatiello and the a fore mentioned Annie Haslam, there is Steve Winick, English folk singers John Roberts and Tony Barrand, and the harmony group Coope Boyes & Simpson.  Cutting is the composer, songwriter, and Musical Director for the CD.

So buy it now and get into the Solstice spirit with rousing cuts like Green Man.   Make your Christian sister happy with Voici La Noel (bonus – it may be Christian, but it’s an instrumental.  Ha!).  Feed your soul with Time to Remember the Poor.  As for me, I’m logging off and kicking back with hot chocolate, a book, and this CD for the rest of this dreary day.

Editor’s note:  I was provided with a copy of this CD for the purposes of writing a review.
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