It would appear that many notables from the folk-tinged edges of rock were keen to join Susan Raven on this, her very fine second solo album. Brian Gulland (Gryphon), Liam Genockey (Steeleye Span) and Steffe Sharpstrings (Gong) to name but a few - though it was her involvement with Man Jumping that intrigued me most as I loved Orlando Gough's experimental work of the early 80's, working with contemporary dance troupes and fusing Philip Glass minimalism with world jazz-rock (including some great de riguer slap bass), and thereby sounding a fair bit like Peter Gabriel's early solo albums - and apparently Ms. Raven also worked with Gabriel's guitarist David Rhodes. With past glories like that I could not ignore this CD!
On Ravensong, Susan and friends have well infused their rich heritages into the diverse arrangements that support and enable this fine collection of songs. After a decade of giving tours and lectures concerning the sacred sites of Celtic Britain, the influence of Celtic music is perhaps the most dominant in Ms. Raven's work these days. Soundalikes? Well there's a touch of Sinead o'Connor I suppose: they share that serious sincerity, though Susan's earnestness is perhaps more measured and mature than her Irish counterpart. As regular readers will know, I tend to regard lyrics as less important than music, and can seemingly miss the point of artists like Dylan, or that musically challenged dirge-meister, Leonard Cohen (each to their own!), but some of the messages contained in Ravensong pulled me up short with their insightful honesty: like urging new-age idealist dreamers to leave safe waters and grow up (okay, it's a fair cop) - though thankfully there are wondrous stories told here too. As real Woman, she walks a strong path these days.
Susan Raven's debut album, Glittering Cities, is transcendent. Though the spiritual theme of the music may not appeal to everyone's taste, the excellence of production and exquisite melding of the instrumentals and vocals will. Raven's voice is gorgeous, and her original compositions are moving and insightful. All cuts are technically excellent. While some may be less lyrically detailed, as with the somewhat simplistic command of "Stack Your Guns", others sail and soar. The title song is a lucid and vibrant example of Raven's total production -- ethereal, shimmering, and visionary. (Fans may recognize David Rhodes' guitar on this track from his performances in Peter Gabriel's band.) Also outstanding are the haunting and evocative "Saturn" and the warmly heartfelt "I Think of You," a eulogy for two friends. Particularly noteworthy accompaniment comes from Steffy Sharpstring's glissando guitar and Hilaire Penda's bass on "Saturn," as well as on "I Think of You." In all, this album, which is available on www.izun.co.uk is a positive introduction to a very talented artist whose skill is clearly presented, not simply in her personal performance, but in her ability to choose other musicians and producers as talented as she is, and create a superb total composition with their support.
Listened again to your fine album... AWESOME.
Susan Raven is a singer/songwriter with a distinctive vocal tone and style, that has the ability to change the face of popular music forever. I spend endless hours listening to music that sounds exactly the same as the previous. Singers who all sound like they spent half of their lives copying all of those who came before them. Susan Raven is one of those who chose to take what God gave her and make something original and beautiful out of it. Her voice is so real and full of emotion that I found it hard to get past that aspect of her music. Once I did, I found a passion and truth that I haven't heard in a long time. Susan's music spoke to me in a way that I find hard to describe. I can't remember when I heard music that was this powerful and this well written.
Susan Raven presents her musical vibe in a folk/pop style that borders on the experimental sides of both genres. Incorporating various different instruments and influences into her sound, Susan has created a musical style that is all her own. Her lyrics have a depth and substance that is rare in today's music, but also has an appeal that many who like mainstream music should enjoy. Susan is an excellent artist and definitely worth every ounce of attention that she receives. It just doesn't get any better than this.
Combining global musical influences and interests in all things mystical and metaphysical, Susan Raven's new release Glittering Cities offers up a message of hope and inspiration to listeners.
On the opening track, "Behind Your Eyes," Raven sings "I found you on your knees / you are waiting, you are praying / for miracles to come." The subsequent tracks on the CD present Raven's version of an answer to those prayers, as she addresses the emotional, physical, and spiritual state of the world. Raven's unique voice, strong and ethereal at the same time, provides a perfect accompaniment to the inspirational message of her music.
Although Raven's interest in both Eastern and Western mystical traditions fuels much of the material for this album, the songs never come across as heavy-handed. Rather, the lyrics merge with the musical arrangements (which are as varied as the traditions that drive the lyrics) to create an overall listening experience that leaves one feeling that there is some hope still left in the world. And according to Raven, that's all she wants, ultimately: "hope in the morning and peace in the evening."
That's not to say that Raven doesn't have an agenda on some of these songs. "Stack Your Guns" is a call to end war, while "Here to Be" urges listeners to take better care of our Mother Earth.
Just as all of Raven's lyrics work to create a cohesive mood while still standing on their own as individual messages, the musical arrangements possess the same subtle variance, ranging from synth dance grooves to more acoustic arrangements. The overall effect is a combination of many styles, with no one style dominating the sound. In essence, this is world music, reflecting the universal message of the lyrics.
Raven has created an uplifting, well-crafted album with Glittering Cities. It deserves a listen simply for Raven's haunting voice.