"Endless" is the debut recording by composer/pianist/broadcaster/teacher, Rick Sparks, and it’s a beauty from the stunning cover artwork to every note of the music. All ten tracks are piano-based, with some being solo piano and others that have keyboard/synth enhancements. Two pieces are original compositions (including the title track), four are hymns, and there are lovely covers of Bill Leslie’s “Portree” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Beautiful” as well as some traditional Scottish and Irish tunes - quite a varied collection! All of the songs are wonderful, but I hope Sparks will grace us with more of his originals next time! In his bio, Sparks says: "I wanted to record a quiet piano album that would help replenish the spirit of the listener. Music has such power to affect us at the deepest level - these melodic songs are tranquil but emotional at the same time." Sparks is also the programmer and founder of The Cove, one of the top 10% of Live 365’s 138 new age stations.
"Endless" begins with Sparks’ arrangement of Gordon Lightfoot’s hit from several decades ago, “Beautiful.” The simple piano melody is accompanied by ethereal atmospheric sounds for the first verse and then guitar takes a solo and later strums along with the piano melody and peaceful ambient sounds - a very sensitive treatment of a gorgeous song. “Dream Angus” is a peaceful traditional Scottish lullaby. Mostly a sweet and charming piano solo, synth strings and voices add washes of sound to some of the verses. I love the title track, a gentle and soothing piece that suggests vast open spaces and infinite peace - this is a must-hear! “Be Thou My Vision” is a very old Irish hymn that has become a very popular instrumental piece the past several years, but Sparks makes it his own. “Portree” originally comes from Bill Leslie’s 2013 Album of the Year (ZMR), Scotland - Grace of the Wild. This beautiful piece is given a new interpretation on piano with strings and ambient washes. “The Wexford Carol” is one of the oldest Christmas carols in the European tradition. Hauntingly beautiful, flutes, strings, piano, synth instrumentation and light percussion give it the feeling of a film soundtrack behind sweeping scenes of the Scottish or Irish countryside. “At Rest” is the second Sparks original. Piano, flute and choral voices offer a quiet mind and brain massage certain to chase the cares and burdens of the day right out the door. “Be Still My Soul,” is another old hymn that has enjoyed renewed popularity as a soulful instrumental piece. Still, Sparks makes it his own as a graceful and serene piano solo.
Rick Sparks’ new career as a recording artist is off to a great start! If you are looking for some quiet, heartfelt piano music, be sure to check this one out! Recommended!
Review excerpt from Music and Media Focus
Of all the musical elements, the foundation of Rick’s piano-based music is melody. In his words: “I love melody – every song on “Endless” has strong melody. I think that’s why I’ve always loved the music of The Beatles & Beach Boys… great melodies and harmonies.” In a most interesting selection for an opening track to his album, Rick has chosen “Beautiful” by Gordon Lightfoot. In addition to Rick’s lovely and delicate piano melodies, the piece also includes washes of dreamy ethereal synthesizer and accents of acoustic guitar sounds played on keyboard.
Another influence heard on the album is Rick’s Scotch-Irish ancestry. Among the songs that reflect this are “Dream Angus” and “Loch Lomond.” Also, a love for Romanticism and the music of Rachmaninoff shows through emotionally in the sense of longing and mystery in album’s evocative title track, which I found quite moving. On a number of his songs, I particularly enjoyed the flute accompaniment as well as the elegant string and choir arrangements.
Rick follows a “less is more” direction with regard to his orchestration and arrangements. He has a wonderful sense of just what instruments to use and when to bring them in to perfectly accent his sensitive piano melodies. I appreciated how accompaniment is used sparingly, yet effectively – never overpowering the arrangement, but supporting it gracefully. I enjoyed the diverse threads of musical influence in Rick Sparks’ music and the beautiful sound tapestry he weaves with them. Rick’s goal is to create music that “feeds the soul,” and he has certainly done that on Endless, an album full of grace, beauty, and spiritual inspiration.