This album is inspired by a spectacular and spiritually-charged geographic landscape of the ancient world. Cappadocia is now in central Turkey. There are steep cliffs and tall rock spires known as fairy chimneys. Homes and churches are carved into the rocks and entire communities lived and worshiped, much like the Hopi Native Americans, in housing groups within these unusual rock formations.

Jeff Johnson visited Cappadocia in 2017 and discussed doing an LP inspired by this place with his musical partner Keaggy. The partners have produced other faith-based Christian albums. This area of Asia Minor was a haven for early Christians and a center for early Christian philosophical writings. There are hundreds of cave churches in the hills with wall frescoes and unusual lighting from carved windows.

This album grew on me. I was neutral the first time I listened to it; but liked it more and more with each subsequent playing. Keaggy is a skillful guitarist and Johnson is a keyboardist. All of the eight tracks are in some way inspired by or named for particular locations in Cappadocia. The tracks range from five to eight minutes each, so there’s plenty of time for music development of the original thematic ideas through variations, texture and instrumental arrangements. The melodies and textures are traded back and forth between guitars and keyboards, between electronic and acoustic instruments. Track 4: Parousia is an exquisitely lovely acoustic song with delicate guitar work.

One of my favorite tracks is Track 3: Valley of the Swords and Roses. This haunting piece of music begins with a slow, elegiac synth pulsing beneath a piano melody. The song shifts into more rhythmic activity about halfway through with congos and a guitar riff picking up the tempo and creating more energy. The song opens up into full balladic guitar melody then returns to the original pulsing tempo. The thoughtful development of the thematic material reveals talent, skill, and a masterful ability to merge and pace both melodic and rhythmic ideas with a variety of instrumental sounds and textures to create a distinctive emotional arc.

This album is both New Age and world fusion; the music has a slightly alien flavor that reflects the unusual landscapes that inspired the music. Highly recommended for rituals and ceremonies, meditation, and perhaps for divination background music.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artists: Jeff Johnson and Phil Keaggy
2017, Ark Records
8 tracks, 52:21 minutes
CD $13.58, mp3 $7.92.  

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